Econstudentlog

Oceans (I)

I read this book quite some time ago, but back when I did I never blogged it; instead I just added a brief review on goodreads. I remember that the main reason why I decided against blogging it shortly after I’d read it was that the coverage overlapped a great deal with Mladenov’s marine biology text, which I had at that time just read and actually did blog in some detail. I figured if I wanted to blog this book as well I would be well-advised to wait a while, so that I’d at least have forget some of the stuff first – that way blogging the book might end up serving as a review of stuff I might have forgot, rather than as a review of stuff that would still be fresh in my memory and so wouldn’t really be worth reviewing anyway. So now here we are a few months later, and I have come to think it might be a good idea to blog the book.

Below I have added some quotes from the first half of the book and some links to topics/people/etc. covered.

“Several methods now exist for calculating the rate of plate motion. Most reliable for present-day plate movement are direct observations made using satellites and laser technology. These show that the Atlantic Ocean is growing wider at a rate of between 2 and 4 centimetres per year (about the rate at which fingernails grow), the Indian Ocean is attempting to grow at a similar rate but is being severely hampered by surrounding plate collisions, while the fastest spreading centre is the East Pacific Rise along which ocean crust is being created at rates of around 17 centimetres per year (the rate at which hair grows). […] The Nazca plate has been plunging beneath South America for at least 200 million years – the imposing Andes, the longest mountain chain on Earth, is the result. […] By around 120 million years ago, South America and Africa began to drift apart and the South Atlantic was born. […] sea levels rose higher than at any time during the past billion years, perhaps as much as 350 metres higher than today. Only 18 per cent of the globe was dry land — 82 per cent was under water. These excessively high sea levels were the result of increased spreading activity — new oceans, new ridges, and faster spreading rates all meant that the mid-ocean ridge systems collectively displaced a greater volume of water than ever before. Global warming was far more extreme than today. Temperatures in the ocean rose to around 30°C at the equator and as much as 14°C at the poles. Ocean circulation was very sluggish.”

“The land–ocean boundary is known as the shoreline. Seaward of this, all continents are surrounded by a broad, flat continental shelf, typically 10–100 kilometres wide, which slopes very gently (less than one-tenth of a degree) to the shelf edge at a water depth of around 100 metres. Beyond this the continental slope plunges to the deep-ocean floor. The slope is from tens to a few hundred kilometres wide and with a mostly gentle gradient of 3–8 degrees, but locally steeper where it is affected by faulting. The base of slope abuts the abyssal plain — flat, almost featureless expanses between 4 and 6 kilometres deep. The oceans are compartmentalized into abyssal basins separated by submarine mountain ranges and plateaus, which are the result of submarine volcanic outpourings. Those parts of the Earth that are formed of ocean crust are relatively lower, because they are made up of denser rocks — basalts. Those formed of less dense rocks (granites) of the continental crust are relatively higher. Seawater fills in the deeper parts, the ocean basins, to an average depth of around 4 kilometres. In fact, some parts are shallower because the ocean crust is new and still warm — these are the mid-ocean ridges at around 2.5 kilometres — whereas older, cooler crust drags the seafloor down to a depth of over 6 kilometres. […] The seafloor is almost entirely covered with sediment. In places, such as on the flanks of mid-ocean ridges, it is no more than a thin veneer. Elsewhere, along stable continental margins or beneath major deltas where deposition has persisted for millions of years, the accumulated thickness can exceed 15 kilometres. These areas are known as sedimentary basins“.

“The super-efficiency of water as a solvent is due to an asymmetrical bonding between hydrogen and oxygen atoms. The resultant water molecule has an angular or kinked shape with weakly charged positive and negative ends, rather like magnetic poles. This polar structure is especially significant when water comes into contact with substances whose elements are held together by the attraction of opposite electrical charges. Such ionic bonding is typical of many salts, such as sodium chloride (common salt) in which a positive sodium ion is attracted to a negative chloride ion. Water molecules infiltrate the solid compound, the positive hydrogen end being attracted to the chloride and the negative oxygen end to the sodium, surrounding and then isolating the individual ions, thereby disaggregating the solid [I should mention that if you’re interested in knowing (much) more this topic, and closely related topics, this book covers these things in great detail – US]. An apparently simple process, but extremely effective. […] Water is a super-solvent, absorbing gases from the atmosphere and extracting salts from the land. About 3 billion tonnes of dissolved chemicals are delivered by rivers to the oceans each year, yet their concentration in seawater has remained much the same for at least several hundreds of millions of years. Some elements remain in seawater for 100 million years, others for only a few hundred, but all are eventually cycled through the rocks. The oceans act as a chemical filter and buffer for planet Earth, control the distribution of temperature, and moderate climate. Inestimable numbers of calories of heat energy are transferred every second from the equator to the poles in ocean currents. But, the ocean configuration also insulates Antarctica and allows the build-up of over 4000 metres of ice and snow above the South Pole. […] Over many aeons, the oceans slowly accumulated dissolved chemical ions (and complex ions) of almost every element present in the crust and atmosphere. Outgassing from the mantle from volcanoes and vents along the mid-ocean ridges contributed a variety of other elements […] The composition of the first seas was mostly one of freshwater together with some dissolved gases. Today, however, the world ocean contains over 5 trillion tonnes of dissolved salts, and nearly 100 different chemical elements […] If the oceans’ water evaporated completely, the dried residue of salts would be equivalent to a 45-metre-thick layer over the entire planet.”

“The average time a single molecule of water remains in any one reservoir varies enormously. It may survive only one night as dew, up to a week in the atmosphere or as part of an organism, two weeks in rivers, and up to a year or more in soils and wetlands. Residence times in the oceans are generally over 4000 years, and water may remain in ice caps for tens of thousands of years. Although the ocean appears to be in a steady state, in which both the relative proportion and amounts of dissolved elements per unit volume are nearly constant, this is achieved by a process of chemical cycles and sinks. The input of elements from mantle outgassing and continental runoff must be exactly balanced by their removal from the oceans into temporary or permanent sinks. The principal sink is the sediment and the principal agent removing ions from solution is biological. […] The residence times of different elements vary enormously from tens of millions of years for chloride and sodium, to a few hundred years only for manganese, aluminium, and iron. […] individual water molecules have cycled through the atmosphere (or mantle) and returned to the seas more than a million times since the world ocean formed.”

“Because of its polar structure and hydrogen bonding between individual molecules, water has both a high capacity for storing large amounts of heat and one of the highest specific heat values of all known substances. This means that water can absorb (or release) large amounts of heat energy while changing relatively little in temperature. Beach sand, by contrast, has a specific heat five times lower than water, which explains why, on sunny days, beaches soon become too hot to stand on with bare feet while the sea remains pleasantly cool. Solar radiation is the dominant source of heat energy for the ocean and for the Earth as a whole. The differential in solar input with latitude is the main driver for atmospheric winds and ocean currents. Both winds and especially currents are the prime means of mitigating the polar–tropical heat imbalance, so that the polar oceans do not freeze solid, nor the equatorial oceans gently simmer. For example, the Gulf Stream transports some 550 trillion calories from the Caribbean Sea across the North Atlantic each second, and so moderates the climate of north-western Europe.”

“[W]hy is [the sea] mostly blue? The sunlight incident on the sea has a full spectrum of wavelengths, including the rainbow of colours that make up the visible spectrum […] The longer wavelengths (red) and very short (ultraviolet) are preferentially absorbed by water, rapidly leaving near-monochromatic blue light to penetrate furthest before it too is absorbed. The dominant hue that is backscattered, therefore, is blue. In coastal waters, suspended sediment and dissolved organic debris absorb additional short wavelengths (blue) resulting in a greener hue. […] The speed of sound in seawater is about 1500 metres per second, almost five times that in air. It is even faster where the water is denser, warmer, or more salty and shows a slow but steady increase with depth (related to increasing water pressure).”

“From top to bottom, the ocean is organized into layers, in which the physical and chemical properties of the ocean – salinity, temperature, density, and light penetration – show strong vertical segregation. […] Almost all properties of the ocean vary in some way with depth. Light penetration is attenuated by absorption and scattering, giving an upper photic and lower aphotic zone, with a more or less well-defined twilight region in between. Absorption of incoming solar energy also preferentially heats the surface waters, although with marked variations between latitudes and seasons. This results in a warm surface layer, a transition layer (the thermocline) through which the temperature decreases rapidly with depth, and a cold deep homogeneous zone reaching to the ocean floor. Exactly the same broad three-fold layering is true for salinity, except that salinity increases with depth — through the halocline. The density of seawater is controlled by its temperature, salinity, and pressure, such that colder, saltier, and deeper waters are all more dense. A rapid density change, known as the pycnocline, is therefore found at approximately the same depth as the thermocline and halocline. This varies from about 10 to 500 metres, and is often completely absent at the highest latitudes. Winds and waves thoroughly stir and mix the upper layers of the ocean, even destroying the layered structure during major storms, but barely touch the more stable, deep waters.”

Links:

Arvid Pardo. Law of the Sea Convention.
Polynesians.
Ocean exploration timeline (a different timeline is presented in the book, but there’s some overlap). Age of Discovery. Vasco da Gama. Christopher Columbus. John Cabot. Amerigo Vespucci. Ferdinand Magellan. Luigi Marsigli. James Cook.
HMS Beagle. HMS Challenger. Challenger expedition.
Deep Sea Drilling Project. Integrated Ocean Drilling Program. Joides resolution.
World Ocean.
Geological history of Earth (this article of course covers much more than is covered in the book, but the book does cover some highlights). Plate tectonics. Lithosphere. Asthenosphere. Convection. Global mid-ocean ridge system.
Pillow lava. Hydrothermal vent. Hot spring.
Ophiolite.
Mohorovičić discontinuity.
Mid-Atlantic Ridge. Subduction zone. Ring of Fire.
Pluton. Nappe. Mélange. Transform fault. Strike-slip fault. San Andreas fault.
Paleoceanography. Tethys Ocean. Laurasia. Gondwana.
Oceanic anoxic event. Black shale.
Seabed.
Bengal Fan.
Fracture zone.
Seamount.
Terrigenous sediment. Biogenic and chemogenic sediment. Halite. Gypsum.
Carbonate compensation depth.
Laurentian fan.
Deep-water sediment waves. Submarine landslide. Turbidity current.
Water cycle.
Ocean acidification.
Timing and Climatic Consequences ofthe Opening of Drake Passage. The Opening of the Tasmanian Gateway Drove Global Cenozoic Paleoclimatic and Paleoceanographic Changes (report)Antarctic Circumpolar Current.
SOFAR channel.
Bathymetry.

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June 18, 2018 Posted by | Books, Papers, Geology, Physics, Chemistry | Leave a comment

Gastrointestinal complications of diabetes (I)

I really liked this book. It covered a lot of stuff also covered in Horowitz & Samsom’s excellent book on these topics, but it’s shorter and so probably easier for the relevant target group to justify reading. I recommend the book if you want to know more about these topics but don’t quite feel like reading a long textbook on these topics.

Below I’ve added some observations from the first half of the book. In the quotes below I’ve added some links and highlighted some key observations by the use of bold text.

Gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms occur more commonly in patients with diabetes than in the general population [2]. […] GI symptoms such as nausea, abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, and delayed gastric emptying occur in almost 75 % of patients with diabetes [3]. A majority of patients with GI symptoms stay undiagnosed or undertreated due to a lack of awareness of these complications among clinicians. […] Diabetes can affect the entire GI tract from the oral cavity and esophagus to the large bowel and anorectal region, either in isolation or in a combination. The extent and the severity of the presenting symptoms may vary widely depending upon which part of the GI tract is involved. In patients with long-term type 1 DM, upper GI symptoms seem to be particularly common [4]. Of the different types […] gastroparesis seems to be the most well known and most serious complication, occurring in about 50 % of patients with diabetes-related GI complications [5].”

The enteric nervous system (ENS) is an independent network of neurons and glial cells that spread from the esophagus up to the internal anal sphincter. […] the ENS regulates GI tract functions including motility, secretion, and participation in immune regulation [12, 13]. GI complications and their symptoms in patients with diabetes arise secondary to both abnormalities of gastric function (sensory and motor modality), as well as impairment of GI hormonal secretion [14], but these abnormalities are complex and incompletely understood. […] It has been known for a long time that diabetic autonomic neuropathy […] leads to abnormalities in the GI motility, sensation, secretion, and absorption, serving as the main pathogenic mechanism underlying GI complications. Recently, evidence has emerged to suggest that other processes might also play a role. Loss of the pacemaker interstitial cells of Cajal, impairment of the inhibitory nitric oxide-containing nerves, abnormal myenteric neurotransmission, smooth muscle dysfunction, and imbalances in the number of excitatory and inhibitory enteric neurons can drastically alter complex motor functions causing dysfunction of the enteric system [7, 11, 15, 16]. This dysfunction can further lead to the development of dysphagia and reflux esophagitis in the esophagus, gastroparesis, and dyspepsia in the stomach, pseudo-obstruction of the small intestine, and constipation, diarrhea, and incontinence in the colon. […] Compromised intestinal vascular flow arising due to ischemia and hypoxia from microvascular disease of the GI tract can also cause abdominal pain, bleeding, and mucosal dysfunction. Mitochondrial dysfunction has been implicated in the pathogenesis of gastric neuropathy. […] Another possible association between DM and the gastrointestinal tract can be infrequent autoimmune diseases associated with type I DM like autoimmune chronic pancreatitis, celiac disease (2–11 %), and autoimmune gastropathy (2 % prevalence in general population and three- to fivefold increase in patients with type 1 DM) [28, 29]. GI symptoms are often associated with the presence of other diabetic complications, especially autonomic and peripheral neuropathy [2, 30, 31]. In fact, patients with microvascular complications such as retinopathy, nephropathy, or neuropathy should be presumed to have GI abnormalities until proven otherwise. In a large cross-sectional questionnaire study of 1,101 subjects with DM, 57 % of patients reported at least one GI complication [31]. Poor glycemic control has also been found to be associated with increased severity of the upper GI symptoms. […] management of DM-induced GI complications is challenging, is generally suboptimal, and needs improvement.

Diabetes mellitus (DM) has multiple clinically important effects on the esophagus. Diabetes results in several esophageal motility disturbances, increases the risk of esophageal candidiasis, and increases the risk of Barrett’s esophagus and esophageal carcinoma. Finally, “black esophagus,” or acute esophageal necrosis, is also associated with DM. […] Esophageal dysmotility has been shown to be associated with diabetic neuropathy; however, symptomatic esophageal dysmotility is not often considered an important complication of diabetes. […] In general, the manometric effects of diabetes on the esophagus are not specific and mostly related to speed and strength of peristalsis. […] The pathological findings which amount to loss of cholinergic stimulation are consistent with the manometric findings in the esophagus, which are primarily related to slowed or weakened peristalsis. […] The association between DM and GERD is complex and conflicting. […] A recent meta-analysis suggests an overall positive association in Western countries [12]. […] The underlying pathogenesis of DM contributing to GERD is not fully elucidated, but is likely related to reduced acid clearance due to slow, weakened esophageal peristalsis. The association between DM and gastroesophageal reflux (GER) is well established, but the link between DM and GERD, which requires symptoms or esophagitis, is more complex because sensation may be blunted in diabetics with neuropathy. Asymptomatic gastroesophageal reflux (GER) confirmed by pH studies is significantly more frequent in diabetic patients than in healthy controls [13]. […] long-standing diabetics with neuropathy are at higher risk for GERD even if they have no symptoms. […] Abnormal pH and motility studies do not correlate very well with the GI symptoms of diabetics, possibly due to DM-related sensory dysfunction.”

Gastroparesis is defined as a chronic disorder characterized by delayed emptying of the stomach occurring in the absence of mechanical obstruction. It is a well-known and potentially serious complication of diabetes. […] Diabetic gastroparesis affects up to 40 % of patients with type 1 diabetes and up to 30 % of patients with type 2 diabetes [1, 2]. Diabetic gastroparesis generally affects patients with longstanding diabetes mellitus, and patients often have other diabetic complications […] For reasons that remain unclear, approximately 80 % of patients with gastroparesis are women [3]. […] In diabetes, delayed gastric emptying can often be asymptomatic. Therefore, the term gastroparesis should only be reserved for patients that have both delayed gastric emptying and upper gastrointestinal symptoms. Additionally, discordance between the pattern and type of symptoms and the magnitude of delayed gastric emptying is a well-established phenomenon. Accelerating gastric emptying may not improve symptoms, and patients can have symptomatic improvement while gastric emptying time remains unchanged. Furthermore, patients with severe symptoms can have mild delays in gastric emptying. Clinical features of gastroparesis include nausea, vomiting, bloating, abdominal pain, and malnutrition. […] Gastroparesis affects oral drug absorption and can cause hyperglycemia that is challenging to manage, in addition to unexplained hypoglycemia. […] Nutritional and caloric deficits are common in patients with gastroparesis […] Possible complications of gastroparesis include volume depletion with renal failure, malnutrition, electrolyte abnormalities, esophagitis, Mallory–Weiss tear (from vomiting), or bezoar formation. […] Unfortunately, there is a dearth of medications available to treat gastroparesis. Additionally, many of the medications used are based on older trials with small sample sizes […and some of them have really unpleasant side effects – US]. […] Gastroparesis can be associated with abdominal pain in as many as 50 % of patients with gastroparesis at tertiary care centers. There are no trials to guide the choice of agents. […] Abdominal pain […] is often difficult to treat [3]. […] In a subset of patients with diabetes [less than 10%, according to Horowitz & Samsom – US], gastric emptying can be abnormally accelerated […]. Symptoms are often difficult to distinguish from those with delayed gastric emptying. […] Worsening symptoms with a prokinetic agent can be a sign of possible accelerated emptying.”

“Diabetic enteropathy encompasses small intestinal and colorectal dysfunctions such as diarrhea, constipation, and/or fecal incontinence. It is more commonly seen in patients with long-standing diabetes, especially in those with gastroparesis. Development of diabetic enteropathy is complex and multifactorial. […] gastrointestinal symptoms and complications do not always correlate with the duration of diabetes, glycemic control, or with the presence of autonomic neuropathy, which is often assumed to be the major cause of many gastrointestinal symptoms. Other pathophysiologic processes operative in diabetic enteropathy include enteric myopathy and neuropathy; however, causes of these abnormalities are unknown [1]. […] Collectively, the effects of diabetes on several targets cause aberrations in gastrointestinal function and regulation. Loss of ICC, autonomic neuropathy, and imbalances in the number of excitatory and inhibitory enteric neurons can drastically alter complex motor functions such as peristalsis, reflexive relaxation, sphincter tone, vascular flow, and intestinal segmentation [5]. […] Diarrhea is a common complaint in DM. […] Etiologies of diarrhea in diabetes are multifactorial and include rapid intestinal transit, drug-induced diarrhea, small-intestine bacterial overgrowth, celiac disease, pancreatic exocrine insufficiency, dietary factors, anorectal dysfunction, fecal incontinence, and microscopic colitis [1]. […] It is important to differentiate whether diarrhea is caused by rapid intestinal transit vs. SIBO. […] This differentiation has key clinical implications with regard to the use of antimotility agents or antibiotics in a particular case. […] Constipation is a common problem seen with long-standing DM. It is more common than in general population, where the incidence varies from 2 % to 30 % [30]. It affects 60 % of the patients with DM and is more common than diarrhea [14]. […] There are no specific treatments for diabetes-associated constipation […] In most cases, patients are treated in the same way as those with idiopathic chronic constipation. […] Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer in men and the second in women [33]. Individuals with type 2 DM have an increased risk of colorectal cancer when compared with their nondiabetic counterparts […] According to a recent large observational population-based cohort study, type 2 DM was associated with a 1.3-fold increased risk of colorectal cancer compared to the general population.”

Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is the main hepatic complication of obesity, insulin resistance, and diabetes and soon to become the leading cause for end-stage liver disease in the United States [1]. […] NAFLD is a spectrum of disease that ranges from steatosis (hepatic fat without significant hepatocellular injury) to nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH; hepatic fat with hepatocellular injury) to advanced fibrosis and cirrhosis. As a direct consequence of the obesity epidemic, NAFLD is the most common cause of chronic liver disease, while NASH is the second leading indication for liver transplantation [1]. NAFLD prevalence is estimated at 25 % globally [2] and up to 30 % in the United States [3–5]. Roughly 30 % of individuals with NAFLD also have NASH, the progressive subtype of NAFLD. […] NASH is estimated at 22 % among patients with diabetes, compared to 5 % of the general population [4, 14]. […] Insulin resistance is strongly associated with NASH. […] Simple steatosis (also known as nonalcoholic fatty liver) is characterized by the presence of steatosis without ballooned hepatocytes (which represents hepatocyte injury) or fibrosis. Mild inflammation may be present. Simple steatosis is associated with a very low risk of progressive liver disease and liver-related mortality. […] Patients with NASH are at risk for progressive liver fibrosis and liver-related mortality, cardiovascular complications, and hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) even in the absence of cirrhosis [26]. Liver fibrosis stage progresses at an estimated rate of one stage every 7 years [27]. Twenty percent of patients with NASH will eventually develop liver cirrhosis [9]. […] The risk of cardiovascular disease is increased across the entire NAFLD spectrum. […] Cardiovascular risk reduction should be aggressively managed in all patients.

 

June 17, 2018 Posted by | Books, Cancer/oncology, Cardiology, Diabetes, Gastroenterology, Medicine, Neurology | Leave a comment

Robotics

“This book is not about the psychology or cultural anthropology of robotics, interesting as those are. I am an engineer and roboticist, so I confine myself firmly to the technology and application of real physical robots. […] robotics is the study of the design, application, and use of robots, and that is precisely what this Very Short Introduction is about: what robots do and what roboticists do.”

The above quote is from the book‘s preface; the book is quite decent and occasionally really quite fascinating. Below I have added some sample quotes and links to topics/stuff covered in the book.

“Some of all of […] five functions – sensing, signalling, moving, intelligence, and energy, integrated into a body – are present in all robots. The actual sensors, motors, and behaviours designed into a particular robot body shape depend on the job that robot is designed to do. […] A robot is: 1. an artificial device that can sense its environment and purposefully act on or in that environment; 2. an embodied artificial intelligence; or 3. a machine that can autonomously carry out useful work. […] Many real-world robots […] are not autonomous but remotely operated by humans. […] These are also known as tele-operated robots. […] From a robot design point of view, the huge advantage of tele-operated robots is that the human in the loop provides the robot’s ‘intelligence’. One of the most difficult problems in robotics — the design of the robot’s artificial intelligence — is therefore solved, so it’s not surprising that so many real-world robots are tele-operated. The fact that tele-operated robots alleviate the problem of AI design should not fool us into making the mistake of thinking that tele-operated robots are not sophisticated — they are. […] counter-intuitively, autonomous robots are often simpler than tele-operated robots […] When roboticists talk about autonomous robots they normally mean robots that decide what to do next entirely without human intervention or control. We need to be careful here because they are not talking about true autonomy, in the sense that you or I would regard ourselves as self-determining individuals, but what I would call ‘control autonomy’. By control autonomy I mean that the robot can undertake its task, or mission, without human intervention, but that mission is still programmed or commanded by a human. In fact, there are very few robots in use in the real world that are autonomous even in this limited sense. […] It is helpful to think about a spectrum of robot autonomy, from remotely operated at one end (no autonomy) to fully autonomous at the other. We can then place robots on this spectrum according to their degree of autonomy. […] On a scale of autonomy, a robot that can react on its own in response to its sensors is highly autonomous. A robot that cannot react, perhaps because it doesn’t have any sensors, is not.”

“It is […] important to note that autonomy and intelligence are not the same thing. A robot can be autonomous but not very smart, like a robot vacuum cleaner. […] A robot vacuum cleaner has a small number of preprogrammed (i.e. instinctive) behaviours and is not capable of any kind of learning […] These are characteristics we would associate with very simple animals. […] When roboticists describe a robot as intelligent, what they mean is ‘a robot that behaves, in some limited sense, as if it were intelligent’. The words as if are important here. […] There are basically two ways in which we can make a robot behave as if it is more intelligent: 1. preprogram a larger number of (instinctive) behaviours; and/or 2. design the robot so that it can learn and therefore develop and grow its own intelligence. The first of these approaches is fine, providing that we know everything there is to know about what the robot must do and all of the situations it will have to respond to while it is working. Typically we can only do this if we design both the robot and its operational environment. […] For unstructured environments, the first approach to robot intelligence above is infeasible simply because it’s impossible to anticipate every possible situation a robot might encounter, especially if it has to interact with humans. The only solution is to design a robot so that it can learn, either from its own experience or from humans or other robots, and therefore adapt and develop its own intelligence: in effect, grow its behavioural repertoire to be able to respond appropriately to more and more situations. This brings us to the subject of learning robots […] robot learning or, more generally, ‘machine learning’ — a branch of AI — has proven to be very much harder than was expected in the early days of Artificial Intelligence.”

“Robot arms on an assembly line are typically programmed to go through a fixed sequence of moves over and over again, for instance spot-welding car body panels, or spray-painting the complete car. These robots are therefore not intelligent. In fact, they often have no exteroceptive sensors at all. […] when we see an assembly line with multiple robot arms positioned on either side along a line, we need to understand that the robots are part of an integrated automated manufacturing system, in which each robot and the line itself have to be carefully programmed in order to coordinate and choreograph the whole operation. […] An important characteristic of assembly-line robots is that they require the working environment to be designed for and around them, i.e. a structured environment. They also need that working environment to be absolutely predictable and repeatable. […] Robot arms either need to be painstakingly programmed, so that the precise movement required of each joint is worked out and coded into a set of instructions for the robot arm or, more often (and rather more easily), ‘taught’ by a human using a control pad to move its end-effector (hand) to the required positions in the robot’s workspace. The robot then memorizes the set of joint movements so that they can be replayed (over and over again). The human operator teaching the robot controls the trajectory, i.e. the path the robot arm’s end-effector follows as it moves through its 3D workspace, and a set of mathematical equations called the ‘inverse kinematics’ converts the trajectory into a set of individual joint movements. Using this approach, it is relatively easy to teach a robot arm to pick up an object and move it smoothly to somewhere else in its workspace while keeping the object level […]. However […] most real-world robot arms are unable to sense the weight of the object and automatically adjust accordingly. They are simply designed with stiff enough joints and strong enough motors that, whatever the weight of the object (providing it’s within the robot’s design limits), it can be lifted, moved, and placed with equal precision. […] The robot arm and gripper are a foundational technology in robotics. Not only are they extremely important as […] industrial assembly-line robot[s], but they have become a ‘component’ in many areas of robotics.”

Planetary rovers are tele-operated mobile robots that present the designer and operator with a number of very difficult challenges. One challenge is power: a planetary rover needs to be energetically self-sufficient for the lifetime of its mission, and must either be launched with a power source or — as in the case of the Mars rovers — fitted with solar panels capable of recharging the rover’s on-board batteries. Another challenge is dependability. Any mechanical fault is likely to mean the end of the rover’s mission, so it needs to be designed and built to exceptional standards of reliability and fail-safety, so that if parts of the rover should fail, the robot can still operate, albeit with reduced functionality. Extremes of temperature are also a problem […] But the greatest challenge is communication. With a round-trip signal delay time of twenty minutes to Mars and back, tele-operating the rover in real time is impossible. If the rover is moving and its human operator in the command centre on Earth reacts to an obstacle, it’s likely to be already too late; the robot will have hit the obstacle by the time the command signal to turn reaches the rover. An obvious answer to this problem would seem to be to give the rover a degree of autonomy so that it could, for instance, plan a path to a rock or feature of interest — while avoiding obstacles — then, when it arrives at the point of interest, call home and wait. Although path-planning algorithms capable of this level of autonomy have been well developed, the risk of a failure of the algorithm (and hence perhaps the whole mission) is deemed so high that in practice the rovers are manually tele-operated, at very low speed, with each manual manoeuvre carefully planned. When one also takes into account the fact that the Mars rovers are contactable only for a three-hour window per Martian day, a traverse of 100 metres will typically take up one day of operation at an average speed of 30 metres per hour.”

“The realization that the behaviour of an autonomous robot is an emergent property of its interactions with the world has important and far-reaching consequences for the way we design autonomous robots. […] when we design robots, and especially when we come to decide what behaviours to programme the robot’s AI with, we cannot think about the robot on its own. We must take into account every detail of the robot’s working environment. […] Like all machines, robots need power. For fixed robots, like the robot arms used for manufacture, power isn’t a problem because the robot is connected to the electrical mains supply. But for mobile robots power is a huge problem because mobile robots need to carry their energy supply around with them, with problems of both the size and weight of the batteries and, more seriously, how to recharge those batteries when they run out. For autonomous robots, the problem is acute because a robot cannot be said to be truly autonomous unless it has energy autonomy as well as computational autonomy; there seems little point in building a smart robot that ‘dies’ when its battery runs out. […] Localization is a[nother] major problem in mobile robotics; in other words, how does a robot know where it is, in 2D or 3D space. […] [One] type of robot learning is called reinforcement learning. […] it is a kind of conditioned learning. If a robot is able to try out several different behaviours, test the success or failure of each behaviour, then ‘reinforce’ the successful behaviours, it is said to have reinforcement learning. Although this sounds straightforward in principle, it is not. It assumes, first, that a robot has at least one successful behaviour in its list of behaviours to try out, and second, that it can test the benefit of each behaviour — in other words, that the behaviour has an immediate measurable reward. If a robot has to try every possible behaviour or if the rewards are delayed, then this kind of so-called ‘unsupervised’ individual robot learning is very slow.”

“A robot is described as humanoid if it has a shape or structure that to some degree mimics the human form. […] A small subset of humanoid robots […] attempt a greater degree of fidelity to the human form and appearance, and these are referred to as android. […] It is a recurring theme of this book that robot intelligence technology lags behind robot mechatronics – and nowhere is the mismatch between the two so starkly evident as it is in android robots. The problem is that if a robot looks convincingly human, then we (not unreasonably) expect it to behave like a human. For this reason whole-body android robots are, at the time of writing, disappointing. […] It is important not to overstate the case for humanoid robots. Without doubt, many potential applications of robots in human work- or living spaces would be better served by non-humanoid robots. The humanoid robot to use human tools argument doesn’t make sense if the job can be done autonomously. It would be absurd, for instance, to design a humanoid robot in order to operate a vacuum cleaner designed for humans. Similarly, if we want a driverless car, it doesn’t make sense to build a humanoid robot that sits in the driver’s seat. It seems that the case for humanoid robots is strongest when the robots are required to work alongside, learn from, and interact closely with humans. […] One of the most compelling reasons why robots should be humanoid is for those applications in which the robot has to interact with humans, work in human workspaces, and use tools or devices designed for humans.”

“…to put it bluntly, sex with a robot might not be safe. As soon as a robot has motors and moving parts, then assuring the safety of human-robot interaction becomes a difficult problem and if that interaction is intimate, the consequences of a mechanical or control systems failure could be serious.”

“All of the potential applications of humanoid robots […] have one thing in common: close interaction between human and robot. The nature of that interaction will be characterized by close proximity and communication via natural human interfaces – speech, gesture, and body language. Human and robot may or may not need to come into physical contact, but even when direct contact is not required they will still need to be within each other’s body space. It follows that robot safety, dependability, and trustworthiness are major issues for the robot designer. […] making a robot safe isn’t the same as making it trustworthy. One person trusts another if, generally speaking, that person is reliable and does what they say they will. So if I were to provide a robot that helps to look after your grandmother and I claim that it is perfectly safe — that it’s been designed to cover every risk or hazard — would you trust it? The answer is probably not. Trust in robots, just as in humans, has to be earned. […for more on these topics, see this post – US] […] trustworthiness cannot just be designed into the robot — it has to be earned by use and by experience. Consider a robot intended to fetch drinks for an elderly person. Imagine that the person calls for a glass of water. The robot then needs to fetch the drink, which may well require the robot to find a glass and fill it with water. Those tasks require sensing, dexterity, and physical manipulation, but they are problems that can be solved with current technology. The problem of trust arises when the robot brings the glass of water to the human. How does the robot give the glass to the human? If the robot has an arm so that it can hold out the glass in the same way a human would, how would the robot know when to let go? The robot clearly needs sensors in order to see and feel when the human has taken hold of the glass. The physical process of a robot handing something to a person is fraught with difficulty. Imagine, for instance, that the robot holds out its arm with the glass but the human can’t reach the glass. How does the robot decide where and how far it would be safe to bring its arm toward the person? What if the human takes hold of the glass but then the glass slips; does the robot let it fall or should it — as a human would — renew its grip on the glass? At what point would the robot decide the transaction has failed: it can’t give the glass of water to the person, or they won’t take it; perhaps they are asleep, or simply forgotten they wanted a glass of water, or confused. How does the robot sense that it should give up and perhaps call for assistance? These are difficult problems in robot cognition. Until they are solved, it’s doubtful we could trust a robot sufficiently well to do even a seemingly simple thing like handing over a glass of water.”

“The fundamental problem with Asimov’s laws of robotics, or any similar construction, is that they require the robot to make judgments. […] they assume that the robot is capable of some level of moral agency. […] No robot that we can currently build, or will build in the foreseeable future, is ‘intelligent’ enough to be able to even recognize, let alone make, these kinds of choices. […] Most roboticists agree that for the foreseeable future robots cannot be ethical, moral agents. […] precisely because, as we have seen, present-day ‘intelligent’ robots are not very intelligent, there is a danger of a gap between what robot users believe those robots to be capable of and what they are actually capable of. Given humans’ propensity to anthropomorphize and form emotional attachments to machines, there is clearly a danger that such vulnerabilities could be either unwittingly or deliberately exploited. Although robots cannot be ethical, roboticists should be.”

“In robotics research, the simulator has become an essential tool of the roboticist’s trade. The reason for this is that designing, building, and testing successive versions of real robots is both expensive and time-consuming, and if part of that work can be undertaken in the virtual rather than the real world, development times can be shortened, and the chances of a robot that works first time substantially improved. A robot simulator has three essential features. First, it must provide a virtual world. Second, it must offer a facility for creating a virtual model of the real robot. And third, it must allow the robot’s controller to be installed and ‘run’ on the virtual robot in the virtual world; the controller then determines how the robot behaves when running in the simulator. The simulator should also provide a visualization of the virtual world and simulated robots in it so that the designer can see what’s going on. […] These are difficult challenges for developers of robot simulators.”

“The next big step in miniaturization […] requires the solution of hugely difficult problems and, in all likelihood, the use of exotic approaches to design and fabrication. […] It is impossible to shrink mechanical and electrical components, or MEMS devices, in order to reduce total robot size to a few micrometres. In any event, the physics of locomotion through a fluid changes at the microscale and simply shrinking mechanical components from macro to micro — even if it were possible — would fail to address this problem. A radical approach is to leave behind conventional materials and components and move to a bioengineered approach in which natural bacteria are modified by adding artificial components. The result is a hybrid of artificial and natural (biological) components. The bacterium has many desirable properties for a microbot. By selecting a bacterium with a flagellum, we have locomotion perfectly suited to the medium. […] Another hugely desirable characteristic is that the bacteria are able to naturally scavenge for energy, thus avoiding the otherwise serious problem of powering the microbots. […] Whatever technology is used to create the microbots, huge problems would have to be overcome before a swarm of medical microbots could become a practical reality. The first is technical: how do surgeons or medical technicians reliably control and monitor the swarm while it’s working inside the body? Or, assuming we can give the microbots sufficient intelligence and autonomy (also a very difficult challenge), do we forgo precise control and human intervention altogether by giving the robots the swarm intelligence to be able to do the job, i.e. find the problem, fix it, then exit? […] these questions bring us to what would undoubtedly represent the greatest challenge: validating the swarm of medical microbots as effective, dependable, and above all safe, then gaining approval and public acceptance for its use. […] Do we treat the validation of the medical microbot swarm as an engineering problem, and attempt to apply the same kinds of methods we would use to validate safety-critical systems such as air traffic control systems? Or do we instead regard the medical microbot swarm as a drug and validate it with conventional and (by and large) trusted processes, including clinical trials, leading to approval and licensing for use? My suspicion is that we will need a new combination of both approaches.”

Links:

E-puck mobile robot.
Jacques de Vaucanson’s Digesting Duck.
Cybernetics.
Alan Turing. W. Ross Ashby. Norbert Wiener. Warren McCulloch. William Grey Walter.
Turtle (robot).
Industrial robot. Mechanical arm. Robotic arm. Robot end effector.
Automated guided vehicle.
Remotely operated vehicle. Unmanned aerial vehicle. Remotely operated underwater vehicle. Wheelbarrow (robot).
Robot-assisted surgery.
Lego Mindstorms NXT. NXT Intelligent Brick.
Biomimetic robots.
Artificial life.
Braitenberg vehicle.
Shakey the robot. Sense-Plan-Act. Rodney Brooks. A robust layered control system for a mobile robot.
Toto the robot.
Slugbot. Ecobot. Microbial fuel cell.
Scratchbot.
Simultaneous localization and mapping (SLAM).
Programming by demonstration.
Evolutionary algorithm.
NASA Robonaut. BERT 2. Kismet (robot). Jules (robot). Frubber. Uncanny valley.
AIBO. Paro.
Cronos Robot. ECCEROBOT.
Swarm robotics. S-bot mobile robot. Swarmanoid project.
Artificial neural network.
Symbrion.
Webots.
Kilobot.
Microelectromechanical systems. I-SWARM project.
ALICE (Artificial Linguistic Internet Computer Entity). BINA 48 (Breakthrough Intelligence via Neural Architecture 48).

June 15, 2018 Posted by | Books, Computer science, Engineering, Medicine | Leave a comment

Developmental Biology (I)

On goodreads I called the book “[a]n excellent introduction to the field of developmental biology” and I gave it five stars.

Below I have included some sample observations from the first third of the book or so, as well as some supplementary links.

“The major processes involved in development are: pattern formation; morphogenesis or change in form; cell differentiation by which different types of cell develop; and growth. These processes involve cell activities, which are determined by the proteins present in the cells. Genes control cell behaviour by controlling where and when proteins are synthesized, and cell behaviour provides the link between gene action and developmental processes. What a cell does is determined very largely by the proteins it contains. The hemoglobin in red blood cells enables them to transport oxygen; the cells lining the vertebrate gut secrete specialized digestive enzymes. These activities require specialized proteins […] In development we are concerned primarily with those proteins that make cells different from one another and make them carry out the activities required for development of the embryo. Developmental genes typically code for proteins involved in the regulation of cell behaviour. […] An intriguing question is how many genes out of the total genome are developmental genes – that is, genes specifically required for embryonic development. This is not easy to estimate. […] Some studies suggest that in an organism with 20,000 genes, about 10% of the genes may be directly involved in development.”

“The fate of a group of cells in the early embryo can be determined by signals from other cells. Few signals actually enter the cells. Most signals are transmitted through the space outside of cells (the extracellular space) in the form of proteins secreted by one cell and detected by another. Cells may interact directly with each other by means of molecules located on their surfaces. In both these cases, the signal is generally received by receptor proteins in the cell membrane and is subsequently relayed through other signalling proteins inside the cell to produce the cellular response, usually by turning genes on or off. This process is known as signal transduction. These pathways can be very complex. […] The complexity of the signal transduction pathway means that it can be altered as the cell develops so the same signal can have a different effect on different cells. How a cell responds to a particular signal depends on its internal state and this state can reflect the cell’s developmental history — cells have good memories. Thus, different cells can respond to the same signal in very different ways. So the same signal can be used again and again in the developing embryo. There are thus rather few signalling proteins.”

“All vertebrates, despite their many outward differences, have a similar basic body plan — the segmented backbone or vertebral column surrounding the spinal cord, with the brain at the head end enclosed in a bony or cartilaginous skull. These prominent structures mark the antero-posterior axis with the head at the anterior end. The vertebrate body also has a distinct dorso-ventral axis running from the back to the belly, with the spinal cord running along the dorsal side and the mouth defining the ventral side. The antero-posterior and dorso-ventral axes together define the left and right sides of the animal. Vertebrates have a general bilateral symmetry around the dorsal midline so that outwardly the right and left sides are mirror images of each other though some internal organs such as the heart and liver are arranged asymmetrically. How these axes are specified in the embryo is a key issue. All vertebrate embryos pass through a broadly similar set of developmental stages and the differences are partly related to how and when the axes are set up, and how the embryo is nourished. […] A quite rare but nevertheless important event before gastrulation in mammalian embryos, including humans, is the splitting of the embryo into two, and identical twins can then develop. This shows the remarkable ability of the early embryo to regulate [in this context, regulation refers to ‘the ability of an embryo to restore normal development even if some portions are removed or rearranged very early in development’ – US] and develop normally when half the normal size […] In mammals, there is no sign of axes or polarity in the fertilized egg or during early development, and it only occurs later by an as yet unknown mechanism.”

“How is left–right established? Vertebrates are bilaterally symmetric about the midline of the body for many structures, such as eyes, ears, and limbs, but most internal organs are asymmetric. In mice and humans, for example, the heart is on the left side, the right lung has more lobes than the left, the stomach and spleen lie towards the left, and the bulk of the liver is towards the right. This handedness of organs is remarkably consistent […] Specification of left and right is fundamentally different from specifying the other axes of the embryo, as left and right have meaning only after the antero-posterior and dorso-ventral axes have been established. If one of these axes were reversed, then so too would be the left–right axis and this is the reason that handedness is reversed when you look in a mirror—your dorsoventral axis is reversed, and so left becomes right and vice versa. The mechanisms by which left–right symmetry is initially broken are still not fully understood, but the subsequent cascade of events that leads to organ asymmetry is better understood. The ‘leftward’ flow of extracellular fluid across the embryonic midline by a population of ciliated cells has been shown to be critical in mouse embryos in inducing asymmetric expression of genes involved in establishing left versus right. The antero-posterior patterning of the mesoderm is most clearly seen in the differences in the somites that form vertebrae: each individual vertebra has well defined anatomical characteristics depending on its location along the axis. Patterning of the skeleton along the body axis is based on the somite cells acquiring a positional value that reflects their position along the axis and so determines their subsequent development. […] It is the Hox genes that define positional identity along the antero-posterior axis […]. The Hox genes are members of the large family of homeobox genes that are involved in many aspects of development and are the most striking example of a widespread conservation of developmental genes in animals. The name homeobox comes from their ability to bring about a homeotic transformation, converting one region into another. Most vertebrates have clusters of Hox genes on four different chromosomes. A very special feature of Hox gene expression in both insects and vertebrates is that the genes in the clusters are expressed in the developing embryo in a temporal and spatial order that reflects their order on the chromosome. Genes at one end of the cluster are expressed in the head region, while those at the other end are expressed in the tail region. This is a unique feature in development, as it is the only known case where a spatial arrangement of genes on a chromosome corresponds to a spatial pattern in the embryo. The Hox genes provide the somites and adjacent mesoderm with positional values that determine their subsequent development.”

“Many of the genes that control the development of flies are similar to those controlling development in vertebrates, and indeed in many other animals. it seems that once evolution finds a satisfactory way of developing animal bodies, it tends to use the same mechanisms and molecules over and over again with, of course, some important modifications. […] The insect body is bilaterally symmetrical and has two distinct and largely independent axes: the antero-posterior and dorso-ventral axes, which are at right angles to each other. These axes are already partly set up in the fly egg, and become fully established and patterned in the very early embryo. Along the antero-posterior axis the embryo becomes divided into a number of segments, which will become the head, thorax, and abdomen of the larva. A series of evenly spaced grooves forms more or less simultaneously and these demarcate parasegments, which later give rise to the segments of the larva and adult. Of the fourteen larval parasegments, three contribute to mouthparts of the head, three to the thoracic region, and eight to the abdomen. […] Development is initiated by a gradient of the protein Bicoid, along the axis running from anterior to posterior in the egg; this provides the positional information required for further patterning along this axis. Bicoid is a transcription factor and acts as a morphogen—a graded concentration of a molecule that switches on particular genes at different threshold concentrations, thereby initiating a new pattern of gene expression along the axis. Bicoid activates anterior expression of the gene hunchback […]. The hunchback gene is switched on only when Bicoid is present above a certain threshold concentration. The protein of the hunchback gene, in turn, is instrumental in switching on the expression of the other genes, along the antero-posterior axis. […] The dorso-ventral axis is specified by a different set of maternal genes from those that specify the anterior-posterior axis, but by a similar mechanism. […] Once each parasegment is delimited, it behaves as an independent developmental unit, under the control of a particular set of genes. The parasegments are initially similar but each will soon acquire its own unique identity mainly due to Hox genes.”

“Because plant cells have rigid cell walls and, unlike animal cells, cannot move, a plant’s development is very much the result of patterns of oriented cell divisions and increase in cell size. Despite this difference, cell fate in plant development is largely determined by similar means as in animals – by a combination of positional signals and intercellular communication. […] The logic behind the spatial layouts of gene expression that pattern a developing flower is similar to that of Hox gene action in patterning the body axis in animals, but the genes involved are completely different. One general difference between plant and animal development is that most of the development occurs not in the embryo but in the growing plant. Unlike an animal embryo, the mature plant embryo inside a seed is not simply a smaller version of the organism it will become. All the ‘adult’ structures of the plant – shoots, roots, stalks, leaves, and flowers – are produced in the adult plant from localized groups of undifferentiated cells known as meristems. […] Another important difference between plant and animal cells is that a complete, fertile plant can develop from a single differentiated somatic cell and not just from a fertilized egg. This suggests that, unlike the differentiated cells of adult animals, some differentiated cells of the adult plant may retain totipotency and so behave like animal embryonic stem cells. […] The small organic molecule auxin is one of the most important and ubiquitous chemical signals in plant development and plant growth.”

“All animal embryos undergo a dramatic change in shape during their early development. This occurs primarily during gastrulation, the process that transforms a two-dimensional sheet of cells into the complex three-dimensional animal body, and involves extensive rearrangements of cell layers and the directed movement of cells from one location to another. […] Change in form is largely a problem in cell mechanics and requires forces to bring about changes in cell shape and cell migration. Two key cellular properties involved in changes in animal embryonic form are cell contraction and cell adhesiveness. Contraction in one part of a cell can change the cell’s shape. Changes in cell shape are generated by forces produced by the cytoskeleton, an internal protein framework of filaments. Animal cells stick to one another, and to the external support tissue that surrounds them (the extracellular matrix), through interactions involving cell-surface proteins. Changes in the adhesion proteins at the cell surface can therefore determine the strength of cell–cell adhesion and its specificity. These adhesive interactions affect the surface tension at the cell membrane, a property that contributes to the mechanics of the cell behaviour. Cells can also migrate, with contraction again playing a key role. An additional force that operates during morphogenesis, particularly in plants but also in a few aspects of animal embryogenesis, is hydrostatic pressure, which causes cells to expand. In plants there is no cell movement or change in shape, and changes in form are generated by oriented cell division and cell expansion. […] Localized contraction can change the shape of the cells as well as the sheet they are in. For example, folding of a cell sheet—a very common feature in embryonic development—is caused by localized changes in cell shape […]. Contraction on one side of a cell results in it acquiring a wedge-like form; when this occurs among a few cells locally in a sheet, a bend occurs at the site, deforming the sheet.”

“The integrity of tissues in the embryo is maintained by adhesive interactions between cells and between cells and the extracellular matrix; differences in cell adhesiveness also help maintain the boundaries between different tissues and structures. Cells stick to each other by means of cell adhesion molecules, such as cadherins, which are proteins on the cell surface that can bind strongly to proteins on other cell surfaces. About 30 different types of cadherins have been identified in vertebrates. […] Adhesion of a cell to the extracellular matrix, which contains proteins such as collagen, is by the binding of integrins in the cell membrane to these matrix molecules. […] Convergent extension plays a key role in gastrulation of [some] animals and […] morphogenetic processes. It is a mechanism for elongating a sheet of cells in one direction while narrowing its width, and occurs by rearrangement of cells within the sheet, rather than by cell migration or cell division. […] For convergent extension to take place, the axes along which the cells will intercalate and extend must already have been defined. […] Gastrulation in vertebrates involves a much more dramatic and complex rearrangement of tissues than in sea urchins […] But the outcome is the same: the transformation of a two-dimensional sheet of cells into a three-dimensional embryo, with ectoderm, mesoderm, and endoderm in the correct positions for further development of body structure. […] Directed dilation is an important force in plants, and results from an increase in hydrostatic pressure inside a cell. Cell enlargement is a major process in plant growth and morphogenesis, providing up to a fiftyfold increase in the volume of a tissue. The driving force for expansion is the hydrostatic pressure exerted on the cell wall as a result of the entry of water into cell vacuoles by osmosis. Plant-cell expansion involves synthesis and deposition of new cell-wall material, and is an example of directed dilation. The direction of cell growth is determined by the orientation of the cellulose fibrils in the cell wall.”

Links:

Developmental biology.
August Weismann. Hans Driesch. Hans Spemann. Hilde Mangold. Spemann-Mangold organizer.
Induction. Cleavage.
Developmental model organisms.
Blastula. Embryo. Ectoderm. Mesoderm. Endoderm.
Gastrulation.
Xenopus laevis.
Notochord.
Neurulation.
Organogenesis.
DNA. Gene. Protein. Transcription factor. RNA polymerase.
Epiblast. Trophoblast/trophectoderm. Inner cell mass.
Pluripotency.
Polarity in embryogenesis/animal-vegetal axis.
Primitive streak.
Hensen’s node.
Neural tube. Neural fold. Neural crest cells.
Situs inversus.
Gene silencing. Morpholino.
Drosophila embryogenesis.
Pair-rule gene.
Cell polarity.
Mosaic vs regulative development.
Caenorhabditis elegans.
Fate mapping.
Plasmodesmata.
Arabidopsis thaliana.
Apical-basal axis.
Hypocotyl.
Phyllotaxis.
Primordium.
Quiescent centre.
Filopodia.
Radial cleavage. Spiral cleavage.

June 11, 2018 Posted by | Biology, Books, Botany, Genetics, Molecular biology | Leave a comment

Words

Most of the words included below are words which I encountered while reading the Tom Holt novels Ye Gods!Here Comes The SunGrailblazers, and Flying Dutch, as well as Lewis Wolpert’s Developmental Biology and Parminder & Swales’s text 100 Cases in Orthopaedics and Rheumatology.

Epigraphy. Plangent. Simony. Simpulum. Testoon. Sybarite/sybaritic. Culverin. Niff. Gavotte. Welch. Curtilage. Basilar. Dusack. Galliard. Foolscap. Spinet. Netsuke. Pinny. Shufti. Foumart.

Compere. Triune. Sistrum. Tenon. Buckshee. Jink. Chiropody. Slingback. NarthexNidus. Subluxation. Aponeurosis. Psoas. Articular. Varus. Valgus. Talus. Orthosis/orthotics. Acetabulum. Labrum.

Peculation. Purler. Macédoine. Denticle. Inflorescence. Invagination. Intercalate. Antalgic. Chondral. Banjax. Bodge/peck. Remora. Chicory. Gantry. Aerate. Erk. Recumbent. Pootle. Stylus. Vamplate.

Tappet. Frumenty. Woad. Breviary. Witter. Errantry. Pommy. Lychee. Priory. Bourse. Phylloxera. Dozy. Whitlow. Crampon. Brill. Fiddly. Acrostic. Scrotty. Ricasso. Tetchy.

June 10, 2018 Posted by | Books, Language | Leave a comment

Mathematics in Cryptography III

As she puts it herself, most of this lecture [~first 47 minutes or so] was basically “an explanation by a non-expert on how the internet uses public key” (-cryptography). The last 20 minutes cover, again in her own words, “more theoretical aspects”.

Some links:

ARPANET.
NSFNET.
Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP). HTTPS.
Project Athena. Kerberos (protocol).
Pretty Good Privacy (PGP).
Secure Sockets Layer (SSL)/Transport Layer Security (TLS).
IPsec.
Wireshark.
Cipher suite.
Elliptic Curve Digital Signature Algorithm (ECDSA).
Request for Comments (RFC).
Elliptic-curve Diffie–Hellman (ECDH).
The SSL/TLS Handshake: an Overview.
Advanced Encryption Standard.
Galois/Counter Mode.
XOR gate.
Hexadecimal.
IP Header.
Time to live (TTL).
Transmission Control Protocol. TCP segment structure.
TLS record.
Security level.
Birthday problem. Birthday attack.
Handbook of Applied Cryptography (Alfred J. Menezes, Paul C. van Oorschot and Scott A. Vanstone). (§3.6 in particular is mentioned/referenced as this is stuff she talks about in the last ‘theoretical’ part of the lecture).

 

June 8, 2018 Posted by | Computer science, Cryptography, Lectures, Mathematics | Leave a comment

Blood (II)

Below I have added some quotes from the chapters of the book I did not cover in my first post, as well as some supplementary links.

Haemoglobin is of crucial biological importance; it is also easy to obtain safely in large quantities from donated blood. These properties have resulted in its becoming the most studied protein in human history. Haemoglobin played a key role in the history of our understanding of all proteins, and indeed the science of biochemistry itself. […] Oxygen transport defines the primary biological function of blood. […] Oxygen gas consists of two atoms of oxygen bound together to form a symmetrical molecule. However, oxygen cannot be transported in the plasma alone. This is because water is very poor at dissolving oxygen. Haemoglobin’s primary function is to increase this solubility; it does this by binding the oxygen gas on to the iron in its haem group. Every haem can bind one oxygen molecule, increasing the amount of oxygen able to dissolve in the blood.”

“An iron atom can exist in a number of different forms depending on how many electrons it has in its atomic orbitals. In its ferrous (iron II) state iron can bind oxygen readily. The haemoglobin protein has therefore evolved to stabilize its haem iron cofactor in this ferrous state. The result is that over fifty times as much oxygen is stored inside the confines of the red blood cell compared to outside in the watery plasma. However, using iron to bind oxygen comes at a cost. Iron (II) can readily lose one of its electrons to the bound oxygen, a process called ‘oxidation’. So the same form of iron that can bind oxygen avidly (ferrous) also readily reacts with that same oxygen forming an unreactive iron III state, called ‘ferric’. […] The complex structure of the protein haemoglobin is required to protect the ferrous iron from oxidizing. The haem iron is held in a precise configuration within the protein. Specific amino acids are ideally positioned to stabilize the iron–oxygen bond and prevent it from oxidizing. […] the iron stays ferrous despite the presence of the nearby oxygen. Having evolved over many hundreds of millions of years, this stability is very difficult for chemists to mimic in the laboratory. This is one reason why, desirable as it might be in terms of cost and convenience, it is not currently possible to replace blood transfusions with a simple small chemical iron oxygen carrier.”

“Given the success of the haem iron and globin combination in haemoglobin, it is no surprise that organisms have used this basic biochemical architecture for a variety of purposes throughout evolution, not just oxygen transport in blood. One example is the protein myoglobin. This protein resides inside animal cells; in the human it is found in the heart and skeletal muscle. […] Myoglobin has multiple functions. Its primary role is as an aid to oxygen diffusion. Whereas haemoglobin transports oxygen from the lung to the cell, myoglobin transports it once it is inside the cell. As oxygen is so poorly soluble in water, having a chain of molecules inside the cell that can bind and release oxygen rapidly significantly decreases the time it takes the gas to get from the blood capillary to the part of the cell—the mitochondria—where it is needed. […] Myoglobin can also act as an emergency oxygen backup store. In humans this is trivial and of questionable importance. Not so in diving mammals such as whales and dolphins that have as much as thirty times the myoglobin content of the terrestrial equivalent; indeed those mammals that dive for the longest duration have the most myoglobin. […] The third known function of myoglobin is to protect the muscle cells from damage by nitric oxide gas.”

“The heart is the organ that pumps blood around the body. If the heart stops functioning, blood does not flow. The driving force for this flow is the pressure difference between the arterial blood leaving the heart and the returning venous blood. The decreasing pressure in the venous side explains the need for unidirectional valves within veins to prevent the blood flowing in the wrong direction. Without them the return of the blood through the veins to the heart would be too slow, especially when standing up, when the venous pressure struggles to overcome gravity. […] normal [blood pressure] ranges rise slowly with age. […] high resistance in the arterial circulation at higher blood pressures [places] additional strain on the left ventricle. If the heart is weak, it may fail to achieve the extra force required to pump against this resistance, resulting in heart failure. […] in everyday life, a low blood pressure is rarely of concern. Indeed, it can be a sign of fitness as elite athletes have a much lower resting blood pressure than the rest of the population. […] the effect of exercise training is to thicken the muscles in the walls of the heart and enlarge the chambers. This enables more blood to be pumped per beat during intense exercise. The consequence of this extra efficiency is that when an athlete is resting—and therefore needs no more oxygen than a more sedentary person—the heart rate and blood pressure are lower than average. Most people’s experience of hypotension will be reflected by dizzy spells and lack of balance, especially when moving quickly to an upright position. This is because more blood pools in the legs when you stand up, meaning there is less blood for the heart to pump. The immediate effect should be for the heart to beat faster to restore the pressure. If there is a delay, the decrease in pressure can decrease the blood flow to the brain and cause dizziness; in extreme cases this can lead to fainting.”

“If hypertension is persistent, patients are most likely to be treated with drugs that target specific pathways that the body uses to control blood pressure. For example angiotensin is a protein that can trigger secretion of the hormone aldosterone from the adrenal gland. In its active form angiotensin can directly constrict blood vessels, while aldosterone enhances salt and water retention, so raising blood volume. Both these effects increase blood pressure. Angiotensin is converted into its active form by an enzyme called ‘Angiotensin Converting Enzyme’ (ACE). An ACE inhibitor drug prevents this activity, keeping angiotensin in its inactive form; this will therefore drop the patient’s blood pressure. […] The metal calcium controls many processes in the body. Its entry into muscle cells triggers muscle contraction. Preventing this entry can therefore reduce the force of contraction of the heart and the ability of arteries to constrict. Both of these will have the effect of decreasing blood pressure. Calcium enters muscle cells via specific protein-based channels. Drugs that block these channels (calcium channel blockers) are therefore highly effective at treating hypertension.”

Autoregulation is a homeostatic process designed to ensure that blood flow remains constant [in settings where constancy is desirable]. However, there are many occasions when an organism actively requires a change in blood flow. It is relatively easy to imagine what these are. In the short term, blood supplies oxygen and nutrients. When these are used up rapidly, or their supply becomes limited, the response will be to increase blood flow. The most obvious example is the twenty-fold increase in oxygen and glucose consumption that occurs in skeletal muscle during exercise when compared to rest. If there were no accompanying increase in blood flow to the muscle the oxygen supply would soon run out. […] There are hundreds of molecules known that have the ability to increase or decrease blood flow […] The surface of all blood vessels is lined by a thin layer of cells, the ‘endothelium’. Endothelial cells form a barrier between the blood and the surrounding tissue, controlling access of materials into and out of the blood. For example white blood cells can enter or leave the circulation via interacting with the endothelium; this is the route by which neutrophils migrate from the blood to the site of tissue damage or bacterial/viral attack as part of the innate immune response. However, the endothelium is not just a selective barrier. It also plays an active role in blood physiology and biochemistry.”

“Two major issues [related to blood transfusions] remained at the end of the 19th century: the problem of clotting, which all were aware of; and the problem of blood group incompatbility, which no one had the slightest idea even existed. […] For blood transfusions to ever make a recovery the key issues of blood clotting and adverse side effects needed to be resolved. In 1875 the Swedish biochemist Olof Hammarsten showed that adding calcium accelerated the rate of blood clotting (we now know the mechanism for this is that key enzymes in blood platelets that catalyse fibrin formation require calcium for their function). It therefore made sense to use chemicals that bind calcium to try to prevent clotting. Calcium ions are positively charged; adding negatively charged ions such as oxalate and citrate neutralized the calcium, preventing its clot-promoting action. […] At the same time as anticoagulants were being discovered, the reason why some blood transfusions failed even when there were no clots was becoming clear. It had been shown that animal blood given to humans tended to clump together or agglutinate, eventually bursting and releasing free haemoglobin and causing kidney damage. In the early 1900s, working in Vienna, Karl Landsteiner showed the same effect could occur with human-to-human transfusion. The trick was the ability to separate blood cells from serum. This enabled mixing blood cells from a variety of donors with plasma from a variety of participants. Using his laboratory staff as subjects, Landsteiner showed that only some combinations caused the agglutination reaction. Some donor cells (now known as type O) never clumped. Others clumped depending on the nature of the plasma in a reproducible manner. A careful study of Landsteiner’s results revealed the ABO blood type distinctions […]. Versions of these agglutination tests still form the basis of checking transfused blood today.”

“No blood product can be made completely sterile, no matter how carefully it is processed. The best that can be done is to ensure that no new bacteria or viruses are added during the purification, storage, and transportation processes. Nothing can be done to inactivate any viruses that are already present in the donor’s blood, for the harsh treatments necessary to do this would inevitably damage the viability of the product or be prohibitively expensive to implement on the industrial scale that the blood market has become. […] In the 1980s over half the US haemophiliac population was HIV positive.”

“Three fundamentally different ways have been attempted to replace red blood cell transfusions. The first uses a completely chemical approach and makes use of perfluorocarbons, inert chemicals that, in liquid form, can dissolve gasses without reacting with them. […] Perfluorocarbons can dissolve oxygen much more effectively than water. […] The problem with their use as a blood substitute is that the amount of oxygen dissolved in these solutions is linear with increasing pressure. This means that the solution lacks the advantages of the sigmoidal binding curve of haemoglobin, which has evolved to maximize the amount of oxygen captured from the limited fraction found in air (20 per cent oxygen). However, to deliver the same amount of oxygen as haemoglobin, patients using the less efficient perfluorocarbons in their blood need to breathe gas that is almost 100 per cent pure oxygen […]; this restricts the use of these compounds. […] The second type of blood substitute makes use of haemoglobin biology. Initial attempts used purified haemoglobin itself. […] there is no haemoglobin-based blood substitute in general use today […] The problem for the lack of uptake is not that blood substitutes cannot replace red blood cell function. A variety of products have been shown to stay in the vasculature for several days, provide volume support, and deliver oxygen. However, they have suffered due to adverse side effects, most notably cardiac complications. […] In nature the plasma proteins haptoglobin and haemopexin bind and detoxify any free haemoglobin and haem released from red blood cells. The challenge for blood substitute research is to mimic these effects in a product that can still deliver oxygen. […] Despite ongoing research, these problems may prove to be insurmountable. There is therefore interest in a third approach. This is to grow artificial red blood cells using stem cell technology.”

Links:

Porphyrin. Globin.
Felix Hoppe-Seyler. Jacques Monod. Jeffries Wyman. Jean-Pierre Changeux.
Allosteric regulation. Monod-Wyman-Changeux model.
Structural Biochemistry/Hemoglobin (wikibooks). (Many of the topics covered in this link – e.g. comments on affinity, T/R-states, oxygen binding curves, the Bohr effect, etc. – are also covered in the book, so although I do link to some of the other topics also covered in this link below it should be noted that I did in fact leave out quite a few potentially relevant links on account of those topics being covered in the above link).
1,3-Bisphosphoglycerate.
Erythrocruorin.
Haemerythrin.
Hemocyanin.
Cytoglobin.
Neuroglobin.
Sickle cell anemia. Thalassaemia. Hemoglobinopathy. Porphyria.
Pulse oximetry.
Daniel Bernoulli. Hydrodynamica. Stephen Hales. Karl von Vierordt.
Arterial line.
Sphygmomanometer. Korotkoff sounds. Systole. Diastole. Blood pressure. Mean arterial pressure. Hypertension. Antihypertensive drugs. Atherosclerosis Pathology. Beta blocker. Diuretic.
Autoregulation.
Guanylate cyclase. Glyceryl trinitrate.
Blood transfusion. Richard Lower. Jean-Baptiste Denys. James Blundell.
Parabiosis.
Penrose Inquiry.
ABLE (Age of Transfused Blood in Critically Ill Adults) trial.
RECESS trial.

June 7, 2018 Posted by | Biology, Books, Cardiology, Chemistry, History, Medicine, Molecular biology, Pharmacology, Studies | Leave a comment

Molecular biology (III)

Below I have added a few quotes and links related to the last few chapters of the book‘s coverage.

“Normal ageing results in part from exhaustion of stem cells, the cells that reside in most organs to replenish damaged tissue. As we age DNA damage accumulates and this eventually causes the cells to enter a permanent non-dividing state called senescence. This protective ploy however has its downside as it limits our lifespan. When too many stem cells are senescent the body is compromised in its capacity to renew worn-out tissue, causing the effects of ageing. This has a knock-on effect of poor intercellular communication, mitochondrial dysfunction, and loss of protein balance (proteostasis). Low levels of chronic inflammation also increase with ageing and could be the trigger for changes associated with many age-related disorders.”

“There has been a dramatic increase in ageing research using yeast and invertebrates, leading to the discovery of more ‘ageing genes’ and their pathways. These findings can be extrapolated to humans since longevity pathways are conserved between species. The major pathways known to influence ageing have a common theme, that of sensing and metabolizing nutrients. […] The field was advanced by identification of the mammalian Target Of Rapamycin, aptly named mTOR. mTOR acts as a molecular sensor that integrates growth stimuli with nutrient and oxygen availability. Small molecules such as rapamycin that reduce mTOR signalling act in a similar way to severe dietary restriction in slowing the ageing process in organisms such as yeast and worms. […] Rapamycin and its derivatives (rapalogs) have been involved in clinical trials on reducing age-related pathologies […] Another major ageing pathway is telomere maintenance. […] Telomere attrition is a hallmark of ageing and studies have established an association between shorter telomere length (TL) and the risk of various common age-related ailments […] Telomere loss is accelerated by known determinants of ill health […] The relationship between TL and cancer appears complex.”

“Cancer is not a single disease but a range of diseases caused by abnormal growth and survival of cells that have the capacity to spread. […] One of the early stages in the acquisition of an invasive phenotype is epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT). Epithelial cells form skin and membranes and for this they have a strict polarity (a top and a bottom) and are bound in position by close connections with adjacent cells. Mesenchymal cells on the other hand are loosely associated, have motility, and lack polarization. The transition between epithelial and mesenchymal cells is a normal process during embryogenesis and wound healing but is deregulated in cancer cells. EMT involves transcriptional reprogramming in which epithelial structural proteins are lost and mesenchymal ones acquired. This facilitates invasion of a tumour into surrounding tissues. […] Cancer is a genetic disease but mostly not inherited from the parents. Normal cells evolve to become cancer cells by acquiring successive mutations in cancer-related genes. There are two main classes of cancer genes, the proto-oncogenes and the tumour suppressor genes. The proto-oncogenes code for protein products that promote cell proliferation. […] A mutation in a proto-oncogene changes it to an ‘oncogene’ […] One gene above all others is associated with cancer suppression and that is TP53. […] approximately half of all human cancers carry a mutated TP53 and in many more, p53 is deregulated. […] p53 plays a key role in eliminating cells that have either acquired activating oncogenes or excessive genomic damage. Thus mutations in the TP53 gene allows cancer cells to survive and divide further by escaping cell death […] A mutant p53 not only lacks the tumour suppressor functions of the normal or wild type protein but in many cases it also takes on the role of an oncogene. […] Overall 5-10 per cent of cancers occur due to inherited or germ line mutations that are passed from parents to offspring. Many of these genes code for DNA repair enzymes […] The vast majority of cancer mutations are not inherited; instead they are sporadic with mutations arising in somatic cells. […] At least 15 per cent of cancers are attributable to infectious agents, examples being HPV and cervical cancer, H. pylori and gastric cancer, and also hepatitis B or C and liver cancer.”

“There are about 10 million different sites at which people can vary in their DNA sequence withing the 3 billion bases in our DNA. […] A few, but highly variable sequences or minisatellites are chosen for DNA profiling. These give a highly sensitive procedure suitable for use with small amounts of body fluids […] even shorter sequences called microsatellite repeats [are also] used. Each marker or microsatellite is a short tandem repeat (STR) of two to five base pairs of DNA sequence. A single STR will be shared by up to 20 per cent of the population but by using a dozen or so identification markers in profile, the error is miniscule. […] Microsatellites are extremely useful for analysing low-quality or degraded DNA left at a crime scene as their short sequences are usually preserved. However, DNA in specimens that have not been optimally preserved persists in exceedingly small amounts and is also highly fragmented. It is probably also riddled by contamination and chemical damage. Such sources of DNA sources of DNA are too degraded to obtain a profile using genomic STRs and in these cases mitochondrial DNA, being more abundant, is more useful than nuclear DNA for DNA profiling. […]  Mitochondrial DNA profiling is the method of choice for determining the identities of missing or unknown people when a maternally linked relative can be found. Molecular biologists can amplify hypervariable regions of mitochondrial DNA by PCR to obtain enough material for analysis. The DNA products are sequenced and single nucleotide differences are sought with a reference DNA from a maternal relative. […] It has now become possible for […] ancient DNA to reveal much more than genotype matches. […] Pigmentation characteristics can now be determined from ancient DNA since skin, hair, and eye colour are some of the easiest characteristics to predict. This is due to the limited number of base differences or SNPs required to explain most of the variability.”

“A broad range of debilitating and fatal conditions, non of which can be cured, are associated with mitochondrial DNA mutations. […] [M]itochondrial DNA mutates ten to thirty times faster than nuclear DNA […] Mitochondrial DNA mutates at a higher rate than nuclear DNA due to higher numbers of DNA molecules and reduced efficiency in controlling DNA replication errors. […] Over 100,000 copies of mitochondrial DNA are present in the cytoplasm of the human egg or oocyte. After fertilization, only maternal mitochondria survive; the small numbers of the father’s mitochondria in the zygote are targeted for destruction. Thus all mitochondrial DNA for all cell types in the resulting embryo is maternal-derived. […] Patients affected by mitochondrial disease usually have a mixture of wild type (normal) and mutant mitochondrial DNA and the disease severity depends on the ratio of the two. Importantly the actual level of mutant DNA in a mother’s heteroplas[m]y […curiously the authors throughout the coverage insist on spelling this ‘heteroplasty’, which according to google is something quite different – I decided to correct the spelling error (?) here – US] is not inherited and offspring can be better or worse off than the mother. This also causes uncertainty since the ratio of wild type to mutant mitochondria may change during development. […] Over 700 mutations in mitochondrial DNA have been found leading to myopathies, neurodegeneration, diabetes, cancer, and infertility.”

Links:

Dementia. Alzheimer’s disease. Amyloid hypothesis. Tau protein. Proteopathy. Parkinson’s disease. TP53-inducible glycolysis and apoptosis regulator (TIGAR).
Progeria. Progerin. Werner’s syndrome. Xeroderma pigmentosum. Cockayne syndrome.
Shelterin.
Telomerase.
Alternative lengthening of telomeres: models, mechanisms and implications (Nature).
Coats plus syndrome.
Neoplasia. Tumor angiogenesis. Inhibitor protein MDM2.
Li–Fraumeni syndrome.
Non-coding RNA networks in cancer (Nature).
Cancer stem cell. (“The reason why current cancer therapies often fail to eradicate the disease is that the CSCs survive current DNA damaging treatments and repopulate the tumour.” See also this IAS lecture which covers closely related topics – US.)
Imatinib.
Restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLP).
CODIS.
MC1R.
Archaic human admixture with modern humans.
El Tor strain.
DNA barcoding.
Hybrid breakdown/-inviability.
Trastuzumab.
Digital PCR.
Pearson’s syndrome.
Mitochondrial replacement therapy.
Synthetic biology.
Artemisinin.
Craig Venter.
Genome editing.
Indel.
CRISPR.
Tyrosinemia.

June 3, 2018 Posted by | Biology, Books, Cancer/oncology, Genetics, Medicine, Molecular biology | Leave a comment

Mathematics in Cryptography II

Some links to stuff covered in the lecture:

Public-key cryptography.
New Directions in Cryptography (Diffie & Hellman, 1976).
The history of Non-Secret Encryption (James Ellis).
Note on “Non-Secret Encryption” – Cliff Cocks (1973).
RSA (cryptosystem).
Discrete Logarithm Problem.
Diffie–Hellman key exchange.
AES (Advanced Encryption Standard).
Triple DES.
Trusted third party (TTP).
Key management.
Man-in-the-middle attack.
Digital signature.
Public key certificate.
Secret sharing.
Hash function. Cryptographic hash function.
Secure Hash Algorithm 2 (SHA-2).
Non-repudiation (digital security).
L-notation. L (complexity).
ElGamal signature scheme.
Digital Signature Algorithm (DSA).
Schnorr signature.
Identity-based cryptography.
Identity-Based Cryptosystems and Signature Schemes (Adi Shamir, 1984).
Algorithms for Quantum Computation: Discrete Logarithms and Factoring (Peter Shor, 1994).
Quantum resistant cryptography.
Elliptic curve. Elliptic-curve cryptography.
Projective space.

I have included very few links relating to the topics covered in the last part of the lecture. This was deliberate and not just a result of the type of coverage included in that part of the lecture. In my opinion non-mathematicians should probably skip the last 25 minutes or so as they’re – not only due to technical issues (the lecturer is writing stuff on the blackboard and for several minutes you’re unable to see what she’s writing, which is …unfortunate), but those certainly were not helping – not really worth the effort. The first hour of the lecture is great, the last 25 minutes are, well, less great, in my opinion. You should however not miss the first part of the coverage of ECC-related stuff (in particular the coverage ~55-58 minutes in), if you’re interested in making sense of how ECC works; I certainly found that part of the coverage very helpful.

June 2, 2018 Posted by | Computer science, Cryptography, Lectures, Mathematics, Papers | Leave a comment

Blood (I)

As I also mentioned on goodreads I was far from impressed with the first few pages of this book – but I read on, and the book actually turned out to include a decent amount of very reasonable coverage. Taking into consideration the way the author started out the three star rating should be considered a high rating, and in some parts of the book the author covers very complicated stuff in a really very decent manner, considering the format of the book and its target group.

Below I have added some quotes and some links to topics/people/ideas/etc. covered in the first half of the book.

“[Clotting] makes it difficult to study the components of blood. It also [made] it impossible to store blood for transfusion [in the past]. So there was a need to find a way to prevent clotting. Fortunately the discovery that the metal calcium accelerated the rate of clotting enabled the development of a range of compounds that bound calcium and therefore prevented this process. One of them, citrate, is still in common use today [here’s a relevant link, US] when blood is being prepared for storage, or to stop blood from clotting while it is being pumped through kidney dialysis machines and other extracorporeal circuits. Adding citrate to blood, and leaving it alone, will result in gravity gradually separating the blood into three layers; the process can be accelerated by rapid spinning in a centrifuge […]. The top layer is clear and pale yellow or straw-coloured in appearance. This is the plasma, and it contains no cells. The bottom layer is bright red and contains the dense pellet of red cells that have sunk to the bottom of the tube. In-between these two layers is a very narrow layer, called the ‘buffy coat’ because of its pale yellow-brown appearance. This contains white blood cells and platelets. […] red cells, white cells, and platelets […] define the primary functions of blood: oxygen transport, immune defence, and coagulation.”

“The average human has about five trillion red blood cells per litre of blood or thirty trillion […] in total, making up a quarter of the total number of cells in the body. […] It is clear that the red cell has primarily evolved to perform a single function, oxygen transportation. Lacking a nucleus, and the requisite machinery to control the synthesis of new proteins, there is a limited ability for reprogramming or repair. […] each cell [makes] a complete traverse of the body’s circulation about once a minute. In its three- to four-month lifetime, this means every cell will do the equivalent of 150,000 laps around the body. […] Red cells lack mitochondria; they get their energy by fermenting glucose. […] A prosaic explanation for their lack of mitochondria is that it prevents the loss of any oxygen picked up from the lungs on the cells’ journey to the tissues that need it. The shape of the red cell is both deformable and elastic. In the bloodstream each cell is exposed to large shear forces. Yet, due to the properties of the membrane, they are able to constrict to enter blood vessels smaller in diameter than their normal size, bouncing back to their original shape on exiting the vessel the other side. This ability to safely enter very small openings allows capillaries to be very small. This in turn enables every cell in the body to be close to a capillary. Oxygen consequently only needs to diffuse a short distance from the blood to the surrounding tissue; this is vital as oxygen diffusion outside the bloodstream is very slow. Various pathologies, such as diabetes, peripheral vascular disease, and septic shock disturb this deformability of red blood cells, with deleterious consequences.”

“Over thirty different substances, proteins and carbohydrates, contribute to an individual’s blood group. By far the best known are the ABO and Rhesus systems. This is not because the proteins and carbohydrates that comprise these particular blood group types are vitally important for red cell function, but rather because a failure to account for these types during a blood transfusion can have catastrophic consequences. The ABO blood group is sugar-based […] blood from an O person can be safely given to anyone (with no sugar antigens this person is a ‘universal’ donor). […] As all that is needed to convert A and B to O is to remove a sugar, there is commercial and medical interest in devising ways to do this […] the Rh system […] is protein-based rather than sugar based. […] Rh proteins sit in the lipid membrane of the cell and control the transport of molecules into and out of the cell, most probably carbon dioxide and ammonia. The situation is complex, with over thirty different subgroups relating to subtle differences in the protein structure.”

“Unlike the red cells, all white cell subtypes contain nuclei. Some also contain on their surface a set of molecules called the ‘major histocompatibility complex’ (MHC). In humans, these receptors are also called ‘human leucocyte antigens’ (HLA). Their role is to recognize fragments of protein from pathogens and trigger the immune response that will ultimately destroy the invaders. Crudely, white blood cells can be divided into those that attack ‘on sight’ any foreign material — whether it be a fragment of inanimate material such as a splinter or an invading microorganism — and those that form part of a defence mechanism that recognizes specific biomolecules and marshals a slower, but equally devastating response. […] cells of the non-specific (or innate) immune system […] are divided into those that have nuclei with multiple lobed shapes (polymorphonuclear leukocytes or PMN) and those that have a single lobe nucleus ([…] ‘mononuclear leucocytes‘ or ‘MN’). PMN contain granules inside them and so are sometimes called ‘granulocytes‘.”

“Neutrophils are by far the most abundant PMN, making up over half of the total white blood cell count. The primary role of a neutrophil is to engulf a foreign object such as an invading microorganism. […] Eosinophils and basophils are the least abundant PMN cell type, each making up less than 2 per cent of white blood cells. The role of basophils is to respond to tissue injury by triggering an inflammatory response. […] When activated, basophils and mast cells degranulate, releasing molecules such as histamine, leukotrienes, and cytokines. Some of these molecules trigger an increase in blood flow causing redness and heat in the damaged site, others sensitize the area to pain. Greater permeability of the blood vessels results in plasma leaking out of the vessels and into the surrounding tissue at an increased rate, causing swelling. […] This is probably an evolutionary adaption to prevent overuse of a damaged part of the body but also helps to bring white cells and proteins to the damaged, inflamed area. […] The main function of eosinophils is to tackle invaders too large to be engulfed by neutrophils, such as the multicellular parasitic tapeworms and nematodes. […] Monocytes are a type of mononuclear leucocyte (MN) making up about 5 per cent of white blood cells. They spend even less tiem in the circulation than neutrophils, generally less than ten hours, but their time in the blood circulation does not end in death. Instead, they are converted into a cell called a ‘macrophage‘ […] Their role is similar to the neutrophil, […] the ultimate fate of both the red blood cell and the neutrophil is to be engulfed by a macrophage. An excess of monocytes in a blood count (monocytosis) is an indicator of chronic inflammation”.

“Blood has to flow freely. Therefore, the red cells, white cells, and platelets are all suspended in a watery solution called ‘plasma’. But plasma is more than just water. In fact if it were only water all the cells would burst. Plasma has to have a very similar concentration of molecules and ions as the cells. This is because cells are permeable to water. So if the concentration of dissolved substances in the plasma was significantly higher than that in the cells, water would flow from the cells to the plasma in an attempt to equalize this gradient by diluting the plasma; this would result in cell shrinkage. Even worse, if the concentration in the plasma was lower than in the cells, water would flow into the cells from the plasma, and the resulting pressure increase would burst the cells, releasing all their contents into the plasma in the process. […] Plasma contains much more than just the ions required to prevent cells bursting or shrinking. It also contains key components designed to assist in cellular function. The protein clotting factors that are part of the coagulation cascade are always present in low concentrations […] Low levels of antibodies, produced by the lymphocytes, circulate […] In addition to antibodies, the plasma contains C-reactive proteins, Mannose-binding lectin and complement proteins that function as ‘opsonins‘ […] A host of other proteins perform roles independent of oxygen delivery or immune defence. By far the most abundant protein in serum is albumin. […] Blood is the transport infrastructure for any molecule that needs to be moved around the body. Some, such as the water-soluble fuel glucose, and small hormones like insulin, dissolve freely in the plasma. Others that are less soluble hitch a ride on proteins [….] Dangerous reactive molecules, such as iron, are also bound to proteins, in this case transferrin.”

Immunoglobulins are produced by B lymphocytes and either remain bound on the surface of the cell (as part of the B cell receptor) or circulate freely in the plasma (as antibodies). Whatever their location, their purpose is the same – to bind to and capture foreign molecules (antigens). […] To perform the twin role of binding the antigen and the phagocytosing cell, immunoglobulins need to have two distinct parts to their structure — one that recognizes the foreign antigen and one that can be recognized — and destroyed — by the host defence system. The host defence system does not vary; a specific type of immunoglobulin will be recognized by one of the relatively few types of immune cells or proteins. Therefore this part of the immunoglobulin structure is not variable. But the nature of the foreign antigen will vary greatly; so the antigen-recognizing part of the structure must be highly variable. It is this that leads to the great variety of immunoglobulins. […] within the blood there is an army of potential binding sites that can recognize and bind to almost any conceivable chemical structure. Such variety is why the body is able to adapt and kill even organisms it has never encountered before. Indeed the ability to make an immunoglobulin recognize almost any structure has resulted in antibody binding assays being used historically in diagnostic tests ranging from pregnancy to drugs testing.”

“[I]mmunoglobulins consist of two different proteins — a heavy chain and a light chain. In the human heavy chain there are about forty different V (variable) segments, twenty-five different D (Diversity) segments, and six J (Joining) segments. The light chain also contains variable V and J segments. A completed immunoglobulin has a heavy chain with only one V, D, and J segment, and a light chain with only one V and D segment. It is the shuffling of these segments during development of the mature B lymphocyte that creates the diversity required […] the hypervariable regions are particularly susceptible to mutation during development. […] A separate class of immunoglobulin-like molecules also provide the key to cell-to-cell communication in the immune system. In humans, with the exception of the egg and sperm cells, all cells that possess a nucleus also have a protein on their surface called ‘Human Leucocyte Antigen (HLA) Class I’. The function of HLA Class I is to display fragments (antigens) of all the proteins currently being made inside the cell. It therefore acts like a billboard displaying the current highlights of cellular activity. Any proteins recognized as non-self by cytotoxic T cell lymphocytes will result in the whole cell being targeted for destruction […]. Another form of HLA, Class II, is only present on the surface of specialized cells of the immune system termed antigen presenting cells. In contrast to HLA Class I, the surface of HLA Class II cells displays antigens that originate from outside of the cell.”

Galen.
Bloodletting.
Marcello Malpighi.
William Harvey. De Motu Cordis.
Andreas Vesalius. De humani corporis fabrica.
Ibn al-Nafis. Michael Servetus. Realdo Colombo. Andrea Cesalpino.
Pulmonary circulation.
Hematopoietic stem cell. Bone marrow. Erythropoietin.
Hemoglobin.
Anemia.
Peroxidase.
Lymphocytes. NK cells. Granzyme. B lymphocytes. T lymphocytes. Antibody/Immunoglobulin. Lymphoblast.
Platelet. Coagulation cascade. Fibrinogen. Fibrin. Thrombin. Haemophilia. Hirudin. Von Willebrand disease. Haemophilia A. -ll- B.
Tonicity. Colloid osmotic pressure.
Adaptive immune system. Vaccination. VariolationAntiserum. Agostino Bassi. Muscardine. Louis Pasteur. Élie Metchnikoff. Paul Ehrlich.
Humoral immunity. Membrane attack complex.
Niels Kaj Jerne. David Talmage. Frank Burnet. Clonal selection theory. Peter Medawar.
Susumu Tonegawa.

June 2, 2018 Posted by | Biology, Books, Immunology, Medicine, Molecular biology | Leave a comment

Computers, People and the Real World

“An exploration of some spectacular failures of modern day computer-aided systems, which fail to take into account the real-world […] Almost nobody wants an IT system. What they want is a better way of doing something, whether that is buying and selling shares on the Stock Exchange, flying an airliner or running a hospital. So the system they want will usually involve changes to the way people work, and interactions with physical objects and the environment. Drawing on examples including the new programme for IT in the NHS, this lecture explores what can go wrong when business change is mistakenly viewed as an IT project.” (Quote from the video description on youtube).

Some links related to the lecture coverage:
Computer-aided dispatch.
London Ambulance Service – computerization.
Report of the Inquiry Into The London Ambulance Service (February 1993).
Sociotechnical system.
Tay (bot).

A few observations/quotes from the lecture (-notes):

The bidder who least understands the complexity of a requirement is likely to put in the lowest bid.
“It is a mistake to use a computer system to impose new work processes on under-trained or reluctant staff. – Front line staff are often best placed to judge what is practical.” [A quote from later in the lecture [~36 mins] is even more explicit: “The experts in any work process are usually the people who have been carrying it out.”]
“It is important to understand that in any system implementation the people factor is as important, and arguably more important, than the technical infrastructure.” (This last one is a full quote from the report linked above; the lecture includes a shortened version – US) [Quotes and observations above from ~16 minute mark unless otherwise noted]

“There is no such thing as an IT project”
“(almost) every significant “IT Project” is actually a business change project that is enabled and supported by one or more IT systems. Business processes are expensive to change. The business changes take at least as long and cost as much as the new IT system, and need at least as much planning and management” [~29 mins]

“Software packages are packaged business processes
*Changing a package to fit the way you want to work can cost more than writing new software” [~31-32 mins]

“Most computer systems interact with people: the sociotechnical view is that the people and the IT are two components of a larger system. Designing that larger system is the real task.” [~36 mins]

May 31, 2018 Posted by | Computer science, Economics, Engineering, Lectures | Leave a comment

A few diabetes papers of interest

i. Reevaluating the Evidence for Blood Pressure Targets in Type 2 Diabetes.

“There is general consensus that treating adults with type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) and hypertension to a target blood pressure (BP) of <140/90 mmHg helps prevent cardiovascular disease (CVD). Whether more intensive BP control should be routinely targeted remains a matter of debate. While the American Diabetes Association (ADA) BP guidelines recommend an individualized assessment to consider different treatment goals, the American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association BP guidelines recommend a BP target of <130/80 mmHg for most individuals with hypertension, including those with T2DM (13).

In large part, these discrepant recommendations reflect the divergent results of the Action to Control Cardiovascular Risk in Diabetes-BP trial (ACCORD-BP) among people with T2DM and the Systolic Blood Pressure Intervention Trial (SPRINT), which excluded people with diabetes (4,5). Both trials evaluated the effect of intensive compared with standard BP treatment targets (<120 vs. <140 mmHg systolic) on a composite CVD end point of nonfatal myocardial infarction or stroke or death from cardiovascular causes. SPRINT also included unstable angina and acute heart failure in its composite end point. While ACCORD-BP did not show a significant benefit from the intervention (hazard ratio [HR] 0.88; 95% CI 0.73–1.06), SPRINT found a significant 25% relative risk reduction on the primary end point favoring intensive therapy (0.75; 0.64–0.89).”

“To some extent, CVD mechanisms and causes of death differ in T2DM patients compared with the general population. Microvascular disease (particularly kidney disease), accelerated vascular calcification, and diabetic cardiomyopathy are common in T2DM (1315). Moreover, the rate of sudden cardiac arrest is markedly increased in T2DM and related, in part, to diabetes-specific factors other than ischemic heart disease (16). Hypoglycemia is a potential cause of CVD mortality that is specific to diabetes (17). In addition, polypharmacy is common and may increase CVD risk (18). Furthermore, nonvascular causes of death account for approximately 40% of the premature mortality burden experienced by T2DM patients (19). Whether these disease processes may render patients with T2DM less amenable to derive a mortality benefit from intensive BP control, however, is not known and should be the focus of future research.

In conclusion, the divergent results between ACCORD-BP and SPRINT are most readily explained by the apparent lack of benefit of intensive BP control on CVD and all-cause mortality in ACCORD-BP, rather than differences in the design, population characteristics, or interventions between the trials. This difference in effects on mortality may be attributable to differential mechanisms underlying CVD mortality in T2DM, to chance, or to both. These observations suggest that caution should be exercised extrapolating the results of SPRINT to patients with T2DM and support current ADA recommendations to individualize BP targets, targeting a BP of <140/90 mmHg in the majority of patients with T2DM and considering lower BP targets when it is anticipated that individual benefits outweigh risks.”

ii. Modelling incremental benefits on complications rates when targeting lower HbA1c levels in people with Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

“Glucose‐lowering interventions in Type 2 diabetes mellitus have demonstrated reductions in microvascular complications and modest reductions in macrovascular complications. However, the degree to which targeting different HbA1c reductions might reduce risk is unclear. […] Participant‐level data for Trial Evaluating Cardiovascular Outcomes with Sitagliptin (TECOS) participants with established cardiovascular disease were used in a Type 2 diabetes‐specific simulation model to quantify the likely impact of different HbA1c decrements on complication rates. […] The use of the TECOS data limits our findings to people with Type 2 diabetes and established cardiovascular disease. […] Ten‐year micro‐ and macrovascular rates were estimated with HbA1c levels fixed at 86, 75, 64, 53 and 42 mmol/mol (10%, 9%, 8%, 7% and 6%) while holding other risk factors constant at their baseline levels. Cumulative relative risk reductions for each outcome were derived for each HbA1c decrement. […] Of 5717 participants studied, 72.0% were men and 74.2% White European, with a mean (sd) age of 66.2 (7.9) years, systolic blood pressure 134 (16.9) mmHg, LDL‐cholesterol 2.3 (0.9) mmol/l, HDL‐cholesterol 1.13 (0.3) mmol/l and median Type 2 diabetes duration 9.6 (5.1–15.6) years. Ten‐year cumulative relative risk reductions for modelled HbA1c values of 75, 64, 53 and 42 mmol/mol, relative to 86 mmol/mol, were 4.6%, 9.3%, 15.1% and 20.2% for myocardial infarction; 6.0%, 12.8%, 19.6% and 25.8% for stroke; 14.4%, 26.6%, 37.1% and 46.4% for diabetes‐related ulcer; 21.5%, 39.0%, 52.3% and 63.1% for amputation; and 13.6%, 25.4%, 36.0% and 44.7 for single‐eye blindness. […] We did not investigate outcomes for renal failure or chronic heart failure as previous research conducted to create the model did not find HbA1c to be a statistically significant independent risk factor for either condition, therefore no clinically meaningful differences would be expected from modelling different HbA1c levels 11.”

“For microvascular complications, the absolute median estimates tended to be lower than for macrovascular complications at the same HbA1c level, but cumulative relative risk reductions were greater. For amputation the 10‐year absolute median estimate for a modelled constant HbA1c of 86 mmol/mol (10%) was 3.8% (3.7, 3.9), with successively lower values for each modelled 1% HbA1c decrement. Compared with the 86 mmol/mol (10%) HbA1c level, median relative risk reductions for amputation were 21.5% (21.1, 21.9) at 75 mmol/mol (9%) increasing to 52.3% (52.0, 52.6) at 53 mmol/mol (7%). […] Relative risk reductions in micro‐ and macrovascular complications for each 1% HbA1c reduction were similar for each decrement. The exception was all‐cause mortality, where the relative risk reductions for 1% HbA1c decrements were greater at higher baseline HbA1c levels. These simulated outcomes differ from the Diabetes Control and Complications Trial outcome in people with Type 1 diabetes, where lowering HbA1c from higher baseline levels had a greater impact on microvascular risk reduction 18.”

iii. Laser photocoagulation for proliferative diabetic retinopathy (Cochrane review).

“Diabetic retinopathy is a complication of diabetes in which high blood sugar levels damage the blood vessels in the retina. Sometimes new blood vessels grow in the retina, and these can have harmful effects; this is known as proliferative diabetic retinopathy. Laserphotocoagulation is an intervention that is commonly used to treat diabetic retinopathy, in which light energy is applied to the retinawith the aim of stopping the growth and development of new blood vessels, and thereby preserving vision. […] The aim of laser photocoagulation is to slow down the growth of new blood vessels in the retina and thereby prevent the progression of visual loss (Ockrim 2010). Focal laser photocoagulation uses the heat of light to seal or destroy abnormal blood vessels in the retina. Individual vessels are treated with a small number of laser burns.

PRP [panretinal photocoagulation, US] aims to slow down the growth of new blood vessels in a wider area of the retina. Many hundreds of laser burns are placed on the peripheral parts of the retina to stop blood vessels from growing (RCOphth 2012). It is thought that the anatomic and functional changes that result from photocoagulation may improve the oxygen supply to the retina, and so reduce the stimulus for neovascularisation (Stefansson 2001). Again the exact mechanisms are unclear, but it is possible that the decreased area of retinal tissue leads to improved oxygenation and a reduction in the levels of anti-vascular endothelial growth factor. A reduction in levels of anti-vascular endothelial growth factor may be important in reducing the risk of harmful new vessels forming. […] Laser photocoagulation is a well-established common treatment for DR and there are many different potential strategies for delivery of laser treatment that are likely to have different effects. A systematic review of the evidence for laser photocoagulation will provide important information on benefits and harms to guide treatment choices. […] This is the first in a series of planned reviews on laser photocoagulation. Future reviews will compare different photocoagulation techniques.”

“We identified a large number of trials of laser photocoagulation of diabetic retinopathy (n = 83) but only five of these studies were eligible for inclusion in the review, i.e. they compared laser photocoagulation with currently available lasers to no (or deferred) treatment. Three studies were conducted in the USA, one study in the UK and one study in Japan. A total of 4786 people (9503 eyes) were included in these studies. The majority of participants in four of these trials were people with proliferative diabetic retinopathy; one trial recruited mainly people with non-proliferative retinopathy.”

“At 12 months there was little difference between eyes that received laser photocoagulation and those allocated to no treatment (or deferred treatment), in terms of loss of 15 or more letters of visual acuity (risk ratio (RR) 0.99, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.89 to1.11; 8926 eyes; 2 RCTs, low quality evidence). Longer term follow-up did not show a consistent pattern, but one study found a 20% reduction in risk of loss of 15 or more letters of visual acuity at five years with laser treatment. Treatment with laser reduced the risk of severe visual loss by over 50% at 12 months (RR 0.46, 95% CI 0.24to 0.86; 9276 eyes; 4 RCTs, moderate quality evidence). There was a beneficial effect on progression of diabetic retinopathy with treated eyes experiencing a 50% reduction in risk of progression of diabetic retinopathy (RR 0.49, 95% CI 0.37 to 0.64; 8331 eyes; 4 RCTs, low quality evidence) and a similar reduction in risk of vitreous haemorrhage (RR 0.56, 95% CI 0.37 to 0.85; 224 eyes; 2RCTs, low quality evidence).”

“Overall there is not a large amount of evidence from RCTs on the effects of laser photocoagulation compared to no treatment or deferred treatment. The evidence is dominated by two large studies conducted in the US population (DRS 1978; ETDRS 1991). These two studies were generally judged to be at low or unclear risk of bias, with the exception of inevitable unmasking of patients due to differences between intervention and control. […] In current clinical guidelines, e.g. RCOphth 2012, PRP is recommended in high-risk PDR. The recommendation is that “as retinopathy approaches the proliferative stage, laser scatter treatment (PRP) should be increasingly considered to prevent progression to high risk PDR” based on other factors such as patients’ compliance or planned cataract surgery.

These recommendations need to be interpreted while considering the risk of visual loss associated with different levels of severity of DR, as well as the risk of progression. Since PRP reduces the risk of severe visual loss, but not moderate visual loss that is more related to diabetic maculopathy, most ophthalmologists judge that there is little benefit in treating non-proliferative DR at low risk of severe visual damage, as patients would incur the known adverse effects of PRP, which, although mild, include pain and peripheral visual field loss and transient DMO [diabetic macular oedema, US]. […] This review provides evidence that laser photocoagulation is beneficial in treating diabetic retinopathy. […] based on the baseline risk of progression of the disease, and risk of visual loss, the current approach of caution in treating non-proliferative DR with laser would appear to be justified.

By current standards the quality of the evidence is not high, however, the effects on risk of progression and risk of severe visual loss are reasonably large (50% relative risk reduction).”

iv. Immune Recognition of β-Cells: Neoepitopes as Key Players in the Loss of Tolerance.

I should probably warn beforehand that this one is rather technical. It relates reasonably closely to topics covered in the molecular biology book I recently covered here on the blog, and if I had not read that book quite recently I almost certainly would not have been able to read the paper – so the coverage below is more ‘for me’ than ‘for you’. Anyway, some quotes:

“Prior to the onset of type 1 diabetes, there is progressive loss of immune self-tolerance, evidenced by the accumulation of islet autoantibodies and emergence of autoreactive T cells. Continued autoimmune activity leads to the destruction of pancreatic β-cells and loss of insulin secretion. Studies of samples from patients with type 1 diabetes and of murine disease models have generated important insights about genetic and environmental factors that contribute to susceptibility and immune pathways that are important for pathogenesis. However, important unanswered questions remain regarding the events that surround the initial loss of tolerance and subsequent failure of regulatory mechanisms to arrest autoimmunity and preserve functional β-cells. In this Perspective, we discuss various processes that lead to the generation of neoepitopes in pancreatic β-cells, their recognition by autoreactive T cells and antibodies, and potential roles for such responses in the pathology of disease. Emerging evidence supports the relevance of neoepitopes generated through processes that are mechanistically linked with β-cell stress. Together, these observations support a paradigm in which neoepitope generation leads to the activation of pathogenic immune cells that initiate a feed-forward loop that can amplify the antigenic repertoire toward pancreatic β-cell proteins.”

“Enzymatic posttranslational processes that have been implicated in neoepitope generation include acetylation (10), citrullination (11), glycosylation (12), hydroxylation (13), methylation (either protein or DNA methylation) (14), phosphorylation (15), and transglutamination (16). Among these, citrullination and transglutamination are most clearly implicated as processes that generate neoantigens in human disease, but evidence suggests that others also play a role in neoepitope formation […] Citrulline, which is among the most studied PTMs in the context of autoimmunity, is a diagnostic biomarker of rheumatoid arthritis (RA). […] Anticitrulline antibodies are among the earliest immune responses that are diagnostic of RA and often correlate with disease severity (18). We have recently documented the biological consequences of citrulline modifications and autoimmunity that arise from pancreatic β-cell proteins in the development of T1D (19). In particular, citrullinated GAD65 and glucose-regulated protein (GRP78) elicit antibody and T-cell responses in human T1D and in NOD diabetes, respectively (20,21).”

Carbonylation is an irreversible, iron-catalyzed oxidative modification of the side chains of lysine, arginine, threonine, or proline. Mitochondrial functions are particularly sensitive to carbonyl modification, which also has detrimental effects on other intracellular enzymatic pathways (30). A number of diseases have been linked with altered carbonylation of self-proteins, including Alzheimer and Parkinson diseases and cancer (27). There is some data to support that carbonyl PTM is a mechanism that directs unstable self-proteins into cellular degradation pathways. It is hypothesized that carbonyl PTM [post-translational modification] self-proteins that fail to be properly degraded in pancreatic β-cells are autoantigens that are targeted in T1D. Recently submitted studies have identified several carbonylated pancreatic β-cell neoantigens in human and murine models of T1D (27). Among these neoantigens are chaperone proteins that are required for the appropriate folding and secretion of insulin. These studies imply that although some PTM self-proteins may be direct targets of autoimmunity, others may alter, interrupt, or disturb downstream metabolic pathways in the β-cell. In particular, these studies indicated that upstream PTMs resulted in misfolding and/or metabolic disruption between proinsulin and insulin production, which provides one explanation for recent observations of increased proinsulin-to-insulin ratios in the progression of T1D (31).”

“Significant hypomethylation of DNA has been linked with several classic autoimmune diseases, such as SLE, multiple sclerosis, RA, Addison disease, Graves disease, and mixed connective tissue disease (36). Therefore, there is rationale to consider the possible influence of epigenetic changes on protein expression and immune recognition in T1D. Relevant to T1D, epigenetic modifications occur in pancreatic β-cells during progression of diabetes in NOD mice (37). […] Consequently, DNMTs [DNA methyltransferases] and protein arginine methyltransferases are likely to play a role in the regulation of β-cell differentiation and insulin gene expression, both of which are pathways that are altered in the presence of inflammatory cytokines. […] Eizirik et al. (38) reported that exposure of human islets to proinflammatory cytokines leads to modulation of transcript levels and increases in alternative splicing for a number of putative candidate genes for T1D. Their findings suggest a mechanism through which alternative splicing may lead to the generation of neoantigens and subsequent presentation of novel β-cell epitopes (39).”

“The phenomenon of neoepitope recognition by autoantibodies has been shown to be relevant in a variety of autoimmune diseases. For example, in RA, antibody responses directed against various citrullinated synovial proteins are remarkably disease-specific and routinely used as a diagnostic test in the clinic (18). Appearance of the first anticitrullinated protein antibodies occurs years prior to disease onset, and accumulation of additional autoantibody specificities correlates closely with the imminent onset of clinical arthritis (44). There is analogous evidence supporting a hierarchical emergence of autoantibody specificities and multiple waves of autoimmune damage in T1D (3,45). Substantial data from longitudinal studies indicate that insulin and GAD65 autoantibodies appear at the earliest time points during progression, followed by additional antibody specificities directed at IA-2 and ZnT8.”

“Multiple autoimmune diseases often cluster within families (or even within one person), implying shared etiology. Consequently, relevant insights can be gleaned from studies of more traditional autoantibody-mediated systemic autoimmune diseases, such as SLE and RA, where inter- and intramolecular epitope spreading are clearly paradigms for disease progression (47). In general, early autoimmunity is marked by restricted B- and T-cell epitopes, followed by an expanded repertoire coinciding with the onset of more significant tissue pathology […] Akin to T1D, other autoimmune syndromes tend to cluster to subcellular tissues or tissue components that share biological or biochemical properties. For example, SLE is marked by autoimmunity to nucleic acid–bearing macromolecules […] Unlike other systemic autoantibody-mediated diseases, such as RA and SLE, there is no clear evidence that T1D-related autoantibodies play a pathogenic role. Autoantibodies against citrulline-containing neoepitopes of proteoglycan are thought to trigger or intensify arthritis by forming immune complexes with this autoantigen in the joints of RA patients with anticitrullinated protein antibodies. In a similar manner, autoantibodies and immune complexes are hallmarks of tissue pathology in SLE. Therefore, it remains likely that autoantibodies or the B cells that produce them contribute to the pathogenesis of T1D.”

“In summation, the existing literature demonstrates that oxidation, citrullination, and deamidation can have a direct impact on T-cell recognition that contributes to loss of tolerance.”

“There is a general consensus that the pathogenesis of T1D is initiated when individuals who possess a high level of genetic risk (e.g., susceptible HLA, insulin VNTR, PTPN22 genotypes) are exposed to environmental factors (e.g., enteroviruses, diet, microbiome) that precipitate a loss of tolerance that manifests through the appearance of insulin and/or GAD autoantibodies. This early autoimmunity is followed by epitope spreading, increasing both the number of antigenic targets and the diversity of epitopes within these targets. These processes create a feed-forward loop antigen release that induces increasing inflammation and increasing numbers of distinct T-cell specificities (64). The formation and recognition of neoepitopes represents one mechanism through which epitope spreading can occur. […] mechanisms related to neoepitope formation and recognition can be envisioned at multiple stages of T1D pathogenesis. At the level of genetic risk, susceptible individuals may exhibit a genetically driven impairment of their stress response, increasing the likelihood of neoepitope formation. At the level of environmental exposure, many of the insults that are thought to initiate T1D are known to cause neoepitope formation. During the window of β-cell destruction that encompasses early autoimmunity through dysglycemia and diagnosis of T1D it remains unclear when neoepitope responses appear in relation to “classic” responses to insulin and GAD65. However, by the time of onset, neoepitope responses are clearly present and remain as part of the ongoing autoimmunity that is present during established T1D. […] The ultimate product of both direct and indirect generation of neoepitopes is an accumulation of robust and diverse autoimmune B- and T-cell responses, accelerating the pathological destruction of pancreatic islets. Clearly, the emergence of sophisticated methods of tissue and single-cell proteomics will identify novel neoepitopes, including some that occur at near the earliest stages of disease. A detailed mechanistic understanding of the pathways that lead to specific classes of neoepitopes will certainly suggest targets of therapeutic manipulation and intervention that would be hoped to impede the progression of disease.”

v. Diabetes technology: improving care, improving patient‐reported outcomes and preventing complications in young people with Type 1 diabetes.

“With the evolution of diabetes technology, those living with Type 1 diabetes are given a wider arsenal of tools with which to achieve glycaemic control and improve patient‐reported outcomes. Furthermore, the use of these technologies may help reduce the risk of acute complications, such as severe hypoglycaemia and diabetic ketoacidosis, as well as long‐term macro‐ and microvascular complications. […] Unfortunately, diabetes goals are often unmet and people with Type 1 diabetes too frequently experience acute and long‐term complications of this condition, in addition to often having less than ideal psychosocial outcomes. Increasing realization of the importance of patient‐reported outcomes is leading to diabetes care delivery becoming more patient‐centred. […] Optimal diabetes management requires both the medical and psychosocial needs of people with Type 1 diabetes and their caregivers to be addressed. […] The aim of this paper was to demonstrate how, by incorporating technology into diabetes care, we can increase patient‐centered care, reduce acute and chronic diabetes complications, and improve clinical outcomes and quality of life.”

[The paper’s Table 2 on page 422 of the pdf-version is awesome, it includes a lot of different Hba1c estimates from various patient populations all across the world. The numbers included in the table are slightly less awesome, as most populations only achieve suboptimal metabolic control.]

“The risks of all forms of complications increase with higher HbA1c concentration, increasing diabetes duration, hypertension, presence of other microvascular complications, obesity, insulin resistance, hyperlipidaemia and smoking 6. Furthermore, the Diabetes Research in Children (DirecNet) study has shown that individuals with Type 1 diabetes have white matter differences in the brain and cognitive differences compared with individuals without Type 1 diabetes. These studies showed that the degree of structural differences in the brain were related to the degree of chronic hyperglycaemia, hypoglycaemia and glucose variability 7. […] In addition to long‐term complications, people with Type 1 diabetes are also at risk of acute complications. Severe hypoglycaemia, a hypoglycaemic event resulting in altered/loss of consciousness or seizures, is a serious complication of insulin therapy. If unnoticed and untreated, severe hypoglycaemia can result in death. […] The incidence of diabetic ketoacidosis, a life‐threatening consequence of diabetes, remains unacceptably high in children with established diabetes (Table 5). The annual incidence of ketoacidosis was 5% in the Prospective Diabetes Follow‐Up Registry (DPV) in Germany and Austria, 6.4% in the National Paediatric Diabetes Audit (NPDA), and 7.1% in the Type 1 Diabetes Exchange (T1DX) registry 10. Psychosocial factors including female gender, non‐white race, lower socio‐economic status, and elevated HbA1c all contribute to increased risk of diabetic ketoacidosis 11.”

“Depression is more common in young people with Type 1 diabetes than in young people without a chronic disease […] Depression can make it more difficult to engage in diabetes self‐management behaviours, and as a result, contributes to suboptimal glycaemic control and lower rates of self‐monitoring of blood glucose (SMBG) in young people with Type 1 diabetes 15. […] Unlike depression, diabetes distress is not a clinical diagnosis but rather emotional distress that comes from the burden of living with and managing diabetes 16. A recent systematic review found that roughly one‐third of young people with Type 1 diabetes (age 10–20 years) have some level of diabetes distress and that diabetes distress was consistently associated with higher HbA1c and worse self‐management 17. […] Eating and weight‐related comorbidities also exist for individuals with Type 1 diabetes. There is a higher incidence of obesity in individuals with Type 1 diabetes on intensive insulin therapy. […] Adolescent girls and young adult women with Type 1 diabetes are more likely to omit insulin for weight loss and have disordered eating habits 20.”

“In addition to screening for and treating depression and diabetes distress to improve overall diabetes management, it is equally important to assess quality of life as well as positive coping factors that may also influence self‐management and well‐being. For example, lower scores on the PROMIS® measure of global health, which assesses social relationships as well as physical and mental well‐being, have been linked to higher depression scores and less frequent blood glucose checks 13. Furthermore, coping strategies such as problem‐solving, emotional expression, and acceptance have been linked to lower HbA1c and enhanced quality of life 21.”

“Self‐monitoring of blood glucose via multiple finger sticks for capillary blood samples per day has been the ‘gold standard’ for glucose monitoring, but SMBG only provides glucose measurements as snapshots in time. Still, the majority of young people with Type 1 diabetes use SMBG as their main method to assess glycaemia. Data from the T1DX registry suggest that an increased frequency of SMBG is associated with lower HbA1c levels 23. The development of continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) provides more values, along with the rate and direction of glucose changes. […] With continued use, CGM has been shown to decrease the incidence of hypoglycaemia and HbA1c levels 26. […] Insulin can be administered via multiple daily injections or continuous subcutaneous insulin infusion (insulin pumps). Over the last 30 years, insulin pumps have become smaller with more features, making them a valuable alternative to multiple daily injections. Insulin pump use in various registries ranges from as low as 5.9% among paediatric patients in the New Zealand national register 28 to as high as 74% in the German/Austrian DPV in children aged <6 years (Table 2) 29. Recent data suggest that consistent use of insulin pumps can result in improved HbA1c values and decreased incidence of severe hypoglycaemia 30, 31. Insulin pumps have been associated with improved quality of life 32. The data on insulin pumps and diabetic ketoacidosis are less clear.”

“The majority of Type 1 diabetes management is carried out outside the clinical setting and in individuals’ daily lives. People with Type 1 diabetes must make complex treatment decisions multiple times daily; thus, diabetes self‐management skills are central to optimal diabetes management. Unfortunately, many people with Type 1 diabetes and their caregivers are not sufficiently familiar with the necessary diabetes self‐management skills. […] Parents are often the first who learn these skills. As children become older, they start receiving more independence over their diabetes care; however, the transition of responsibilities from caregiver to child is often unstructured and haphazard. It is important to ensure that both individuals with diabetes and their caregivers have adequate self‐management skills throughout the diabetes journey.”

“In the developed world (nations with the highest gross domestic product), 87% of the population has access to the internet and 68% report using a smartphone 39. Even in developing countries, 54% of people use the internet and 37% own smartphones 39. In many areas, smartphones are the primary source of internet access and are readily available. […] There are >1000 apps for diabetes on the Apple App Store and the Google Play store. Many of these apps have focused on nutrition, blood glucose logging, and insulin dosing. Given the prevalence of smartphones and the interest in having diabetes apps handy, there is the potential for using a smartphone to deliver education and decision support tools. […] The new psychosocial position statement from the ADA recommends routine psychosocial screening in clinic. These recommendations include screening for: 1) depressive symptoms annually, at diagnosis, or with changes in medical status; 2) anxiety and worry about hypoglycaemia, complications and other diabetes‐specific worries; 3) disordered eating and insulin omission for purposes of weight control; 4) and diabetes distress in children as young as 7 or 8 years old 16. Implementation of in‐clinic screening for depression in young people with Type 1 diabetes has already been shown to be feasible, acceptable and able to identify individuals in need of treatment who may otherwise have gone unnoticed for a longer period of time which would have been having a detrimental impact on physical health and quality of life 13, 40. These programmes typically use tablets […] to administer surveys to streamline the screening process and automatically score measures 13, 40. This automation allows psychologists and social workers to focus on care delivery rather than screening. In addition to depression screening, automated tablet‐based screening for parental depression, distress and anxiety; problem‐solving skills; and resilience/positive coping factors can help the care team understand other psychosocial barriers to care. This approach allows the development of patient‐ and caregiver‐centred interventions to improve these barriers, thereby improving clinical outcomes and complication rates.”

“With the advent of electronic health records, registries and downloadable medical devices, people with Type 1 diabetes have troves of data that can be analysed to provide insights on an individual and population level. Big data analytics for diabetes are still in the early stages, but present great potential for improving diabetes care. IBM Watson Health has partnered with Medtronic to deliver personalized insights to individuals with diabetes based on device data 48. Numerous other systems […] allow people with Type 1 diabetes to access their data, share their data with the healthcare team, and share de‐identified data with the research community. Data analysis and insights such as this can form the basis for the delivery of personalized digital health coaching. For example, historical patterns can be analysed to predict activity and lead to pro‐active insulin adjustment to prevent hypoglycaemia. […] Improvements to diabetes care delivery can occur at both the population level and at the individual level using insights from big data analytics.”

vi. Route to improving Type 1 diabetes mellitus glycaemic outcomes: real‐world evidence taken from the National Diabetes Audit.

“While control of blood glucose levels reduces the risk of diabetes complications, it can be very difficult for people to achieve. There has been no significant improvement in average glycaemic control among people with Type 1 diabetes for at least the last 10 years in many European countries 6.

The National Diabetes Audit (NDA) in England and Wales has shown relatively little change in the levels of HbA1c being achieved in people with Type 1 diabetes over the last 10 years, with >70% of HbA1c results each year being >58 mmol/mol (7.5%) 7.

Data for general practices in England are published by the NDA. NHS Digital publishes annual prescribing data, including British National Formulary (BNF) codes 7, 8. Together, these data provide an opportunity to investigate whether there are systematic associations between HbA1c levels in people with Type 1 diabetes and practice‐level population characteristics, diabetes service levels and use of medication.”

“The Quality and Outcomes Framework (a payment system for general practice performance) provided a baseline list of all general practices in England for each year, the practice list size and number of people (both with Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes) on their diabetes register. General practice‐level data of participating practices were taken from the NDA 2013–2014, 2014–2015 and 2015–2016 (5455 practices in the last year). They include Type 1 diabetes population characteristics, routine review checks and the proportions of people achieving target glycaemic control and/or being at higher glycaemic risk.

Diabetes medication data for all people with diabetes were taken from the general practice prescribing in primary care data for 2013–2014, 2014–2015 and 2015–2016, including insulin and blood glucose monitoring (BGM) […] A total of 20 indicators were created that covered the epidemiological, service, medication, technological, costs and outcomes performance for each practice and year. The variance in these indicators over the 4‐year period and among general practices was also considered. […] The values of the indicators found to be in the 90th percentile were used to quantify the potential of highest performing general practices. […] In total 13 085 practice‐years of data were analysed, covering 437 000 patient‐years of management.”

“There was significant variation among the participating general practices (Fig. 3) in the proportion of people achieving target glycaemic control target [percentage of people with HbA1c ≤58 mmol/mol (7.5%)] and in the proportion at high glycaemic risk [percentage of people with HbA1c >86 mmol/mol (10%)]. […] Our analysis showed that, at general practice level, the median target glycaemic control attainment was 30%, while the 10th percentile was 16%, and the 90th percentile was 45%. The corresponding median for the high glycaemic risk percentage was 16%, while the 10th percentile (corresponding to the best performing practices) was 6% and the 90th percentile (greatest proportion of Type 1 diabetes at high glycaemic risk) was 28%. Practices in the deciles for both lowest target glycaemic control and highest high glycaemic risk had 49% of the results in the 58–86 mmol/mol range. […] A very wide variation was found in the percentage of insulin for presumed pump use (deduced from prescriptions of fast‐acting vial insulin), with a median of 3.8% at general practice level. The 10th percentile was 0% and the 90th percentile was 255% of the median inferred pump usage.”

“[O]ur findings suggest that if all practices optimized service and therapies to the levels achieved by the top decile then 16 100 (7%) more people with Type 1 diabetes would achieve the glycaemic control target of 58 mmol/mol (7.5%) and 11 500 (5%) fewer people would have HbA1c >86 mmol/mol (10%). Put another way, if the results for all practices were at the top decile level, 36% vs 29% of people with Type 1 diabetes would achieve the glycaemic control target of HbA1c ≤ 58 mmol/mol (7.5%), and as few as 10% could have HbA1c levels > 86 mmol/mol (10%) compared with 15% currently (Fig. 6). This has significant implications for the potential to improve the longer‐term outcomes of people with Type 1 diabetes, given the close link between glycaemia and complications in such individuals 5, 10, 11.”

“We found that the significant variation among the participating general practices (Fig. 2) in terms of the proportion of people with HbA1c ≤58 mmol/mol (7.5%) was only partially related to a lower proportion of people with HbA1c >86 mmol/mol (10%). There was only a weak relationship between level of target glycaemia achieved and avoidance of very suboptimal glycaemia. The overall r2 value was 0.6. This suggests that there is a degree of independence between these outcomes, so that success factors at a general practice level differ for people achieving optimal glycaemia vs those factors affecting avoiding a level of at risk glycaemia.”

May 30, 2018 Posted by | Cardiology, Diabetes, Epidemiology, Genetics, Immunology, Medicine, Molecular biology, Ophthalmology, Studies | Leave a comment

Molecular biology (II)

Below I have added some more quotes and links related to the book’s coverage:

“[P]roteins are the most abundant molecules in the body except for water. […] Proteins make up half the dry weight of a cell whereas DNA and RNA make up only 3 per cent and 20 per cent respectively. […] The approximately 20,000 protein-coding genes in the human genome can, by alternative splicing, multiple translation starts, and post-translational modifications, produce over 1,000,000 different proteins, collectively called ‘the proteome‘. It is the size of the proteome and not the genome that defines the complexity of an organism. […] For simple organisms, such as viruses, all the proteins coded by their genome can be deduced from its sequence and these comprise the viral proteome. However for higher organisms the complete proteome is far larger than the genome […] For these organisms not all the proteins coded by the genome are found in any one tissue at any one time and therefore a partial proteome is usually studied. What are of interest are those proteins that are expressed in specific cell types under defined conditions.”

“Enzymes are proteins that catalyze or alter the rate of chemical reactions […] Enzymes can speed up reactions […] but they can also slow some reactions down. Proteins play a number of other critical roles. They are involved in maintaining cell shape and providing structural support to connective tissues like cartilage and bone. Specialized proteins such as actin and myosin are required [for] muscular movement. Other proteins act as ‘messengers’ relaying signals to regulate and coordinate various cell processes, e.g. the hormone insulin. Yet another class of protein is the antibodies, produced in response to foreign agents such as bacteria, fungi, and viruses.”

“Proteins are composed of amino acids. Amino acids are organic compounds with […] an amino group […] and a carboxyl group […] In addition, amino acids carry various side chains that give them their individual functions. The twenty-two amino acids found in proteins are called proteinogenic […] but other amino acids exist that are non-protein functioning. […] A peptide bond is formed between two amino acids by the removal of a water molecule. […] each individual unit in a peptide or protein is known as an amino acid residue. […] Chains of less than 50-70 amino acid residues are known as peptides or polypeptides and >50-70 as proteins, although many proteins are composed of more than one polypeptide chain. […] Proteins are macromolecules consisting of one or more strings of amino acids folded into highly specific 3D-structures. Each amino acid has a different size and carries a different side group. It is the nature of the different side groups that facilitates the correct folding of a polypeptide chain into a functional tertiary protein structure.”

“Atoms scatter the waves of X-rays mainly through their electrons, thus forming secondary or reflected waves. The pattern of X-rays diffracted by the atoms in the protein can be captured on a photographic plate or an image sensor such as a charge coupled device placed behind the crystal. The pattern and relative intensity of the spots on the diffraction image are then used to calculate the arrangement of atoms in the original protein. Complex data processing is required to convert the series of 2D diffraction or scatter patterns into a 3D image of the protein. […] The continued success and significance of this technique for molecular biology is witnessed by the fact that almost 100,000 structures of biological molecules have been determined this way, of which most are proteins.”

“The number of proteins in higher organisms far exceeds the number of known coding genes. The fact that many proteins carry out multiple functions but in a regulated manner is one way a complex proteome arises without increasing the number of genes. Proteins that performed a single role in the ancestral organism have acquired extra and often disparate functions through evolution. […] The active site of an enzyme employed in catalysis is only a small part of the protein, leaving spare capacity for acquiring a second function. […] The glycolytic pathway is involved in the breakdown of sugars such as glucose to release energy. Many of the highly conserved and ancient enzymes from this pathway have developed secondary or ‘moonlighting’ functions. Proteins often change their location in the cell in order to perform a ‘second job’. […] The limited size of the genome may not be the only evolutionary pressure for proteins to moonlight. Combining two functions in one protein can have the advantage of coordinating multiple activities in a cell, enabling it to respond quickly to changes in the environment without the need for lengthy transcription and translational processes.”

Post-translational modifications (PTMs) […] is [a] process that can modify the role of a protein by addition of chemical groups to amino acids in the peptide chain after translation. Addition of phosphate groups (phosphorylation), for example, is a common mechanism for activating or deactivating an enzyme. Other common PTMs include addition of acetyl groups (acetylation), glucose (glucosylation), or methyl groups (methylation). […] Some additions are reversible, facilitating the switching between active and inactive states, and others are irreversible such as marking a protein for destruction by ubiquitin. [The difference between reversible and irreversible modifications can be quite important in pharmacology, and if you’re curious to know more about these topics Coleman’s drug metabolism text provide great coverage of related topics – US.] Diseases caused by malfunction of these modifications highlight the importance of PTMs. […] in diabetes [h]igh blood glucose lead to unwanted glocosylation of proteins. At the high glucose concentrations associated with diabetes, an unwanted irreversible chemical reaction binds the gllucose to amino acid residues such as lysines exposed on the protein surface. The glucosylated proteins then behave badly, cross-linking themselves to the extracellular matrix. This is particularly dangerous in the kidney where it decreases function and can lead to renal failure.”

“Twenty thousand protein-coding genes make up the human genome but for any given cell only about half of these are expressed. […] Many genes get switched off during differentiation and a major mechanism for this is epigenetics. […] an epigenetic trait […] is ‘a stably heritable phenotype resulting from changes in the chromosome without alterations in the DNA sequence’. Epigenetics involves the chemical alteration of DNA by methyl or other small molecular groups to affect the accessibility of a gene by the transcription machinery […] Epigenetics can […] act on gene expression without affecting the stability of the genetic code by modifying the DNA, the histones in chromatin, or a whole chromosome. […] Epigenetic signatures are not only passed on to somatic daughter cells but they can also be transferred through the germline to the offspring. […] At first the evidence appeared circumstantial but more recent studies have provided direct proof of epigenetic changes involving gene methylation being inherited. Rodent models have provided mechanistic evidence. […] the importance of epigenetics in development is highlighted by the fact that low dietary folate, a nutrient essential for methylation, has been linked to higher risk of birth defects in the offspring.” […on the other hand, well…]

The cell cycle is divided into phases […] Transition from G1 into S phase commits the cell to division and is therefore a very tightly controlled restriction point. Withdrawal of growth factors, insufficient nucleotides, or energy to complete DNA replication, or even a damaged template DNA, would compromise the process. Problems are therefore detected and the cell cycle halted by cell cycle inhibitors before the cell has committed to DNA duplication. […] The cell cycle inhibitors inactive the kinases that promote transition through the phases, thus halting the cell cycle. […] The cell cycle can also be paused in S phase to allow time for DNA repairs to be carried out before cell division. The consequences of uncontrolled cell division are so catastrophic that evolution has provided complex checks and balances to maintain fidelity. The price of failure is apoptosis […] 50 to 70 billion cells die every day in a human adult by the controlled molecular process of apoptosis.”

“There are many diseases that arise because a particular protein is either absent or a faulty protein is produced. Administering a correct version of that protein can treat these patients. The first commercially available recombinant protein to be produced for medical use was human insulin to treat diabetes mellitus. […] (FDA) approved the recombinant insulin for clinical use in 1982. Since then over 300 protein-based recombinant pharmaceuticals have been licensed by the FDA and the European Medicines Agency (EMA) […], and many more are undergoing clinical trials. Therapeutic proteins can be produced in bacterial cells but more often mammalian cells such as the Chinese hamster ovary cell line and human fibroblasts are used as these hosts are better able to produce fully functional human protein. However, using mammalian cells is extremely expensive and an alternative is to use live animals or plants. This is called molecular pharming and is an innovative way of producing large amounts of protein relatively cheaply. […] In plant pharming, tobacco, rice, maize, potato, carrots, and tomatoes have all been used to produce therapeutic proteins. […] [One] class of proteins that can be engineered using gene-cloning technology is therapeutic antibodies. […] Therapeutic antibodies are designed to be monoclonal, that is, they are engineered so that they are specific for a particular antigen to which they bind, to block the antigen’s harmful effects. […] Monoclonal antibodies are at the forefront of biological therapeutics as they are highly specific and tend not to induce major side effects.”

“In gene therapy the aim is to restore the function of a faulty gene by introducing a correct version of that gene. […] a cloned gene is transferred into the cells of a patient. Once inside the cell, the protein encoded by the gene is produced and the defect is corrected. […] there are major hurdles to be overcome for gene therapy to be effective. One is the gene construct has to be delivered to the diseased cells or tissues. This can often be difficult […] Mammalian cells […] have complex mechanisms that have evolved to prevent unwanted material such as foreign DNA getting in. Second, introduction of any genetic construct is likely to trigger the patient’s immune response, which can be fatal […] once delivered, expression of the gene product has to be sustained to be effective. One approach to delivering genes to the cells is to use genetically engineered viruses constructed so that most of the viral genome is deleted […] Once inside the cell, some viral vectors such as the retroviruses integrate into the host genome […]. This is an advantage as it provides long-lasting expression of the gene product. However, it also poses a safety risk, as there is little control over where the viral vector will insert into the patient’s genome. If the insertion occurs within a coding gene, this may inactivate gene function. If it integrates close to transcriptional start sites, where promoters and enhancer sequences are located, inappropriate gene expression can occur. This was observed in early gene therapy trials [where some patients who got this type of treatment developed cancer as a result of it. A few more details hereUS] […] Adeno-associated viruses (AAVs) […] are often used in gene therapy applications as they are non-infectious, induce only a minimal immune response, and can be engineered to integrate into the host genome […] However, AAVs can only carry a small gene insert and so are limited to use with genes that are of a small size. […] An alternative delivery system to viruses is to package the DNA into liposomes that are then taken up by the cells. This is safer than using viruses as liposomes do not integrate into the host genome and are not very immunogenic. However, liposome uptake by the cells can be less efficient, resulting in lower expression of the gene.”

Links:

One gene–one enzyme hypothesis.
Molecular chaperone.
Protein turnover.
Isoelectric point.
Gel electrophoresis. Polyacrylamide.
Two-dimensional gel electrophoresis.
Mass spectrometry.
Proteomics.
Peptide mass fingerprinting.
Worldwide Protein Data Bank.
Nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy of proteins.
Immunoglobulins. Epitope.
Western blot.
Immunohistochemistry.
Crystallin. β-catenin.
Protein isoform.
Prion.
Gene expression. Transcriptional regulation. Chromatin. Transcription factor. Gene silencing. Histone. NF-κB. Chromatin immunoprecipitation.
The agouti mouse model.
X-inactive specific transcript (Xist).
Cell cycle. Cyclin. Cyclin-dependent kinase.
Retinoblastoma protein pRb.
Cytochrome c. CaspaseBcl-2 family. Bcl-2-associated X protein.
Hybridoma technology. Muromonab-CD3.
Recombinant vaccines and the development of new vaccine strategies.
Knockout mouse.
Adenovirus Vectors for Gene Therapy, Vaccination and Cancer Gene Therapy.
Genetically modified food. Bacillus thuringiensis. Golden rice.

 

May 29, 2018 Posted by | Biology, Books, Chemistry, Diabetes, Engineering, Genetics, Immunology, Medicine, Molecular biology, Pharmacology | Leave a comment

Promoting the unknown…

I post these posts way too infrequently, and I have decided that I’ll no longer limit my coverage to pieces I have not already covered on the blog; I figure neither I nor my readers will be able to remember if I shared a specific piece here 6 years ago or not, so I really shouldn’t feel compelled to avoid reposting a wonderful piece just because I posted it here close to a decade ago. The main point of these posts is to keep track of (and share) the wonderful music that I enjoy listening to, and I’ve gradually realized that having an implicit requirement that only ‘new stuff’ be posted here is actually counterproductive.

So anyway, enjoy!

(I love this piece, and this specific interpretation!)

(I’m reasonably sure I’ve never posted this one here on the blog before, but even keeping track of this is getting hard at this point).

(I still have absolutely no clue why a wonderful piece like this gets 10k views, while some random modern pop song gets 50 million views. The world is not fair).

(Again, I’m reasonably sure I’ve never posted this one here before, but it’s getting progressive harder to keep track as time passes and more posts are added to the archives).

 

May 28, 2018 Posted by | Music | Leave a comment

Alcohol and Aging (II)

I gave the book 3 stars on goodreads.

As is usual for publications of this nature, the book includes many chapters that cover similar topics and so the coverage can get a bit repetitive if you’re reading it from cover to cover the way I did; most of the various chapter authors obviously didn’t read the other contributions included in the book, and as each chapter is meant to stand on its own you end up with a lot of chapter introductions which cover very similar topics. If you can disregard such aspects it’s a decent book, which covers a wide variety of topics.

Below I have added some observations from some of the chapters of the book which I did not cover in my first post.

It is widely accepted that consuming heavy amounts of alcohol and binge drinking are detrimental to the brain. Animal studies that have examined the anatomical changes that occur to the brain as a consequence of consuming alcohol indicate that heavy alcohol consumption and binge drinking leads to the death of existing neurons [10, 11] and prevents production of new neurons [12, 13]. […] While animal studies indicate that consuming even moderate amounts of alcohol is detrimental to the brain, the evidence from epidemiological studies is less clear. […] Epidemiological studies that have examined the relationship between late life alcohol consumption and cognition have frequently reported that older adults who consume light to moderate amounts of alcohol are less likely to develop dementia and have higher cognitive functioning compared to older adults who do not consume alcohol. […] In a meta-analysis of 15 prospective cohort studies, consuming light to moderate amounts of alcohol was associated with significantly lower relative risk (RR) for Alzheimer’s disease (RR=0.72, 95% CI=0.61–0.86), vascular dementia (RR=0.75, 95% CI=0.57–0.98), and any type of dementia (RR=0.74, 95% CI=0.61–0.91), but not cognitive decline (RR=0.28, 95 % CI=0.03–2.83) [31]. These findings are consistent with a previous meta-analysis by Peters et al. [33] in which light to moderate alcohol consumption was associated with a decreased risk for dementia (RR=0.63, 95 % CI=0.53–0.75) and Alzheimer’s disease (RR=0.57, 95 % CI=0.44–0.74), but not vascular dementia (RR=0.82, 95% CI=0.50–1.35) or cognitive decline RR=0.89, 95% CI=0.67–1.17). […] Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) has been used to describe the prodromal stage of Alzheimer’s disease […]. There is no strong evidence to suggest that consuming alcohol is protective against MCI [39, 40] and several studies have reported non-significant findings [41–43].”

The majority of research on the relationship between alcohol consumption and cognitive outcomes has focused on the amount of alcohol consumed during old age, but there is a growing body of research that has examined the relationship between alcohol consumption during middle age and cognitive outcomes several years or decades later. The evidence from this area of research is mixed with some studies not detecting a significant relationship [17, 58, 59], while others have reported that light to moderate alcohol consumption is associated with preserved cognition [60] and decreased risk for cognitive impairment [31, 61, 62]. […] Several epidemiological studies have reported that light to moderate alcohol consumption is associated with a decreased risk for stroke, diabetes, and heart disease [36, 84, 85]. Similar to the U-shaped relationship between alcohol consumption and dementia, heavy alcohol consumption has been associated with poor health [86, 87]. The decreased risk for several metabolic and vascular health conditions for alcohol consumers has been attributed to antioxidants [54], greater concentrations of high-density lipoprotein cholesterol in the bloodstream [88], and reduced blood clot formation [89]. Stroke, diabetes, heart disease, and related conditions have all been associated with lower cognitive functioning during old age [90, 91]. The reduced prevalence of metabolic and vascular health conditions among light to moderate alcohol consumers may contribute to the decreased risk for dementia and cognitive decline for older adults who consume alcohol. A limitation of the hypothesis that the reduced risk for dementia among light and moderate alcohol consumers is conferred through the reduced prevalence of adverse health conditions associated with dementia is the possibility that this relationship is confounded by reverse causality. Alcohol consumption decreases with advancing age and adults may reduce their alcohol consumption in response to the onset of adverse health conditions […] the higher prevalence of dementia and lower cognitive functioning among abstainers may be due in part to their worse health rather than their alcohol consumption.”

A limitation of large cohort studies is that subjects who choose not to participate or are unable to participate are often less healthy than those who do participate. Non-response bias becomes more pronounced with age because only subjects who have survived to old age and are healthy enough to participate are observed. Studies on alcohol consumption and cognition are sensitive to non-response bias because light and moderate drinkers who are not healthy enough to participate in the study will not be observed. Adults who survive to old age despite consuming very high amounts of alcohol represent an even more select segment of the general population because they may have genetic, behavioral, health, social, or other factors that protect them against the negative effects of heavy alcohol consumption. As a result, the analytic sample of epidemiological studies is more likely to be comprised of “healthy” drinkers, which biases results in favor of finding a positive effect of light to moderate alcohol consumption for cognition and health in general. […] The incidence of Alzheimer’s disease doubles every 5 years after 65 years of age [94] and nearly 40% of older adults aged 85 and over are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease [7]. The relatively old age of onset for most dementia cases means the observed protective effect of light to moderate alcohol consumption for dementia may be due to alcohol consumers being more likely to die or drop out of a study as a result of their alcohol consumption before they develop dementia. This bias may be especially strong for heavy alcohol consumers. Not properly accounting for death as a competing outcome has been observed to artificially increase the risk of dementia among older adults with diabetes [95] and the effect that death and other competing outcomes may have on the relationship between alcohol consumption and dementia risk is unclear. […] The majority of epidemiological studies that have studied the relationship between alcohol consumption and cognition treat abstainers as the reference category. This can be problematic because often times the abstainer or non-drinking category includes older adults who stopped consuming alcohol because of poor health […] Not differentiating former alcohol consumers from lifelong abstainers has been found to explain some but not all of the benefit of alcohol consumption for preventing mortality from cardiovascular causes [96].”

“It is common for people to engage in other behaviors while consuming alcohol. This complicates the relationship between alcohol consumption and cognition because many of the behaviors associated with alcohol consumption are positively and negatively associated with cognitive functioning. For example, alcohol consumers are more likely to smoke than non-drinkers [104] and smoking has been associated with an increased risk for dementia and cognitive decline [105]. […] The relationship between alcohol consumption and cognition may also differ between people with or without a history of mental illness. Depression reduces the volume of the hippocampus [106] and there is growing evidence that depression plays an important role in dementia. Depression during middle age is recognized as a risk factor for dementia [107], and high depressive symptoms during old age may be an early symptom of dementia [108]. Middle aged adults with depression or other mental illness who self-medicate with alcohol may be at especially high risk for dementia later in life because of synergistic effects that alcohol and depression has on the brain. […] While current evidence from epidemiological studies indicates that consuming light to moderate amounts of alcohol, in particular wine, does not negatively affect cognition and in many cases is associated with cognitive health, adults who do not consume alcohol should not be encouraged to increase their alcohol consumption until further research clarifies these relationships. Inconsistencies between studies on how alcohol consumption categories are defined make it difficult to determine the “optimal” amount of alcohol consumption to prevent dementia. It is likely that the optimal amount of alcohol varies according to a person’s gender, as well as genetic, physiological, behavioral, and health characteristics, making the issue extremely complex.”

Falls are the leading cause of both fatal and nonfatal injuries among older adults, with one in three older adults falling each year, and 20–30% of people who fall suffer moderate to severe injuries such as lacerations, hip fractures, and head traumas. In fact, falls are the foremost cause of both fractures and traumatic brain injury (TBI) among older adults […] In 2013, 2.5 million nonfatal falls among older adults were treated in ED and more than 734,000 of these patients were hospitalized. […] Our analysis of the 2012 Nationwide Emergency Department Sample (NEDS) data set show that fall-related injury was a presenting problem among 12% of all ED visits by those aged 65+, with significant differences among age groups: 9% among the 65–74 age group, 12 % among the 75–84 age group, and 18 % among the 85+ age group [4]. […] heavy alcohol use predicts fractures. For example, among those 55+ years old in a health survey in England, men who consumed more than 8 units of alcohol and women who consumed more than 6 units on their heaviest drinking day in the past week had significantly increased odds of fractures (OR =1.65, 95% CI =1.37–1.98 for men and OR=2.07, 95% CI =1.28–3.35 for women) [63]. […] The 2008–2009 Canadian Community Health Survey-Healthy Aging also showed that consumption of at least one alcoholic drink per week increased the odds of falling by 40 % among those 65+ years [57].”

I at first was not much impressed by the effect sizes mentioned above because there are surely 100 relevant variables they didn’t account for/couldn’t account for, but then I thought a bit more about it. An important observation here – they don’t mention it in the coverage, but it sprang to mind – is that if sick or frail elderly people consume less alcohol than their more healthy counterparts, and are more likely to not consume alcohol (which they do, and which they are, we know this), and if frail or sick(er) elderly people are more likely to suffer a fall/fracture than are people who are relatively healthy (they are, again, we know this), well, then you’d expect consumption of alcohol to be found to have a ‘protective effect’ simply due to confounding by (reverse) indication (unless the researchers were really careful about adjusting for such things, but no such adjustments are mentioned in the coverage, which makes sense as these are just raw numbers being reported). The point is that the null here should not be that ‘these groups should be expected to have the same fall rate/fracture rate’, but rather ‘people who drink alcohol should be expected to be doing better, all else equal’ – but they aren’t, quite the reverse. So ‘the true effect size’ here may be larger than what you’d think.

I’m reasonably sure things are a lot more complicated than the above makes it appear (because of those 100 relevant variables we were talking about…), but I find it interesting anyway. Two more things to note: 1. Have another look at the numbers above if they didn’t sink in the first time. This is more than 10% of emergency department visits for that age group. Falls are a really big deal. 2. Fractures in the elderly are also a potentially really big deal. Here’s a sample quote: “One-fifth of hip fracture victims will die within 6 months of the injury, and only 50% will return to their previous level of independence.” (link). In some contexts, a fall is worse news than a cancer diagnosis, and they are very common events in the elderly. This also means that even relatively small effect sizes here can translate into quite large public health effects, because baseline incidence is so high.

The older adult population is a disproportionate consumer of prescription and over-the-counter medications. In a nationally representative sample of community-dwelling adults aged 57–84 years from the National Social Life, Health, and Aging Project (NSHAP) in 2005–2006, 81 % regularly used at least one prescription medication on a regular basis and 29% used at least five prescription medications. Forty-two percent used at least one nonprescription medication and concurrent use with a prescription medication was common, with 46% of prescription medication users also using OTC medications [2]. Prescription drug use by older adults in the U.S. is also growing. The percentage of older adults taking at least one prescription drug in the last 30 days increased from 73.6% in 1988–1994 to 89.7 % in 2007–2010 and the percentage taking five or more prescription drugs in the last 30 days increased from 13.8% in 1988–1994 to 39.7 % in 2007–2010 [3].”

The aging process can affect the response to a medication by altering its pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics [9, 10]. Reduced gastrointestinal motility and gastric acidity can alter the rate or extent of drug absorption. Changes in body composition, including decreased total body water and increased body fat can alter drug distribution. For alcohol, changes in body composition result in higher blood alcohol levels in older adults compared to younger adults after the same dose or quantity  of alcohol consumed. Decreased size of the liver, hepatic blood flow, and function of Phase I (oxidation, reduction, and hydrolysis) metabolic pathways result in reduced drug metabolism and increased drug exposure for drugs that undergo Phase I metabolism. Phase II hepatic metabolic pathways are generally preserved with aging. Decreased size of the kidney, renal blood flow, and glomerular filtration result in slower elimination of medications and metabolites by the kidney and increased drug exposure for medications that undergo renal elimination. Age-related impairment of homeostatic mechanisms and changes in receptor number and function can result in changes in pharmacodynamics as well. Older adults are generally more sensitive to the effects of medications and alcohol which act on the central nervous system for example. The consequences of these physiologic changes with aging are that older adults often experience increased drug exposure for the same dose (higher drug concentrations over time) and increased sensitivity to medications (greater response at a given drug concentration) than their younger counterparts.”

“Aging-related changes in physiology are not the only sources of variability in pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics that must be considered for an individual person. Older adults experience more chronic diseases that may decrease drug metabolism and renal elimination than younger cohorts. Frailty may result in further decline in drug metabolism, including Phase II metabolic pathways in the liver […] Drug interactions must also be considered […] A drug interaction is defined as a clinically meaningful change in the effect of one drug when coadministered with another drug [12]. Many drugs, including alcohol, have the potential for a drug interaction when administered concurrently, but whether a clinically meaningful change in effect occurs for a specific person depends on patient-specifc factors including age. Drug interactions are generally classified as pharmacokinetic interactions, where one drug alters the absorption, distribution, metabolism, or elimination of another drug resulting in increased or decreased drug exposure, or pharmacodynamic interactions, where one drug alters the response to another medication through additive or antagonistic pharmacologic effects [13]. An adverse drug event occurs when a pharmacokinetic or pharmacodynamic interaction or combination of both results in changes in drug exposure or response that lead to negative clinical outcomes. The adverse drug event could be a therapeutic failure if drug exposure is decreased or the pharmacologic response is antagonistic. The adverse drug event could be drug toxicity if the drug exposure is increased or the pharmacologic response is additive or synergistic. The threshold for experiencing an adverse event is often lower in older adults due to physiologic changes with aging and medical comorbidities, increasing their risk of experiencing an adverse drug event when medications are taken concurrently.”

“A large number of potential medication–alcohol interactions have been reported in the literature. Mechanisms of these interactions range from pharmacokinetic interactions affecting either alcohol or medication exposure to pharmacodynamics interactions resulting in exaggerated response. […] Epidemiologic evidence suggests that concurrent use of alcohol and medications among older adults is common. […] In a nationally representative U.S. sample of community-dwelling older adults in the National Social Life, Health and Aging Project (NSHAP) 2005–2006, 41% of participants reported consuming alcohol at least once per week and 20% were at risk for an alcohol–medication interaction because they were using both alcohol and alcohol-interacting medications on a regular basis [17]. […] Among participants in the Pennsylvania Assistance Contract for the Elderly program (aged 65–106 years) taking at least one prescription medication, 77% were taking an alcohol-interacting medication and 19% of the alcohol-interacting medication users reported concurrent use of alcohol [18]. […] Although these studies do not document adverse outcomes associated with alcohol–medication interactions, they do document that the potential exists for many older adults. […] High prevalence of concurrent use of alcohol and alcohol-interacting medications have also been reported in Australian men (43% of sedative or anxiolytic users were daily drinkers) [19], in older adults in Finland (42% of at-risk alcohol users were also taking alcohol-interacting medications) [20], and in older Irish adults (72% of participants were exposed to alcohol-interacting medications and 60% of these reported concurrent alcohol use) [21]. Drinking and medication use patterns in older adults may differ across countries, but alcohol–medication interactions appear to be a worldwide concern. […] Polypharmacy in general, and psychotropic burden specifically, has been associated with an increased risk of experiencing a geriatric syndrome such as falls or delirium, in older adults [26, 27]. Based on its pharmacology, alcohol can be considered as a psychotropic drug, and alcohol use should be assessed as part of the medication regimen evaluation to support efforts to prevent or manage geriatric syndromes. […] Combining alcohol and CNS active medications can be particularly problematic […] Older adults suffering from sleep problems or pain may be a particular risk for alcohol–medication interaction-related adverse events.”

In general, alcohol use in younger couples has been found to be highly concordant, that is, individuals in a relationship tend to engage in similar drinking behaviors [67,68]. Less is known, however, about alcohol use concordance between older couples. Graham and Braun [69] examined similarities in drinking behavior between spouses in a study of 826 community-dwelling older adults in Ontario, Canada. Results showed high concordance of drinking between spouses — whether they drank at all, how much they drank, and how frequently. […] Social learning theory suggests that alcohol use trajectories are strongly influenced by attitudes and behaviors of an individual’s social networks, particularly family and friends. When individuals engage in social activities with family and friends who approve of and engage in drinking, alcohol use, and misuse are reinforced [58, 59]. Evidence shows that among older adults, participation in social activities is correlated with higher levels of alcohol consumption [34, 60]. […] Brennan and Moos [29] […] found that older adults who reported less empathy and support from friends drank more alcohol, were more depressed, and were less self-confident. More stressors involving friends were associated with more drinking problems. Similar to the findings on marital conflict […], conflict in close friendships can prompt alcohol-use problems; conversely, these relationships can suffer as a result of alcohol-related problems. […] As opposed to social network theory […], social selection theory proposes that alcohol consumption changes an individual’s social context [33]. Studies among younger adults have shown that heavier drinkers chose partners and friends who approve of heavier drinking [70] and that excessive drinking can alienate social networks. The Moos study supports the idea that social selection also has a strong influence on drinking behavior among older adults.”

Traditionally, treatment studies in addiction have excluded patients over the age of 65. This bias has left a tremendous gap in knowledge regarding treatment outcomes and an understanding of the neurobiology of addiction in older adults.

Alcohol use causes well-established changes in sleep patterns, such as decreased sleep latency, decreased stage IV sleep, and precipitation or aggravation of sleep apnea [101]. There are also age-associated changes in sleep patterns including increased REM episodes, a decrease in REM length, a decrease in stage III and IV sleep, and increased awakenings. Age-associated changes in sleep can all be worsened by alcohol use and depression. Moeller and colleagues [102] demonstrated in younger subjects that alcohol and depression had additive effects upon sleep disturbances when they occurred together [102]. Wagman and colleagues [101] also have demonstrated that abstinent alcoholics did not sleep well because of insomnia, frequent awakenings, and REM fragmentation [101]; however, when these subjects ingested alcohol, sleep periodicity normalized and REM sleep was temporarily suppressed, suggesting that alcohol use could be used to self-medicate for sleep disturbances. A common anecdote from patients is that alcohol is used to help with sleep problems. […] The use of alcohol to self-medicate is considered maladaptive [34] and is associated with a host of negative outcomes. […] The use of alcohol to aid with sleep has been found to disrupt sleep architecture and cause sleep-related problems and daytime sleepiness [35, 36, 46]. Though alcohol is commonly used to aid with sleep initiation, it can worsen sleep-related breathing disorders and cause snoring and obstructive sleep apnea [36].”

Epidemiologic studies have clearly demonstrated that comorbidity between alcohol use and other psychiatric symptoms is common in younger age groups. Less is known about comorbidity between alcohol use and psychiatric illness in late life [88]. […] Blow et al. [90] reviewed the diagnosis of 3,986 VA patients between ages 60 and 69 presenting for alcohol treatment [90]. The most common comorbid psychiatric disorder was an affective disorder found in 21 % of the patients. […] Blazer et al. [91] studied 997 community dwelling elderly of whom only 4.5% had a history of alcohol use problems [91]; […] of these subjects, almost half had a comorbid diagnosis of depression or dysthymia. Comorbid depressive symptoms are not only common in late life but are also an important factor in the course and prognosis of psychiatric disorders. Depressed alcoholics have been shown to have a more complicated clinical course of depression with an increased risk of suicide and more social dysfunction than non-depressed alcoholics [9296]. […]  Alcohol use prior to late life has also been shown to influence treatment of late life depression. Cook and colleagues [94] found that a prior history of alcohol use problems predicted a more severe and chronic course for depression [94]. […] The effect of past heavy alcohol use is [also] highlighted in the findings from the Liverpool Longitudinal Study demonstrating a fivefold increase in psychiatric illness among elderly men who had a lifetime history of 5 or more years of heavy drinking [24]. The association between heavy alcohol consumption in earlier years and psychiatric morbidity in later life was not explained by current drinking habits. […] While Wernicke-Korsakoff’s syndrome is well described and often caused by alcohol use disorders, alcohol-related dementia may be difficult to differentiate from Alzheimer’s disease. Clinical diagnostic criteria for alcohol-related dementia (ARD) have been proposed and now validated in at least one trial, suggesting a method for distinguishing ARD, including Wernicke-Korsakoff’s syndrome, from other types of dementia [97, 98]. […] Finlayson et al. [100] found that 49 of 216 (23%) elderly patients presenting for alcohol treatment had dementia associated with alcohol use disorders [100].”

 

May 24, 2018 Posted by | Books, Demographics, Epidemiology, Medicine, Neurology, Pharmacology, Psychiatry, Statistics | Leave a comment

Mathematics in Cryptography

Some relevant links:

Caesar cipher.
Substitution cipher.
Frequency analysis.
Vigenère cipher.
ADFGVX cipher.
One-time pad.
Arthur Scherbius.
Enigma machine.
Permutation.
Cycle notation.
Permutation group.
Cyclic permutation.
Involution (mathematics).
An Application of the Theory of Permutations in Breaking the Enigma CipherMarian Rejewski.

May 23, 2018 Posted by | Cryptography, Lectures, Mathematics | Leave a comment

Words

Most of the words below are words which I encountered while reading the books 100 cases in emergency medicine and critical care, Frozen Assets, Money in the Bank, Ice in the bedroom, Treason’s Harbour, Earth, Air, Fire and Custard, and May Contain Traces of Magic.

Talus/talar. Mortise. Empyema. Tragus. Otorrhoea. Lordosis. Chemosis. Eversion. Coryza. Atopy. Ectropion. Fly-tipping. Favism. Quillet. Hyperthymesia. Barratry. Simoom. Corium. Inexpugnable. Sly.

Portentous. Distaff. Dipsomaniac. Peart. Nippy. Frenetic. Azeotrope. Tumbril. Ratty. Exordium. Zareba. Bezel. Gregale. Gaberlunzie. Chelengk. Deboshed. Coriaceous. Battel. Rufous. Skink.

Lascar. Milksop. Polenta. Compline. Zither. Stroppy. Calomel. Spangly. Postern. Unregenerate. Vertiginous. Judder. Perspex. Swizzle. Lambently. Sprog. Flollop. Dodgem. Prurient. Gazump.

Cathexis. Scrounge. Quaerens. Tine. Tape measure. Strimmer. Bardiche. Martel. Demiurge. Copra. Grubby. Stonking. Campanology. Taramasalata. Muliebrity. Slumgullion. Flocculate. Mollycoddle. Bloviate. Kitsch.

 

May 20, 2018 Posted by | Books, Language | Leave a comment

Alcohol and Aging

I’m currently reading this book. Below I have added some observations from the first five chapters. The book has 17 chapters in total, covering a wide variety of topics. I like the coverage so far. All the highlighted observations below were highlighted by me; they were not written in bold in the book.

“Alcohol consumption and alcohol-related deaths or problems have recently increased among older age groups in many developed countries […]. This increase in consumption, in combination with the ageing of populations worldwide, means that the absolute number of older people with alcohol problems is on the increase and a real danger exists that a “silent epidemic” may be evolving [2]. Although there is growing recognition of this public health problem, clinicians consistently under-detect alcohol problems and under-deliver behaviour change interventions to older people [8, 9] […] While older adults historically demonstrate much lower rates of alcohol use compared with younger adults [4, 5] and present to substance abuse treatment programs less frequently than their younger counterparts [6], substantial evidence suggests that at-risk alcohol use and alcohol use disorder (AUD) among older adults has been under-identified for decades [7, 8]. […] Individuals who have had alcohol-related problems over several decades and have survived into old age tend to be referred to as early onset drinkers. It is estimated that two-thirds of older drinkers fall into this category [2]. […] Late-onset drinking accounts for the remaining one-third of older people who use alcohol excessively [2]. Late-onset drinkers usually begin drinking in their 50s or 60s and tend to be of a higher socio-economic status than early onset drinkers with higher levels of education and income [2]. Stressful life events, such as bereavement or retirement, may trigger late-onset drinking […]. One study demonstrated that 70 % of late-onset drinkers had experienced stressful life events, compared with 25 % of early onset drinkers [17]. Those whose alcohol problems are of late onset tend to have fewer health problems and are more receptive to treatment than those with early onset problems […] Our data highlighted that losing a parent or partner was often pinpointed as an event that had prompted an escalation in alcohol use […] A recent systematic review which examined the relationship between late-life spousal bereavement and changes in routine health behaviour over 32 different studies [however] found only moderate evidence for increased alcohol consumption [41].”

“Understanding alcohol use among older adults requires a life course perspective [2] […]. Broadly speaking, to understand alcohol consumption patterns and associated risks among older adults, one must consider both biopsychosocial processes that emerge earlier in life and aging-specific processes, such as multimorbidity and retirement. […] In the population overall, older adulthood is a life stage in which overall alcohol consumption decreases, binge drinking becomes less common, and individuals give up drinking. […] data collected internationally supports the assertion that older adulthood is a period of declining drinking. […] Two forces specific to later life may be at work in decreasing levels of alcohol consumption in late life. First, the “sick-quitter” hypothesis [12, 13] suggests that changes in health during the aging process limit alcohol consumption. With declines in health, older adults decrease the quantity and frequency of their drinking leading to lower average consumption in the overall older adult population [11, 14]. Similarly, differential mortality of heavy drinkers may lead to decreases in alcohol use among cohorts of older adults; these changes in average drinking may be a function of early mortality of heavy drinkers [15]. Although alcohol use generally declines throughout the course of older adulthood, the population of older adults exhibits a great deal of variability in drinking patterns. […] longitudinal research studies have found that older men tend to consume alcohol at higher levels than women, and their consumption levels decline more slowly than women’s [6]. […] National survey data [from the UK] estimate that approximately 40–45% of older adults (65+) drank alcohol in the past year […] Numerous studies suggest that lifetime nondrinkers are more likely to be female, display greater religiosity (e.g., attend religious services), and have lower levels of education than their moderate drinking peers [20, 21]. […] Older adult nondrinkers are a heterogeneous population, and as such, lifetime nondrinkers and former drinkers should be studied separately. This is especially important when considering the issue of health and drinking because the context for abstinence may be different in these two groups [23, 24].”

“[V]ersion 5 of the DSM manual abandoned separate alcohol abuse and alcohol dependence diagnoses, and combined them into a single diagnosis: alcohol use disorder (AUD). […] The NSDUH survey estimated a past-year prevalence rate of alcohol abuse or dependence of 6.1 % among those aged 50–54 and 2.2 % among those ages 65 and older. […] AUD is the most severe manifestation of alcohol-related pathology among older adults, but most alcohol-related harm is not a function of disordered drinking [55]. […] older adults commonly take medications that interact with alcohol. A recent study of community-dwelling older adults (aged 57+) found that 41% consumed alcohol regularly and among regular alcohol consumers, 51 % used at least one alcohol interacting medication [57]. An analysis of the Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing identified a high prevalence of alcohol use (60 %) among individuals taking alcohol interacting medications [58]. Falls are also a common health concern for older adults, and there is evidence of increased risk of falls among older adults who drink more than 14 drinks per week [59] […] a study by Holahan and colleagues [44] explored longitudinal outcomes for individuals who were moderate drinkers (below the weekly at-risk threshold) but who engaged in heavy episodic drinking (exceeded day threshold). Individuals were first surveyed between the ages of 55 and 65 and followed for 20 years. Episodic heavy drinkers were twice as likely to have died in the 20-year follow-up period compared with those who were not episodic heavy drinkers […to clarify, none of the episodic heavy drinkers in that study would qualify for a diagnosis of AUD, US] […] Alcohol use in the aging population has been defined through various thresholds of risk. Each approach brings certain advantages and problems. Using alcohol related disorders as a benchmark misses many older adults who may experience alcohol-related consequences to their health and well-being even though they do not meet criteria for disordered drinking. More conservative measures of alcohol risk may identify at-risk drinking in those for whom alcohol use may never compromise their health. […] among light to moderate drinkers, the level of risk is uncertain.

Among adults 65 years old and older in 2000–2001, just under 49.6% reported lifetime use [of tobacco] and 14% reported use in the last 12 months [30]. […] Data collected by the Centers for Disease Control in 2008 revealed that only 9% of individuals aged 65 and older reported being current smokers [42]. […] data from the 2001–2002 NESARC reveal a strong relationship between AUDs and tobacco use […] in 2012, 19.3% of adults 65 and older reported having ever used illicit drugs in their lifetime, whereas 47.6% of adults between the ages 60 and 64 reported lifetime drug use. […] In the 2005–2006 NSDUH […] 3.9% of adults aged 50–64, the bulk of the Baby Boomers at that time, reported past year marijuana use, compared to only 0.7% of those 65 years old and older [53]. Among those aged 50 and older reporting marijuana use, 49% reported using marijuana more than 30 days in the past year, with a mean of 81 days. […] The increasingly widespread, legal availability and acceptance of cannabis, for both medicinal and recreational use, may pose unique risks in an aging population. Across age groups, cannabis is known to impair short-term memory, increase one’s heart and respiratory rate, and elevate blood pressure [56]. […] For older adults, these risks may be particularly pronounced, especially for those whose cognitive or cardiovascular systems may already be compromised. […] Most researchers generally consider existing estimations of mental health and substance use disorders to be underestimations among older adults. […] Assumptions that older adults do not drink or use illicit substances should not be made.

“Although several studies in the United States and elsewhere have shown that moderate alcohol consumption is associated with reduced risk for heart disease [16–20] and that heavy intake is associated with increased risk of CVD incidence [6, 21] and all-cause mortality in various populations […], data specific to effects of alcohol in elderly populations remain scant. The few studies available, e.g., the Cardiovascular Health Study, suggest that moderate alcohol use is beneficial and may be associated with reduced Medicare costs among individuals with CVD [25]. The benefits and risks of alcohol consumption are dose dependent with a consistent cut-point for cardiovascular benefits being 1 drink per day for women and about 2 drinks per day for men [21]. These cut-points have also been observed for associations between alcohol consumption and all-cause mortality [21, 26]. Although there are many similarities in the effects of alcohol on CVD across many populations, the magnitude and significance of the association between amount of alcohol consumed and CVD risk remain inconsistent, especially within countries, regions, age, sex, race, and other population strata […] As shown in a recent review [33], a drinking pattern characterized by moderate drinking without episodes of heavy drinking may be more beneficial for CVD protection when compared to patterns that include heavy drinking episodes. […] In additional to amount of alcohol consumed per se, the pattern of alcohol consumption, commonly defined as the number of drinking days per week is also associated with CVD outcomes independent of the amount of alcohol consumed [18, 24, 34–37]. In general, a drinking pattern characterized by alcohol consumption on 4 or more days of the week is inversely associated with MI, stroke, and CVD risk factors“.

“The relation between moderate alcohol consumption and intermediate CVD markers was summarized in two recent reviews [6, 42]. Overall, moderate alcohol consumption is associated with improved concentrations of CVD risk markers, particularly HDL-C concentrations [18, 31, 43, 44]. Whether HDL-C resulting from moderate alcohol intake is functional and beneficial for cardioprotection remains unknown […] While moderate alcohol consumption shows no appreciable benefit on LDL-C, it is associated with significant improvement in insulin sensitivity […] Alcohol intake may also influence CVD markers through its effects on absorption and metabolism of nutrients in the body. This is critical especially in the elderly who may have deficiencies or insufficiencies of nutrients such as folate, vitamin B12, vitamin D, magnesium, and iron. Indeed, moderate alcohol consumption has been shown to improve status of nutrients associated with cardiovascular effects. For example, it improves iron absorption in humans [52, 53] and is associated with higher vitamin D levels in men [54]. […] heavy alcohol consumption [on the other hand] leads to deficiencies of magnesium [55], zinc, folate [56], and other nutrients and damages the intestinal lining and the liver impairing nutrient absorption and metabolism [57]. These effects of alcohol are likely to be worse in the elderly. […] chronic heavy drinking lowers magnesium [55], a nutrient needed for proper metabolism of vitamin D [58], implying that supplementation with vitamin D in heavy drinkers may not be as effective as intended. These effects of alcohol could also extend to prescription medications that are in common use among the elderly. […] Taken together, moderate alcohol seems to protect against cardiovascular disease across the whole life span but the data on older age groups are scanty. Theoretical considerations as well as emerging data on intermediate outcomes such as lipids, suggest that moderate alcohol could beneficially interact with medications such as statins to improve cardiovascular health but heavy alcohol could worsen CVD risk, especially in the elderly.”

Alcohol is one of the main risk factors for cancer, with alcohol use attributed to up to 44% of some cancers [2, 3] and between 3.2 and 3.7 % of all cancer deaths [4, 5]. Since 1988, alcohol has been classified as a carcinogen [6]. Types of cancers linked to alcohol use include cancers of the liver, pancreas, esophagus, breast, pharynx, and larynx with most convincing evidence for alcohol-related cancers of the upper aerodigestive tract, stomach, colorectum, liver, and the lungs [2, 7]. All of these cancers have a much higher incidence and mortality rate in older adults […] For alcohol-associated cancers, 66–95% of new cases appear in those 55 years of age or older [8, 9]. For alcohol-associated cancers, other than breast cancer, 75–95 % of new cases occur in those 55 years of age or older [8, 10, 11]. […] Four countries with a decline in alcohol use (France, the UK, Sweden, and US) have […] demonstrated a stabilization or decline in the incidence and mortality rates for types of cancers closely associated with alcohol use [12]. […] The increased risk for cancer related to alcohol use is based on a combination of both quantity/frequency and duration of use, with those consuming alcohol for 20 or more years at increased risk [14]. […] consumption of alcohol at lower levels may also increase the risk for alcohol-related cancers. Nelson et al. reported that daily consumption of 1.5 drinks or greater accounted for 26–35% of alcohol-attributable deaths [5]. Thus, the evidence is growing that daily drinking, even at lower levels, increases the risk for developing cancer in later life with the conclusion that there may be no safe threshold level for alcohol consumption below which there is no risk for cancer [6, 16, 17].”

The risk for developing alcohol-related cancer is increased among those who have a history of concurrent tobacco use and at-risk alcohol use […] Among individuals who have a history of smoking two or more packs of cigarettes and consuming more than four alcoholic drinks per day, the risk of head and neck cancer is increased greater than 35-fold [22]. […] At least 75 % of head and neck cancer is associated with alcohol and tobacco use[9]. […] There are gender differences in alcohol attributable cancer deaths with over half (56–66 %) of all alcohol-attributable cancer deaths in females resulting from breast cancer [5]. […] For women, even low-risk alcohol use (5–14.9 g/day or one standard drink of alcohol or less) increases the risk of cancer, mainly breast cancer [18]. […] Alcohol use during cancer treatment can complicate the treatment regimen and lead to poor long-term outcomes. […] Alcohol use is correlated with poor survival outcomes in oncology patients. […] Another issue for patients during cancer treatment is quality of life. Alcohol consumption at higher levels […] or patients who screened positive for a possible AUD during cancer treatment experienced worse quality of life outcomes, including problems with pain, sleep, dyspnea, total distress, anxiety, coping, shortness of breath, diarrhea, poor emotional functioning, fatigue, and poor appetite [58, 59]. Current alcohol use has also been associated with higher pain scores and long-term use of opioids [48, 49].”

May 14, 2018 Posted by | Books, Cancer/oncology, Cardiology, Epidemiology, Medicine | Leave a comment

Quotes

i. “Never esteem anything as of advantage to you that will make you break your word or lose your self-respect.” (Marcus Aurelius)

ii. “Waste no more time arguing what a good man should be. Be one.” (-ll-)

iii. “If it is not right, do not do it, if it is not true, do not say it.” (-ll-)

iv. “Nothing has such power to broaden the mind as the ability to investigate systematically and truly all that comes under thy observation in life.” (-ll-)

v. “The best revenge is not to be like your enemy.” (-ll-)

vi. “Memories are like flagstones, time and distance work upon them like drops of acid.” (Ugo Betti)

vii. “We have all forgot more than we remember.” (Thomas Fuller)

viii. “The free market in ideas has never been free, but always a market.” (Russell Jacoby)

ix. “Practical politics consists in ignoring facts.” (Henry Adams)

x. “Nowhere do men remain loyal for long when Fortune proves unstable.” (Silius Italicus)

xi. “The sin of thousands always goes unpunished.” (Lucan)

xii. “Software engineering is the part of computer science which is too difficult for the computer scientist.” (Friedrich Bauer)

xiii. “What we call human reason, is not the effort or ability of one, so much as it is the result of the reason of many, arising from lights mutually communicated, in consequence of discourse and writing.” (Hugh Blair)

xiv. “Universities should be safe havens where ruthless examination of realities will not be distorted by the aim to please or inhibited by the risk of displeasure.” (Kingman Brewster, Jr.)

xv. “To be left alone is the most precious thing one can ask of the modern world.” (Anthony Burgess)

xvi. “It is no great accomplishment to take people as they are, and we must always do so eventually, but to wish them to be as they are, that is a genuine love.” (Émile Chartier)

xvii. “In religion, faith is a virtue. In science, faith is a vice.” (Jerry Coyne)

xviii. “No one will ever follow you down the street if you’re carrying a banner that says, “Onward toward mediocrity.”” (Martin de Maat)

xix. “Blame the process, not the people.” (W. Edwards Deming)

xx. “One of life’s best coping mechanisms is to know the difference between an inconvenience and a problem. If you break your neck, if you have nothing to eat, if your house is on fire, then you’ve got a problem. Everything else is an inconvenience. Life is inconvenient. Life is lumpy. A lump in the oatmeal, a lump in the throat and a lump in the breast are not the same kind of lump. One needs to learn the difference.” (Robert Fulghum)

May 10, 2018 Posted by | Quotes/aphorisms | Leave a comment

100 cases in emergency medicine and critical care (II)

In this post I’ve added some links to topics covered in the second half of the book, as well as some quotes.

Flexor tenosynovitis. Kanavel’s cardinal signs.
Pelvic Fracture in Emergency Medicine. (“Pelvic injuries may be associated with significant haemorrhage. […] The definitive management of pelvic fractures is surgical.”)
Femur fracture. Girdlestone-Taylor procedure. (“A fall from standing can result in occult cervical spine fractures. If there is any doubt, then the patient should be immobilized and imaged to exclude injury.”)
Anterior Cruciate Ligament Injury. Anterior drawer test. Segond fracture. (“[R]upture of the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) […] is often seen in younger patients and is associated with high-energy sports such as skiing, football or cycling. […] Take a careful history of all knee injuries including the mechanism of injury and the timing of swelling.”)
Tibial plateau fracture. Schatzker classification of tibial plateau fractures. (“When assessing the older patient with minor trauma resulting in fracture, always investigate the possibility that this may be a pathological fracture (e.g. osteoporosis, malignancy.”))
Ankle Fracture. Maisonneuve fracture.
Acute cholecystitis. Murphy’s sign. Mirizzi syndrome. (“Most patients with gallstones are asymptomatic. However, complications of gallstones range from biliary colic, whereby gallstones irritate or temporarily block the biliary tract, to acute cholecystitis, which is an infection of the gallbladder sometimes due to obstruction of the cystic duct. Gallstones can also become trapped in the common bile duct (choledocholithiasis) causing jaundice and potential ascending cholangitis, which refers to infection of the biliary tree. Ascending cholangitis classically presents with Charcot’s triad of fever, right upper quadrant (RUQ) pain and jaundice. It can be life-threatening. […] Acute cholecystitis requires antibiotic therapy and admission under general surgery, who should decide whether to perform a ‘hot’ emergency cholecystectomy within 24-72 hours of admission. This shortens the hospital stay but can be associated with more surgical complications.”)
Small-Bowel Obstruction. (“SBO is defined as a mechanical obstruction to the passage of contents in the bowel lumen. There can be complete or incomplete obstruction. […] There are many causes of SBO. […] The commonest cause of SBO worldwide is incarcerated herniae, whereas the commonest cause in the Western world is adhesion secondary to previous abdominal surgery. […] A strangulated hernia is […] a surgical emergency associated with a high mortality.”)
Pneumothorax. Flail chest.
Perforated peptic ulcer. (“Immediate onset pain usually signifies a rupture or occlusion of an organ, whereas more insidious onset tends to be infective or inflammatory in origin.” […] A perforated peptic ulcer is a surgical emergency that presents with upper abdominal pain, decreased or absent bowel sounds and signs of septic shock.”)
Diverticulitis.
Acute appendicitisMcBurney’s point. Rovsing’s sign. Psoas signObturator sign. (“The lifetime risk of developing appendicitis is 5-10%, and it is the commonest cause of emergency abdominal surgery in the Western world. […] in appendicitis, pain classically precedes vomiting, whereas the opposite occurs in gastroenteritis. […] Appendicitis is the commonest general surgical emergency in pregnant women and may have an atypical presentation with pain anywhere in the right side of the abdomen […] It is estimated that 25% of appendicitis will perforate 24 hours from the onset of symptoms, and 75% by 48 hours.”)
Abdominal aortic aneurysm. (“A ruptured AAA is a surgical emergency with 100% mortality if not immediately repaired. It classically presents with abdominal pain, pulsatile abdominal mass and hypotension. It should be ruled out in all patients over 65 years of age presenting with abdominal, loin or groin pain, especially if they have risk factors including smoking, hypertension, COPD or peripheral vascular disease. […] Do not be lured into a diagnosis of renal colic in an older patient, without definitive imaging to rule out an AAA rupture.”)
Nephrolithiasis. (“up to 30% of patients with kidney stones have a recurrence within 5 years”)
Acute Otitis Media. Mastoiditis. Bezold’s abscess.
Malignant otitis externa. (“Despite the term ‘malignant’, this is not a cancerous process. Rather, it refers to temporal bone (skull base) osteomyelitis. This is an ENT emergency associated with serious morbidity and mortality including cranial nerve palsies. […] The defining features of MOE are severe otalgia, often exceeding oral analgesics, in the older diabetic patient. Other symptoms such as hearing loss, otorrhoea, vertigo and tinnitus may also be present”)
Post-tonsillectomy hemorrhage. (Post-tonsillectomy bleeding (PTB) is a common but potentially serious complication occurring in around 5%-10% of patients undergoing tonsillectomy. The majority are self-limiting but around 1% require a return to theatre to stop the bleeding. All patients must be assessed immediately and admitted for observation as a self-limiting bleed can preclude a larger bleed within 24 hours. […] [PTB] should be treated as an airway emergency due to the possibility of obstruction.”)
Acute rhinosinusitis. (“Periorbital cellulitis is a potentially sight-threatening emergency. It is often precipitated by an upper respiratory tract infection, rhinosinusitis or local trauma (injury, insect bite).”)
Corneal Foreign Body. Seidel test. (“Pain with photosensitivity, watery discharge and foreign body sensation are cardinal features of corneal irritation. […] Abnormal pupil shape, iris defect and shallow anterior chamber are red flags for possible ocular perforation or penetrating ocular injury. […] Most conjunctival foreign bodies can be removed by simply irrigating the eye […] Removing a corneal foreign body […] requires more skill and an experienced operator should be sought. […] Iron, steel, copper and wood are known to cause severe ocular reactions”)
Acanthamoeba Keratitis. Bacterial Keratitis. Fungal keratitis. (“In patients with red eyes, reduced vision with severe to moderate pain should be prompted to an early ophthalmology review. Pre-existing ocular surface disease and contact lens wear are high risk factors for microbial keratitis.”)
Globe ruptureAcute orbital compartment syndromeLateral Canthotomy and Cantholysis. (Thirty percent of all facial fractures involve the orbit […] In open globe injuries with visible penetrating objects, it may be tempting to remove the object; however, avoid this as it may cause the globe to collapse.”)
Mandibular fracture. Guardsman fracture. (“Jaw pain, altered bite, numbness of lower lip, trismus or difficulty moving the jaw are the cardinal symptoms of possible mandibular fracture or dislocation.”)
Bronchiolitis. (“This is an acute respiratory condition, resulting in inflammation of the bronchioles. […] Bronchiolitis occurs in children under 2 years of age and most commonly presents in infants aged 3 to 6 months. […] Around 3% of all infants under 1 year old are admitted to hospital with bronchiolitis. […] Not all patients require hospital admission.”)
Fever of Unknown Origin. (“Fever is a very common presentation in the Emergency Department, and in the immunocompetent child is usually caused by a simple infection […] it is important to look for concerning features. Tachycardia is a particular feature that should not be ignored […] red-flag signs for serious illness [include:] • Grunting, tachypneoa or other signs of respiratory distress • Mottled, pale skin with cool peripheries […] Irritability […] not responding to social cues • Difficulty to rouse […] Consider Kawasaki disease in fever lasting more than 5 days.”)
Pediatric gastroenteritis. Rotavirus.
Acute Pyelonephritis. (“Female infants have a two- to-fourfold higher prevalence of UTI than male infants”)
Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease. (“Reflux describes the passage of gastric contents into the oesophagus with or without regurgitation and vomiting. This is a very common, normal, physiological process and occurs in 5% of babies up to six times per day. GORD presents when reflux causes troublesome symptoms or complications. This has a prevalence of 10%– 20% […] No investigations are required in the Emergency Department if there is a suspicion of GORD; this is usually a clinical diagnosis alone.”)
Head injury. (“Head injuries are common in children […] Clinical features of concern in head injuries include multiple episodes of vomiting […] significant scalp haematoma, prolonged loss of consciousness, confusion and seizures.”)
Pertussis. (“In the twentieth century, pertussis was one of the most common childhood diseases and a major cause of childhood mortality. Since use of the immunisation began, incidence has decreased more than 75%.”)
Hyperemesis gravidarum. ([HG] is defined as severe or long-lasting nausea and vomiting, appearing for the first time within the first trimester of pregnancy, and is so severe that weight loss, dehydration and electrolyte imbalance may occur. It affects less than 4% of pregnant women, although up to 80% of women suffer from some degree of nausea and vomiting throughout their pregnancy. […] Classically, patents present with a long history of nausea and vomiting that becomes progressively worse, despite treatment with simple antiemetics.”)
Ectopic pregnancy. (“Abdominal pain and collapse with a positive pregnancy test must be treated as a ruptured ectopic pregnancy until proven otherwise. […] In cases where the patient is stable and an intact ectopic is suspected, this is not an emergency and patients can be brought back the next day […] if seen out of hours”)
Recurrent miscarriage. Antiphospholipid syndrome. (“Bleeding in early pregnancy is common and does not necessarily lead to miscarriage.”)
Ovarian torsion. (“Torsion of the ovary and/ or fallopian tube account for between 2.4% and 7.4% of all gynaecological emergencies, and rapid intervention is required in order to preserve ovarian function. […] Ovarian torsion is unfortunately often misdiagnosed due to its non-specific symptoms and lack of diagnostic tools. […] Suspect ovarian torsion in women with severe sudden onset unilateral pelvic pain.”)
Pelvic Inflammatory Disease. Fitz-Hugh–Curtis syndrome.
Ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome. (“OHSS is an iatrogenic complication of fertility treatment with exogenous gonadotrophins to promote oocyte formation. Hyperstimulation of the ovaries leads to ovarian enlargement, and subsequent exposure to human chorionic gonadotrophin (hCG) causes production of proinflammatory mediators, primarily vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF). The effects of proinflammatory mediators lead to increased vascular permeability and a loss of fluid from intravascular to third space compartments. This gives rise to ascites, pleural effusions and in some cases pericardial effusions. Women with severe OHSS can typically lose up to 20% of their circulating volume in the acute phase […] OHSS patients are also at high risk of developing a thromboembolism […] In conventional IVF, around one-third of cycles are affected by mild OHSS. The combined incidence of moderate or severe OHSS is reported as between 3.1% and 8%.”)
Pulmonary embolism. (“The overall prevalence of PE in pregnancy is between 2% and 6%. Pregnancy increases the risk of developing a venous thromboembolism by four to five times, compared to non-pregnant women of the same age.”)
Postpartum psychosis.
Informed consent. Gillick competency and Fraser guidelines.
Duty of candour. Never events.

May 8, 2018 Posted by | Books, Gastroenterology, Infectious disease, Medicine, Nephrology, Ophthalmology | Leave a comment