This paper describes a popular, grassroots health crusade initiated by Samuel Thomson (1769–1843) in the early decades of the nineteenth century and the ways the Thomsonians exemplified the inherent contradictions within the larger context of their own sociopolitical environment. Premised upon a unique brand of frontier egalitarianism exemplified in the Tennessee war-hero Andrew Jackson (1767–1845), the age that bore Jackson's name was ostensibly anti-intellectual, venerating “intuitive wisdom” and “common sense” over book learning and formal education. Likewise, the Thomsonian movement eschewed schooling and science for an empirical embrace of nature's apothecary, a populist rhetoric that belied its own complex and extensive infrastructure of polemical literature. Thus, Thomsonians, in fact, relied upon a literate public to explain and disseminate their system of healing. This paper contributes to the historiography of literacy in the United States that goes beyond typical census-data, probate-record, or will-signature analyses to look at how a popular medical cult was both heir to and promoter of a functionally literate populace.
Philosophical theory about the nature of human beings has far reaching consequences on our understanding of various issues faced by them. Once taken as self-evident, it becomes the foundation on which knowledge gets built. The cause of concern is that this theoretical framework rarely gets questioned despite its inherent limitations and self-defeating consequences, leading to crisis in the concerned field. The field, which is facing crisis today, is that of medicine, and the paradigmatic stance that is responsible for the crisis is Cartesian dualism—a view that mind and body are essentially separate entities. This paper discusses Cartesian dualism in the context of the practice of medicine. Focusing more closely on how disease, health and treatment are defined through this position, the paper builds up its critique by throwing light on its accomplishments, limitations and self-defeating consequences. The paper also seeks to understand why this dualism is still alive despite its disavowal from philosophers, health practitioners and lay people.
Mind-Body Dualism; Cartesian Dualism; Cartesian Dualism and Medicine
The use of engineered plants as biosensors has made elegant strides in the past decades, providing keen insights into the health of plants in general and particularly in the nature and cellular location of stress responses. However, most of the analytical procedures involve laboratory examination of the biosensor plants. With the advent of the green fluorescence protein (GFP) as a biosensor molecule, it became at least theoretically possible for analyses of gene expression to occur telemetrically, with the gene expression information of the plant delivered to the investigator over large distances simply as properly processed fluorescence images. Spaceflight and other extraterrestrial environments provide unique challenges to plant life, challenges that often require changes at the gene expression level to accommodate adaptation and survival. Having previously deployed transgenic plant biosensors to evaluate responses to orbital spaceflight, we wished to develop the plants and especially the imaging devices required to conduct such experiments robotically, without operator intervention, within extraterrestrial environments. This requires the development of an autonomous and remotely operated plant GFP imaging system and concomitant development of the communications infrastructure to manage dataflow from the imaging device. Here we report the results of deploying a prototype GFP imaging system within the Arthur Clarke Mars Greenhouse (ACMG) an autonomously operated greenhouse located within the Haughton Mars Project in the Canadian High Arctic. Results both demonstrate the applicability of the fundamental GFP biosensor technology and highlight the difficulties in collecting and managing telemetric data from challenging deployment environments.
Green Fluorescent Protein; telemetry; Mars; astrobiology; analog environments
The developments in neuro syphilis in the 19th century are integral parts of the history of psychiatry. The delineation of various aspects of neuro syphilis by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in three of his stories is discussed in brief.
Neurosyphilis; history; fiction
The contrast sensitivity function is routinely measured in the laboratory with sine-wave gratings presented on homogenous gray backgrounds; natural images are instead composed of a broad range of spatial and temporal structures. In order to extend channel-based models of visual processing to more natural conditions, we examined how contrast sensitivity varies with the context in which it is measured. We report that contrast sensitivity is quite different under laboratory than natural viewing conditions: adaptation or masking with natural scenes attenuates contrast sensitivity at low spatial and temporal frequencies. Expressed another way, viewing stimuli presented on homogenous screens overcomes chronic adaptation to the natural environment and causes a sharp, unnatural increase in sensitivity to low spatial and temporal frequencies. Consequently, the standard contrast sensitivity function is a poor indicator of sensitivity to structure in natural scenes. The magnitude of masking by natural scenes is relatively independent of local contrast but depends strongly on the density of edges even though neither greatly affects the local amplitude spectrum. These results suggest that sensitivity to spatial structure in natural scenes depends on the distribution of local edges as well as the local amplitude spectrum.
contrast sensitivity; natural images; adaptation; masking
Nanotechnology is the new industrial revolution of the 21st Century as the various processes lead to radical improvements in medicine, manufacturing, energy production, land remediation, information technology and many other everyday products and applications. With this revolution however, there are undoubted concerns for health, safety and the environment which arise from the unique nature of materials and processes at the nanometre scale.
The in vitro assays used in the screening strategy are all validated, internationally accepted protocols and provide a useful indication of potential toxicity of a chemical as a result of effects on various toxicological endpoints such as local site of contact (dermal) irritation, general cytotoxicity and mutagenicity.
The initial in vitro screening strategy described in this paper to investigate the potential health implications, if any, which may arise following exposure to one specific application of nanoparticulate cerium oxide used as a diesel fuel borne catalyst, reflects a precautionary approach and the results will inform judgement on how best to proceed to ensure safe use.
In spite of widespread support from most member countries’ societies for European Union policy, including support for the sustainable development idea, in many EU countries the levels of acceptance of new environmental protection programmes have been and, in particular in new member states, still are considerably low. The experience of the countries which were the first to implement union directives show that they cannot be effectively applied without widespread public participation. The goal of this study was, using the example of Poland, to assess public acceptance of the expansion of nature conservation in the context of sustainable development principles and to discover whether existing nature governance should be modified when establishing new protected areas. The increase in protected areas in Poland has become a hotbed of numerous conflicts. In spite of the generally favourable attitudes to nature which Polish people generally have, Natura 2000 is perceived as an unnecessary additional conservation tool. Both local authorities and communities residing in the Natura areas think that the programme is a hindrance, rather than a help in the economic development of municipalities or regions, as was initially supposed. This lack of acceptance results from many factors, mainly social, historic and economic. The implications of these findings for current approach to the nature governance in Poland are discussed.
Conflict management; Natura 2000; Nature conservation; Public participation; Sustainable development
It is essential to understand and predict the effects of changing environments on plants. This review focuses on the sexual reproduction of plants, as previous studies have suggested that this trait is particularly vulnerable to climate change, and because a number of ecologically and evolutionarily relevant genes have been identified.
It is proposed that studying gene functions in naturally fluctuating conditions, or gene functions in natura, is important to predict responses to changing environments. First, we discuss flowering time, an extensively studied example of phenotypic plasticity. The quantitative approaches of ecological and evolutionary systems biology have been used to analyse the expression of a key flowering gene, FLC, of Arabidopsis halleri in naturally fluctuating environments. Modelling showed that FLC acts as a quantitative tracer of the temperature over the preceding 6 weeks. The predictions of this model were verified experimentally, confirming its applicability to future climate changes. Second, the evolution of self-compatibility as exemplifying an evolutionary response is discussed. Evolutionary genomic and functional analyses have indicated that A. thaliana became self-compatible via a loss-of-function mutation in the male specificity gene, SCR/SP11. Self-compatibility evolved during glacial–interglacial cycles, suggesting its association with mate limitation during migration. Although the evolution of self-compatibility may confer short-term advantages, it is predicted to increase the risk of extinction in the long term because loss-of-function mutations are virtually irreversible.
Recent studies of FLC and SCR have identified gene functions in natura that are unlikely to be found in laboratory experiments. The significance of epigenetic changes and the study of non-model species with next-generation DNA sequencers is also discussed.
Arabidopsis thaliana; Arabidopsis halleri; climate change; FLC; FLOWERING LOCUS C; phenotypic plasticity; SCR; S-LOCUS CYSTEINE-RICH PROTEIN; evolution of selfing; predictive models; sexual reproduction; SP11; S-LOCUS PROTEIN 11; SRK; S-RECEPTOR KINASE; ecological and evolutionary systems biology
Historical analysis can play a major role in public health policy.
Alfred Russel Wallace, eminent naturalist and codiscoverer of the principle of natural selection, was a major participant in the antivaccination campaigns in late 19th-century England. Wallace combined social reformism and quantitative arguments to undermine the claims of provaccinationists and had a major impact on the debate. A brief account of Wallace’s background, his role in the campaign, and a summary of his quantitative arguments leads to the conclusion that it is unwarranted to portray Victorian antivaccination campaigners in general as irrational and antiscience. Public health policy can benefit from history, but the proper context of the evidence used should always be kept in mind.
Vaccination; Alfred Russel Wallace; vaccines; England; historical review
Two biographies of Admiral Francis Beaufort (1774–1857) have stated that, aged 20–25 years, he suffered from porphyria cutanea tarda (PCT) that was ‘cured’ following severe blood loss during a naval skirmish. We have examined the evidence concerning the nature of his skin disease.
Primary records, most notably Beaufort's correspondence with his family, his journals and his father's diaries were sought out and analysed.
This case report is discussed in the context of 18th-century naval medicine and concepts and treatment of skin disease.
The description of his lesions, their age of onset, their progression and response to treatment, particularly topical tar and associated features are quite inconsistent with a diagnosis of PCT. His mother, Mary Waller Beaufort (1739–1821), consulted Dr Robert Darwin in 1803 about a painful skin disease affecting her legs. Detailed description of the lesions and a contemporary diagnosis are not available but possible diagnoses include chronic psoriasis and stasis eczema.
A more tenable diagnosis is that Francis Beaufort had chronic plaque psoriasis remitted by bed rest and convalescence in the sunny Mediterranean climate with cessation of alcohol consumption and improved nutrition as well as topical and oral medications.
We discuss ridge flank environments in the ocean crust as habitats for subseafloor microbial life. Oceanic ridge flanks, areas far from the magmatic and tectonic influence of seafloor spreading, comprise one of the largest and least explored microbial habitats on the planet. We describe the nature of selected ridge flank crustal environments, and present a framework for delineating a continuum of conditions and processes that are likely to be important for defining subseafloor microbial "provinces." The basis for this framework is three governing conditions that help to determine the nature of subseafloor biomes: crustal age, extent of fluid flow, and thermal state. We present a brief overview of subseafloor conditions, within the context of these three characteristics, for five field sites where microbial studies have been done, are underway, or have been proposed. Technical challenges remain and likely will limit progress in studies of microbial ridge flank ecosystems, which is why it is vital to select and design future studies so as to leverage as much general understanding as possible from work focused at a small number of sites. A characterization framework such that as presented in this paper, perhaps including alternative or additional physical or chemical characteristics, is essential for achieving the greatest benefit from multidisciplinary microbial investigations of oceanic ridge flanks.
microbiology; deep subsurface; ocean crust; basalt; ecology; provinces; marine
All living beings on Earth, from bacteria to humans, are connected through descent from common ancestors and represent the summation of their corresponding, ca. 3500 million year long evolutionary history. However, the evolution of phenotypic features is not predictable, and biologists no longer use terms such as "primitive" or "perfect organisms". Despite these insights, the Bible-based concept of the so-called "ladder of life" or Scala Naturae, i.e., the idea that all living beings can be viewed as representing various degrees of "perfection", with humans at the very top of this biological hierarchy, was popular among naturalists until ca. 1850 (Charles Bonnet, Jean Lamarck and others). Charles Darwin is usually credited with the establishment of a branched evolutionary "Tree of Life". This insight of 1859 was based on his now firmly corroborated proposals of common ancestry and natural selection. In this article I argue that Darwin was still influenced by "ladder thinking", a theological view that prevailed throughout the 19th century and is also part of Ernst Haeckel's famous Oak tree (of Life) of 1866, which is, like Darwin's scheme, static. In 1910, Constantin Mereschkowsky proposed an alternative, "anti-selectionist" concept of biological evolution, which became known as the symbiogenesis-theory. According to the symbiogenesis-scenario, eukaryotic cells evolved on a static Earth from archaic prokaryotes via the fusion and subsequent cooperation of certain microbes. In 1929, Alfred Wegener published his theory of continental drift, which was later corroborated, modified and extended. The resulting theory of plate tectonics is now the principal organizing concept of geology. Over millions of years, plate tectonics and hence the "dynamic Earth" has caused destructive volcanic eruptions and earthquakes. At the same time, it created mountain ranges, deep oceans, novel freshwater habitats, and deserts. As a result, these geologic processes destroyed numerous populations of organisms, and produced the environmental conditions for new species of animals, plants and microbes to adapt and evolve. In this article I propose a tree-like "symbiogenesis, natural selection, and dynamic Earth (synade)-model" of macroevolution that is based on these novel facts and data.
This article was reviewed by Mark Ragan, W. Ford Doolittle, and Staffan Müller-Wille.
This is a case report that illustrates the effect of the Dejian Mind-Body Intervention (DMBI) on a 22-year-old chronic epileptic male (onset at age two) suffering from severe cognitive impairments as a result of a serious seizure two years ago. The DMBI is a healing program developed for modern lifestyle based on the traditional Chinese Shaolin Chanwuyi healing approach.
Through a four-month treatment in which he adopted the DMBI specified vegetarian diet, applied an herbal remedy, and practiced Natural Dan Tian Breathing (a type of mind-body exercise), the patient showed significant improvements in language, memory, attention, behavioral initiation, emotional control, social functioning, and overall quality of life. In addition, the DMBI has a positive effect on his brain electrophysiological activities, as indicated by his suppressed delta power (slow wave) and enhanced alpha power (fast wave), and his elevated cordance value (an index associated with cerebral perfusion) in the left frontal and temporal regions. Such neural activity alteration was in line with his observed cognitive improvements.
These results provide evidence to support the therapeutic effect of the DMBI and its potential clinical application on treating chronic neurological patients.
During the twentieth century there have been great advances in medicine in the area of science and technology. At the same time, there has been a trend back to a more natural, humanistic approach to counteract patients' feelings of alienation. Holistic medicine approaches the physical, emotional, spiritual, and social aspects of a person as they relate to health and disease. It emphasizes prevention; concern for the environment and the food we eat; patient responsibility; using illness as a creative force to teach people to change; the `physician, heal thyself' philosophy; and appropriate alternatives to orthodox medicine. Family medicine faces the challenge of integrating these humanistic concepts with science.
Fumarase catalyzes the reversible hydration of fumarate to L-malate and is a key enzyme in the tricarboxylic acid (TCA) cycle and in amino acid metabolism. Fumarase is also used for the industrial production of L-malate from the substrate fumarate. Thermostable and high-activity fumarases from organisms that inhabit extreme environments may have great potential in industry, biotechnology, and basic research. The marine environment is highly complex and considered one of the main reservoirs of microbial diversity on the planet. However, most of the microorganisms are inaccessible in nature and are not easily cultivated in the laboratory. Metagenomic approaches provide a powerful tool to isolate and identify enzymes with novel biocatalytic activities for various biotechnological applications.
A plasmid metagenomic library was constructed from uncultivated marine microorganisms within marine water samples. Through sequence-based screening of the DNA library, a gene encoding a novel fumarase (named FumF) was isolated. Amino acid sequence analysis revealed that the FumF protein shared the greatest homology with Class II fumarate hydratases from Bacteroides sp. 2_1_33B and Parabacteroides distasonis ATCC 8503 (26% identical and 43% similar). The putative fumarase gene was subcloned into pETBlue-2 vector and expressed in E. coli BL21(DE3)pLysS. The recombinant protein was purified to homogeneity. Functional characterization by high performance liquid chromatography confirmed that the recombinant FumF protein catalyzed the hydration of fumarate to form L-malate. The maximum activity for FumF protein occurred at pH 8.5 and 55°C in 5 mM Mg2+. The enzyme showed higher affinity and catalytic efficiency under optimal reaction conditions: Km= 0.48 mM, Vmax = 827 μM/min/mg, and kcat/Km = 1900 mM/s.
We isolated a novel fumarase gene, fumF, from a sequence-based screen of a plasmid metagenomic library from uncultivated marine microorganisms. The properties of FumF protein may be ideal for the industrial production of L-malate under higher temperature conditions. The identification of FumF underscores the potential of marine metagenome screening for novel biomolecules.
Over the past decade it has become clear that stress can significantly slow wound healing: stressors ranging in magnitude and duration impair healing in humans and animals. For example, in humans, the chronic stress of caregiving as well as the relatively brief stress of academic examinations impedes healing. Similarly, restraint stress slows healing in mice. The interactive effects of glucocorticoids (e.g. cortisol and corticosterone) and proinflammatory cytokines [e.g. interleukin-1β (IL-1β), IL-lα, IL-6, IL-8, and tumor necrosis factor-α] are primary physiological mechanisms underlying the stress and healing connection. The effects of stress on healing have important implications in the context of surgery and naturally occurring wounds, particularly among at-risk and chronically ill populations. In research with clinical populations, greater attention to measurement of health behaviors is needed to better separate behavioral versus direct physiological effects of stress on healing. Recent evidence suggests that interventions designed to reduce stress and its concomitants (e.g., exercise, social support) can prevent stress-induced impairments in healing. Moreover, specific physiological mechanisms are associated with certain types of interventions. In future research, an increased focus on mechanisms will help to more clearly elucidate pathways linking stress and healing processes.
Stress; Wound healing; Cytokines; Glucocorticoids; Depression; Anxiety; Psychoneuroimmunology; Psychoimmunology; Neuroimmunology
Antarctica offers a unique natural laboratory for undertaking fundamental research on the relationship between climate, evolutionary processes and molecular adaptation. The fragmentation of Gondwana and the development of wide-scale glaciation have resulted in major episodes of extinction and vicariance, as well as driving adaptation to an extreme environment. On shorter time-scales, glacial cycles have resulted in shifts in distribution, range fragmentation and allopatric speciation, and the Antarctic Peninsula is currently experiencing among the most rapid climatic warming on the planet. The recent revolution in molecular techniques has provided a suite of innovative and powerful tools to explore the consequences of these changes, and these are now providing novel insights into evolutionary and ecological processes in Antarctica. In addition, the increasing use of remotely sensed data is providing a large-scale view of the system that allows these processes to be set in a wider spatial context. In these two volumes, we collect a wide range of papers exploring these themes, concentrating on recent advances and emphasizing the importance of spatial and temporal scale in understanding ecological and evolutionary processes in Antarctica.
glaciation; oceanography; extinction; speciation; extremophile
While considerable progress has been made towards understanding the complex processes and pathways that regulate human wound healing, regenerative medicine has been unable to develop therapies that coax the natural wound environment to heal scar-free. The inability to induce perfect skin regeneration stems partly from our limited understanding of how scar-free healing occurs in a natural setting. Here we have investigated the wound repair process in adult axolotls and demonstrate that they are capable of perfectly repairing full thickness excisional wounds made on the flank. In the context of mammalian wound repair, our findings reveal a substantial reduction in hemostasis, reduced neutrophil infiltration and a relatively long delay in production of new extracellular matrix (ECM) during scar-free healing. Additionally, we test the hypothesis that metamorphosis leads to scarring and instead show that terrestrial axolotls also heal scar-free, albeit at a slower rate. Analysis of newly forming dermal ECM suggests that low levels of fibronectin and high levels of tenascin-C promote regeneration in lieu of scarring. Lastly, a genetic analysis during wound healing comparing epidermis between aquatic and terrestrial axolotls suggests that matrix metalloproteinases may regulate the fibrotic response. Our findings outline a blueprint to understand the cellular and molecular mechanisms coordinating scar-free healing that will be useful towards elucidating new regenerative therapies targeting fibrosis and wound repair.
Cultivating healthy workplaces is a critical aspect of comprehensive worksite health promotion. The influence of healthy workplace exposures on employee health outcomes warrants research attention. To date, it is unknown if nature contact in the workplace is related to employee stress and health. This study was designed to examine the effects of nature contact experienced at work on employee stress and health.
Office staff at a southeastern university (n=503, 30% response rate) participated in the cross-sectional study. We used a 16-item workplace environment questionnaire, the Nature Contact Questionnaire, to comprehensively measure, for the first time, nature contact at work. The Perceived Stress Questionnaire and 13 established health and behavioral items assessed the dependent variables, general perceived stress, stress-related health behaviors, and stress-related health outcomes.
There was a significant, negative association between nature contact and stress and nature contact and general health complaints. The results indicate that as workday nature contact increased, perceived stress and generalized health complaints decreased.
The findings suggest that nature contact is a healthy workplace exposure. Increasing nature contact at work may offer a simple population-based approach to enhance workplace health promotion efforts. Future researchers should test the efficacy of nature-contact workplace stress interventions.
The studies of human and environment interactions usually consider the extremes of environment on individuals or how humans affect the environment. It is well known that physical activity improves both physiological and psychological well-being, but further evidence is required to ascertain how different environments influence and shape health. This review considers the declining levels of physical activity, particularly in the Western world, and how the environment may help motivate and facilitate physical activity. It also addresses the additional physiological and mental health benefits that appear to occur when exercise is performed in an outdoor environment. However, people’s connectedness to nature appears to be changing and this has important implications as to how humans are now interacting with nature. Barriers exist, and it is important that these are considered when discussing how to make exercise in the outdoors accessible and beneficial for all. The synergistic combination of exercise and exposure to nature and thus the ‘great outdoors’ could be used as a powerful tool to help fight the growing incidence of both physical inactivity and non-communicable disease.
Green exercise; Physiology; Natural environment; Physical activity; Motivation; Health