27 September, 2007


I was speaking today with a "colleague" of mine about self-experimentation, and she at one point in the conversation she remarked that she thought that "Why the hell are we becoming scientists? I mean, you and I, we are the worst people to be scientists!".

I took umbrage. Lots of umbrage. True, that I sometimes wonder what the nutritional value of my reagents are, or what it feels like for a gastrointestinal epithelial cell to be colonized aggressively by an invading and effacing pathogen. And all she did is blather on about vanillin stains smelling good.

24 September, 2007

LINK: (1>3)-B-D-glucan

Awesome summary post here at Drugs and Poisons. Take that, Charles River Endosafe!

23 September, 2007


There doesn't really seem to be much of a scientific consensus regarding self-experimentation. And when it does happen, people don't like to talk about it much, it seems, like the scientific community is mildly embarrassed by these few brave individuals who are so passionate, or nutty, about their research that they decide to become test subjects themselves. The PI of the lab I work in got really sick, with horrible gastritis a while ago, and she was excited about the whole thing because she thought that she might be the very first case of lab-transmitted H. pylori infection. Or, at least, accidental H. pylori infection. Dr. Barry Marshall once drank a culture of H. pylori to demonstrate that it did indeed cause stomach ulcers and gastritis. It did, and he got a stomach ache.

The prompt of this post is in a research article I was reading:
Relationship between Plasma Levels of Lipopolysaccharides (LPS) and LPS-Binding Proteins in Patients with Severe Sepsis and Septic Shock; Steven M. Opal, Patrick J. Scannon, et al.; The Journal of Infectious Diseases; 1999; 180:1584-1589

"Administration of endotoxin to humans in minute quantities (2-4ng/kg) precipitates typical signs and symptoms of clinical sepsis, activates the complement and coagulation systems, and triggers release of the proinflammatory cytokines. Injection of larger doses of endotoxin (~1mg) into humans has been followed by severe hypotension and multiorgan dysfunction within 2 h of intravenous administration. "

The part that caught my eye was "endotoxin into humans", and I couldn't help but wonder how the bloody hell they ever got that protocol approved, and how much did they have to pay the volunteers? So I flipped to the reference:

Brief Report: shock and multiple organ dysfunction after self administration of Salmonella endotoxin; daSilva AMT, Fromm RE, Chuidian FS; New England Journal of Medicine; 1993; 328:1457-60

The difference between a fool and a genius is slim indeed.

21 September, 2007


Germ-free organisms are, by definition and title, inherently germ-free. Absolutely squeaky clean, from their skins to their guts to every other part of their insides. Normal organisms have normal gut bacteria and normal epidermal flora. Germ-free organisms have neither. This is what makes them useful for studying bacterial pathogenesis in isolation without interference from endogenous bacteria, or to study how the immune system acts without constant bacterial presence.

Germ-free organisms are tricky to make. First, they do a vasectomy on a male and put it into a cage with a virgin female of fertile age. Then nature takes its course. Mating doesn't result in procreation, but it does result in the female releasing a crapload of eggs (superovulation). Then a hysterectomy is performed on the superovulated female, and the entire uterus is dipped in Allcide to kill anything that might be on it before removing the sterile unfertilized eggs within it. Then purified sperm is added to the eggs, embryos are allowed to form, and then they are frozen. When needed, the embryos are thawed and placed into the womb of a fertile germ-free mother. And if all goes according to plan, germ-free babies are born into a germ-free environment. And thus the germ-freeness of a population continues happily. Of course, once there are enough of both sexes within the germ-free colony, breeding more germ-free organisms becomes a lot simpler. But the whole time, they're living in plastic bubbles.

Here's the thing though, and it really really really really really bothers me: no one seems to know where the first germ-free mother came from or how she was made.

19 September, 2007


I was scrambling through the bluff forest with the dog last weekend, and on a fallen log there sat a rather square-ish Tupperware container. As I drew nearer, I saw that there was a book and a pen inside. Still nearer, and I saw the writing on top of the container:
Blog = Book on Log
Belabored groaning at the horrible pun ensued.

12 September, 2007


1) Is it wrong that every time I hear someone use the word "biogas", even in an appropriate context, I can't help but laugh?

2) First you're supposed to be minutely detailed. Then you're supposed to be concise. Finally, it's all supposed to flow nicely together. Abstracts are a bitch to write.

3) Emphatic is a funny word. So is bubbly. Try saying them repeatedly very fast and you'll understand why.

09 September, 2007


N = Xn * Ds

N is equal to the local perception of normalcy
Xn is equal to the number of nerds within that given locality
Ds is the degree of social deprivation of said nerds.

Basically, this postulates that the greater number of nerds present in a given area, the more distorted the normal-ness of the reality within that area will be. This postulate assumes no dichotomy between nerds, geeks, and dorks, but rather assumes all to be equal.

This postulate is empirical. It may be proved by gathering a massive number of nerds, all very socially deprived, into one area (must be well stocked with high-speed internet, soldering irons, and lots of chemicals) and seeing what happens.

01 September, 2007


Although I once held Parafilm to be one of mankind's greatest inventions, up there along with cookies, the wheel, and fire, it has fallen in my regard. Turns out that our sticky little friend begins to melt at 60C, which is quite inconvenient. Also inconsiderate of it.