The monster tumor


For a long time, people have debated the origin of teratomas, the so-named “monster tumors” that contain all sorts of well-formed tissues.

Aristotle attributed teratomas to hair which had been swallowed by the patient and deposited in various body tissues. Other theories were more ominous for the patient: teratomas were variously reported to be a consequence of sexual relations with the devil, an expression of a nightmare (incubus), evidence of engagement in witchcraft, or a punishment for wickedness. Geez. I’m glad I didn’t live in the Middle Ages.

Anyway. Here is an article from the New York Times describing how these tumors are now being used for research in the war against cancer. Cool!

Quiz 6 online, plus a bone and muscle review sheet

Wow. I don’t know how it went from Wednesday to Friday in a blink of an eye…but here we are. Here is quiz 6, finally. Feel free to talk with each other (I love to think of you guys figuring out the answers together – you’ll remember it so much better that way), or to use our textbook (lol) or our notes (always a good choice). I will leave the quiz open until Wednesday, and if I see that some of you haven’t taken it by then, I’ll remind you.

Also: I made a little bone and muscle review sheet for myself as I listened to Dr. Koutlas’ lectures, and I thought I’d share it with you. I really can’t remember more than four things, as I’ve probably told you a hundred times, so I just picked out the four things I thought were most important for each disease. If it helps you, great – if not, that’s fine too.

Please email me with questions or comments, or favorite podcasts 🙂

Huntington Disease: would you get tested?

I’ll mention this very informative – and sad – New York Times story in class tomorrow. It involves a  young woman named Katharine Moser who decided to undergo genetic testing to see if she carried the gene for Huntington disease.

Katharine recalls how her family considered the disease to be a curse – a shameful thing not to be mentioned. Strangers showed a remarkable lack of compassion, assuming that her grandfather’s unsteady gait (an early symptom of the disease) meant he was drunk. Her mother was appalled at Katharine’s interest in being tested for the disease; if Katharine carried the gene, that meant her mother did too – and her mother did not want to know.

Here is a video talking about how people who have a family history of Huntington disease are more open about the disease now than their parents or grandparents were. There seems to be a lessening of the shame and stigma that has typically been associated with Huntington disease. Good! How ridiculous it is to view a genetic disease as shameful.

There are several short scenes in this video showing patients with Huntington disease, and if you watch carefully, you will notice some of the involuntary movements typical of Huntington disease. These short, unpredictable movements may be jerky or more writhing in nature. They are called “choreiform” movements (from the Greek “chorea” or dance).

Thank you!

I’m thinking a lot today about all the people and things I am grateful for, and I wanted you all to know that you are at the top of my list. I’m so grateful for each and every one of you, for so many reasons. Your compassion, kindness, good humor, and patience make it a total pleasure to be in the classroom with you. We all are so very lucky to have you here at the Dental School. I don’t think we tell you that enough.

Happy Thanksgiving, if you’re celebrating today – and safe travels if you’re going away.

A big hug of thanks to each of you!

– Mom

Ted Talk: Stroke of insight

This is one of those blow-your-mind TED talks. Jill Bolte Taylor, a brain researcher, had a stroke. But it wasn’t an ordinary stroke. Because of her training, and her insight into the way the brain works, she actually watched – calmly and with curiosity – as her brain functions shut down, one by one. Not only that, but she felt she attained a new level of consciousness beyond left brain/right brain – and said it was lovely. Totally fascinating.

Another reason to get a good night’s sleep

We’ve all probably wondered at one time or another just why we need to sleep. What is going on in the brain during sleep that is so important that we willingly put ourselves in a vulnerable state for a third of our lives? I mean, we could be eaten by tigers! Okay, that’s not true in our time, but certainly we could be using those hours more productively – studying, cleaning, binge-watching Stranger Things…why do we have to just do nothing for 8 hours a night?

As Jeff Iliff explains in this fascinating TED talk, it turns out that while we sleep, the brain is not just sitting there doing nothing. Something very important happens in the brain during sleep – and it does not happen during waking hours.

If you don’t have 10 minutes to spare, at least jump to 5:30 and 7:30 to see the videos of what’s going on in sleeping brains vs. awake brains. But if you can, watch the whole thing…the guy doesn’t ramble, and it’s super interesting.