Thursday, July 31, 2008

10 mg of Exercise minus the Exercise

Can you imagine one day being prescribed a pill that accomplishes the equivalent of thirty minutes of running or cardiovascular exercise. All this, without the sweat and pain? Seems too good to be true. But researchers may be one step closer to developing a pill that could be the answer to America's Obesity epidemic.

Scientists at the Salk Institute recently published a paper in Cell, reporting they had discovered 2 pills, Aicar and GW1516, that may be potential drug candidates. These drugs work by increasing endurance of mice that have been genetically engineered to be coach potatoes.

By examining mouse performance on treadmill, researchers have been able to demonstrate these drugs drastically increased mouse endurance. The findings were discussed in a recent New York Time’s Article titled Drugs Offer Promise of Fitness.

“One drug, known as Aicar, increased the mice’s endurance on a treadmill by 44 percent after just four weeks of treatment. A second drug, GW1516, supercharged the mice to a 75 percent increase in endurance, but had to be combined with exercise to have any effect.”

The drugs activate production of Type 1 muscle fibers, which contain a higher concentration of mitochondria, which produce energy during exercise. There are also

Type 2 muscle fiber, which do not contain as many mitochondria. Highly trained athletes have a higher number of Type 1 fibers, which allows them to perform at optimal levels—running marathons, swimming laps, cycling up steep hills, etc. For individuals with decrease fitness level, ie: coach potatoes, a great number of Type 2fibers are expected and a lower number of Type 1 fibers are present, which explains why such individuals tire easily when perform physical exercise.

The main investigator, Dr. Ronald M. Evans, has linked the increased Type 1 muscle production to a specific pathway—the PPAR-delta pathway, which has been linked to activates fat-burning processes in the body.

Dr. Evans may have discovered a potential therapeutic target. Pharmacy companies may soon be eying his discovery as a panacea to the solve a plethora of problems. If a drug was developed, it may be useful to help in treating obese or diabetic patients, who would not be otherwise able to reap the benefits of exercise.

Dr. Evans believes that “This is not just a free lunch, it’s pushing your genome toward a more enhanced genetic tone that impacts metabolism and muscle function. So instead of inheriting a great set-point you are using a drug to move your own genetics to a more activated metabolic state.”

It’s interesting how scientist are beginning to understand the complexities that lie in our bodies. Dr. Evan’s discovery gets to the molecular basis of muscle production and exercise. His research may have found a way to trick our mice into thinking they are actually exercising. I wonder if that same trick could work in humans. It will be interesting to see where this research goes.

For more information:

Monday, July 28, 2008

My Essay is Live!

When I opened my inbox, I was excited to get the following message:

"Good morning, Eisha!

Your essay has been added to our homepage

Thanks again for letting us publish this."

I am so excited to share my essay, "Exposed" with the UCSF community. As an aspiring writer, I hope my writing can reach an audience that extends beyond just myself. In sharing my experience with anatomy, I hope others can learn about a unique experience that really changes an individual.

If you are interested, please take a look at my essay.
It is always interesting to see how one's writing is described. On the UCSF School of Medicine website, I found the following description:

"Anatomy Exposed, a Probing Essay by a UCSF medical student explores what lies beneath the skin." Now, that's a great description!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Foggy Days

I finally got to see the sun. Ok, let me qualify that statement- I got to see the sun and experience summer heat. A visit to my parents home this last weekend reminded me about a normal summer experience.

While visiting my parents, I realized a few things.

You know it's summer when you have to close the windows at noon to prevent heat from coming in and when you have to turn the fan to full power, just to tolerate breathing the warm air that circulates and fills the room.

You definitely knows it summer, when you step out for a run and start sweating the moment you start warming up and when you realize you are panting because you are thirsty (and only a mile has passed).

Oh, summer days. How I miss thee. I guess the novelty of summer is more what I miss. When I woke up on Monday morning back in SF, I was not surprised that the streets were black from condensation.

Overall, the summer has been treating me well. I've been searching for topics to write about, but realize that there is not too many interesting developments in my life. I spent the weekend with family, enjoying home-cooked meals and BBQ (we found an inventive use of the grill to heat up chocolate chip cookies) and reading novels.

I did just finish reading 1000 Splendid Suns, written by Khaled Hosseini, the author of Kite Runner. It was an interesting story about the plight of Afghani women set on the backdrop of the tumultuous history of the a country that continues to emerge in the forefront of media coverage.

If there is one word I can use to describe the epitome of my summer vacation, it would have to be ROUTINE. I spend my day in the lab, working out research problems that sometimes transcend my understanding while completing parts of my curricular project. That leaves late afternoon for a gym trip or running. I've been working on fitting in swimming (the weather just has not been that cooperative for a girl that is used to swimming under the blanket of the sun's glow). And evenings are left for Food Network, reruns of Sex and the City or surfing the web.

I'm working on writing a piece about DNA use in criminal investigations. I am also looking forward to photographing volunteers and patients at Clinica Martin Baro this Saturday.

With the sun shining and the weather looking promising right now (Wednesday), I think it maybe time for a run out to the ocean, if I can get out of lab at a decent hour and beat the impending arrival of SF summer fog.

Cheers to summer days!

Friday, July 11, 2008

Take 1, 2, 3, 4.....

With the overhead lights arranged in a circle around the dissecting table, I looked into the view finder to see the scene. The blue towels covered the thorax and lower abdomen. The plastic body bag glistened as we toyed with the light.

Once the lights were arranged perfectly (or close to perfect) and the glare was reduced, we began filming the renal anatomy dissection in the anatomy lab.

As part of my curricular project, I am helping to produce a renal anatomy lab video for a renal anatomy lab that will be added to the first year curriculum next year. I am working with the an anatomist and surgeon to create this film and to write the syllabus that outlines the "Anatomical and Surgical Approach to the Kidney."

The surgical procedure that will be outlined in the syllabus is used to remove a kidney for radical nephrectomy in treatment of cancer as well as organ recovery for transplantation. With the incision made, my surgeon mentor, dissected away until we reached the right kidney. As he moved deeper in the abdomen, fluid flooded out (which required repeated blotting and a few movie takes).

He navigated through the peritoneum until he found the right kidney. With the right kidney in his hand, he carefully began the process of removing the kidney from the abdomen by severing and tying off the renal artery, vein and ureter. He pulled the kidney out of the cadever and bissected the kidney to show the interior anatomy with the pyramids and columns.

After filming this anatomy lab video, I have developed a new appreciation for movie producers. It takes a number of takes to get the cut just right and so much thought goes into creating each scene. And this is just the pre-production phase.

The next stage will involve revising and splicing the scenes to creat a fluid film that will instruct students how to remove the kidney. In the process, I too will learn this process (inside and out). Let the revision began...

End Scene

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

The Summer...

I am used to sunshine, heat, long days and humidity during the summer time. As long as I can remember, I have associated being "hot" with the lazy days of summer. For some reason, it has not really hit me that is summer.

Perhaps, it is the rolling fog or the bone-chilling weather in San Francisco that makes it a little confusing. It feels like winter even though it is July 1st.

Well, I really can not complain- I'd take the fog over 100 degree heat any day!

I do not have much to report. I have started my basic science research. DNA extraction and PCR revisited. And I have also started my curriculum project, which involves integrating a surgical approach in the Organs Block. This week has been orientation, learning the ins and outs of developing learning objectives, storyboarding and laying out the direction of the project.

Overall, I am trying my best to stay on top of the list of things to do, while enjoying the summer nights with gym trips and time spent with my psuedovacation.