The Sick Rose: Disease and the Art of Medical Illustration, by academic medical historian Dr. Richard Barnett.
Publisher Thames and Hudson writes: The Sick Rose is a visual tour through the golden age of medical illustration. The nineteenth century experienced an explosion of epidemics such as cholera and diphtheria, driven by industrialization, urbanization and poor hygiene. In this pre-color-photography era, accurate images were relied upon to teach students and aid diagnosis. The best examples, featured here, are remarkable pieces of art that attempted to elucidate the mysteries of the body, and the successive onset of each affliction. Bizarre and captivating images, including close-up details and revealing cross-sections, make all too clear the fascinations of both doctors and artists of the time. Barnett illuminates the fears and obsessions of a society gripped by disease, yet slowly coming to understand and combat it. The age also saw the acceptance of vaccination and the germ theory, and notable diagrams that transformed public health, such as John Snow’s cholera map and Florence Nightingale’s pioneering histograms, are included and explained. Organized by disease, The Sick Rose ranges from little-known ailments now all but forgotten to the epidemics that shaped the modern age.
Images via The Guardian
By comparing diseases from then and now, researchers can learn how they spread. Maybe they can learn how to stop them, too.
Earlier this year, scientists published a study of whole-body CT scans of 137 mummies: ancient Egyptians and Peruvians, ancestral Puebloans of southwest America, and Unangan hunter-gatherers of the Aleutian Islands. They reported signs of atherosclerosis—a dangerous artery hardening that can lead to heart attacks or stroke—in 34 percent of them. What struck the research team, led by Randall Thompson of Saint Luke’s Mid America Heart Institute in Kansas City, Missouri, was that it afflicted mummies from every group. Frank Rühli, head of the Swiss Mummy Project at the University of Zurich, also sees the condition in about 30 to 50 percent of the adult specimens he studies. The breadth of these findings suggests that atherosclerosis today may have less to do with modern excesses such as overeating and more with underlying genetic factors that seem present in a certain percentage of humans living almost anywhere in the world. Someday, identifying those genes could lead to new drugs for heart disease.
Ancient mummies can provide a wealth of information about the health of early civilizations, which may help us better treat diseases today. But because mummies are both rare and delicate, researchers have been limited in what they could do to them—and therefore what they could learn from them. Recent improvements of two medical tools—DNA sequencing, which can reveal microbial infections, and CT scanning—are letting paleopathologists diagnose mummies’ causes of death in detail. They’re now finding signs of everything from prostate cancer to malaria in mummies across the globe. By comparing the ancient forms of those diseases with their contemporary equivalents, researchers can learn how those diseases evolved, what makes them so harmful, and—possibly—how to stop them.
Text (Roxanne Khamsi) and Images (Getty Images/Kenneth Garrett) via Popular Science. Continue THERE
Marian Diamond began her graduate work in 1948 and was the first female student in the department of anatomy at UC Berkeley. The first thing she was asked to do when she got there was sew a cover for a large magnifying machine (?!?!?!?!).
“They didn’t know what to do with me because they weren’t used to having a woman. They thought I was there to get a husband. I was there to learn.”
Such challenges were not uncommon. Years later she requested tissue samples of Albert Einstein’s brain from a pathologist in Missouri. He didn’t trust her.
“He wasn’t sure that I was a scientist. This is one thing that you have to face being a woman. He didn’t think that I should be the one to be looking at Einstein’s brain.”
Marian persisted for three years, calling him once every six months, and received four blocks of the physicist’s brain tissue (about the size of a sugar cube).
Her research found that Einstein had twice as many glial cells as normal males — the discovery caused an international sensation as well as scientific criticism.
What are glial cells? Previously, scientists believe that neurons were responsible for thinking and glial cells were support cells in the brain. Now Researchers believe the glial cells play a critical role in brain development, learning, memory, aging and disease.
All text and Images via UC Research
In our era of instant gratification, the world of medicine seems like an outlier. The path from a promising discovery to an effective treatment often takes a decade or more.
But from that process—of fits and starts, progress and setbacks and finally more progress—grow the insights and advances that change the course of medicine.
A decade ago, the completion of the Human Genome Project sparked optimism that cures for debilitating diseases were just around the corner. Cures still generally elude us, but now the ability to map human DNA cheaply and quickly is yielding a torrent of data about the genetic drivers of disease—and a steady stream of patients who are benefiting from the knowledge. On other fronts, technology is putting more power in the hands of patients, and researchers are learning to combat disorders by harnessing the body’s own ability to heal and grow.
Excerpt from an article by Ron Winslow at the Wall Street Journal. Continue HERE
A selection of Medical Illustrations by AS&K Visual Science.