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Married to Medical School: The Concessions Women Make

I do not doubt that I have the intelligence, care, compassion, and capability to become a doctor. I do doubt that I can navigate through medical school and graduate feeling fulfilled.

 

As traditional systems of fire and pain, medical schools scald and pulverize their students. They rake in hopes and dish back ashes. You give them everything. They ask for more. You try to work within the system. It burns you. Hordes of medical students endure strenuous conditions every year, and a throng drop out. Straining the mind, spraining the body, demanding total devotion, and draining the pocket book only scratch the surface of what medical schools entail. Medical schools make life more complicated, more stressful; they restrict social life, compromise wellness, and limit personal options. But most appalling, they hinder women’s ability to endure and flourish when growing families come into play.

I am currently a pre-med student, dreaming of becoming a doctor. I am also a woman, dreaming of becoming a mother. I would like to have my children before my age could compromise conception or health of my children. I fear that current medical school systems do not support or realistically allow my desires, especially if I hope to specialize. Even with taking a year between undergraduate and graduate school, I can still graduate basic medical school by the time I am 27. Depending on the field I am most interested in, I may need to tack on another four years of residency. That puts me at age 31.

It is becoming increasingly common for women to begin having children in their 30s and even 40s. Most think it is harmless. However, between the age of 25 and 35, probability of conception decreases 50% and women who give birth after the ages of 25-30 have a greater risk of having children with birth defects.[1] The risk of Down syndrome between the ages of 25-29 is 1 out of every 1100 births. By the age of 35, the risk of Down syndrome increases to 1 out of every 350 births.[2] My chances, as a healthy adult, of conceiving healthy children after age 35 are reasonably good, but I personally don’t want to take the chances. I have always wanted to have four children. Unless I plan to be pregnant for four consecutive years between ages 31-35 (a decision that also carries severe health risks for my own body and sanity), I either have to reduce the number of children I hope to have, or I have to risk the increasing chances of infertility for myself and birth defects for my children.

Bioengineers Design Rapid Diagnostic Tests Inspired by Nature

Inexpensive medical diagnostic tests that take only a few minutes to perform

 

By mimicking nature's own sensing mechanisms, bioengineers at UC Santa Barbara and University of Rome Tor Vergata have designed inexpensive medical diagnostic tests that take only a few minutes to perform. Their findings may aid efforts to build point-of-care devices for quick medical diagnosis of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), allergies, autoimmune diseases, and a number of other diseases. The new technology could dramatically impact world health, according to the research team.

The rapid and easy-to-use diagnostic test consists of a nanometer-scale DNA "switch" that can quickly detect antibodies specific to a wide range of diseases. The research is described in an article published this month in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

Gene that controls chronic pain identified

Research lays groundwork for the development of new, targeted pain medications

 

A gene responsible for regulating chronic pain, called HCN2, has been identified by scientists at the University of Cambridge.

The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and EU funded research, published last week (09 September) in the journal Science, opens up the possibility of targeting drugs to block the protein produced by the gene in order to combat chronic pain.

Approximately one person in seven in the UK suffers from chronic, or long-lasting, pain of some kind, the commonest being arthritis, back pain and headaches. Chronic pain comes in two main varieties. The first, inflammatory pain, occurs when a persistent injury (e.g. a burn or arthritis) results in an enhanced sensitivity of pain-sensitive nerve endings, thus increasing the sensation of pain.

Flu Antibody’s ‘One-Handed Grab’ May Boost Effort toward Universal Vaccine

Scientists from The Scripps Research Institute and Sea Lane Biotechnologies have solved the co-crystal structure of a human antibody that can neutralize influenza viruses in a unique way

 

The antibody recognizes the crucial structure that flu viruses use to attach to host cells, even though previously this structure had been thought too small for an antibody to grab effectively.

The immune protein manages to hit this precise spot by using just a small part of its target-grabbing apparatus. In so doing, it can neutralize a broad range of dangerous flu viruses.

“This highly focused binding to the receptor binding site using only a single loop on the antibody has never been seen before, and it’s really fascinating; it gives us some good ideas about designs for vaccines and therapies,” said Ian A. Wilson, the Hansen Professor of Structural Biology at Scripps Research. Wilson was senior investigator of the study along with Ramesh R. Bhatt of Sea Lane Biotechnologies. The report appears online ahead of print on September 16, 2012, in the journal Nature.

Unprecedented Insight Into Fighting Viral Infections

Researchers at Rutgers and UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School have determined the structure of a protein that is the first line of defense in fighting viral infections including influenza, hepatitis C, West Nile, rabies, and measles.

 

Principal investigators of the study, "Structural basis of RNA recognition and activation by innate immune receptor RIG-I," chosen for advanced online publication in Nature, say the research is key in the development of broad-based drug therapies to combat viral infections.

Low Cost Design Makes Ultrasound Imaging Affordable to the World

An ultra-low cost scanner that can be plugged into any computer to show images of an unborn baby has been developed by Newcastle University engineers.

 

The hand-held USB device – which is roughly the size of a computer mouse – works in a similar way to existing ultrasound scanners, using pulses of high frequency sound to build up a picture of the unborn child on the computer screen.



However, unlike the technology used in most hospitals across the UK costing anywhere from £20,000-£100,000, the scanner created by Jeff Neasham and Research Associate Dave Graham at Newcastle University can be manufactured for as little as £30-40.



Tested by experts in the Regional Medical Physics Department at the Freeman Hospital, part of the Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, the scanner produces an output power that is 10-100 times lower than conventional hospital ultrasounds.



It is now hoped the device will be used to provide medical teams working in the world’s poorest nations with basic, antenatal information that could save the lives of hundreds of thousands of women and children.



“Here in the UK we take these routine, but potentially lifesaving, tests for granted,” explains Mr Neasham, a sonar expert based in the University’s School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering.

How Inflammatory Cells Function Setting Stage for Future Remedies

A research team led by investigators at New York University and NYU School of Medicine has determined how cells that cause inflammatory ailments, such as Crohn’s disease, multiple sclerosis, and arthritis, differentiate from stem cells and ultimately affect the clinical outcome of these diseases.

“We’ve found that hundreds of new genes are involved in the function and development of these cells,” said co-author Richard Bonneau, an associate professor at New York University’s Center for Genomics and Systems Biology and the Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences. “This expansion in our understanding can be used as a framework for designing new therapies to combat a range of ailments where the immune system attacks self.”

These cells, called T-cells by immunologists, play a role in fighting off infection, but can also induce inflammation and other processes that damage tissues and contribute to several common inflammatory diseases. T-cells are also key cell types in new immune-cell based therapies for fighting cancer. There are many types of T-cells, and how they differentiate from stem cells in the human body lies at the center of understanding several diseases.

Drug Pushing in the New Europe

A new study reveals how drug reimbursement policy in Poland is leaving gaping loopholes for pharmaceutical firms to exploit, raising questions about other, post-communist, EU member states

 

This may be part of a broader syndrome of the prominence of informal institutions in post-communist policy-making. For the New Europe, this could be a warning." —Lawrence King

An investigation by academic researchers has revealed how backroom deals and discreet pressure by pharmaceutical corporations are determining which drugs are delivered to hospital patients in Poland.

The study, which is described by one of its authors as a “warning for the New Europe”, was led by sociologists at the University of Cambridge, UK. It calls for an overhaul of Poland’s drugs reimbursement system – the process by which government effectively signs off new drugs for use – and suggests that flaws in the system allow some treatments to be employed for therapeutic programmes even though their effectiveness is not guaranteed.

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