COMMENTARY

Life After Death, and the Case of the Disappearing Digit

Lucas Franki, Richard Franki, Christina Manago, and Teraya Smith

April 08, 2021

It's Alive!!!

Calling all "The Walking Dead" fans! Did you know that, after death, certain cells in the brain can stay active and even become colossal?

Researchers evaluated brain tissue to feign the gene expression during autopsy and death. By doing this, they found that these inflammatory cells, called glial cells, can increase gene expression and "grow and sprout long arm-like appendages for many hours after death."

According to Jeffrey Loeb, MD, PhD, the study's senior author, the continued growth after death doesn't come as a shock since these are the cells that do damage control after certain brain injuries, such as stroke.

Maybe those mindless zombies aren't so mindless after all. We're not sure if we should be more scared of a zombie that can think, or a zombie that can't. We're sensing a spin-off!

Beam Me Up, Doc!

In the realm of Star Trek, Dr Leonard "Bones" McCoy isn't the only physician who seems to find merit in the adventures of the starship Enterprise.

Pediatric cardiologist Victor Grech, MD, it was reported, has been so influenced by the generational hit that the show made special guest appearances in his medical writing.

The alarm was sounded by a student at Oxford University who had suspicions about more than 100 articles published in Early Human Development. Of the articles eventually withdrawn by the journal's publisher, Elsevier, 26 were on COVID-19 alone.

Just like a Romulan cloaking device, where the stories once stood Elsevier has left a "withdrawn" statement, making the articles vanish out of thin air.

Along with articles on COVID-19, Grech's 48-article series with coauthors on how to write a scientific paper rightfully came into question. Elsevier's statement on the incident says that the journal's editorial work flow has been redesigned "to ensure that this will not happen again in the future."

The number of retracted articles boldly puts Grech in a lane where few men have gone before.

Something's Wrong, but I Can't Put My Finger on It

Mixed martial arts is not a sport for the faint of heart. However, we doubt fans who were watching the Khetag Pliev/Devin Goodale fight on April 1 were prepared for the announcement that a search was commencing for a missing finger. Not broken, in case you think that was a misprint. Completely 100% removed from the rest of the hand.

One would think that pinpointing the exact moment when the finger, belonging to Mr. Pliev, was severed would be easy, but the video evidence is unclear, with the best guess being that a kick in the first round broke the finger and a grapple in the second severed it completely. Mr. Pliev was not helpful in clearing up the matter; not only did he fail to immediately notice the fact that his finger had broken or severed, he tried to keep the fight going after the second round when the referee noticed some blood where his left ring finger should have been. He thought he was winning. Unfortunately, the doctor on hand, who was clearly a complete drag, felt differently, ending the fight and awarding it to Mr. Goodale in a technical knockout.

Rest assured, there is a happy ending to this gruesome story. After a frantic search, the missing finger was found deep within Mr. Pliev's glove and was successfully reattached in a Philadelphia emergency room.

The editorial team commends Mr. Pliev's commitment to his craft by wanting to continue the fight, but we respectfully disagree with his assertion that he was winning. We're fairly confident that body part removal is an automatic loss (pun intended), unless you're the Black Knight from "Monty Python and the Holy Grail." Then it's a draw.

Take Two Cookies and Call Me in the Morning

The placebo effect is a well-known phenomenon. A pharmacologically inactive treatment can help people if they don't know it's pharmacologically inactive. But what if they did know? Would it still work?

That's what researchers at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston wanted to find out. They divided a cohort of patients with irritable bowel syndrome into three groups. One group got pill bottles containing "open-label placebo," so the subjects knew they were getting a placebo. The second received bottles labeled "double-blind placebo or peppermint oil." The third got no pills but followed the rest of the study protocol.

Can you see where this is going? Two-thirds of the open-label placebo group had meaningful improvement of their symptoms, there was no difference in improvement between the two placebo groups, and both did significantly better than the no-pill group.

"If the presumption that deception is necessary for placebos to be effective is false, then many theories about the mechanisms that drive placebo effects may need modification," investigator Ted J. Kaptchuk said in a written statement.

In other words, this changes everything. Who needs real drugs when anything that a doctor gives to a patient will help? Someone who has trouble swallowing pills can get a milkshake instead. Kid doesn't like the taste of amoxicillin? Prescribe a slice of therapeutic pizza. Vaccine deniers can get a shot of vitamin C…or bourbon. And just imagine all the good that can be done in this crazy, mixed up world with a batch of chocolate chip cookies.

This article originally appeared on MDedge.com, part of the Medscape Professional Network.

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