Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Mad Scientists and Coffee

Early (very early) morning coffee with a few colleagues in the departmental office can be enlightening. We pondered several hypotheses of the origins and transmission of prion diseases (also known as transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs) for you pathologists) and how we can use that to control the deer overpopulation. We hypothesized that if deer cannibalize themselves a form of deer 'kuru' and chronic wasting disease (also associated with prions) would restore a population balance.

Tangenting into predictions of what life form will exist the longest on this planet, I posited that microbes will sit in their little habitats giggling at the extinction of the Big Two-appendaged Macrobes. Face it: humans are built 'wrong'. We don't excel at anything, but we are good, albeit slow, adaptionists. Regardless, we can't mutate fast enough to our own self-induced evolving habitat. Nor do we seem capable of seeing that we are destroying everything that gives us life on this planet. Perhaps our species will succumb to the same basic premise of habitat overpopulation dynamics and we will eat each other and die from kuru like the deer (anyone remember the movie Soylent Green?)

Contemplating the ultimate cure for all pathogenic illnesses, we narrowed it down to mucus membranes. Most pathogens gain passive entry into our body via our mucus membranes: our gut, mouth and nose. It provides moisture, nutrients, and an ideal cradle to multiply. Thus, we posited, if we don't eat, drink or breathe, we won't have to worry about getting sick! It is logical.

However, like good scientists, we need to test the hypothesis. We need more data. Our methodology is simple and falls within a NIH budget: duct tape. Now getting it beyond the ethics committee may be a problem.

Ah, the challenges of being a scientist......

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