Wednesday, March 11, 2009

This recent article, Bionic hand is gripping stuff (From thisisoxfordshire), talks about the use of a device called the SaeboFlex. It is a hand brace with springs that stretch open a clenched hand and allow the wearer to exercise weak muscles that otherwise cannot be moved. People who have suffered a stroke or spinal cord injury can potentially use this treatment to regain function in their hands.

I first learned of the Saeboflex while inpatient for physical rehabilitation after a spinal cord injury. The device was new at the time, and unfortunately I haven't had access to one myself. However, a friend who makes leather armor created a similar device that I have been using. After just a few days of resistance exercises with the glove, I have seen improvement in my ability to open my clenched hand. I'll add more updates and photos of the device in the near future.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Another Exciting Stem Cell Study

A study recently published in the online journal, Stem Cells, showed regeneration of function in paralyzed rats. The authors transplanted stem cells from different sources to find the best way of repairing injury. This study shows hope for the use of non-embryonic stem cells in treating spinal cord injuries.
Before and after videos of the rats can be seen here:

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Exciting New SCI Studies

The last two weeks have been an exciting time in the science of nerve cell regeneration. First, a study published January 22 tells of the identification of specific genes responsible for restoring injured nerve cells in nematodes. These genes have direct correlates in humans. Activating these genes in humans may eventually be a way of treating neurological damage.

Secondly, and closer to fruition, on January 23, the FDA Approved a human study injecting embryonic stem cells into the spinal cords of recently injured people with paraplegia. The researchers hope to improve function below the injury site, as has been the case in similar rodent studies.

Links: ScienceExpress article (required paid subscription)
Geron, the company running the human study

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

President Obama's Disabilities Agenda

The new administration has a page on its website devoted to plans related to improving conditions for Americans with disabilities. It offers a four part plan for increasing education, restoring the ADA, increasing employment rates, and supporting independent community living.

In addition, the site itself is promised to be accessible to all. The Accessibility page invites comments from people with disabilities, "To improve the accessibility of, the White House has asked users with disabilities to review the site and has also reviewed the site's accessibility with outside web tools. The results of these reviews have been incorporated into the website. The White House welcomes comments on how to improve the site's accessibility for users with disabilities."

It's a great time to get involved and keep pressure on politicians to live up to their promises. Help ensure that the new era of transparency includes all Americans.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

How Quickly Things Change

A recent news story recounted how an up-and-coming Brazilian model contracted a rare necrotic virus and passed away after a short fight against the disease. Prior to her death, Mariana Bridi da Costa had undergone amputation of both hands and feet in an attempt to save her life.

This tragic story underscores just how fragile all our lives are. The public has been infatuated by other celebrity tragedies in the past, such as the deaths of James Dean, Marilyn Monroe, Brandon Lee, and Selena, just to name a few. The difference here is that da Costa's death was due to natural causes, not a freak accident or substance abuse problems. It also took time.

Imagine being a beautiful 20-year-old model, trying to take your career international. You feel a little ill. Doctors diagnose a urinary tract infection. No big deal. Then suddenly you are fighting for your life. Your hands and feet have to be removed.

Imagine if she had lived. I wonder what kind of life would have ensued after this experience. Would the fashion world have embraced a beautiful young woman amputee? Might she still have found work doing only head shots? What kind of horrible trauma it would have been to live through such an ordeal. Would she have risen to the occasion or fallen from the pressure and pain?

To be fair, I only learned of da Costa's existence at the time of her death. I don't know how she would have acted had she survived. However, her story as it unfolded gave me pause. I realized again how fleeting are life and health. I thought about every person's inevitably declining body and mind and how quickly things can change. I hope others took the time to think these thoughts and to feel the sadness of loss and corresponding appreciation for what they do have.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

New Year's Revolution

As anyone who follows this blog regularly might have noticed, (and I know there was one of you, thanks Michael) the publication schedule has gotten a little less frequent of late.

In the past I spent hours writing, reading, rereading, and rewriting a piece before publishing it. In the olden days before the diarrhea of immediate mass electronic publication, this was called "revising and editing". (I wonder what Britlanders do to their writing if they "revise" rather than review for tests?)

To move more in line with the modern era, I hereby vow for 2009 to write more and rewrite less. It's not such a huge stretch. Believe it or not, I compose many of these posts in my head initially. Too bad I no longer have the magical ability to retain pages of text verbatim after one go-through (it slowly dissipated around puberty, which is also when I started taking Spanish, for which I blame the loss of my above-average spelling ability.) (That's also the year I met Michael, hmm...) Anyway, hopefully what remains when my fingers hit the keyboard will be most of the good stuff.

So despite this new, more lax editorial policy, the headline is no mistake. I am officially joining the revolution of the me generation. Forgive me if I still don't confuse there for their or its for it's.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

An Animated Return

I posted about a year ago reviewing the animation package, Anime Studio. Recently started their second annual commercial video contest. Using Anime Studio, iMovie, and Corel Painter, I completed an entry. I am pleased and proud to announce that it has been chosen as one of five finalists. Please view my video on YouTube and rate it (highly if you please!)