Swelling drug test subjects, a baby held for ransom by a hospital and a case of warming corpses.

Trial and Error
If you need to earn a quick buck (or three thousand), consider participating in a medical study. They’re easy, often painless and pay exceedingly well for the time commitment. Certain risks do exist, though. This week, six men became seriously ill—two of them critically—after taking the anti-inflammatory drug TBN1412, which was designed to help patients with rheumatoid arthritis and leukemia. The drug had previously tested well on rabbits and monkeys, but within hours of taking the drug, last Monday, all six volunteers wound up in intensive care.

And about that anti-inflammatory property: The men involved swelled up so much that the girlfriend of one 28-year-old victim, who signed up for the £2,000 compensation, said he looked “like the Elephant Man.” As of Friday, four of the men were conscious, and the other two were under heavy sedation, but seemed to be responding to treatment, doctors said. A government agency is now researching whether the patients’ organ failures resulted from contamination, a manufacturing problem, a dosing error or an unexpected side effect. Even if they can pinpoint the problem, the drug company will likely have to pay well over £2000 to get subjects to participate in round two.
(source: BBC)

I Want My Baby Back
On the off chance you plan on giving birth at East Jerusalem’s Moqassed Hospital in the near future, make sure your insurance is in order before you go. The hospital recently refused to release a baby to its mother for two months because her bill was unpaid. The woman had given birth to premature triplets, two of whom were allowed to go home, while the third was held as a deposit.

The triplets needed extensive and expensive care, and the hospital was concerned that the National Insurance Institute would not cover the costs. When the woman approached the

< a href="http://www.justice.gov.il/mojeng" target="_blank">

Justice Ministry, they were suspicious of her claims, until they discovered the baby was being held without medical need. The hospital assured the Ministry that this was standard procedure. The Justice Ministry then contacted the Health Ministry who ordered the baby’s release. As an epilogue, the Israeli government may prosecute the hospital for false imprisonment. The woman is now reunited with all three babies and may sue the hospital for damages. And they say American healthcare is going to hell.
(source: Haaretz)

Stem the Flow
Stem cells are all around; you just need to know where to look. Japanese scientists knew to look in the least appealing of places. Researchers at Keio University School of Medicine in Tokyo have harvested stem cells from the menstrual blood of six women. In fact, they collected about 30 times as many cells as they could have reaped from bone marrow.

While the procedure may sound cringe-worthy to the general public, to the stem cell donor, menstrual blood collection is a lot more pleasant than bone marrow extraction. Bone marrow stem cells have proven effective at improving heart function by producing new blood vessels. The researchers hoped to cultivate a similar ability in the stem cells from uterine lining. After five days of being cultured to behave like heart cells, the scientists reported that about half of the cells began to contract rhythmically in unison as if electrical communication were occurring between them.
(source: Reuters)

Keep It On The Green, er, Black
There’s relatively little to do for recreation on the International Space Station, but that’s all about to change. The next crew to man the ISS will get to play what is probably the universe’s first ever game of open space golf. Russian Pavel Vinogradov and American Jeffrey Williams will attempt to tee off into empty space.

Unsurprisingly, the Russian has never played golf before, but the red-blooded American has been tutoring him, and Vinogradov says he is eager to try his form in space. Famed astronaut Alan Shepherd became the first man to strike an extraterrestrial golf ball when he hit one on the moon in 1971. These golf balls will be the first to be hit in zero gravity.
(source: RIA Novosti)

Hide the Sausage
If the phrase “smoked sausage” doesn’t make you grimace, a new Russian study might. Scientists at Astrakhan State University have discovered that smoked sausage and fish often contain considerable levels of ordinary phenol, a toxic substance that can chemically burn human skin. While the maximum legal concentration of phenol in water is one milligram per ton, some sausages tested had phenol concentrations of up to 18 milligrams per kilogram. There goes lunch.
(source: InformNauka)

The Flaw And the Thaw
For the parents of Rémy Martinot, being cold and dead wasn’t such a bad thing. There was the hope, sustained by their son, that someday we would have the technology to revive cryogenically frozen corpses, and Dr. and Mrs. Martinot would walk again. But, as anyone who’s ever forgotten to back up a Dell hard drive knows, putting all of your eggs in one technology basket is a risky move. So it was with great sadness that Rémy discovered that, 22 years after his mother’s body was initially put into storage, the freezer had malfunctioned earlier this year, and and she and his father (who’d only been stored in 2002 were starting to thaw. So, the bodies had to be cremated last week.

Dr. Martinot had long planned to be frozen upon his demise, so he built a freezer, which he kept his wife in after she died of ovarian cancer in 1984. The good doctor once told reporters that he’d like to open the freezer every day and say “Hello, I’m so glad to see you,” to his wife, but he didn’t want to disrupt the device, so he only checked on her every five years. After his death, Dr. Martinot joined his wife in the cold and remained in the cellar of the chateau in the care of their son Remy.

He’d been battling the French courts, who insist that burial, cremation and donation to science are the only appropriate ends for a corpse. That fight sure seems moot now.
(source: the Guardian)

Thank You, Judy
And just when you thought science couldn’t get any more morbid, researchers from Mississippi and the UK have published a study showing how artist and celebrity suicides can act as a public good. The researchers note that any given suicide may be a net benefit to society: When an artist kills him or herself, sales skyrocket, exposing entire generations to art, music or film they never would have otherwise encountered. The researchers used Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain as a case study for their work.
(source: Taylor & Francis Online Journals)

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Originally published March 20, 2006

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