PHOTOGRAPH: SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
WHAT ARE WE LOOKING AT? Saliva and bacteria, SEM
m OUT THERE
E-HEALING A bandage that generates a gentle electrical current could help wounds heal four times faster, according to research from the University of Madison-Wisconsin. The electrical pulse caused skin-healing cells to flock to the injured area, which encouraged the production of collagen and new skin cells.
GOLDENEYE The world’s oldest known artificial eye has been found in Iran in the remains of a woman who died almost 5,000 years ago. Made of tar and animal fat, it was still intact in her skull. She is likely to have been a wealthy woman in her late 20s and was buried with ornamental beads, a leather sack and bronze mirror.
KID CAR Transporting young children to surgery in a ride-on toy car can relieve preoperative anxiety to a comparable degree as midazolam. A study by academics in Shanghai and Cincinnati, USA, compared the method to using a trolley both with and without sedation and found the toy car eased anxiety without unwanted drug side effects.
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Pick: Netflix - The Bleeding Edge WHAT ARE WE LOOKING AT?
Stumped? The answer is at the bottom of the page
Directed by Kirby Dick. Starring Robert Bridges, Angie Firmalino.
THIS Netflix documentary shines a light on the murky world of medical devices, a $400 million industry responsible for products such as hip and birth control implants. While prescription drugs are subject to rigorous safety checks, the same cannot be said
for medical devices. One patient profiled in the film is orthopaedic doctor Stephen Tower whose tremor and alarming behavioural changes were found to have been caused by metal seeping into his body from a metal-on- metal hip replacement. His symptoms disappeared within a month of the implant being removed. Director Kirby Dick told the
Guardian that “right now medical device companies can get away with just about anything”, and it’s important to note the film’s plea for urgent action is not limited to the US. A call for “drastic changes” to medical device regulation was made in November 2018 in the UK by the Royal College of Surgeons. This is an engrossing film that should not be ignored.
Book Review: Blueprint: How DNA makes us who we are
By Robert Plomin Allen Lane, £20 paperback, 2018 Review by Dr Greg Dollman
THE psychologist Robert Plomin argues in his new book Blueprint that “genetics is the most important factor shaping who we are”. A keen advocate of ‘nature’ being the design of our individuality, Plomin does not seek to discard the influence of ‘nurture’, but holds that this is “mostly random”. He argues that the findings of decades of DNA research will shape the way we predict mental illness, and also influence how we parent and teach. Plomin summarises the substantial subject matter: “Inherited DNA
differences are the major systematic cause of who we are. DNA differences account for half of the variance of psychological traits. The rest of the variance is environmental, but that portion of the variance is mostly random, which means we can’t predict it or do much about it.” He clearly wants to start a discussion… Plomin considers heritability (“the one per cent of DNA that differs between us and contributes to our
differences in behaviour”) to understand the reason why we are different psychologically, even when environments are shared. He states that while our circumstances will direct outcomes, the genetic differences in personality increase this happening. So our genetic makeup will determine our response to external events. ‘What about the impact of death, illness or divorce?’,
I hear you exclaim. Plomin argues that, genetics aside, any significant environmental factors boil down to chance. They involve random experiences over which we hold little control. As such, Plomin concludes that long term effects are insignificant. He writes: “Life experiences matter, but
they don’t make a difference”. Even when looking at society’s influence, he believes these factors have little impact on an individual’s personality. Plomin also explores the impact of this theory on individuals, society
and psychology. He looks, for example, at predictor scores for mental illness, including schizophrenia and Alzheimer’s, considering how we may use the findings to improve future detection and management. He does acknowledge, however, the dilemma in identifying genetic risk when we are (currently) unable to do anything about it. Plomin acknowledges that the theory is complex, and that it will challenge our ideas of who we are and what makes us different. He writes elegantly, and explains carefully his specialty. The book is accessible and thought-provoking.
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