Latest development in Neuroscience

Previously I had believed that synaptic pruning within the brain was something that happened only twice in your life: during the first years of life and during puberty. And that once this had happened your brain was moulded and set for life. However resent scientific advances, reported in the new scientist (20:08:11 edition) have suggested that this is not the case and in fact your brain is still remoulding its design, through synaptic pruning late into the twenties.

Moreover my belief that synaptic pruning was occuring in the first few years of life seems to have been wrong, as the article states that: “(dendritic) spine density increased rapidly during infancy reaching a peak before the 9th birthday”. Dendritic spines are small “door knob” shaped extensions of the dendrites, which have on their ends a PSD (post synaptic density). The role of the PSDs and therefore also the denritic spines is to recieve the incoming neurotransmitters, from an axon of another neuron and then send the message the signal to the neruon cell body (the soma).

By the age of nine then our brain has far too many connections between individual neurons. Over the next 20 years of our lives our brains are pruned so that half of these neurons are disconnected. this pruning is done to the crude: “Use it or loose it” principle. Therefore the neuron connectors we dont use – we loose. This neural pruning is believed to be crucial for learning and other cognative functions.

So whats the significance of this advancement? Well the disease schizophrenia is commonly developed whilst in the twenties. So now many neurologists and psychiatrists are theorizing that it may be due to a developmental complication, rather than a degenrative component. So we may be one step closer to curing a long incurable psychiatric disorder and who knows the further implications and applications this revelation could have – this is the beautiful ambiguity and mystery of science.

Asthma – the disease ensnaring the first world

As the medical world of the west grows ever more accomplished at fighting disease, there is one condition that seems to be just getting worse and worse – but is it? With statistics now calling it the most common chronic illness of the Western world I am going to examine the current and potential treatments for Asthma.

Although medicine has identified that asthma is triggered when an allergen, to which the sufferer is particularly sensitive to, is breathed into the airways, science is not yet able to explain, as with all allergies, how it is that that person ever became particularly sensitive to said allergen. It is also unexplained why the senistivity occurs particularly in the airways. So at present treatment revolves around getting asthma under control, and keeping it that way rather than curing it.

Once the allergen enters the bronchioles (smaller airways in the lungs) it triggers a collossal response and the bronchioles constrict, meaning that the inhaled air cannot then be exhaled. This means that fresh air cannot be inhaled and the sufferer of an asthma attack has extreme difficultly breathing. This often then triggers a panic attack sending the sympathetic nervous system into a state of flux and causing rapid shallow breathing which often makes things worse. The allergen also triggers lots of mucus to be made which further blocks the airways.

Some doctors believe that a person develops asthma when a viral infection damages lung tissue, leading to hypersensitivity to allergens. Other theorists believe that asthma is not understood because it is caused not only by the immune system, but also by the nervous system, the system of the body we arguably know least about.

Another theory is that asthma patients have too great a density of sympathetic neurons than parasympathetic neurons in the lungs. This means that they have more neurons which trigger a stress reaction, than neurons that trigger relaxation. Therefore potentially when the body gets stressed, i.e. during heavy exercise, the sympathetic nervous system goes into a state of high activity, including the neurons in the lungs. and this high activity then triggers the constriction of the airways and so an asthma attack. However the flaw in this theory is that it still does not explain how the neuron imbalance ever came to be and just points back to genetics, which is what happens a lot in biology, when no better answer is known.

So asthma genetic or not? – the difficultly I have with believing its genetic is surely it would have been eliminated hundreds of thousands of years ago by evolution and survival of the fittest. And so now we surface onto the centre of much of the research into asthma: is it caused by the modern western lifestyle? Unfortunately at present it does seem that way: the air pollution; the junk food and the incubated design of our homes which are perfect for breeding dust mites.

So asthma is at present an incurable disease in the clinical notebook, and maybe lifestyle changes, for instance eating fresh food as opposed to processed; eating organic over treated fruit and vegetables; maybe move to the countryside could help. So yes at present the “cure” for this fast spreading chronic disorder seems very wooley.

New Littmann® Lightweight II SE Nurses Stethoscope

Littmann lightweight nurses stethoscope 

A recent introduction to the Littmann range (shown above in Ceil blue) and already proving very popular with the nurses & nursing students is the new Littmann Lightweight 11 SE nurses stethsocope which is currently retailing at just £24.95 (net VAT)

This general-purpose, entry-level Littmann stethoscope is an excellent, affordable choice for blood-pressure and patient assessment. Littmann quality is apparent from the soft-sealing eartips to the combination bell/diaphragm chestpiece

Designed to be extremely comfortable to use, the Lightweight II SE features an ovoid chestpiece with offset bell for better orientation around blood-pressure cuffs and body contours.

3M™ Littmann® Snap Tight Soft-Sealing Eartips offer an excellent acoustic seal, and a tunable diaphragm allows for easy low- and high-frequency monitoring.

It is currently available in the following tube colours:

  • black
  • burgundy
  • ceil blue

We really love the Ceil blue & are hoping that Littmann will introduce it in some more tube colours in the near future-maybe rasberry & pink would be popular. Perl pink is another of our personal favourite Littmann tube colours from the Littmann highlights range.

Please do let us know what you think of the latest Littmann nurses stethoscope and also what you think of the the new Littmann stethoscope tube colours by posting in comments

Blood type and its clinical implications

Easily the most common blood group system in the world is tha ABO naming system. This system refers to the different antigens on the surface of the red blood cells, also called erythrocytes. An antigen is a molecule (usually a protein) that causes an immune response when it enters the body. Cells present antigens on their surface – this is why invading bacteria cells cause an immune response.

There are two different antigens that can be presented on the cell surface of an erythrocyte and these antigens are labelled A and B. However there are four different blood types – this is because individuals red blood cells can either have A, B, neither or both.

Therefore the four blood groups are   A    B    O     AB

But the antigens comprise only half of the story – their second half is the antibodies, which attach to the antigens to form an antigen-antibody complex. Antibodies are made by white blood cells (Leukocytes). There are three types of Leukocytes – Phagocytes, B Lympocytes and T Lympocytes.

 B Lympocytes are the type which make antibodies and are very specific – each cell will only create one type of antibody against one non-self antigen. An individual will however not have antibodies against self-antigens, i.e. the antigens on ones own cells. So if you have blood group A you will have antibodies against antigen B but not against A and vice versa. If you are blood group O you will have antibodies against both A and B antigens and if you’re AB you will have antibodies against neither.

This is very important for blood transfusion as If you give someone a transfusion containing the wrong blood type then their immune system may attack the red blood cells. This causes agglutination (sticking together of the blood cells).

Whether agglutination will occur depends on the patients blood group and the blood type given to them. For example someone with blood type AB can recieve blood of all types as they have antibodies against neither antigen. On the contrary someone of blood group O can only recieve blood of type O as they have antibodies against both antigens.

Visit here for information about home blood group test kit

home blood group test