Saturday, December 15, 2012

The Whole 42 Letters XXIV: SPECIAL GUEST OMG!


Hello blogosphere!

My name is Funk, and I am a colleague/hater of Steve, Jon, and Sean. I've been following their blog since its b'ception, and I consider myself very fortunate/a schmuck to be contributing. The reason you're hearing from me this week instead of Sean is that Sean is very busy with finals at law school. We thank you for contributing for the past few months during your first semester of law school, Sean, and we know that finals are quite taxing. I'm sure you're extremely busy studying right now, memorizing laws and such, practicing how to flip flop professionally, and memorizing tomes of precedent legal literature. I think this video JUSTLY sums up the sympathy we have for you.

It's fortunate that I get to partake in this week's question-answering festivities/bullshit, because this week is week 24, and I like the show 24.  Here is Jack Bauer saying damnit.

On to the queries!

Have you ever taken a picture of your poop?

I'm not sure I understand your question, reader. Do you mean like, DRAWN a picture? Everyone's taken a photograph of their poop, especially this day in age with cell phone cameras. But yes, I have drawn some pictures of my poop. Only rarely do I draw pictures of other people's poop. Like if they send me a photograph of a poop they took. Only rarely do I draw a picture of someone else's poop NOT from a photograph. Like if it's half in the toilet and half sprayed on the shower, sure.


What are the top 5 best elements?

Easy: Bismuth, because it's really dense and in Pepto-Bismol (the butt do you think the BIS is?) (note: they call the Palladium theater Palladium because Palladium is heavy metal, y'see? But they should've called it the Bismuth. Please tell them.)
Neodymium, because it's in super strong magnets, and I like making sculptures out of magnets.
Xenon, because it's like that girl from the 21st century, I forget her name.
Aluminum, because everywhere but the US spells it Aluminium and they're correct.
Chromium, because that starts with C, and that rhymes with P, and that stands for P, which is actually the best element. Nix the xenon thing.

If you could be any Looney Toons character that is a pig, which came first, the Southwest omelet or the egg?

Scrooge McDuck

Can chemistry save Andrew Bynum?

Now, this question must be referring to a recent article in which Andrew Bynum, of wearing-gloves-inside-while-drinking-gatorade fame, is reported to have self-reported that he is missing some cartilage from his left knee. Bynum was quoted as saying:

"There's nothing I can really do about it. It's arthritis in the knees. Cartilage is missing. That's not going to regrow itself. Maybe in the future, the next three to five years, there may be something out there that really does help. For right now, it's a waiting game."

Bynum is pretty correct here. Articular cartilage, or the cartilage at the ends of long bones in the body, is largely avascular, alymphatic, and aneural OR it doesn't have a good blood supply, lymph supply, or nerves to signal biological upkeep. Given these biological characteristics of this load-bearing, lubricating system -- which reader Tony Rimburg aptly describes as a "stupid system" -- many folks, young and old, struggle with pain-causing and mobility-reducing cartilage defects on a daily basis.

The majority of folks who have this condition are either middle aged or older, and the disease is called osteoarthritis, which is a non-inflammatory deterioration of cartilage that results in less than optimal joint articulation. To be sportsy, I'll cite a recent article describing Coach K's struggle with osteoarthritis. It's especially poignant to note that one of the winningest coaches in college basketball history felt that he "[became] a little bit of a different person because [he was] always tired and [was] always distracted by the pain." Now, osteoarthritis, or OA, is just one of the leading cartilage diseases in middle-aged-and-up adults (affecting about 27 million Americans). Rheumatoid arthritis is a different type of arthritis that is inflammatory, and several drugs are in development that show signs of combating the specific type of inflammation associated with the disease. But biological markers of OA are rather elusive, or, I should say, researchers may be able to find biological markers that are correlated with OA, but it's hard to determine if any of them help CAUSE OA. One of the only things that's known for sure to cause OA is rigorous pounding and grinding of joints, which physically degrades the tissue. It should also be noted, however, that a sedentary lifestyle without much joint motion also leads to poor joint health, so one should strive for a middle ground with some joint activity (not that kind of joint activity).
So where does chemistry come into play? How can chemistry save Andrew Bynum? Well, Bynum self-reports that "maybe in the future" there will be an efficacious treatment for his cartilage injuries. Indeed, chemistry will solve his problems.

There are a variety of currently approved surgical techniques Bynum could seek, but take the most prominent procedure -- microfracture. This involves basically purposely damaging the cartilage and bone in your knee and letting it heal itself, hoping that it heals to a better state than it was in to begin with. This takes a lot of time to heal properly, so that doesn't do him much good. Plus it may not heal well, and he'll be further F'd. Then there are several approved viscosupplements that he could receive by injection into the joint to increase the viscosity of his synovial fluid, which would hopefully lead to better lubrication and cushioning. While these theoretically sound great, a recent metaanalysis revealed a clinically irrelevant, small benefit of this therapy, and it only adds increased risk for serious adverse events. Then there are the so-called nutraceuticals that involve taking dietary supplements to prevent cartilage damage and help rebuild it. The problem with these is that there's much to be dubious about, as there's little large-scale data to support their benefit. For example, eating avocados is recommended by some. Eating ginger extract is also recommended. These have not undergone large trials though. The most promising nutraceuticals involve chondroitin sulfate, as this polysaccharide is naturally found in cartilage, and strontium ranelate, which just recently finished a clinical trial, has shown a lot of promise as a potentially significant supplement.

Many of the coolest therapies are currently in preclinical development. Some of these involve purely chemical and material-based therapies that either impart increased strength or lubrication to cartilage (this company is working on a treatment that both cushions and lubricates); other in-development treatments involve more biological approaches, such as impregnating artificial cartilage scaffolds with stem cells or progenitor cells that actually will rebuild cartilage tissue. The reason this doesn't happen naturally is that those cells aren't naturally present in high enough concentrations, but by implanting them, they can successfully regrow the extracellular components that comprise cartilage tissue -- namely, collagen type II and proteoglycans.

In conclusion, Bynum will be fine in the years to come. There are promising therapeutics on the chorizon, so sit tight, Andrew, and biomaterials will save the day. If you're not familiar with what biomaterials are exactly, then here's just one example of a biomaterial to leave you with.


What part of planning a wedding is like a totally normal thing for having a wedding but something that someone who has never planned a wedding before would think is cray cray?

Probably the chopping of the penises. Sounds cray? Well you must've never planned a wedding like OURS.

-Funk

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