Thursday, February 19, 2009
I am doing my Amelia Earhart impersonation with the goggles and the scarf.
In 1980 I was in my first year university in the general science program. One of my required courses was Chemistry and I'll never forget the day we had our first chem lab, specifically our professor's instructions should there be an emergency, like an explosion or fire. We were instructed to go straight to the shower stall conveniently located in the middle of the lab, strip off everything we were wearing and pull the chain to release the tank of water in order to put out any fire or rinse off any chemical spill.
That scared the crap out of me, being a natural born clutz. One of my first purchases at university was a (required) pair of safety goggles. $20!! I wore them in lab all the time. For a year. And then they got stored away until after I graduated. When I began working and fending for myself, learning the intricacies of the kitchen, I remembered my goggles. Perfect for cutting up onions or garlic, keeping the released chemicals from my eyes. So I kept them in the kitchen.
5 years ago today, Nova Scotia had one of its worst winter storms ever. 95.5 centimetres of snow in 48 hours. That's about 3 feet. It was an incredible storm. One woman was carried by a front end loader (in the bucket!) through her unplowed street to a street that was clear, to a waiting ambulance so she could get to the hospital and deliver her baby. The winds were wild and a bunch of us in our apartment building took shifts shoveling all our cars out when a plow came by to clean up our parking lot. I wore my safety goggles over my glasses to keep the wind and snow out of my eyes.
I wear them every time we have wild weather and I have to take the bus in to work because the roads are too bad for cars. Or when I go to shovel the walkways into the building for some exercise. Like today.
So my goggles have served their original purpose and two others. And other people giggle when they see me wear them, so that's a bonus for a clown like me.
I mentioned in my last post about the drug amitriptiline. It was originally used as an antidepressant. But soon other properties were discovered that led to the drug being used as a treatment for bed wetting to insomnia. And for neuropathic pain.
Many drugs are initially thought to be good for one thing but turn out to be beneficial for others. Rogaine was initially developed for treatment of high blood pressure, but when many men reported hair growth as a side effect, researchers took note and now use it for treating some types of baldness.
Lysergic acid diethylamide was originally being studied for medical uses of ergot alkaloid derivatives. (Ergot is a fungus that infects grains and because of its various effects on the human body, derivatives were used for a wide range of medical treatments, from inducing abortions to treating migraine headaches.) Of course we know this acid better as LSD. And it has been studied extensively by many researchers including the American CIA for use as a mind control substance.
In the early 1980s, 7 people in Southern California were diagnosed with Parkinsonism. They had all taken a contaminated illegal drug and the side effect was motionlessness; they were, in effect, physically immobile. But it took a while for a neurologist to connect the dots and discover the compound that made them remain immobile. Once the connections were made, two of the seven patients were successfully treated with neural grafts of embryonic stem cells. The compound that made the drug takers ill in the first place has now been manufactured for use in Parkinson's animal studies. (The Case of the Frozen Addicts by William Langston is a fascinating read - part mystery, part medical research)
There are studies under way as I type this, of the effect of the presence of parasitic worms in the bodies of MS patients. The worms seem to have some effect on the immune system that lessen symptoms of MS. It was an accidental discovery, but one in which I would find extremely gratifying if it is a possible treatment. As you know, I have a thing for "bugs". One of my favourite cartoons is of a guy at the pharmacy holding a bottle of something with the pharmacist looking on and saying, "Take them all at the same time and wait for them to hatch."
My goggles are something like all those drug examples I just gave you - and the parasite one. They have multiple uses and accidental discovery of those uses may be the key to solving the puzzle of MS. We need more happy accidents.