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This past week, while teaching the medical students, we discussed the origin of gastric ulcers. Until the last 25years or so, the medical field thought that stomach ulcers were caused by a combination of stress and the foods we ate. Spicy foods, rough foods, certain combination of carbs all increase stomach acid. Stress and lifestyle can also lead to increased stomach acid. These factors, when combined, must be producing ulcers, right? After all, what is the main complaint of people suffering from ulcers? Pain with eating or ny time stomach acid is increased.
Actually, no,about 70-90% of stomach ulcers are associated with a bacterial infection. Heliobacter pylori is the culprit, and it has been found to cause gastritis (inflammation of the stomach lining) and significantly contribute to ulceration. What? A bacterium living in the highly acid environment of the stomach? No way!
Back in the 80's Australian pathologist Robin Warren and Australian physician Barry Marshall isolated the "acidophile" (acid-loving) bacterium H. pylori in the lab and put forth the highly controversial theory that a bacterium caused gastritis and ulcers (Marshall BJ, Warren JR (June 1984). "Unidentified curved bacilli in the stomach of patients with gastritis and peptic ulceration". Lancet 1 (8390): 1311–5. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(84)91816-6). It was hard to get the medical establishment to take the theory seriously, in fact, it took 10 years for the National Institutes of Health to publish a consensus statement that ulcers could be successfully treated - even cured! - with antibiotics (http://consensus.nih.gov/1994/1994HelicobacterPyloriUlcer094html.htm).
To prove his point, Dr. Marshal drank a beakerful of H. pylori culture. He became ill within days, and by ten days, endoscopy showed that he had full-blown gastritis with the beginnings of an ulcer. A one-week course of antibiotics cured the condition. Ergo, treating ulcers with antibiotics has become the accepted therapy of the 21st Century - not to mention that Warren and Marshall received the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 2005.
So... one of my students asked me: "Dr. R- Would you have made such a sacrifice in the name of science?"
I paused. Would I? Like that? No. Probably not. "Not even for the Nobel Prize?"
Well, maybe, but understand, Warren and Marshall did not know that they would win the Nobel. In fact, most recipients do not receive the Nobel until 20-30 years after they made their breakthrough.
So again, no, likely not - after all, Mrs. Speaker would probably be very mad at me.
Still, I do know scientists who have sampled their own products - usually in the pharmacology realm. The famous case of course is Dr. Timothy Leary and LSD, but I also know of at least one instance of a scientist testing a drug on themself that they hoped could some day provide relief from dementia and Alzheimer's disease. In fact, I can say that based on my work with neural prosthetics, if I ever find myself in need of one, I would volunteer to test a brain-machine interface.
After all - isn't that part of what Science Fiction is based upon? The noble, famous (on infamous) doctor slaving away in the lab, making the ultimate sacrifice for the betterment of Mankind? (or at least to come up with a better Frankenstein Monster!).
On that note - Here's the latest installment in Monday Funnies: Quantum Vibe - about a slightly mad scientist and his assistant. http://www.quantumvibe.com
I particularly like this recent one: http://www.quantumvibe.com/strip?page=179 "For most scientists, life is all about laboratories and endless incremental experimentation and publishing in journals."
But some do jump in with both feet, drink the culture, and make history.