Wednesday, December 15, 2010

HIV Cure?

Man cured from HIV!

I went to a review session for genetics today. And a brilliant, well everyone older than me here seems brilliant, but a very smart professor announced out of nowhere that there had been a cure for AIDS. So, at first I didn't question it.

As far as he seems concerned it was a done deal. I though 'How exciting'.

On the drive home I started thinking about the one case report in more detail. The report in the New England Journal of Medicine reports a man, who was positive for HIV, was cured (so far so good...) in the process of being treated for Acute Myeloid Leukemia, a cancer of the blood. They basically replaced all his bone marrow, the source of the cancer, with a donor's marrow. But, this donor had special bone marrow. In order for the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) to infect people, it must enter the cell through a specific "door". This donor, didn't have "the door". So, overtime the virus lost access to the cells of this man and he is now off of the antiretroviral drugs he'd been on previously.

It's a complicated, expensive, and risky procedure. There's no way that this exact treatment could completely eliminate HIV, like the polio vaccine did polio. Or, really even make a dent. But, I've come to appreciate the fact that all research is a start. A small step in the right direction. If anything, it's a great success story for the doctor and his colleagues. You know, one you'd bring up over Christmas dinner this year.

Of course, there have been many other leads in the quest for finding a cure. This is just the first time someone has actually been cured. So, it's still kind of exciting.

It's (the article) free online if you're interested in reading more about the case...Click here.

"Our findings underscore the central role of the CCR5 receptor during HIV-1 infection and disease progression and should encourage further investigation of the development of CCR5-targeted treatment options."
(Long-Term Control of HIV by CCR5 Delta32/Delta32 Stem-Cell Transplantation. Gero Hütter, M.D., Daniel Nowak, M.D., Maximilian Mossner, B.S., Susanne Ganepola, M.D., Arne Müßig, M.D., Kristina Allers, Ph.D., Thomas Schneider, M.D., Ph.D., Jörg Hofmann, Ph.D., Claudia Kücherer, M.D., Olga Blau, M.D., Igor W. Blau, M.D., Wolf K. Hofmann, M.D., and Eckhard Thiel, M.D. N Engl J Med 2009; 360:692-698)

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Hebrews 12:1

"Since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us." 

After my physiology exam this morning, God blessed me in a big way. On my way out, I ran into Amanda and Bre, two awesome Christian women and amazing friends at school who happened to be on their way to Sultan's Middle Eastern Restaurant. I was invited to join and gladly accepted.

It's so easy to get caught up in life. And, over lunch, I was reminded of the importance of finding strength in the love of Christ by surrounding myself with people who radiate Christ's love. It's essential.

I came home and was cleaning a little in my  room when I came across a book I swiped from home last time I was there. Yeah, sorry Mom and Dad, I should have asked, but it didn't look occupied so I helped myself.

It's called "Running With The Giants" by John C. Maxwell. I opened it and read the first page. It had Hebrews 12:1 written on it. You know what they say...timing is everything. I kept reading. It was reinforcement straight from God that I need to cherish, for the rest of my life, relationships that glorify God; relationships that keep me in His love and challenge me to remain there.

As the book begins it reads, "It's often said that life is a marathon. But I think it's much more challenging than that....The race of life is different because you never know where the finish line is until you're actually crossing it."

I don't know about you, but a marathon seems a tad daunting (massively huge understatement!). If life is even more so, a little encouragement could go a long maybe into eternity? That's what Hebrews 11 does. I encourage you to read Hebrews 11. It "describes Old Testament giants: Abraham, Joseph, Moses, and Rahab, who ran life's course with great purpose and intensity." What a great source of encouragement...right at our literate, multiple-Bible-owning, and often idle fingertips.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Sunday: Motivation for Monday.

Sundays are the best.

I just started going to this amazing church called the University Reformed Church in East Lansing. I've heard great things about it and three weeks ago walked into a building that was full of the spirit of God. I have been so blessed by the people there, and I hardly know them. And the preaching is challenging, captivating, and straight from the Bible. I leave feeling full of the Word of God and motivated to live a life that is paradoxical to many, but purposeful and glorifying to God.

Here is what I learned today. The sermon was titled, "What Do You Want From Jesus?" And the scripture was Mark 10:35-52. It contrasts James and John's request to Jesus, with the request of the blind, beggar, Bartimaeus. Here are some thoughts I wrote down in response to the sermon.

- When you don't hear from Jesus, do you yell louder? Like Bartimaeus does here after being rebuked by the people?
- Jesus loves people with "gutsy", or bold, faith. Bartimaeus is just one example, many more examples are evident all over the Bible.
- When Jesus called Bartimaeus, he jumped to his feet. Be excited and find the joy in being called by Jesus.
- Bartimaeus followed God after he was healed. To follow is an expression of faith. Contrast this with the rich man who won't leave his possessions to follow Jesus.

[Note: Reading Mark 10:35-52 really helps put these comments into perspective...try to compare and contrast the situation with James and John to that of Bartimaeus yourself. Then ask yourself, how do I approach Jesus? It's interesting. And convicting. Or just go here and listen to today's should be posted soon]

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Genetics. The Future of Medicine.

Ok. This is really cool to me, so, I'm going to share it with you. Humor me. Enjoy it with me. I don't know. You can stop reading right now if you want. This is a brief introduction to how diseases are going to be treated in the future. Here I focus on the successes of a clinical trial aimed at developing a safe mechanism for gene therapy to reverse a form of genetic blindness.

For people not devoting large amounts of their life to studying science:

Consider this situation: A person is born with a defective gene important in the function of the eye, specifically the part that senses light. Overtime, they develop blindness because that gene simply is not working.

For the science lovers:

There is a genetic form of blindness called Leber's congenital amaurosis. It's a case of severe retinal dystrophy caused by missense mutation in the RPE65 gene. This leads to abnormalities in the photoreceptors and vision slowly deteriorates over time. (if you want more info, at the bottom of this post there's a link to the journal article that describes the therapy for the condition in detail)


Insert the correct gene into the eye so it will start working again. Easier said that done...

This is a very cutting edge area of medical research. Literally, what researchers are doing is inserting specific pieces of DNA (or genes) into people using viruses.

There was a study done in 2008 that was published in the New England Journal of Medicine where they successfully accomplished the insertion of the correct gene for this form of blindness and actually improved the vision of their patients. 

Click on this link and then find the video on the right hand side of the webpage. The first part is the injection into the retina, the back part of the eye (don't worry, it's not bloody and gross, to most, you won't really see much of anything). But, the really cool part is at the end. They put the man before the therapy into a maze. Then, they put him in the maze 6 months after therapy. It's video 4. It'll take about 2 minutes of your time.

The cool part is that studies like this could lead to cures for so many diseases. So many diseases are caused by problems in our genes. Check it out:
-Multiple sclerosis (MS)
-Myasthenia gravis
-Neurological complications of diabetes
-Alzheimer’s disease
-Parkinson’s disease
-Retinitis pigmentosa (see the case above!)
-Inflammatory bowel disease (IBS)
-Rheumatoid arthritis
-Cystic fibrosis
-Heart disease
-Cancer of all shapes and sizes

The list goes on. But, of course, tied to such exciting research are enormous budgets, ethics commitees, dangerous side effects, and scientific challeges. However, that doesn't make it any less incredible.

Friday, December 10, 2010


Crazy Morning.
On my way to school, this is what happened.

-I picked up Amanda (her car wouldn't start)
-We watched a green mini van drive into oncoming traffic at least 3 times, drive at length on the shoulder, jump a curve, and demolish a mailbox...with no apparent intent to slow down.
-We call the police
-We park, and the van happens to park in the same parking lot
-Girl gets out. She is our classmate (awkward).
-We track her down and get the 411.

Amy: Excuse me, um, excuse me...we were just following you into school and were wondering if you're alright?
Student: Yeah, I'm fine. (confused look, as if she has no idea what I'm talking about.)
Amy: Well, we were just concerned, we saw you swerving and then hit that mailbox, are you sure you're ok?
Student: Oh, yeah. (Now, I remember what just happened...) My car is kinda messed up. (No way!) I don't speak car, though, so I'm not really sure what it is.
Amy: Oh, well, it must be pretty bad...
Student: Yeah, something about the steering. (Like how it doesn't?!)
Amy: Well, I just want to let you know that we did call the police. We were worried someone was going to get hurt. So, in case you get a call, you won't be surprised. (Oh, by the way, did you know hitting a mailbox is a federal offence!) If you need a ride home I can give you one today, or if you get your car fixed and need a ride I could give you one. Where do you live?
Student: .... (clearly upset with me) I have other friends who can drive me. (then she proceeds to speed walk away from us...)
-We call the police back to give them the 411
-We laugh, we can't believe what we just encountered
-We take our exam
-Crazy driver (or crazy car...) girl sits right behind me
-I experience the best way to replace pre-test jitters with I'm scared someone's gonna die jitters

Wow. Crazy. When I went back to my car, hers was gone. May God have mercy on whoever crosses her path. And may we all remember to practice defensive driving.
Beware! Her van looked something like this.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Sojourn: A Temporary Stay

Pretty rad album cover, if I do say so myself.

I studied, for a very long time, in the Grand Traverse Pie Co. this afternoon/evening and heard the same Christmas songs over and over again. The fact that they were sung by different people, the fact that it was snowing outside, the fact that it is Christmastime, and the fact that I was indulging in a wonderfully delicious piece of warm raspberry-apple pie made it okay. And, I dare say, quite enjoyable.

But, in case you want to try something new, say hello to Sojourn music. Particularly their Advent Songs album. I've also done you a favor and listened to their other stuff and it is great all year round. At least I'm anticipating it will be.

CLICK HERE! for your favorite Christmas songs (I listen on grooveshark), like Joy to the World and O Come All Ye Faithful, with a refreshing new twist! Plus, as an added bonus there are some that I bet you have never heard before. Who knew? And I'll even throw in a virtual snow globe if you listen in the next 10 minutes! Hurry and listen now before this exciting season of Advent comes to a close.

(sorry about that last part, it's been a long day full of biostatistics, i needed it...)

Sunday, December 5, 2010


Let me tell you about my weekend. It was awesome.
To sum it up, Time Well Wasted :)

Friday: Christmas cookie party and Ryan's awesome hockey game with Erin. Mom, Dad, Grandma and Grandpa Luke and Nana were at the game too and came over to visit afterwards.

-Saturday: Worked at the Friendship Clinic all morning, learned A TON of new things and once again saw the Lord soften my heart and convict me for taking way too many of the blessings in my life for granted. I then made a trip down to Hillsdale for a short but successful visit. I spent some good quality time studying and mostly not studying with Ben and we went to dinner with Kay, where we ran into the Jones Family (whom I have come to love, they are fabulous), picked up my glasses I'd left over homecoming weekend, and picked up a dog cage for Gabbie (Katie's new puppy). I also am very proud of the Hillsdale cross country women who ran at National's this week. They finished 14th overall and Ms. Erin Brunko capped her senior season off with an All-American 21st place finish.

Sunday: Slept in. Took a basic pistol course and worked my shooting skills. Shot this gun...

Qualified in shooting to get my CPL (Certified Pistol License). Began and finished studying for my first final exam which I then completed online. Went to the evening church service. Went to Cosi for dinner with Katie. And, I am about to go to bed and it's only 10:30. 

In regards to the coming week, I shouldn't be content. But, I am very content. And for that, I am extremely grateful.

My room is a disaster.

I have a total of 4 exams this week.

My e-mail inbox is overflowing.

My to do list I made last Monday hasn't been touched.

So, why am I content with leaving so many things undone before beginning the week? I don't know, maybe it was this past weekend, maybe I am feeling overly ambious and anticipating a productive week. But, life has proven that everything always works out. Not as planned, usually, but that's still no reason to worry.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Another Half.

That means...another half marathon. I just signed up to run another one. It's the Bayshore Half Marathon over Memorial Day weekend in Traverse City. It's run all along the Lake MI shoreline = B-E-A-UTIFUL! A friend from school, Bre, told me to do it. So, I did. Registration is already full! And, it opened on the 1st, 2 days ago. I'm thinkin' it's gonna be a good one. Bonus: maybe the Christiansen's will be in town?! And, it can't be far from Grandpa Dave and Grandma Kate either...

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

What Goes In, Must Come Out

The meaning of this title is two-fold.

1. I am realizing more than ever that unless the information I put in my brain studying can come out in a thoughtful way, say during an exam for instance, it is totally useless. I have been struggling with spending more time than ever studying, only to get a mediocre grade. Why? I'll take most of the credit, I could be spending my time studying and not writing this blog for example, but all in all, I need to become more effective. But, more importantly, I think I need to make this information mean something to me. So, my goal before I leave for winter break is to find a way to do that. I love clinical vignettes...maybe that's a direction I could explore? Ultimately, what goes in, must, must, must come out.

This principle applies in all areas of life too (thank you to my liberal arts education for making my mind think this way...and to my osteopathic education as well). It applies to our faith, when we experience the love of Christ in our lives, it must come out of us. It applies in a family, our parents spend years caring for and shaping our lives and it must then come out of us as they get older (Happy 50th Birthday Mom!). Anyways, that's my personal goal right now, to make things that go in, come back out.


2. In honoring one of my favorite profs here at school, Dr. Harvey Sparks, I have to share a poem that he gave to us in the cardiac unit of physiology. That's him pictured above...I haven't actually been to lecture to see him in real life, so both you and I have the same mental picture age of him, and lets be honest, that is a great mental picture!). I apologize if it bores you, but it's incredibly witty in an incredibly nerdy sort of way.

What Goes In, Must Come Out
The Great Dr. Starling, in his Law of the Heart*
Said the output was greater if, right at the start,
The cardiac fibers were stretched a bit more,
So their force of contraction would be more than before.
Thus the larger the volume in diastole
The greater the output was likely to be.

If the right heart keeps pumping more blood than the left,
The lung circuit's congested; the systemic -- bereft.
Since no one is healthy with pulmo-congestion,
The law of Doc. Starling's a splendid suggestion.
The balance of outputs is made automatic
And blood-volume partition becomes steady-static.

But when the heart reaches a much larger size,
This leads to Heart Failure, and often, Demise.
The relevant law is not Starling's, alas,
But the classical law of Lecompte de Laplace**.
Your patient is dying in Decompensation,
So reduce his Blood Volume, or call his Relation. 
-A.C. Burton 

If you want in on the wit, I've included the inside info below. If not, I won't be offended : )

*For those of you who care, I'll pass on some knowledge: Dr. Starling's Law states that the greater the volume of blood entering the heart during diastole, the greater the volume of blood that leaves the heart during systole. And, this shift occurs automatically, isn't our heart smart?! If it wasn't equal and more blood was entering the heart than leaving, blood would accumulate in the lungs...bad news bears. In just one hour, 3L of blood would accumulate in your lungs. Note: you only have 5-6L of blood to begin with all throughout your body. 

**Humor me...: The law of Lecompte de Laplace states that Tension on the wall of the heart = Pressure in the ventricle x Radius of the ventricle; T=PR. So, consider a condition called dilated cardiomyopathy (see diagram below). The ventricle of the heart becomes distended (swells or expands) and thus the radius increases. As the radius increases, the heart muscle must create more tension to maintain the pressure in the ventricle to continue pumping the same amount of blood out of the heart as is entering it. Ultimately then, it will take more pressure generated by the heart muscle to continue ejecting the same about of blood that it ejected before becoming distended. Therefore, your heart must work harder to get the same result it did before. This overworking of the heart leads to heart failure, because the heart can no longer pump sufficient amounts of blood to the body, and death if not treated. 

Now, for real!!
On the right is an example of an enlarged heart.