Thursday, May 5, 2011

Dum dum dum dummm! Technology to the Rescue!

Long ago, when our ancestors were still young, one word about common illnesses, like a cold, caught everyone’s attention. With no medicine to take, it was strong enough to wipe out a whole population since people didn’t have much knowledge on how to cure it. As the years went by, technology in medication improved greatly. Even if someone got cancer, it would be more possible to cure. Doctors would be able to discover the type of cancer and then will be able to treat the patient. Of course, the sooner the disease is discovered, the higher chance of survival.

One of the greatest Canadian inventions of all time is insulin invented by Dr. Fredrick Banting and Dr. Charles Best . Insulin is a hormone located in the pancreas which removes and uses the glucose from the blood. It is used to treat patients with type 1 and type 2 diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is when insulin is no longer produced by the pancreas while type 2 diabetes is when the pancreas doesn’t produce enough insulin or the body doesn’t use the insulin they produced properly. By using insulin, it helps increase the ability to take the glucose of the cells and reduces the long – term complications of diabetes.

People with diabetes would use the insulin injection to control the blood sugar.

Another Canadian invention would be the inhaler, which is used to treat asthma. It was invented by H.R. Shepperd. It is a very common illness where it is a “chronic inflammatory disease of the airway” that causes people with asthma to have a shortness of breath, tightness in the chest, coughing and/or wheezing. This is where the inhaler comes in. From the mouth, it releases a certain amount of medication in aerosol form. It settles onto the walls of the airways of the lungs, relaxing the muscles to open them up which gives the user a short term relief. 

Someone using an inhaler.

On the left, it shows a normal bronchiole. On the right, it shows an asthmatic bronchiole.
Last but not least, another Canadian contribution to medical technology would be the artificial heart pacemaker. It was invented by John Hopps, designed to do two things; regulate the frequency of the heartbeat so that it beats efficiently; and to correct the bradycardias (slow arrhythmias), which can cause weakness, fatigue or even death. The pacemaker sends tiny precisely – timed electrical signals to the heart whenever the rhythm is slow. Check out the video below to learn more about the pacemaker.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Mary had a Little Lamb

Everyone knows the Mary had a little lamb nursery song right? You know, with the little lamb that followed Mary everywhere? Of course you do. But farm animals really have that kind of freedom nowadays? Ever since technology has improved, people have developed two different ways to farm, industrial agriculture and sustainable agriculture. With the world’s population increasing every minute, more and more farms are turning their heads towards industrial farming. Industrial farming seems like the only way to deal with the heavy demand for food, but is it really worth it?
Industrial agriculture is a form of modern farming that produces large scale agricultural production like livestock, poultry, fish and crops. Sustainable agriculture, on the other hand, is the traditional way of farming by using environmentally friendly and humane procedures to produce food. To understand these two more, let’s compare them.
  •  Animals are raised without the use of antibiotics; only sick animals are treated with antibiotics. On a sustainable farm while on an industrial farm, they use it daily to promote growth and prevent diseases
  •  Farmers in sustainable farms respect and appreciate their environment. Workers in industrial farms contribute to numerous environmental issues like global warming.
  •  Manure in sustainable farms is used as fertilizer for crops, which reduces/eliminates the need for chemicals. Unfortunately, in industrial farms, manure gets stored in pits, which releases hazardous gases into the air and contaminates water sources.
  • Sustainable farms only produce what the land is capable of handling, while industrial farms force large numbers of animals in one area. Note the pictures below.
Chickens in factory farm conditions     

Chickens on a ‘traditional’ farm

Judging from the few points above, I think we can all see that sustainable farming is the best way to produce food. Food from sustainable farming is much safer for the environment and more importantly, our health. Although it seems better, many of our food sources come from industrial agriculture, due to other factors such as price. Organic food is a great example of the price difference. For example, organic apples cost $4.49 per 3 lbs, while non – organic apples only cost $3.99 per 3 lbs. That’s a 50 cent difference, which could make a huge difference for people, especially for the ones that are suffering from the economy. The reason why organic food costs more is because they are produced using environmentally - friendly methods that don’t involve pesticides or chemical fertilizers. Unfortunately, food produced from industrial farms is the exact opposite. They overuse heavy amounts of antibiotics, which can cause human diseases like cancer. Due to our current choices, it seems as if money is more important than one’s health.


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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Designer What?

Have you ever heard of a designer baby? That’s right. A designer baby. You may ask, what in the world is that? Well, the term designer baby was defined as a baby whose genetic makeup has been artificially selected to ensure the presence or absence of particular genes or characteristics. How does this happen? Eggs with sperms are placed in test tubes, where they use InVitro Fertilization (IVF) to fertilize the embryos. Then, after the first five days of its creation, the cell is genetically tested. The parents would decide if they would want to discard the embryo or implant it in the mother’s womb. This process is called Pre – implantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD). PGD is also used to create designer babies by using two types of advanced reproductive technologies. One would be choosing the type of sperm that will fertilize the egg, which is used to determine the sex and genes of the baby. The other would be screening the embryos for a genetic disease.  By allowing parents to screen the embryos for genetic diseases, they can choose to remove the disease – causing genes, having a perfectly healthy baby. This seems to be quite popular for parents who are at risk of passing serious genetic disorders to their children. With this, the baby can grow up nice and healthy and wouldn’t have to worry about passing unhealthy genes to their own babies. 

Although having designer babies may seem perfect, some have labelled designer babies as “saviour babies”. This means that the embryo is created to suit as a donor to its older sibling. For example, in 2003, a baby boy, Jamie, was born. Baby Jamie was literally born as a saviour to his four – year – old brother Charlie, who had a life – threatening blood disorder. Baby Jamie’s tissue was a perfect match. Charlie’s only hope for a cure was through stem cells from Baby Jamie’s umbilical cord or a bone marrow transplant. Another example of a saviour baby would be the world’s first known designer baby, Adam. His older sister suffered from Fanconi’s anaemia and there was a high chance of Adam getting that disorder as well, so scientists genetically selected his embryo so he could possess the right cells to save his and his sister’s lives. Even though it would be nice to have all of our children alive, it doesn’t seem fair for the younger sibling to be alive just so it can be a saviour baby.

Now that you know about designer babies, would you choose to have one?


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