Four-Legged Medical Models

Animals serve as useful models in medical research—but they also serve as models for our anthropocentric fantasies. On Life Lines, Dr. Dolittle reports that researchers were able to “restore locomotion in paralyzed rats using a combination of nerve stimulation and engaging the mind by having the rats complete simple tasks.” The rats, outfitted with a “support jacket” to provide external stimulation, learned to walk and even sprint to their favorite snack. Dr. Dolittle writes “the nerves had actually reorganized to create new connections around the injury site” and “these new research findings may one day help paralyzed humans fully regain the ability to walk.” Meanwhile, on Respectful Insolence, Orac examines another method of healing animals…with mystical tranfusions of energy. Orac writes “In a way, dogs are smarter than humans in that they don’t fool themselves into believing that hand motions are anything more than hand motions.” But that won’t keep Cesar Milan from sticking them with needles.

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Stardust Can’t Live on Sunshine

Day and night, the sun is something most of us take for granted. But on Respectful Insolence, disciples stare at it intently in order to gain its energy. Orac writes “sun gazers seem to think that mammals are like plants in possessing an ability to absorb energy directly from the sun”—and diehard gurus claim to have lived for years without food or water. Earnest practitioners risk blindness, dehydration, starvation and death. Orac says “Sun gazing also leaves out the fact that plants get the organic building blocks they use to produce their actual structures from the ground in which they grow. Humans have no such capacity.” As the sun grows to a red giant it will boil our oceans and strip off the atmosphere; later it “will die in a fiery, catastrophic explosion, one which will quite possibly obliterate our entire planet, and then eventually cease to shine at all.” But as Ethan Siegel reveals on Starts With a Bang, there’s a silver lining to that future planetary nebula. He says “everything that makes up you, me, and the entire planet—the tiniest parts of everything we’ve ever known—they were all made inside a star.” Ashes to ashes, dust to dust, and solar system to solar system.

Rawness versus Pasteurization

i-8dcc60b0394ead4a372a4be058676f4d-milkbuzz.jpgAlthough it is illegal to sell in most states, raw milk is gaining popularity as claims about its healthfulness multiply. Proponents of raw say the heat of pasteurization destroys beneficial enzymes and probiotic bacteria, while homogenization damages the natural structure of milk. Sharon Astyk drinks raw milk on Casaubon’s Book, but only from animals she raises herself. She says raw milk “tastes better,” “is easier to digest,” and “should be available for sale everywhere.” But she also acknowledges the inherent bacterial risks of rawness, warning that it is not for everyone and requires extra vigilance in selection and storage. On The White Coat Underground, PalMD regards the raw milk movement as so much woo, writing that the pasteurization of milk has been one of the biggest success stories in public food safety. Pal adds that milk is “not adversely affected by pasteurization” and its “nutritional value is preserved,” while dismissing the idea that humans utilize enzymes other than their own. And on Adventures in Ethics and Science, Dr. Free-Ride recounts the story of Louis Pasteur himself, who undertook his foundational experiments at a time when “your morning milk could be a good source of calcium and tuberculosis.”

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