While I was waiting for the SUV to take me back to my car, I got waylaid by one of the producers of MTV's Pimp My Ride. You know what a pimp is, right? He's a dude who tricks, frightens, or flat-out bullies a woman to fuck other men for money, which she then gives to him. Just wanted to clear that up. 'Cuz there's a show called Pimp My Ride. Maybe they can do another show called Rape My Crib.
Consider someone who has just died of a heart attack. His organs are intact, he hasn't lost blood. All that's happened is his heart has stopped beating -- the definition of "clinical death" -- and his brain has shut down to conserve oxygen. But what has actually died? "After one hour, we couldn't see evidence the cells had died. We thought we'd done something wrong." In fact, cells cut off from their blood supply died only hours later.
But if the cells are still alive, why can't doctors revive someone who has been dead for an hour? Because once the cells have been without oxygen for more than five minutes, they die when their oxygen supply is resumed.
Mitochondria control the process known as apoptosis, the programmed death of abnormal cells that is the body's primary defense against cancer. "It looks to us," says Becker, "as if the cellular surveillance mechanism cannot tell the difference between a cancer cell and a cell being reperfused with oxygen. Something throws the switch that makes the cell die."
With this realization came another: that standard emergency-room procedure has it exactly backward. [...] "We give them oxygen," Becker says. "We jolt the heart with the paddles, we pump in epinephrine to force it to beat, so it's taking up more oxygen." Blood-starved heart muscle is suddenly flooded with oxygen, precisely the situation that leads to cell death. Instead, Becker says, we should aim to reduce oxygen uptake, slow metabolism and adjust the blood chemistry for gradual and safe reperfusion.
A study at four hospitals showed a remarkable rate of success in treating sudden cardiac arrest with an approach that involved, among other things, a "cardioplegic" blood infusion to keep the heart in a state of suspended animation. The study involved just 34 patients, but 80 percent of them were discharged from the hospital alive. In one study of traditional methods, the figure was about 15 percent.
Researchers have used low-intensity, intermediate-frequency electric fields to combat an aggressive brain cancer known as glioblastoma multiforme (GBM). The strategy pinpoints tumors without invasive brain surgery and has more than doubled survival time in preliminary studies.
The new approach exploits a cog in the cell-division pathway. When cells divide, a molecular motor called the microtubule spindle helps segregate chromosomes into the resulting daughter cells. Resembling a set of strings, the spindle is made of electrically polar macromolecules that are sensitive to electric fields. Previous work has shown that if a 200-kHz field is applied to these macromolecules, the spindle can't form properly. As a result, cells stop dividing and eventually die.
The device is ideal for those with GBM because it only acts on the brain and lacks chemotherapy's systemic side effects, says Eric Wong, a neuro-oncologist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, Massachusetts. Because tumor cells in the brain frequently divide, normal brain cells would remain unaffected by the electric fields.
It began with a line of plastic bags ghosting the surface, followed by an ugly tangle of junk: nets and ropes and bottles, motor-oil jugs and cracked bath toys, a mangled tarp. Tires. A traffic cone. [...] Dragging a fine-meshed net he discovered minuscule pieces of plastic, some barely visible to the eye, swirling like fish food throughout the water. He and his researchers parsed, measured, and sorted their samples and arrived at the following conclusion: By weight, this swath of sea contains six times as much plastic as it does plankton.
The North Pacific gyre is only one of five such high-pressure zones in the oceans. There are similar areas in the South Pacific, the North and South Atlantic, and the Indian Ocean. Each of these gyres has its own version of the Garbage Patch, as plastic gathers in the currents. Together, these areas cover 40 percent of the sea. "That corresponds to a quarter of the earth's surface," Moore says. "So 25 percent of our planet is a toilet that never flushes."
BPA has been found in nearly every human who has been tested in the United States. We're eating these plasticizing additives, drinking them, breathing them, and absorbing them through our skin every single day. [...] "Findings suggest that developmental exposure to BPA is contributing to the obesity epidemic that has occurred during the last two decades in the developed world, associated with the dramatic increase in the amount of plastic being produced each year." Given this, it is perhaps not entirely coincidental that America's staggering rise in diabetes -- a 735 percent increase since 1935 -- follows the same arc.
"Except for the small amount that's been incinerated -- and it's a very small amount -- every bit of plastic ever made still exists." [...] "It's not the big trash on the beach. It's the fact that the whole biosphere is becoming mixed with these plastic particles. What are they doing to us? We're breathing them, the fish are eating them, they're in our hair, they're in our skin."