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Red Hot Chile Seniors?

When it comes to entitlement programs, who can beat Lo Prado, a working-class suburb of Chile's capital city, Santiago? There, the mayor is handing out free 50mg Viagra pills to senior citizens who are doctor certified as suffering from erectile dysfunction. No health insurance coverage is needed, but the afflicted age-60-plus citizens do have to register with the Lo Prado health service. Mayor Gonzalo Navarrete, who is a physician and former director of Chile's Institute of Public Health, said that he started the program because "an active sexuality improves the overall quality of life," and that other mayors in the Santiago area have told him they plan similar programs. The Bureau of Indications' South American office will monitor next year's birth rates in the region, as well as emergency department visits for those notorious 4-hour-plus side effects.

Bread Mold for Better Health

While we're on the subject of sex, did you know that certain mold cells--the reproductive ones, actually--have a nifty mechanism that protects the mold organism from genetic abnormalities? Seems some University of Missouri researchers have isolated this "meiotic silencing" device, and see potential for its application in us higher life forms to protect against nasties like the HIV virus. Specifically, when one chromosome in a pair has an extra gene not found in its partner chromosome, it is a good indication of an intruder, and the fungus will "turn off" all copies of that gene during the sexual process known as meiosis. For this "show me" break through, the Missouri scientists received the Beadle and Tatum Award (named after Nobel Prize--winning geneticists George Beadle and Edward Tatum) for outstanding and original research by a scientist using Neurospora, a type of bread mold. So, the next time you find mold on your sandwich, don't say "Eeeww!" Say "Eureka!"

Hypertension: Stink-Bomb It Away

And speaking of yucky materials being put to good use, British researchers (at King's College London and Peninsula Medical School, Exeter) have created a drug that pumps up the volume of hydrogen sulfide gas in the body. Testing on laboratory rats showed that the pungent gas is good at widening arteries, hence significantly lowering blood pressure. Although the scientists' article in Circulation proclaimed the potential of "an entirely new therapeutic approach for the treatment of hypertension," we are grateful that the authors also foresee the need for much more research, including safety tests. After all, if the gas responsible for rotten-egg odors were to run rampant in some patients and escape, the environmental side effects might again evoke that Hindenberg hydrogen-type disaster cry, "Oh, the humanity!"

Immunity? It's a Swamp Thing

Meanwhile, back at the swamp, Louisiana biochemists are working not on gaseous cures but on proteins from alligator blood to help fight the infectious ills of humanity. With MRSA-like complications in burns and diabetic ulcers gaining resistance to antibiotics, "The goal of our project is to find the proteins that lead to the exceptionally strong innate immune system in alligators, said one of the researchers, Kermit Murray, Ph.D., a chemistry professor at Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge. In lab studies, gator white-blood-cell extracts killed not only MRSA but several strains of Candida albicans, and showed considerable promise as well against HIV. The unanswered research question: How long does a scientist have to wrestle the gator before it consents to give blood?

Is It Sport, or Is It Research?

Now, we know that triathlons and softball aren't for everyone but when a bunch of emergency does pick dodgeball as their extracurricular sport, are they looking for exercise or for professional practice? The Society for Academic Emergency Medicine held its annual meeting in Washington last month, and no fewer than 16 teams signed up for the SAEM dodgeball tournament--the proceeds of which, it is noted, are donated to the SAEM Research Fund. The requisite waiver form states, "I assume all risk of injury to my person and property that may be sustained in connection with any activity including the tournament or pickup games." No word on whether damaged limbs or concussed craniums are considered the property of the Research Fund.

The Heck with the Heimlich

The emergency physicians may have been practicing at battering each other with rubber-coated balls, but an Omaha man deprived them of some lifesaving practice by tracheotomizing himself--actually, for the second time in 2 years. According to wire services, Steve Wilder, 55, woke up suffocating because of a combination of spring allergies and throat scarring from cancer-fighting radiation treatments. His wife called an ambulance--but before it got there, Wilder went in the kitchen, jabbed a steak knife into his trachea, and "I got relief right away. There was a big gush of blood, and I was able to start sucking in air." The next day, his physician reportedly inserted the customary tube in the opening and pronounced the incision a pretty good job. Word has it they're still negotiating the fee-splitting arrangement.
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Author:Frey, Randy
Publication:Internal Medicine News
Date:Jun 1, 2008
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