Sunday, December 19, 2010

Death is loosing out

Originally, Death on his pale horse, was the undisputed leader of the Apocalypse. Lately, however, the general feeling is that he has been usurped by War. Today, we have the honour to present indisputable evidence that this is the case.

Google Ngram Viewer (Thanks to David McCandless at Information is Beautiful for pointing it out to me) is an interactive histogram that plots the frequency of words in Google Books from 1800-2000. On the plot below, you can see that Famine and Pestilence always were part of the chorus while Death had the lead in the duet between him and War. Around 1850, War suddenly found his true voice and overtook Death. From about 1814 he seems to have gone on a solo tour leaving the rests of the Horsemen behind.

We should let this warm our hearts, even though War is topping all the charts, Death does not ride with him, and the Horsemen are certainly not going to Ride Forth any time soon. This is corroborated by statistics of actual war deaths. Not when you look at the number of people killed, but when you look at how many people die of war as a proportion of the population, or how big a proportion of the population will die in warfare.

This is a figure from "War before civilization" (fig 6.2, pg. 90) that I borrowed for educational purposes from a presentation I found on the internets. Can't remember where. Anyway, what it shows is that 20-60% of the male population dies at war in present-day and pre-historic tribal societies. The same number for the western world in the war-ridden 20th century is well below 3%. That includes both the World Wars. What it means is that modern wars only directly effect a small part of the population. We all have to watch it, but that isn't as deadly.

In short, the world is much more peaceful than it seems, and certainly much more peaceful than it ever was. In 2008 the rate of violent death, as in murder or assault, for men was 1/100000 and 1/200000 for women. So, even though War is gaining in popularity Death is loosing out. And no one has seen Ronnie Soak for years.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Physiology on the sub-way map of science

By way of Chad Orzel and Derek Lowe I came upon Crispian Jago's wonderful sub-way map of science. While he actually presents his quite fantastic map as : "500 Years of Science, Reason & Critical Thinking via the medium of gross over simplification, dodgy demarcation, glaring omission and a very tiny font," I have to take umbrage for physicians and physiologists everywhere. Albrecht von Haller wasn't the only physiologist who did anything in the 18th century, and I think we existed, at least partially separate from "Natural History" in the 16th and 17th centuries. Above all, the science of Medicine certainly did not turn into "21st Century Microbiology!"

How, then, should this be put right?

Well, with a blog-post obviously. But first microbiologists deserve a line of their own, even if it will intersect with the line of medicine in quite a number of places. This is their problem. The medicine-line should be renamed "Medicine and Physiology", neurology is either a medical speciality or a branch of physiology. It could, of course, be argued that neuroscience/neurology/psychology should have a line of its own, but I leave that to the neuroscientists.

The freed-up line called "Medicine and Physiology" should start at Vesalius. Unless you want to go back to earlier times. Given the extent of the map, it may be wise to stop at the 16th century.

Hooke, Harvey, Malpighi and some others should be included on this new line. Now to the additions:

16th Century
  • Paracelsus (founding father of toxicology and early enlightened surgeon who suggested that wounds shouldn't be cauterised).
  • Bartolomeo Eustachi (One of the first anatomists, although his work wasn't published until 1714: Tabulae Anatomicae).
  • Ambroise Paré (1545: Wrote the first non-Latin/Greek textbook in surgery and was one of the original great experimentalists in surgery).

17th Century
  • Olof Rudbeck (1651: described the lymphatic circulation).
  • Lorenzo Bellini (1662: Exercitatio Anatomica de Structura Usu Renu).

18th Century
  • F. Pourfois du Petit (1727: shows vasodilation in the eye following denervation).
  • Stephen Hales (1733: Haemastatics).
  • Giovanni Mrogagni (1761: The seats and causes of disease).
  • John Hunter (1794: A treatise on blood, inflammation and gun-shot wounds).
  • Alexander Schulmansky (1783: De structura renum).

19th Century
  • Hanaoka Seishu (1804: first known use of anaesthesia).
  • Charles Bell (1811: sensory and motor nerves).
  • Richard Bright (1827: renal disease and oedema).
  • Jean Louis Marie Poiseulle (1828: measures blood pressure, 1841: fluid dynamics in small tubes).
  • William Bowman (1842: On the structure and use of the Malpighian body of the kidney).
  • Carl Ludwig (1842: describes glomerular filtration as physical forces).
  • Emil du Bois-Raymond (discovers the neural action-potential).
  • Adolf Fick (1855: describes law of diffusion that bears his name, and later used it to measure cardiac-output).
  • Karl von Vierordt (1855: measures the arterial pulse pressure).
  • Jakob Henle (1862:Described the loop of Henle's, and together with Robert Koch formulated the "Henle-Koch postulates").
  • William Gull (1872: microvascular disease).
  • Camillo Golgi (Described large parts of the nervous system and received the Nobel Prize in 1906. In addition he described how the distal tubule returns to the originating glomerulus, an important finding in kidney physiology).
  • Scipione Riva-Rocci (1896: Presented his method for measuring blood pressure, which is still used today).
  • Robert Tigerstedt (1898: showed the existence of Renin the first identified hormone).

20th Century
  • Victor Henri (1901: Describes the Henri-Michaelis-Menten equation for enzyme kinetics).
  • Leonor Michaelis and Maud Menten (1913: provides their insight on enzyme kinetics).
  • Ernest Starling (Describes the exchange of fluid over the capillary membrane in the Starling equation, then goes on to describe the Frank-Starling law of the heart, and then goes on to describe the idea of hormones).
  • Otto Frank (Describes the Frank-Starling law of the heart).
  • August Krogh (Treated diabetes with insulin).
  • Ewald Hering (1924: Discovered the baro-receptor and their role in blood pressure regulation).
  • Joseph Wearn & Alfred Richards(Establishes glomerular ultrafiltration as described by Carl Ludwig by micropuncture).
  • Werner Forssman (1929: performs the first human heart catheterisation, on himself).
  • Homer Smith (Describes the nephrons as autonomous working units in the kidney, and much more).
  • Harry Goldblatt (1934: Establishes the first experimental model of hypertension).
  • Arthur C. Guyton (1955: proposes that cardiac out-put is governed by periferal resistance, measures interstitial pressure and shows that it is negative, and goes on to show how the kidney regulates blood pressure).
  • Carl Gottschalk (1959: shows that the concentrating mechanism in the kidney is dependent on a counter-current system).
  • Edward D. Freis (1960: presents the first ever double blinded, controlled clinical trial).
  • Robert Furchgott (1980: Discovers the endothelial derived relaxing factor, and goes on to show that this is nitric oxide in 1986).

And then there are any number of still living physicians and physiologists who could be included.

Before it, in the end, turns into "21st Century Medicine and Physiology" and nothing else.

At least, that is the view of a nephrophysiologist. I know. There are physiologists and physicians who aren't into kidneys, but I always try to have hope: They will convert in the end.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Glasgow, Venn-diagrams and The Festival

The Edinburgh Festival

In the spring, while trying to decide how to best prepare for my dissertation and the associated, short-prep-time trial-lecture, I had the great luck of being hunted down by one of the up and coming names in the functional genomics of hypertension. After my talk at the ESH meeting in Oslo, when I was heading directly to the air-port, Martin McBride ran me down to suggest that we should compare our data-sets. The result was that two weeks before my dissertation, just as the title of my trial-lecture had been announced, I went to Scotland for four days to work on something completely different.

Our data-set is from the mRNA expression profiling of old rats with hypertension and slow developing kidney damage, while his is from salt-challenged stroke prone spontaneously hypertensive rats that develop kidney damage very quickly. By combining these datasets we hoped to learn something about the common pathways for kidney damage in our different models.

With Martins, and the Glasgow group's great experience with these kind of things we managed to get our data into comparable formats in just under four days. The next step was actually comparing the changed genes. To do this we basically want to check which genes popped up in both of our sets, an onerous task but one greatly simplified by the use of Venn-diagrams (John Venn FRS, Symbolic Logic, 1881).

John Venn FRS

Basically you represent each data-set as an area, for example a circle, and by intersecting these you can illustrate the set of common items. We started with a simple online-tool that can make 2 to 4-way Venn diagrams. But soon progressed to running the comparisons in R with a little help from Glasgow statistician John McClure.


If you want more Venn-diagrams to look at you should visit Jessica Hagy at Indexed. Although, she has made a complete hash out of what makes baby Jesus cry.

Dog at The Festival

It was my first time in Scotland, so I made sure to try the black-pudding (innocuous), the haggis (spicy) and a number of local beer (nice). The most amazing timing was that I managed to be there during The Festival. It's a festival like many others, Edinburgh is completely full of tourists and local festival goers. The Scottish present it as The Festival, the one, the original, the only true festival of which all others are pale comparisons. In many ways they are right. It doesn't have the arranged feeling of many other festivals. The main happening is the Fringe, which is the thousands of performers that aren't part of the festival proper, but show up anyway.

The Fringe

Everyone should go, but since it is a popular thing, you need to book your hotel about a year in advance. If I only knew my schedule for next August, I would have booked mine already.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Fillet of horse sous vide

It has been kind of hectic lately, finishing the thesis, preparing for the dissertation, getting a mortgage for buying a new place to live in Sweden, working full time in the cardiology department and revising two papers.

Anyway, my fiancée got a job on Wednesday and by Friday we had outbid the competition for our dream-apartment. Or, a nice apartment anyway. So, today we were celebrating. She brought a Veuve Clicqout Ponsardin from the air-port and I went to the butcher's and got a slice of horse's fillet.

Horse is a dark, game-like, meat. Like any red meat it shouldn't be cooked to harshly, and this was so tender that I accidentally put my thumb through it when I was preparing it. So, cooking with care was the order of the day.

I have been reading a lot Cooking Issues since I was made aware of it. It is a fantastic cooking blog, especially if you are scientifically minded. Anyway, they do sous vide (eng. under vacuum) cooking, which is slow cooking with a twist. You vacuum-pack your uncooked food and then cook it in a water-bath at the desired temperature (58 centigrade for medium rare beef) for an hour or two.

First, I seared it quickly with salt and pepper.

Since I don't have a vacuum-pump at home I just packed it in a plastic bag with red onions and garlic, sucked all the air out, and put it in a pot with water in the oven. The goal temperature is 58 centigrade for medium rare. Sadly my cooking thermometer is broken and the oven temperature dial is not as accurate as I would wish. Thus, I checked the temperature the old fashioned way, 58 is hot enough to hurt, but not scalding. I put a small weight on top to keep it under. It was allowed to cook for about two hours. Then I seared it once more and served directly.

The temperature wasn't exact enough and we ended up with a medium cooked piece of meat. It was a very tender, fantastically juicy and tasty piece of meat though. Any time now, I am going to buy a proper heater/circulator like the Sous vide professional, which is made especially for cooking sous vide. It does look very much like your standard scientific water-bath heater/circulator and that is because it is. Although, they have a prettier, black, casing for the cooking variant.

If you have meat, you need potatoes. In this case a spring potatoe & melon salad. The sweetness works fantastically with the dark horse-meat and the champagne.

For a sauce I made a classic reduction of assorted vegetables and the juices pressed out of the meat during cooking. I reused the root-vegetables to make a purée, nothing much by itself, but adds a nice extra texture to the meal.

Here are the vegetables, the rosemary and the juniper-berries before they were transformed into stock with the help of some gin and a lot of water.

And there we are: Horse-fillet sous vide with mashed celeriac and turnip. A potato and melon salad, sauce and champagne. I served it with a little balsamic syrup to add some acidity.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Contact Sheet

This is a photo-book from Ammo that was well received, at least in snowed-in photographer-circles. It combines a collection of very famous photographs with the contact-sheets they were picked out of.

A brief introduction of the contact-sheet for non-photographers and those who only ever used digital cameras, who might not have heard of it before. When shooting negative film, most photographers just do not have the ability to visualise the positive image when looking at the negative. So, what they do is place all the negatives from a roll of film directly on a piece of photo-paper and make print of that. It is called a contact-sheet because the negatives are in contact with the photographic paper.

In the book each final print is paired with it's contact sheet. Shown above is Elliott Erwitt's photograph of Marilyn Monroe. You can see his selection process right on the contact sheet; marking the frames he likes and picking those to enlarge. Final selection would of course be made from the enlargements. As you see, the picture marked as "#1" wasn't the final pick.

I just wanted to show a 'contact sheet' from a large-format photographer too. Much of early large-format photography was only ever contact-copied, although it obviously holds up to much greater enlargements than 35mm does. But you get to see two alternative views of the famous photograph of "Case Study House #22".

Each photograph is accompanied by a brief biography of the photographer and an equally brief story about the photograph. In case you don't read the Queens, it is also provided in French, German and Spanish. It is a nicely bound book, with good quality paper and quite decent reproductions. Its main features are the range of photographers, 44 in total, and the insight into their work you get from seeing all the pictures they didn't pick.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Small Trades by Irving Penn

The well known Vogue photographer Irving Penn, didn't exclusivly shoot the famous, the pretty and the nude in the world of high fashion. From the beginning he was a still-life photographer. He did a large series of portraits of more common people with the implements of their trades. From the start it was a feature for Vogue about the workers of Paris, but he continued long after that. The entire series is 252 portraits and was bought by the Getty museum in 2008. The Getty is also the publisher of the book.

The book is quite hefty and very well made, with heavy, luxurious paper. In the beginning there is an example contact-sheet with some slight variations of the pose of the subject, and some pictures from the back. That way one can get an idea, if only a slight idea, how he worked. There is also a picture of his Paris studio with a large window on the wall and one in the ceiling. In addition, he has a reflector and a mottled back-drop, but that is it. It looks positively frugal by today's measure.

The pictures as such are reproduced in outstanding quality. They depict, apparently, comfortably posed workmen and women with one or two tell-tale tools that they use in their work.

It is a brilliant book for anyone interested in photography in general or in portraiture in any medium.

Julius Shulman in Modernism Rediscovered

I am in the middle of my one-week vacation. That means I try to do some photography. While trying to find some inspiration for doing that; I found some new (for me) photo-books. A perfect combination of activities becomes photographing photo-books and writing short reviews.

First out is Modernism Rediscovered, which is a book about the modernist movement in American architecture; And photographs by Julius Shulman. One of the big names in photography and one of the very best know architectural photographers ever. His probably best known picture is the "Case Study House #22, Los Angeles, 1960. Pierre Koenig, Architect." Which you can see below (It is from 'The Contact Sheet', another book that I will come to shortly):

I had of course seen his photos before, but it wasn't until recently I found out who took them. There is a film about his life and photography called 'Visual Acoustics'. It inspired me to set out to find a matching book. Luckily it turned out that Taschen has one. Not only do they have one, it has a special-price edition. Very affordable. Very high quality. Very good reproductions.

And if you are interested in architecture as such, there seems to be a wealth of information in the text. =)

More to come.


Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Treatment-targets in hypertension

We have to congratulate Rhonda Cooper-DeHoff and her co-authors on their recent article in the Journal of the American Medical Association on: "Tight blood pressure control and cardiovascular outcomes among hypertensive patients with diabetes and coronary artery disease" reporting a sub-group analysis from the INVEST study.

This adds another sub-group analysis to the long discussion about the "J"-curve found in blood pressure vs. cardiovascular out-comes in hypertension studies. See, for example, this review by Alberto Zanchetti and co-workers from 2009. Similar results were found in the ONTARGET and VALUE and TNT trials. In all these trials the risk of a cardiovascular end-point starts to increase when pressure goes below 120 mmHg. Which also holds true for the INVEST trial. One important new point is that in the INVEST trial the all-cause-mortality - the first among equals of end-points - also increases with lowered systolic blood pressure. Although it is only significantly increased at pressures lower than 110 mmHg the trend is increasing already from 130 mmHg.

An important point is that all these trials concern the treatment of high risk patients. An untreated systolic blood pressure between 120 and 130 mmHg is rather considered pre-hypertension and is associated with increased risk, and will probably be indicated for treatment once the proper trials have been done. However, if you are a patient with hypertension, diabetes and coronary artery disease there is more and more evidence indicating that your pressure should be lowered with moderation.

What the field still lacks is a randomised controlled study where patients are randomised to either systolic blood pressure below 130 mmHg or between 130 and 140 mmHg. Before that there is no certain way of distinguishing the ability to get below 130mmHg from the intent to lower blood pressure below 130mmHg. That is, if there are, for example, a population of more pressure-labile patients that are at higher risk or if there is some other uncontrolled reason for this larger risk.

While some guidelines are lagging a little, the core result was known at least a year ago, and is reflected in the 2009 guidelines from the European Society of Hypertension where the target for diabetic patients have been adjusted upwards to higher than 130 and lower than 140 mmHg.

The next question is: "Why is this so?"

What happens with in high risk patients with serious co-morbidities that makes them vulnerable to aggressive lowering of blood pressure? I think it has to do partly with changes in the microvasculature that adapts the circulatory system to higher pressures, i.e. remodeling and hypertrophy; and partly with end-organ damage in the form of fibrosis and reduced capillary density making an increased capillary pressure important for a sufficient fluid and nutrient exchange over the capillary walls.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Playing ball

The proper training of dogs warrant treats. The better the treat the better the result so to say. There is this boxer in my house that thinks treats are conspicuously conspiratorial ways of making her do things she normally wouldn't. On the other hand, if, instead of a treat you use a ball - as I might have mentioned - she's willing to do anything.

Happily skipping along towards the field where balls are thrown and hunted.

Sitting as pretty as can be, begging to run after said ball.

Jumping on command for me to try and catch her picture.

Guarding her prize in the shadow of a trimmed hedge, rather like a dragon on her hoard.

There we are: The training and rewarding of blackish boxer bitches.

by Me.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

FASEB Summer Research Conference - Renal Hemodynamics

Jeff Garvin, introducing the second day of the meeting, if I remember correctly.

If any meeting deserves its own post it is the FASEB Summer Research Conference on Renal Hemodynamics. This year with the sub-title: Mechanisms to understand disease. It has been arranged every three years since 1989. This year, and mostly, it was at the boarding school Vermont Academy in Saxton's River, Vermont, USA.

The walk-way from the dorms to the dining-hall, going in the other direction you get to the auditorium. The dining-hall and auditorium were the only two air-conditioned spaces there, making them quite popular with the participants in the not-quite-100-degree Vermont summer.

As you gather from the name, it is a tightly scoped meeting that draws around 120 people to a half-a-week of 8.30am - 10.20pm scientific sessions. There is a generous lunch break for soccer, softball, paddling, basket ball or discussing papers and collaborations.

In the nicely hot weather, it was very refreshing to go swimming in the river, which was more of a creek than an actual river.

Another pass-time was walking around in the woods, not that I did much of that. This was taken on the way to bathing.

Organisers were Jeff Garvin and David Pollock who did a terrific job. The program was varied and interesting, providing more than usual space to younger investigators. This piqued some senior PIs that weren't invited and therefore stayed at home. Luckily, even they sent, or allowed, their more junior members to participate.

One of the very best part of this meeting is the poster sessions, which start when the bar opens in the evening. There were around 30 posters per session. About twice the size of a poster section at any larger meeting. There was ample time to visit all the posters and discuss science over beer. This was followed by more beer and ping-pong, fussball or billiards. Followed by late night story telling under the starry skies in Vermont, which may or may not have been abetted by the drinking of bourbon.

After a week of that, it is lucky that you can blame it all on the jet-lag when you get home.



Friday, June 25, 2010

Marathon meeting week

I'm sitting at Logan airport in Boston, waiting for my flight home. I'll be waiting for another 5 hours, been here for two hours already. I honestly cannot remember when I was last this worn down. I'm zoning out while the poor waiter at DINE Boston Bar & Grill tries desperately to get me to order.

The week started last Thursday with the Nordic PhD-course on Hypertension arranged as a satellite meeting to the European Society of Hypertension annual meeting in Oslo by the Hypertension Societies of the Nordic countries. A selection of, mostly clinical, hypertension scientists crammed as much teaching as possible in to a day-and-a-half course. The fare was a little lop-sided towards diagnosis, prognosis and treatment, a.k.a. clinical science, with rather less basic science and proper mechanistic research.

Then the actual ESH2010 meeting started Friday evening. The meeting was similarly lop-sided, but provided some really interesting sessions with for example Hans Ibsen on the prognostic importance of changes in albuminuria/proteinuria status. An important happening at the meeting was the ESH answer to the recent findings of an association between ARB-use and cancer. In a meta-analysis of several of the recent mega-trials an increased risk for newly diagnosed cancer of about 0.8% was identified in the treated cohort. This was obviously taken up by the daily press with the usual glee. It is a small difference and it is not something the studies were designed to look for. Indeed when the VALUE trial data was added to the cohort the association disappeard. In short, there is with all probability no association between ARB-use and cancer.

I had the honor of co-chairing a poster session providing important new information on renin release, Angiotensin-A (a new AngII like peptide) and how AngII modulates the interaction between beta-arrestin and nephrin possibly underlying part of the proteinuria in high AngII states. I honestly didn't like the poster session format. There was a guided poster session, which is an ok idea, but they were all at the same time and didn't cover all the posters in each session. This meant that most authors weren't at their posters, giving very little room for discussion. Since the discussions during the poster sessions is usually the best part of these conferences I have to count this as a major fail.

I had my presentation on Monday morning and actually managed to be snared by a new possible collaborator before catching the airport express out of Lillestrøm and jumped on to the Iceland Air flight to Reykjavik and further on to Boston. All in all a very good meeting.

The flights and waiting times afforded me just enough time to put together my talk for Tuesday morning. From Logan I continued by car to Vermont Academy outside Saxtons River. That's about three hours worth. Luckily the bar hadn't closed when I arrived slightly after eleven - neither had the registration desk (although he was packing up). I had a beer, said hello to my colleagues in the APS renal section, got a glass of Bourbon pressed into my hand and woke up at four in the morning, thinking I had overslept. I had a shower, practiced and shortened my talk a couple of times before breakfast, and then the meeting, FASEB Summer Research Conference on Renal Hemodynamics, was suddenly in full swing.

My presentation went over well, and we continued with sessions between 8.30am and 10pm with a long lunch break and a long bar break every day. The best presentation of the conference was Dr. Schnermanns "Musings on Tubuloglomerular Feedback" (that wasn't the title he was given, but I guess that is how it goes). His most convincing slide was the linear relationship between the chance of being wrong or "Ch-bong" and the "Technical Pain Index". I'll have to try to get a copy of his slides, very educational. Today we wrapped up at lunch time and were bussed to Logan.

So, here I am, now with only about 3 hours until boarding. Thanks everyone for a really productive scientific week (If slightly hard on my liver). Now I am going to silently slip into a coma and possibly come out for my defense in August.


Sunday, June 13, 2010

Science is mean

Thad Guy has quit. Years ago. He did leave some immortal insights for posterity.

That is why science is evil, and the scientific method is the work of the Devil.


Tuesday, June 08, 2010

A spotted purple zebra

In medical school you learn that you should keep a weather eye for horses, not zebras (unless you live in Africa, possibly). The question is: How do you catch a zebra when one unexpectedly but inevitably shows up?

Zebra trying to hide, pretending to be a urinary tract infection.

Luckily, you do exactly what you usually do. When on the savannah, you shoot everything. What kind of wall trophies you get depends on whether you bring a gun or a camera. If there was a zebra there, even if it tried to hide, you'll have a zebra on the wall when you get home. When in the coal mine that is the ER, or the peat bog of general practice, you exclude the dangerous and the common and then you start excluding the less common (or refer for that purpose). The trick is to not fall for the obvious, common and dangerous diagnosis, and to remember to ask yourself how you account for the unexpected finding that doesn't fit.

So, why this sudden elaboration? Well, we just spotted a zebra, and not just any zebra, but a purple spotted zebra.

Wish us luck.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Experimental Biology - summary

Experimental Biology is over and I am waiting to fly home. All told, it has been a most productive meeting. Two new collaborators on two very exciting projects. Two world view changing sessions: the Cannon lecture on cells as fragile matter, and the myogenic session. Less partying that I had planned, but almost more than I could manage (I blame the man-cold).

For flying home we have the fantastic opportunity of staying at Schiphol in Amsterdam for nine hours. 9! I am going to bore myself to death. I bought an iPod (not iPad), but you cannot activate it under Linux, and my colleagues computer is a client, remote administration, thing where we cannot get iTunes installed. So, the iPod is just a useless lump of steel and glass.

Now I have to pack.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Experimental Biology - world changing seminar

Sometimes you just find the right seminar, the best seminar of the conference. The real renal section sessions haven't started yet and I am already sure that I have found it:

"Interactions between myosin light chain kinase and phosphatase in arteriolar myogenit tone"

With the world changing talks: "Pressure-induced activation of Rho kinase via sphingosine kinase" by S-S. Bolz from the University of Toronto, and "Gq-coupled receptors as mechanosensors in myogenic vasoconstriction" by M. Gollasch from Carité in Berlin.

In addition M.P. Walsh from the University of Calgary presented the very interesting talk: "MYPT1 phosphorylation in myogenically active arterioles."

I haven't really had time to digest all of this, or understand what it means to my research, but it is very clear that it is of major importance.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Experimental Biology - poster day

With a cold.

Anyway, yesterday did serve some quite nice talks and a couple of nice posters, but I was having the sniffles, so I don't remember shit. I did stay the course and at five I went the the hotel to rest a little before going out for dinner. I woke up at four in the morning again, couldn't go back to sleep (understandably), so here I am.

I have my posters today. The poster sessions are often one of the best parts of meetings like Experimental Biology - You get to chat for a bit longer with people who are actually interested in what you have done.

Today I am going to stay awake so that I can go out for some beer and dinner. Now I am really hungry - having not eaten since lunch yesterday - I am going to breakfast.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Experimental Biology - first morning

It is conference time for physiologists. Experimental Biology is by far the largest meeting for physiologists, and this year it's in Anaheim, California, right beside Disney Land. Now it's the morning of the second day. It is 5.30am and I can't sleep.

It started yesterday with the traditional refresher course. I feel a little bad for them, because I just couldn't take four hours of sitting down, so I only stayed for the first two and a half - even though the last talk looked like lots of fun. Of course, now in the days of the internet, I can just go and listen to the recording at

The first two were really good, Donna Korzick talked about how:

"The Heart Develops Pressure, And Pressure Makes the Blood 'Go Round"

Which turned out to be mostly charge excitation coupling and pacemaker activity, including some exciting new data on how local calcium releases actually drives the slow depolarisation (see Lakatta et al, Circ Res, 106: 659-673, 2010).

Then Philip Clifford talked about "Local control of blood flow." He showed some really nifty confocal images of vascular structure and then talked about autoregulation. Not proper, renal autoregulation, but the sloppy kind you find in other organs. Most interestingly he pointed out that the myogenic response is a quite slow mechanism in muscle tissue, for example. Taking somewhere around two minutes to return blood flow to normal after a perturbation. In the kidney, bloodflow quickly stabilizes (20-30 seconds) following a perturbation. Although some of this is probably because of interactions between the myogenic response and the tubuloglomerular feedback, I think I brought home that myogenic response is faster in the kidney.

The afternoon brought a guest appearance of renal circulatory physiology at the micro circulatory society. You might call it a refresher course in renal autoregulation and afferent arteriolar function provided by the usual suspects, Arendshorst, Peti-Peterdi, Inscho. There was a small detour to the medulla. Pallone presented some very interesting data on how water shunting from the descending vasa recta to the ascending helps increase the concentrating capacity.

Last of the days lectures was the Walter B. Cannon memorial award lecture. This year it was awarded to JJ. Fredberd of the Harvard School of Public Health, an engineer who works in pulmonary physiology and probably wil receive the Nobel Prize in medicine for his evolutionary findings. A fantastic lecture, where he presented more novel ideas (with supporting data) in less time than anyone I have met in recent memory. In short, cells are soft as shaving foam because it makes them capable of eating their neighbours and/or crawling around. This explains the development of the eucaryote. I will have to study this for years before I understand it, maybe I will attempt a post on the implications for renal physiology at some later time.

Finally it was time for the free food and free beer, i.e. the opening reception.

The time when the breakfast buffet opens is approaching and I have to go.


Friday, February 19, 2010

Combining clinical work and basic research

Now I have finished my first week in the clinic. Nephrology paired with a day and a night in the ER. I have managed two brief meetings concerning research, and two evenings in the lab. Having thus prepared for a weekend in the lab, I can say that clinical work and laboratory research is compatible with each other. They are, however, not obviously compatible with life as we know it.

In many ways that goes for all serious hobbies. That is you have time for one serious hobby at the time. While doing full time research I had a fair amount of time to do photography, that involves reading books, looking at photographs, reading blogs, surfing for equipment, playing with photoshop, and occasionally photography. While studying it was ju-jutsu, which invloved rather more practice, but also a fair amount of reading and surfing forums (blogs weren't the thing at the time). Now my hobby is research, it involves quite a bit of reading, blog surfing, writing, some meetings, and occasionally lab work.

Luckily, most of my research at the moment is being run by centralized facilities at the university, which means I only have to prepare my samples and wait. I think analysis and writing is more easily compatible with clinical work, but that remains to be seen.


Friday, February 12, 2010

Post-Docs and the quest for the free upgrade

YoungFemaleScientist has published a very convincing summary of all that is bad with being a postdoc and why most arguments that it is good are wrong. Very concisely put.

But, I am going to have to do one anyway. What you can get away with sometimes is getting a position as an MD, which can count as tenure or tenure track to the funding agencies. Then you can apply directly for project funding, but otherwise you need a PI to hold your hand. What you can hope for is a good PI with the decency to give you a reasonable salary (or a PI in a richer country). A PI who won't have you run his whole lab, and who thinks your ideas are hot enough to let you run with them.

Then you create a small space in his lab shaped exactly like you, and re-create your post-doc into a junior PI position. Get your name on the grants, get to advice PhD-students (not just practically, but on paper), and then get converted to tenure track/tenure. From there you stand much stronger to apply elsewhere (or stay).

It's like a computer game, more specifically like The Starship Titanic, and you are out to get the free upgrade.

Good luck to us all,


Saturday, January 30, 2010

Balls, great huge balls

Dogs are, or boxers, or at least our boxer is obsessed with balls. As everyone knows bigger balls are better. It was a challenge to photograph her big Boomer ball because she just wouldn't leave it alone for more than ten seconds. So here she is with her 10 inch Boomer ball.

And here is the rest of her collection. A month-old red Kong ball, and its predecessor the year old red Kong ball. The pink 4 1/2 inch Boomer ball, and two no-name balls that lasted less than a week each. They're still usable from a boxer's perspective though.

I can only suggest getting a boomer ball for your ball obsessed boxer, she plays herself into a stupor in 15 minutes and it is dirt cheap. Plus they guarantee the balls for one year unless you have a tiger. For throwing outside and playing with indoors (yes I know they shouldn't play indoors, but she's so cute) the Kong rubber ball is better.

I know there is rather a thin cover of science on the blog at the moment. I hope to make up for that soon. I just have to think of something.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Computer down, computer gone.

Shite, the computer to the powerlab went straight to hell during an experiment on Thursday. I thought I saved the day when I ran and got my main laptop. It's got the software and all, but windows update has replaced the drivers with something it likes better. So, while it can start up Chart, and read files, and do analysis, it can't communicate with the powerlab. All in all a really bad day.

So now I'm at home and have just made some nice photos to show you, and the computer is still in the lab. All I have here is my little netbook, and it doesn't have Lightroom. Sorry about that.

There are some other nice blogs that actually have content today, or recently anyway.

There's Isis with Your graduate school application as seen by Dr. Buttercup.

Then we have Ethan at Starts with a bang who is showing a hilarious t-shirt reading:
"Sorry, you have reached an imaginary number. If you require a real number, please turn your phone by ninety degrees and try again."

Finally we have PhDamned (aren't we all) who is overcommitted, which makes me happy, because it means I am not all alone in that predicament.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010


Being in science is kind of like being a little boy. You and some of your pals get together and decide that you are just the best thing to happen to girlkind since the colour pink.

Specifically, to that impossibly cute girl with freckles and a ponytail. After fretting nervously, like little boys, for a very long time (anything from 10 to 20 seconds), you send forward one of your number to the coven of small girls in pink. While you stand there puffing your chests out and smiling broadly, you see the ears of the poor envoy turning red. Then you hear the sound of laughter like little bells in the wind, and the girls skip away to do what ever it is little girls in pink do.

The red eared envoy returns to explain that they (the girls in pink) liked the idea, and they agreed that, for being little boys, we weren't the worst they had ever seen. For all that, they still thought we were too much like little boys for them. They want real men, like Patrick Swayze, who can sing and dance and play hockey.

So, there you were, having thought that reading comic books, and building monsters out of lego was the way to go. What to do: Do you start to play hockey and learn how to sing? Or, do you just go looking for another girl, someone who likes comics and appreciates lego the way lego is supposed to be appreciated?

Sunday, January 17, 2010


Today I'm making sushi. In preparation I have charged two sets of batteries for the flash and exchanged the 35mm for the 90mm f/3.5 Voigtländer lens. Half the point of making sushi today is photographing sushi being made.

The quality of the sushi depends almost only on the quality of the fish. Salma salmon is a farmed salmon that is killed and filleted immediately to prevent any gut parasites from entering the meat. Therefore you don't have to freeze it before using it for sushi, which makes for much better fish. For variety I usually make two kinds of maki; salmon, and shrimp. Getting other kinds of sushi grade fish in Norway is all but impossible unless you are a resturant.

Once you have the fish, you need to make rice. Very easy, do as it says on the sushi rice bag. Wash, cook, add sugar and vinegar, spread out on a plate to cool down. Spread a thin layer of rice onto a sea weed sheet, or sushi-nori. It should be really thin otherwise it will just taste rice, which kind of defeats the purpose.

Cut pretty pieces of fish, shrimp and some avocado in this case. Don't give it all to the dog, even though she's so cute when she begs.

Add a string of fish and some wasabi paste on the rice and roll it up tight. The special maki sushi bamboo mats are ideal for rolling, but anything flexible will do in a pinch.

The difficult part is to roll the maki hard enough, so that it holds together. Wet the end of the sea weed to glue the roll shut, and make some three or four rolls per person.

Cut into bite sized pieces and serve with more wasabi, japanese soy sauce and pickled ginger (called sushi gari). A cheap Danish beer is never wrong, otherwise a Sancerre or just water is also fine.

This week in pictures

Who am I fooling?

I have tried, diligently, to make at least a single measly frame of a photography every day for seventeen days and nights. I have failed, not gloriously or valiantly, not even miserably, but in the most inglorious way, by lazyness and insufficient will.

There are now twelve photos in the flickr set where there should have been seventeen.

Madicken thought it was rather too cold as it hit -17°C last weekend, but now its around zero and everything is a salty slush. More snow is falling, melting and feeding the slow, muddy, avalanche through the town. The winter is not even pretty any more; the snow doesn't sparkle when it is wet and muddy.

The scientific weather is about the same as the actual weather. That is, I am waiting inside, as if in front of the open fire, in hope of hearing the wind turn so that I may venture out again. I am waiting for a, now rather late, review. It's frustrating because they obviously had problems finding reviewers. That took them almost three weeks (over Christmas), and now it's been another two weeks under review.

Meanwhile, I try to solve the Rubix cube, and when I get bored I take a picture of it to at least do something productive (for some definition of productive). Now it's snowing less, and it might be time to venture out, so that the Madicken gets to run around and do the things that dogs do. Maybe the review will be finished tomorrow, maybe I'll only miss these first five days of photography.

Despondently (kind of like Eeyore) yours,