Medical miracles

Here are some anecdotal case histories:

  • One man was cured of headaches so severe he was unable to sleep.
  • Another, with an infected wound made by an arrow that had pierced his chest, slept beside an altar and awakened with a sound skin, holding the arrow point in his hand.
  • A third man had a piece of metal fixed in his jaw for six years. When he slept in church, God appeared in a dream and pulled out the metal. When day came, the man departed cured, holding the metal in his hands.
  • A woman became blind in one eye. She laughed at the stories of cures. When she slept in church, she dreamed that she saw God standing beside her. He told her that he would cure her if she promised to make a donation to the church. Then he cut the diseased eyeball and poured in medicine. Next day, she she could see with both eyes.

If these stories of medical miracles convince you, direct your prayers to Asclepius the healer god. The cult of Asclepius, the god of healing, was both a religion and a system of therapeutics.

Tough toddler has rare muscle metabolism

A toddler in Michigan has the muscles of an athlete. He is adopted, so his parentage is unknown. But he has a rare condition that promotes growth of the skeletal muscles. He has 40% more muscle mass than expected. He is strong and quick with a fast metabolism and almost no body fat. Liam has a rare genetic condition called myostatin-related muscle hypertrophy.

Myostatin-related muscle hypertrophy was documented in beef cattle and mice in the late 1990s. In 1997, researchers at Johns Hopkins University Hospital in Baltimore found that Belgian Blue cattle, an unusually muscular breed, had mutations in the gene that produces myostatin. Then they produced muscular mice by deactivating the rodent version of the myostatin gene and published their results.

Scientists are excited. They have located enough adults with this coondition to start a research study without needing Liam to take part. The research could lead to new treatments for debilitating ailments in which muscles deteriorate, such as muscular dystrophy and osteoporosis.

The first human case, in a German boy, was documented in 2000; but wasn’t reported in medical literature until 2004. Kathryn R. Wagner, a genetics expert at Johns Hopkins, says that it’s so rare that we don’t know how many people have it.

There are two kinds of myostatin-related muscle hypertrophy:

  • In some people, a genetic mutation prevents the body from producing myostatin. Those individuals can have twice the normal amount of muscle mass.
  • In others, like Liam, myostatin is produced but the muscle cells don’t take it in. People with his condition can have up to 50 per cent more muscle mass than the average person.

The result of both types of myostatin-related muscle hypertrophy generally are the same: above average growth of skeletal muscles, incredible strength, a warp-speed metabolism and minimal body fat.

For Liam, the condition has one potential drawback: Infants and toddlers need some body fat to feed brain growth and the development of the central nervous system.

Without adequate body fat, a child’s growth can be stunted and the central nervous system can be impaired, said Dr. Erlund Larson, an internist at Hackley Hospital who is familiar with Liam’s condition.

For Liam’s parents, the most pressing challenge is feeding the boy enough protein every day to fuel his body’s high-performance motor. The wiry but muscular toddler eats six full meals per day and still struggles to gain weight.

“If the myostatin protein is knocked out, muscles grow and rejuvenate much more quickly,” Dr. Larson said. “It has potential for great abuse in the future as the new steroid.”

Some body-building powders claim to have myostatin-blocking powers, but scientists say that they don’t.

Could a toddler like Liam have added to the Hercules legend? While still a baby, Hercules was said to have strangled a snake that came into his cradle.

Carl Sagan’s "Pale Blue Dot"

In this video clip, Carl Sagan describes the Earth’s place in the universe.

Bone blog

Just for the pure pleasure of it, hop on over to R. E. Wolf’s Bone and Shadow, a blog of anatomical art.

Enfolding communities

From Growing Up Churched, a blogger introduces herself and speaks of the sense of community in a fundamentalist church. Even though the environment was abusive and isolated from the rest of the world, she knew she belonged.

It reminds me very mildly of going to a school-friend’s Baptist church in my youth. The congregation were so determinedly friendly that I felt as if I were being jumped on by puppies. In short, I wasn’t used to so much concentrated friendliness.

Carl Sagan reviews evolution

In this video, Carl Sagan reviews the course of evolution. It’s nicely illustrated with animated line drawings.

Tampering with the legal branch

Blogger Ken Ashford explains “Why the U.S. attorney-firing scandal matters.” The ones who were fired were the ones that resisted pressure from a government bent on subverting the impartiality of the justice system. Welcome to the third world, folks!

Jerry Falwell’s legacy

Blogger Ken Ashford reviews the accomplishments of Jerry Falwell’s life, from fabricating quotations and interviews to making illegal political contributions to inciting hatred with his bombastic pronouncements.

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