Wednesday, April 26, 2006

How Horses could help fight "BIRD FLU"

Horse serum has been used for years as a souce of "gamma globulins" (anti-bodies) for many species including man. Now a group of scientists in China are using antibody fragments from horses to fight the H5N1 virus. "The researchers included Jiahai Lu, PhD, of Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou, China. They're among experts worldwide working on bird flu treatments." The article is in and was written by Miranda Hitti from WebMD.

"First, the scientists prepared H5N1 virus in hen's eggs. Next, they immunized horses to make antibodies to H5N1.

Lu and colleagues took fragments of those antibodies, mixed them with H5N1 virus, and then spread the mixture on plates holding dog cells.

Dog cells were only exposed to H5N1 or the horse antibody fragments. For comparison, other dog cells were left alone, without either H5N1 or the horse antibodies' fragments.

The researchers checked on the dog cells every day for the next five days. The dog cells exposed to both the horse antibody fragments and H5N1 didn't die. But H5N1 took root and killed dog cells that were not treated with the horse antibody fragments."

They then tested this treatment on mice using low,medium and high doses of antibodies and following.....

  • The lower dose of horse antibody fragments brought 70% protection.
  • The medium and higher doses brought 100% protection.
  • The mice that got the horse serum without antibodies got no protection and all died.
.....while not tested on humans yet, it is promising as a large, inexpensive initial treatment in acute cases. The downside is that these antibodies are foreign proteins and as such trigger your own immune system to attack them. If you have been exposed to equine serum in the past then this could pose a problem for you, so called "Serum Sickness", otherwise a one shot deal should be OK.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Technology ...the bionic eye

As I've posted recently, the writers for Star trek seem to have incredible vision. There is a new post at "TCSDaily" by Glenn Reynolds (Technology, Commerce,Society) that discusses the use of optical implants to restore vision. "

Daniel Palanker, a physicist at Stanford University in California, had the idea to bypass the dead rods and cones and to stimulate the cells of the inner retina with electrical signals directly. Previous research had shown this method allowed perception of light, and Dr Palanker built a way to exploit it.

His bionic eye system is made up of a 3mm chip implanted into the retina and a pair of virtual-reality-style goggles containing a video camera. The goggles convert the video pictures into an infrared image. "The image is projected on to the retina and the retinal implant has photosensitive pixels that convert infrared light into pulses of electrical current, stimulating the cells in the retina," said Dr Palanker.

So far, he has only fitted rats and rabbits with the bionic eye. Human trials will begin in a couple of years and, when they do, Dr Palanker reckons the system will give people 20/80 vision - normal is 20/20, you need 20/40 for a driving licence and 20/400 is the legal definition of blindness - allowing people to read large fonts and recognise faces."

I posted recently about the advances in nanotechnology and this could prove to be another avenue that could be exploited in the development of bio-mechanical devices that could be used to help those with a wide variety of illnesses. Now thats a real run on sentence, I just had alot to say. I guess I need to watch those Star Trek reruns and see which stocks to buy.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Headshaking Syndrome....Just the facts

(angelfire cartoons)

Just to set the record straight....this is a SYNDROME. That means it is a condition with multiple potential causes that has a unique set of symptoms. In this case the symptom is head shaking, this is either horizontal, vertical or rotary and frequently resembles a nervous twitch. Sometimes this is so uncontrollable that the behavior becomes almost manic and dangerous. Over the years many different causes have been attibuted to causing head shaking syndrome, including (1) ear mites (2) allergic rhinitis (3) ocular disease (4) Trigeminal neuritis (5) dental disease and (6) photic headshaking. One, from the fever swamps of the internet, links it to vaccines ( see my previous post about my thoughts on holistics) One older study noted that these horses were frequently over 8 years of age, Throughbred or Warm Blood, owned by 40+ year old women used for hunter/jumper or dressage. Additional studies have linked this to the time of year (seasonal) and most recently, to bright sunlight and body color ( chesnut with a large white blaze). All of this would tend to make you think that nobody knows what in the hell is going on......hence a "Syndrome". If you take a step back and look at this logically it might help. Horses like any animal can shake their head for many,many reasons. I frequently do it when talking to some of my clients, but thats for another post. When I was at Cornell I saw more of these than I could count and the cause usually went unconfirmed, however many responded to a change in location and frequently intra-nasal steriods, hhhmmmmm. That sure sounds like allergy doesn't it., but this doesnt explain all of them since others didn't respond. A great study done at UC Davis found a link between headshaking and photic sneezing in people ( sun sneezing). In this study it was shown that bright sunlight, usually in the spring, caused these horses to show headshaking and even go as far as to put their heads in open barrels or in the tail of another horse to shield them from the light. .These stimuli appear to hyperactivate the trigeminal nerve resulting in a nasal irritation. This is believed to be similar to the photic sneeze syndrome in humans. The light or sound-induced headshake is a more violent and irregular, snorting toss, compared to the more rhythmic traditional head bobbing or nodding seen as a classic stereotypy. The horse may appear to be trying to scratch its nose on a foreleg or even on the ground as it snorts, even going along at a Trot

. This form of headshaking almost always worsens under work, and immediately subsides as the animal is returned to the quiet and dark barn or rest, so is easily misinterpreted as a purely behavioral problem. In most cases, light-induced headshaking is seasonal, and will stop immediately when the eyes are covered or the area is darkened. Dark goggles or sun-blocking face masks may be all that is needed for some individuals.
Additionally , a group at Univ of Penn. blocked the trigeminal nerve ( in the face) and stopped many of the signs, however , surgical transection of the nerve caused some horses to rub their noses off....a significant complication.
To date there are several ways to treat these horse and most are medical. Cyproheptidine, an anti-histamine that effects serotonin levels has been the best, also the addition af a behavior modifiying drug Carbamizine has been shown to help. I think these work in cases where the cause is more photic in origin or behavioral ( like tick disorders in people) . If the cause is more allergic then the use of intra-nasal steriods ( Azmacort, 5-10 metered doses daily) seems to be effective. Others have used panty hose over the horses nose as well as the leather tongs/strips over the nose to eliminate these signs. I feel the ones that rub their noses on the riders and snort while riding are the harder ones to treat and frequently are the most violent while riding. If you have a horse that suffers from this I would encourage you to seek out someone with experience with this disorder or have your Veterinarian send me a note and I will forward some info on the subject. As always , use your mind and don't fall victim to those that are marketing /selling a cure-all. There isn't one, this problem has multiple causes and that means no one treatment will do it. You just might find yourself shaking your head wondering where all the money went.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Nanotechnology......just like Star Trek

Three prostate cancer cells have taken up fluorescently labeled nanoparticles (shown in red). The cells' nuclei and cytoskeletons are stained blue and green, respectively.

Similarly designed targeted nanoparticles containing a chemotherapeutic drug are capable of getting inside cancer cells and releasing a lethal dose of the drug and eradicating tumors.

It's funny how so many things that have been used by the writers of Star Trek had come to be common place....the communicator (cell phone), Tricorders ( Palm pilots/Blackberrys) and the ever present computer. Now we are seeing another one....nanotechnology. These are small(microscopic) particles and appliances that can be injected into a patient to treat a specific disease. I read a great site, Technology Review from MIT that is definately on the cutting edge and has a report on Nano's being used in the treatment of Prostate cancer. "To make the nanoparticles, the researchers mix together a prostate cancer drug (docetaxel) and polymers that are already FDA-approved (one of them is used for sutures). The polymer formed spheres with the drugs trapped within. The researchers then chemically attach pieces of RNA, called aptamers, to the surface of the spheres. The RNA folds into shapes that fit into complementary structures on the surface of prostate-cancer cells." The promising thing about this form of treatment is that it has the potential for a single treatment with minimal side effects. Since the drug is taken into the cell it releases it's effect only on that cell , also using specific RNA allows it to be targeted for only one type of cancer cell. This is great news for those that suffer from prostate cancer ( my father being among this group) as well as many others who could benefit from it's potential. This is something that is coming and will have major impacts on the future in more than just medicine.
It's worth watching.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Homeopathics and Third World Medicine

For years I have been fighting a never ending battle against ignorance.....and I think I'm losing. I don't practice third world medicine and yet I have several clients that sometimes give in to the dark side and use roots and herbs on their horses ( fortunately not many). On the surface Homeopathy sounds so's natural, safe and best of all "effective" . Unfortunately there is very little science involved and more and more "fear".
I was recently confronted with a quasi new one...the noxious field...danger. This one has some old in it , such as the "high tension power line" fears of the past, and some I haven't heard before.
The dreaded "Geopathic noxious energy"

What are geopathic noxious energies? These are noxious earth rays that come where underground water veins cross; locations of earthquake fracture faults, underground voids (caverns or hollows) in the rock structure and certain deposits of coal, oil and minerals."

Fortunately for you , they sell many products just for these noxious energies. Not only that, they sell products for anything you could possibly imagine that could be noxious to your horse. This one site was called down by the USDA because they were selling products that were supposed to vaccinate your horse against disease. They have since had to change these claims. The really bad thing about this is that people were using these instead of REAL VACCINES that provide immunity. Again this all stems from fear and ignorance. We as humans fear what we don't understand and sadly there are some that would use this for financial gain.
We recently had to deal with two horses that were "treated" with a detox compound and both ended up hospitalized for colic. While there may be som
e beneficial component to certain natural compounds there are definately toxic ones....thats why they call them "poisonous plants". I also have a problem with anything I take or give to a horse that doesn't have a how much of what am I giving, and a spoonful, scoop,packet,sprinkle or squirt is not going to get it for me.
If you search the net for your disease dujour you will find all kinds of charlatans out there hawking all kinds of miraculous cures, such as Gallium nitrate for Navicular disease.These use well designed web sites with testimonials and pseudo-science to get you to buy their products. Some are even run by Veterinarians, using their degree to lend an air of authenticity to their claims.
I was once told that the reason that such treatments exist is that for many diseases and pains there just aren't many effective treatments available....leaving the door open for those that prey on the suffering .
They even offer an Emergency Kit....complete with ...get this ...Belladonna . For those who don't read Shakespeare's also known as DEADLY NIGHT SHADE( all for a paltry $169 )My advice is a skeptic.
Seek out opinions from several specialist in that field. Search out scientific articles that are reviewed by professionals. Don't give anything to your horse that sounds to good to be true or has the words....detox....cure....homeopathic......or anything written in Chinese on it.
In the words of the no one.