Friday, July 22, 2005

Party's over, and, poison can be good for you !

So the good news is, my cloning seems to be working. Way more colonies on the ligation with insert than with vector alone. Hopefully I'll get what I expect from my digests tomorrow. And more to the point, hopefully this bodes well, superstitiously, that our experiments will have a decent chance of working in this building in general. You never know if the air or water is going to be helpful or hurtful in a new building until you actually start working there.

Party's over

Lab meeting/party was more or less the usual. All the guys, plus me, had beer. Most of the asian people had no alcohol, and the rest of the girls had white wine. (White wine??? Why bother unless it's with salad or dessert?). I ate too much (hard to resist hand-made dumplings and sesame balls!), and ended up talking to our administrative assistant about politics, cancer predisposition, and a few other random things. Turns out she's two degrees of separation away from both Mother Teresa and Bill Clinton! Pretty amazing.

Since then I've been sitting around trying to work on my grant this afternoon. It's the calm before the hordes of people start moving into the other labs on this floor. Next week.... ugh.

But, it's really nice out, and I'm really sleepy. Mostly I think my own stuff is boring, since I started reading about hormesis.

A little bit of a good thing can be worse than a lot!

Hormesis is the coolest thing I've read about in a long time. Here are some links:

Introduction to Radiation Hormesis
Hormesis makes a comeback

So essential the idea is, the dose makes the drug. Turns out there are some things that are really good for you, but at very low doses, can actually be bad. And vice versa. I'm not sure which is cooler! The idea that tiny amounts of something can sneak in and actually get away with doing bad stuff in small numbers, but can't get away with it in a crowd? Or the idea that poison, in very small doses, really does make you stronger.

I think one of the coolest things about this, scientifically, is that there are data from all different systems. It works in plants, and yeast, and mice, and people. That's the kind of stuff I like the best.

It's interesting as much because of the science as the politics. It was originally introduced almost 100 years ago, but lost credibility because the people who proposed it were also proponents of the dreaded homeopathy. Homeopathy, I learned today, uses lower doses than most of the hormesis studies. And hormesis studies use lower doses than are normally tested in drug trials.

Basically, we've only been testing whopping amounts of drugs in most toxicology studies. You know those inserts you get with prescription drugs? If you read the fine print, they're usually looking at grams per kilogram of rat body weight (of course they usually only do these studies in rats, which are actually not very much like humans). Grams per kilogram of body weight is a HUGE amount.

And a huge amount of something taken in only a small number of doses is a lot different than the same amount taken over many many years. And those are both different from a much smaller amount taken in through the environment. This applies to radiation, cadmium, and lots of other naturally-occuring things we also use for medicine.

Anyway I'm not a toxicologist, but this was right up my alley. And I'm always amused when a hypothesis that was probably correct all along gets rediscovered, because it means the truth will always come out, no matter how much politics gets in the way of scientific progress.


At 9:20 PM, Blogger BotanicalGirl said...

Wow. Hormesis is a really interesting concept, thanks for introducing it to me.

We're totally 'radiophobic' now. Part of the reason we call it MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) for medicine instead of an NMR (Nuclear Magnetic Resonance) is because people hear 'nuclear' and freak out.

When I was applying to grad school I met a PI doing research on how minute chemicals we pick up in our daily lives combine with the chemicals in chemotherapy and produce some of the nastier effects on the brain, the memory in particular.


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