October 5, 2011 § 1 Comment
Our life back… a poem by Peter Arguriou, translated from Greek to english by: Dimitra Papageorgiou
In Egypt, they cried: We want our life back.
In Syria, they cried: We want our life back.
In Athens, they cried: We want our life back.
In London, they cried: We want our life back.
In New York, out of the way of the walls, Wall Street, the walls of shame, they cried: your money or our life.
In Argentina they took their life back In Iceland, the land of ice, they broke the ice and the walls: They took their life back.
In Equator, in Ecuador, equality reverted Our life back.
By a slight breeze, sea rages. The wave breaks the breakwater It wants its life back
By a short poem, billows the poor soul: She wants her life back
You gave us cars for our body to diminish.
Mobile phones to be for the first time so close and yet even further.
Excessive food to die full of obese starvation.
You tipped us in order to steal everything
The suspended step to freedom: We want our life back
The small talk,
the united and wholehearted cry: We want our life back
Why do you pretend not to hear the thunder? Are those who live in high places, underneath a different celestial shelter?
Why do you cross your eyes, when your gaze is fixed upon the deserted places of your intrigue? Hollow is your soul and hollow is your seed. Your ambitious plans: imaginary pregnancies. But the wind will blow. Gently at first. Then, like a caress ready to withdraw, when reaching that which taunts the tenderness. Like a breeze that wants to teach a fluff that shivers for the first time, how it feels to fly in clear winds.
Hey blacksmith, for whom do you forge your crazy weapons?
Hey horseman, in whose carriage did you harness the animals?
Hello fisherman• on whose table will you lay your haul?
Hey miller, for whom do you adulterate the bread? Hey farmer, the place is filled with bitter harvest.
Hey laborer, why do you punch in your card for those who robbed your job?
Now, with empty gazes, we watch what was hidden of old. Under the lack of light, strangely the shadows grow. With small fearful steps, within this unbearable slavery, we‘ll ravage the fraudulent sheepskin. Hey bosses you fucked it up again.
The things to come, the things intended, the misconceived, you put them all together, our virtues you turned into dirty innuendos.
Hey you dummies with neckties. You who demolish altars to look like gods. You, dummies with neckties, who laugh at every adversity. Take a look again. For all the things you have stolen with relentless pettiness for the praise of every baseness, take a look again… You are not, you never were, and never will be:
If I am the wild ass that has to carry a ton of your shit you should feel honored when I bray. Your ears should tremble when you hear aloud:
I want my life back.
June 20, 2011 § Leave a comment
We are being denied love. Touch. Contact.
The mysteries of self lay dormant. They may never be awakened until we die.
We are being treated as automatons. Everything we need is material. And thus, we are starving and eating each other, like the fine young cannibals we have become.
A lover’s glimpse that penetrates flesh and form to reach our most eternal and protected parts.
We are humans. Essential part of an unspeakable mystery. Yet we are in constant denial of it.
I want to breath you. To merge with you, lose my prison of a self inside yourself. Flourish and fulfill my limited existence. Expand gently like a blossoming flower.
Love is the only freedom. Lovemaking is the art of freedom.
I will embark soon, leave my own borders, travel into the seventh seas of pleasure. I will find you amidst the storm, touch your hand, enter the soul of the living universe inside your eyes.
We shall become one, then part again, so that the promise will be kept. Over and over again through the dividing and conquering eons we shall unite and conquer them.
Make patience my love but let not patience fool you. I want you now and forever. Even if I am not allowed your soothing presence, your rich essence runs through me like a caring stream.
Lets inaugurate the mystagogi, you and I. We have not forgotten the sacred mystery of love. We have kept our promise in a world that crashes all dreams and hopes. We have remained humans.
We deserve the endless kiss, the breathless breath, the motionless flow.
Death, shall not do us apart.
February 21, 2011 § Leave a comment
Cannabis has been with us for thousands of years and it has served us well. We depended on her to make clothes, ropes, to take some of the pain and stress away and sometimes even to float away from everyday’s life worries into the unexplored space between words and ideas. Though recreational use of cannabis is not supported or suggested by the writer, the therapeutic use of cannabis is an altogether different issue.
The use of cannabis has been for the most of human history well accepted both culturally and medically.
Cannabis demonization was motivated by social prejudices and racial discrimination. In the early 20th century it was used to barricade the US from Mexican immigrants and later on from African American Jazz Musicians and the “evil” and “immoral” culture they were generating. Cannabis illegalization was promoted by Randolph Hearst who did not want cannabis as an antagonist in the paper business, and pharmaceutical companies who did not want to compete with a cheap and easily accessed – even homegrown painkiller.163 As it is now, back then arguments did not have to be truthful to win over the support and sympathy of public opinion. They only had to appear credible and use fear and loathing to appeal not to the intellect but rather to the most primitive part of human nature. Even when people are unable to respond and conform to reason they can easily understand and comply to fear.
Today, thousands of otherwise law-abiding citizens are imprisoned as common criminals and thousands of patients are denied the therapeutic benefits of cannabis because of a social stigma that was adhered to it and a prohibitory culture which was, is and will be contradicting personal rights and freedom of choice.
Cannabis is not harmless. With the exception of side effects related not to cannabis itself but to respiratory problems associated with smoking, most of them are mild and fleeting. Still cannabis use may have some more severe implications like worsening the progression of liver fibrosis, triggering psychotic episodes,164 causing subtle immune suppression.165 But even some of these side effects can be turned into diagnostic and more easily therapeutic opportunities: cannabis-induced psychotic episodes have been suggested to have prognostic psychiatric value,166 whereas the endocannabinoids’ system immunomodulatory properties can inaugurate a whole new chapter in autoimmune disease therapeutics: the cannabinoid system in the central nervous system has been shown to regulate autoimmune inflammation, implying possible cannabinoid manipulation and treatment of multiple sclerosis!167 Cannabinoids are also being investigated for the treatment of other autoimmune disorders and allergies.168 The active component of cannabis, Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) has been found to inhibit the formation of “Alzheimer’s plaques”, slowing or possibly halting the progression of this virtually untreatable debilitating disease. According to the research team:
Compared to currently approved drugs prescribed for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease, THC is a considerably superior inhibitor of Aβ aggregation, and this study provides a previously unrecognized molecular mechanism through which cannabinoid molecules may directly impact the progression of this debilitating disease.169
Another study exhibited nerve growth promotion in the hippocampus of rats induced by the combination of high dosages of a synthetic cannabinoid alongside with the endocannabinoid anandamide.170 Cannabis compounds have also shown a potential in the inhibition of lung (in vitro and animal models),171 breast172 and brain cancer. In brain cancer especially, THC promoted cancer cell autophagy leaving healthy cells intact.173
A brand new brave world of cannabinoid therapeutic possibilities and options lies ahead of us. Cannabis is also invaluable in chronic or drug-resistant pain management and general quality of living of patients with chronic health conditions. Despite the mild cannabis-induced immune suppression that is probably a counter-indication for AIDS patients, cannabis use was found to be beneficial both in AIDS anorexia and in AIDS related neuropathic pain.174 175 Cannabis use has been shown to be beneficial also in nausea (especially drug-resistant cancer-chemotherapy induced nausea), vomiting, weight loss, premenstrual syndrome. Antioxidant properties have also been attributed to it.
After the illegalization of cannabis, medicalization happened to it. Instead of licensing patients in need of cannabis to even grow it at controlled amounts for personal therapeutic use, cannabis became a drug-industry property and cannabinoid compounds such as Nabinol, Marinol and Sativex that don’t have the much-wanted immediate symptom relieving effects that the inhalation of vaporized cannabis possesses have been promoted as legal medical forms of cannabis. Who’s next? Tea, chamomile, peppermint?
The benefit/risk ratio of cannabinoid compounds and of cannabis herself is very attractive and superior to that of other drugs employed to treat severe medical conditions. Cannabis appears to be “a miraculous” multitask therapeutic agent and its therapeutic use should be and would be heralded by scientists, patients and relatives worldwide. Instead, the social and legal stigma that has been attributed to her has inhibited relative research. It is once again a matter of politics against science, of prejudice against reason, of myths against facts. Who in his right mind would compare or downsize Alzheimer’s disease or cancer or chronic drug-resistant pain, or multiple sclerosis to the side effects of cannabis use?
The hundreds of therapeutic applications, implications and possibilities of cannabis, even in conditions that there are no attractive, or not so effective or no therapeutic alternatives at all leaves us in awe of the extent to which human stupidity and stubbornness, political and financial mannerism and indecency, scientific cowardice and subjugation are halting medical progress.
February 21, 2011 § 4 Comments
“Fetch,” I enthusiastically shouted but to no avail.
The ball passed by a disinterested dog and landed to the grass some yards away from him, unchallenged, unclaimed.
OK, I was the one who was doing the fetching. Again.
I kneeled and patted the dog softly on his head.
“What’s wrong with you, boy? Why can’t you be just like all other normal dogs and go fetch a ball? Is that too much to ask for a dog?”
The dog looked meaningfully at the far side of the park and off he was to his favorite butterfly chasing.
This dog is never going to make anything great of himself. He should become a poet but dogs don’t get to become poets, I thought sorrowfully, but kept the thoughts to myself not to hurt his feelings.
But I wasn’t the only one with problems or the only one who was keeping thoughts to himself not to hurt other people’s feelings. At the direction that the dog was facing a moment ago there was a father standing, throwing a softball at his son, waiting for him to strike it with his clumsily-held baseball bat.
But the boy was clearly not interested in baseball. He appeared to be interested in everything else, the grass, the dog, the butterflies, me, but not the ball. The ball landed on the grass, some yards from the boy, unchallenged, unclaimed.
It was as if I could hear the father’s disappointment resounding in my head: Why can’t you just be like all other normal boys and hit a ball? Is that too much to ask for a boy?
Then it struck me, almost as hard as a baseball bat: the dog and the boy were co-patients. I mean I may not be a psychiatrist, but it was crystal clear even to the eyes of the untrained, wasn’t it? The boy and the dog shared the same medical condition: ADHD, Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder.
Four letter medical abbreviations were almost a perfect match for three letter words like boy or kid and, hey, why not a dog?
I was thrilled with my finding. I had killed with the ADHD diagnosis two birds, well not two birds but rather a boy and a dog.
I dashed home to go refresh my DSM, the Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, currently in its fourth edition. I opened the psychiatric bible, the great book that defines and separates the good from the damaged, the ordinary people from the deranged, the normal fellows from the nutcases, the functional from the certifiable, the people who are allowed a certain degree of exercising their free will from the cuckoos that need to be checked, supervised, restrained or regulated.
There it was: instant enlightenment. According to DSMIV, ADHD is defined as a:
persistent pattern of inattention or hyperactivity—impulsivity that is more frequently displayed and more severe than is typically observed in individuals at a comparable level of development.
In science it is critical for definitions to define the conditions or terms they attempt to define as thoroughly as possible.
So what is it then? Inattention or hyperactivity? Both? A bit of the one and a bit of the other? A racemic mixture of them? It is obvious that the two terms are not identical, and more often than not seem to even contradict each other. Hyperactivity does require attention in the very thing they want to be active in, with a corresponding disinterest in the thing you want them to be interested in. Normal people who are not interested in something will naturally find their attention shift away. If it shifts away quickly, is that a disorder? Do people who lose interest quickly, with their attention also shifting away quickly to something else, really have a disorder or a disorder related to being impulsive? Yet the same kids can run around and play games that they like.
And so let’s look at it again: “…impulsivity that is more frequently displayed and more severe than is typically observed…”
More frequently displayed… Meaning? How often, I mean like every ten seconds, every minute, every hour? And what about “severe impulsivity”? What does severe impulsivity mean? To be honest I have never heard a human creature accusing another as being severely impulsive. Too impulsive for his own good perhaps, but severely impulsive? And what is the golden standard to which ADHD persons are compared to? But of course the typically observed impulsivity. The typically observed impulsivity. It has a nice ring to it as if it was meaning or describing or actually defining anything. What behavior is typical? Or perhaps the definition refers to typical observers, or to typical acceptance amongst typical experts on what constitutes typical behavior? Where do they come up with such ill-defined definitions of illness?
And that brings us to critically look at what is to be typical? Was Einstein typical? Was Newton typical? Was Leonardo da Vinci typical? Was Galileo typical? And do you want to be typical? An impulsive response may not be typical but is it always part of a disorder? And what disorderly biochemistry typifies it?
A typical impulsivity in Harvard Law School is not the same as the typical impulsivity in the streets of Harlem. The typical modern behavior has nothing to do with the typical Victorian behavior. Things that are considered scandalous or way out of limits in one place today were considered as normal, accepted, well tolerated and even expected in other societies of the past and the present and vice versa…
Read more in: Pulp Med, coming out in June 24 2011, by O-books
February 21, 2011 § Leave a comment
One of the most commonly used terms in medical language is the word placebo. The placebo effect is used as a scale for evaluating the effectiveness of new drugs. But what exactly is the placebo effect and what are its consequences in the deterministic structure of Western medicine? The placebo effect has been frequently abused by health professionals to denote and stigmatize a fraud or fallacy. Alternative therapies have often been characterized as merely placebos. But the placebo effect is not a fraudulent, useless or malevolent phenomenon. It occurs independently of the intentions of charlatans or health professionals. It is a spontaneous, authentic and very factual phenomenon that refers to well-observed but uninterpreted and contingent therapies or health improvements that occur in the absence of an active chemical/pharmacological substance. Make-believe drugs – drugs that carry no active chemical substances – often act as the real drugs and provoke therapeutic effects when administered to patients. In many drug trials, the manufacturers of the drug sadly discover that their product is in no way superior to the effect of a placebo. But that does not mean that a placebo equates to a null response of the human organism. On the contrary, a placebo denotes nonchemical stimuli that strongly motivate the organism towards a therapeutic course. That is, the placebo effect is dependent not on the drug’s effectiveness but solely on therapeutic intention and expectation.
Effects of positive and negative thinking
The placebo effect has been often misunderstood as a solely psychological and highly subjective phenomenon. The patient, convinced of the therapy’s effectiveness, ignores his symptoms or perceives them faintly without any substantial improvement of his health; that is, the patient feels better but is not healthier. But can the subjective psychological aspect of the placebo effect account for all of its therapeutic properties? The answer is definite: the placebo effect refers to an alternative curative mechanism that is inherent in the human entity, is motivated by therapeutic intention or belief in the therapeutic potential of a treatment, and implies biochemical responses and reactions to the stimulus of therapeutic intention or belief.
But placebos are not always beneficial: they can also have adverse effects. For example, administering a pharmacologically inactive substance to some patients can sometimes bring about unexpected health deteriorations. A review of 109 double-blind studies estimated that 19% of placebo recipients manifested the nocebo effect: unexpected deteriorations of health.1 In a related experiment, researchers falsely declared to the volunteers that a weak electrical current would pass through their head; although there was no electrical current, 70% of the volunteers (who were medical students) complained of a headache after the experiment.2
In a group of patients suffering from carotid atherosclerosis, prognosis and progression of the disease were burdened when their psychological health was bad (i.e., they were affected by hopelessness or depression). In another group of carotid atherosclerosis patients, prognosis and progression were burdened not only by hopelessness but also by hostility.3 In patients with coronary heart disease, hopelessness was a determinative risk factor.4 Social isolation, work stress and hostility comprised additional risk factors.5
Positive or negative thinking seems to be a decisive risk factor for every treatment, perhaps even more important than medical intervention.
The nocebo effect appears to have a specific biological substrate. A group of 15 men whose wives suffered from terminal cancer participated in a small perspective study. After their wives’ deaths, the men experienced severe grief that caused immunodepression. The spouses’ lymphocytes for a period of time after their wives’ deaths responded poorly to mitogens.
Grief had assaulted their immune system. The study proposed that grief and grief-induced immunodepression resulted in high level mortality of the specific group.6
A short history of a small miracle
The term placebo (meaning “I shall please”) was used in mediaeval prayer in the context of the phrase Placebo Domino (“I shall please the Lord”) and originated from a biblical translation of the fifth century AD.7 During the 18th century, the term was adopted by medicine and was used to imply preparations of no therapeutic value that were administered to patients as “decoy drugs”. The term began to transform in 1920 (Graves),8 and through various intermediate stages (Evans and Hoyle, 1933;9 Gold, Kwit and Otto, 1937;10 Jellinek, 194611) was fully transformed in 1955 when it finally claimed an important portion of the therapeutic effect in general. Henry K. Beecher, in his 1955 paper “The Powerful Placebo”, attributed a rough percentage of 30% of the overall therapeutic benefit to the placebo effect.12 In certain later studies, the placebo effect was estimated at even higher, at 60% of the overall therapeutic outcome. In a recent review of 39 studies regarding the effectiveness of antidepressant drugs, psychologist Guy Sapirstein concluded that 50% of the therapeutic benefits came from the placebo effect, with a poor percentage of 27% attributed to drug intervention (fluoxetine, sertaline and paroxetine). Three years later Sapirstein, along with a fellow psychologist Irving Kirsch, processed the data from 19 double-blind studies regarding depression and reached an even higher percentage of therapeutic results attributed to the placebo effect: 75% depression therapies or ameliorations were placebo induced!13
Hróbjartsson and Gotzsche (2001,14 200415) doubted the effectiveness of the placebo phenomenon, attributing it solely to the subjective factors of human psychology. And indeed, there is a major aspect of the placebo effect related to psychology. In two studies where placebos were exclusively administered, the placebo effect seemed to be effected from the subject’s perception of the applied therapy, i.e., two placebo pills were better than one, bigger pills were better than smaller, and injections were even better.16 The placebo induced a reaction not only to the therapy but also to its form, suggesting that the placebo phenomenon is shaped according to the personal symbolic universe of the patient. Before the placebo response occurs, human perception has already interpreted the applied therapy and has prepared a certain response to it. It would appear that not only chemical but also non-chemical stimuli participate in the motivation of the human organism towards therapy. But is the placebo reaction solely a psychological phenomenon or does it have additional tangible somatic effects? One of the more dramatic events regarding placebo therapy was reported in 1957 when a new wonder drug, Krebiozen, held promise as the final solution to the cancer problem. A patient with metastatic tumors and with fluid collection in his lungs, who demanded the daily intake of oxygen and the use of an oxygen mask, heard of Krebiozen. His doctor was participating in Krebiozen research and the patient begged him to be given the revolutionary drug. Bent by the patient’s hopelessness, the doctor did so and witnessed a miraculous recovery of the patient. His tumors melted and he returned to an almost normal lifestyle.
The recovery didn’t last long. The patient read articles about Krebiozen’s not delivering what it promised in cancer therapy. The patient then had a relapse; his tumors were back. His doctor, deeply affected by the aggravation, resorted to a desperate trick. He told his patient that he had in his possession a new, improved version of Krebiozen. It was simply distilled water. The patient fully recovered after the placebo treatment and remained functional for two months. The final verdict on Krebiozen, published in the press, proved the drug to be totally ineffective. That was the coup de grâce for the patient, who died a few days later.17 In spite of the melodrama of the Krebiozen case, there is no single case or personal testimony that can denote or prove a therapy to be effective. Statistical studies, not personal testimonies, can verify a proposed therapy’s effectiveness, and well planned studies are able to concur that the placebo phenomenon has somatic properties. One such study was implemented in 1997. The two study groups consisted of patients with benign prostatic hypertrophy. One group took actual medication while the control group received placebo treatment. The placebo recipients reported relief from their symptoms and even amelioration of their urinary function.18 A placebo has also been reported to act as a bronchodilator in asthmatic patients, or to have the exact opposite action—respiratory depression—depending on the description of the pharmacological effect the researchers gave to the patients and therefore the effect the patients anticipated.19 A placebo proved highly efficient against food allergies and, subsequently, impressively effective in the sinking of biotechnologies on the stock market. How could that be? Peptide Therapeutics Group, a biotech company, was preparing to launch on the market a novel vaccine for food allergies. The first reports were encouraging. When the experimental vaccine reached the clinical trials stage, the company’s spokesperson boasted that the vaccine proved effective in 75% of the cases—a percentage that usually suffices to prove a drug’s effectiveness. But the good news didn’t last long. The control group, given a placebo, did almost as well: seven out of 10 patients reported getting rid of their food allergies. The stock value of the company plunged by 33%. The placebo effect on food allergies created a nocebo
effect on the stock market!20 In another case, a genetically designed heart drug that raised high hopes for Genentech was clobbered by a placebo.21 As aptly put by science historian Anne Harrington, placebos are “ghosts that haunt our house of biomedical objectivity and expose the paradoxes and fissures in our own self-created definitions of the real and active factors in treatment.”22 The placebo’s pharmacomimetic behavior can even imitate a drug’s side effects. In a 1997 study of patients with benign prostate hypertrophy, some patients on a placebo complained of various side effects ranging from impotence and reduced sexual activity to nausea, diarrhea and constipation. Another study reported placebo side effects as including headaches, vomiting, nausea and a variety of other symptoms.23
The placebo effect in surgery…
Read more in: Pulp Med, coming out in June 24 by O-books
February 21, 2011 § 2 Comments
One fundamental characteristic of the current civilization is selfishness permeating all levels and spheres of human existence: from the individual perceptions of being, to the social implications of co-existing, to the economic theories of managing and turning co-existence into a profitable network, to the environmental issues of ecologic co-dependence and to the scientific innovations that promote knowledge in all of the aforementioned fields and in even more, selfishness has governed and spawned most of the theories and practices that we today encounter. This solipsism, this egomania, this perception that only I and Mine exist and are worth serving, saving and caring for has already created huge financial problems with the 2008 crash, and is creating even huger environmental problems that no one can confidently predict if and how we are going to be able to resolve and restore balance to our cosmos. In other words, this approach, though a sometimes admirable driving force of the Western world, has an innate limitation: it considers expansion of “self” and exploitation of others as limitless. But since space exploration is underdeveloped, for the next decades we are bound to live in a “sphere” called earth, a world whose limits are well defined and known, a limited world not a limitless one. When expansion has reached exhaustion, when new sources, ideas, innovations, markets, technological breakthroughs are hard to find, when “self” has expanded to such a degree that it can no longer transpose or transfer or dump its problems into new grounds, into fresh “others”, once self has become almost “everything”, at least everything it knows and owns of the cosmos, than “self” has to encounter all of the problems of the “others” that it has by now conquered, phagocytosed, incorporated. And when this time comes, “self” is left only two options (actually only one but for the sake of argument we’ll propose that there are two). One is to try to survive by metamorphosing, to become more introvert, reinvest some of the dynamics of the expansionistic aggressiveness onto solving the internal problems by creating more detailed and extensive networks and regulations and attempt to stabilize and redefine this uncontrollable “self”. This is a model of internal expansion, of expansion within one’s self, an introspective approach. The other is to attempt to expand further at the same or higher rate than previously when expansion is no longer viable and to ultimately collapse, collapse onto itself like a black hole.
There are many paradigms that attest to the nature and outcome of expansion in a limited world. It begins with marvelous aggression, almost unobstructed, until it reaches its limits. Historically, all universal empires collapsed from within, when they could no longer sustain expansion. Rome lasted longer because it transformed some of its aggression into administration. In cosmology, if expansion speed does not overcome the escape velocity, the world will contract (and finally collapse), possibly back into a universal pre-Big Bang state. In biology, a cell culture grows geometrically until the nutrient substrate is exhausted. Then the culture starves to death and diminishes (in a sense collapses onto itself) until the proper ratio of available nutrients is restored. In the sociologic and financial Malthusian model, overpopulation can exhaust the planet’s available resources and lead to war, famine or both, again in a sense collapsing onto itself (off course Malthus took into consideration only overpopulation and not – as he should have done – also overexploitation).
That is what universally happens when expansion is no longer sustainable but it is still perceived as indefinite: collapse.
The sense of self and infinite expansion onto others has these implications in all other aspects of human activity and thought. But what about medicine?
Medicine and biology in general is fraught with selfish perceptions. From the Darwinian survival of the fittest to the neo-Darwinian selfish gene, from antidrugs (antibacterial, antiviral, anticancer etc.) to a genetically governed world, all these disciplines teach us of is Self. Self is good and must be preserved, non-self must be destroyed or controlled. Even cancer, which is a bizarre immortal yet often lethal and ultimately self-destructive expression of self, is treated by medicine as a non-self, as the enemy that has to be destroyed. Since the human body is limited and well defined, expansionism is expressed in exerting control and destroying the others. But even this introvert by nature expansion of self has limitations. Because – as the immune system knows all too well – the notion of self in medicine cannot be taken literally.
Our own genome consists also of incorporated inert (most of the time) viral genetic material. Our own intestinal flora consists of non-self bacteria, vital for our survival and well-being. And our own cells contain cell organelles that billions of years ago were non-self and still are not completely subjected to our cellular government of the nucleus.
We call them mitochondria. They are our power plants. They are matriarchally inherited to us. They have their own DNA (mtDNA) which is independent from our “core” DNA, the biological essence of our being and fate as “macho” medicine wants us to believe. They are not just organelles that are centrally and absolutely governed by core DNA. They are essentially symbiotes, merged with our viscera in our cellular ancestors billions of years ago, giving us now the energy we depend upon in order to live.78
When needed they multiply to provide our tissues with additional energy. But their DNA is also more sensitive than core DNA. They don’t have the complexity and the longitude of the core DNA repair system. So they get damaged more easily. And when they get damaged or depleted they can lead to or get involved in any type of non-infectious disease states one can imagine. Imagine a factory without power or with a shortage of power. It can be completely dysfunctional or the administration can choose to shut down sectors to save power for the most important ones. Some or all workers in the factory will work in the dark. Occupational accidents will happen. If there is a general power our shortage, the factory, no matter what the administration decides to do, will dysfunction or ultimately shut down. Our civilization will be seriously impaired or shut down if faced with serious energy shortages. There is no need to argue that our body will definitely do the same, deteriorate or die.
There are few to thousands of mitochondria in each cell. Each mitochondrion in turn contains multiple copies of mtDNA. This variable mitochondrial numerology has many implications and complications for health and for disease expression, duration, extent and severity. As it has been accurately described in the proceedings of the June 2008 NIH’s National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke June 2008 workshop on Mitochondrial Encephalopathies and potential relationship to Autism:
“…mutations in mtDNA may affect all copies of mtDNA (homoplasmy), but frequently they only affect some copies (heteroplasmy). Since the many copies of mtDNA are distributed randomly between daughter cells during cell division, heteroplasmy can lead to significant variation in the proportion of mutated mtDNA over time and across different organs or tissues. This variation in mutation load can influence the clinical expression of mitochondrial disease. Heteroplasmy may also complicate the diagnosis of mtDNA diseases because the causative mutation may be present in only some tissues, such as specific brain regions or specific muscles, and not in others, such as blood or hair. In addition, an individual’s mtDNA haplotype can modify the effect of pathogenic mutations in mitochondrial genes. More broadly, mtDNA haplotypes may also modify susceptibility for diseases in which mitochondrial dysfunction may not be a primary cause, including diabetes, multiple sclerosis, and some cancers and neurodegenerative diseases.”79
One has to understand the complexity and the diversity of mitochondrial involvement in health and disease states. Mitochondrial deficiency, damage, inefficiency, mutation or any combination of the previous mitochondrial states does not manifest itself homogeneously, and may effect certain cells or tissues of the body or be systemic or even catholic. It may be sudden or slow or cataclysmic or acute or chronic or degenerative, episodic, chronic or both, triggered or remain “dormant”, with mild or severe symptoms or no symptoms at all or with subclinical symptoms that may not be necessarily associated to a disease state, such as fatigue and restlessness. It might contribute to other disease states or be affected by other disease states. It might even be associated with dysmotility, migraine, depression,80 anxiety,81 mood or other psychiatric disorders.82 In depression and especially in depression with somatization low energy production and mitochondrial dysfunction has also been indicated.83 The reverse process, that is whether depression with somatization causes mitochondrial dysfunction which in turn aggravates depression, should be also examined as this loop is in accordance with the “positive feedback” depression, low self-esteem and reduced motivation and physical mobility progression. And it is not only about non-infectious diseases. Infectious diseases can also cause direct damage to mitochondria complicating things even further.84 And there has been a novel discovery indicating that mitochondria play also a vital role in immune response and thus that mitochondria are vital in fighting off infections and especially RNA-Viral infections such as flu, hepatitis, West Nile Virus, SARS (and possibly the so-called HIV infection). A protein named MAVS (Mitochondrial Anti-Viral Signaling protein) located in mitochondrial membrane plays an initial role in triggering immune response against viruses:
The researchers modified normal cells so that the cells could not produce the MAVS protein, which is short for Mitochondrial Anti-Viral Signaling protein. Without MAVS, the cells were highly vulnerable to infection with two common viruses in a class called RNA viruses Other RNA viruses include hepatitis C, West Nile, SARS and the flu viruses.
Cells altered to produce an overabundance of MAVS were protected from dying from viral infection.85
On the other hand, one of the key elements of the biochemical chain of events that comprise an immune response (co-triggered, as suggested, by MAVS) is interferon. Interferon has the ability to inhibit mitochondrial DNA expression and therefore function. As research suggests: “We showed previously that type I interferon causes a down-regulation of mitochondrial gene expression. We show here that IFN treatment leads to functional impairment of mitochondria…
Possibly as a consequence of the inhibitory effect on mitochondrial gene expression, treatment with interferon causes a reduction in cellular ATP levels. The inhibition of cellular growth by interferon may thus be partly a consequence of a reduction in cellular ATP levels.”86 Furthermore there has been some mitochondrial involvement indicated in autoimmune diseases.87
So, in this long chain of events and counter-events, of effects and counter-effects, it is very hard to distinguish cause from effect, first from second. The mitochondrial realm is not governed by some linear strictly-deterministic rational, but it rather works in circular patterns with intertwining positive and negative feedback mechanisms. It is not about intervention, it is about balance. It is not about attacking or prohibiting. It is about regulating, coordinating and tuning. It is not only about finding and defining. It is about understanding, understanding the big picture. And these are tasks that the overspecialized lab-rat scientist will fail to address over and over again, tasks that Big Pharma will either ignore or conceal.
One has to completely understand that any kind of non-infectious, infectious, immune, autoimmune, acute, chronic health conditions, large or small, direct or indirect, primary or secondary may present mitochondrial involvement…
Read more in “Pulp Med”, coming out on June 24 2011 by O-books
February 16, 2011 § Leave a comment
A heart’s silent courage
I think I can still remember the first thing I was able to grasp. It was a pounding sound, a beat, it was a heartbeat. My mother’s heartbeat.
I had no thoughts back then, just sensations and dreams. I could perfectly feel everything my mother could feel, even feelings and sensations that were not accessible to her conscious mind.
I was peaceful in the womb. And then one day, out of the blue, I was exiled. I was not delivered, I felt like I was aborted. I still carry the pain of that moment inside of me. I have met greater pain in my life, but this one was the primordial pain, the pain that would invite others of his kind to join him in my soul.
I wish I would have died back then, when I was first severed.
When I first saw the world I did not cry, I did not laugh. I felt sad. Such a sad baby. But no one seemed to notice. Babies don’t have feelings, just needs. That was the first time they insulted me. Million more were to follow.
We were living in the forests, thick, dark forests we preferred. That was our home. And fire was the heart of it. It would fend off darkness before it entered us, fend off the beasts of pray before we entered them.
We would gather around the fire to tell stories. Elders would narrate and nourish us with the ancient wisdom of our tribe. The fire united us and warmed our bodies, the stories would nourish our collective soul. But I only could speak to the fire. No one else would listen. No one else could.
How hard had I strived to tell them of my pain, the pain I was carrying since I was born. The pain of understanding. I wish they could just listen. But they couldn’t. I was born a mute. Would never hear the sound of my voice, only the echo of my thoughts. I was a mute. So I listened hard to everything they had to say. They had something I didn’t. A gift. A voice. The spoken words. How could they waste it in misunderstanding each other?
For a minute, an eternal minute, I had the impression that my father, would be the first one to understand me. He bowed, took my head into his heads, keeping his thumbs dangerously close to my eyes, and stared at them, as if he was looking inside a well.
“Boy you are sad” he said in sudden realization. “Boy you are sad” he said in excitement. “Boy you are sad” he said jumping up and down in joy. “Wife, our newest is sad” he said proudly. “He is going to bring us wealth”. But I was only going to give them shame.
I had a good father. He wouldn’t chop off his children limps like others did. We were proud people. We begged in pride. To be a successful beggar you have to persuade them that you had less than they had. That you were less than them. But we were proud beggars. Arrogant as a beggar can get. We knew that we had more, our race was superior. We just pretended. They pitied us, while we despised them. What a beautiful arrangement. What a lovely marriage.
They trained me in the art of begging. Where to direct your look according to their height, their weight, their figures, their state of mind. When to look them in the eyes, when to bow your head, when to open your palm, when to not move and become invisible to the hateful eye. And most of all we learned to hear them. To hear them coming, to hear them going, to hear them laughing, sighing, breathing. The art of begging was the art of telling people, but never allow knowledge of the human condition enter your soul. Instant recognition, the mastery that the animals of the forests we were living in taught us. How to know everything about your pray, yet, feel nothing for it. How to make a successful kill. We had replaced killing with begging. Begging could sustain you and it had far fewer social implications than killing. The cities were just another kind of forest to us. A big ugly forest were you could make it big. If you just knew how to beg.
I could not beg. Not because I was a mute. I didn’t have it in me. And that was enough to set me apart from the rest of my tribe.
“He is not a beggar”. Ramon, my father, would swear at my mother as if her bringing a non beggar to life was a hideous crime. “What good is he for then”. What is he going to do with his life? Will he play the violin? No master will ever teach music to one who is stupid enough to not understand life. You take, then you give. How can one give without taking? He will upset the balance. What woman is going to marry him?”
My mother would watch him in understanding. She did not want to denounce her own child, but she knew. She knew as well. Her son, her last son, was an absolute disgrace.
There were not much they could do to turn me into a normal beggar. No one can blame them. They did their best. And it wasn’t enough. I was born faulty.
So they would resort to the only person that could fix me, or at least tell them what was wrong with me.
Nania, the tribe’s old hag, the omniscient witch. Nania had her own tend. She was the only one in the tribe that was allowed the shame of sleeping alone. Nania was the tribe. She was old when our oldest ones were still kids.
No one dared enter her tend. Once you were in there, you owed Nania a part of your soul. She would choose the most delicious part of your soul and then she would take it from you. Forever. As I came to understand from the stories not told, Nania had a sweet tooth for the most tender and the most juicy parts of a soul, the parts that make a man a man, a woman a woman and a virtuoso a virtuoso. Nania would unman them all, unweave them. That was her price, that was her prize, her sustenance, her drug. So you would only enter Nania;s tend when it was a matter of death, revenge or love.
Nania could foretell. She knew the future of each and everyone she came across. She would carry that sadistic smile, that glee, possessing the knowledge of future tragedies invisible to us. She even knew what would happen to the tribe but no one, not even the wisest of us would dare ask her about that. If she told them, they had a good chance of being the Next Nania. Nobody wanted that. Nobody wanted to live alone with a mind shattered from precognition, with a soul made of other people’s tributes to her.
Nania of course was not her real name. She didn’t have a real name. Real names were for real people and she had stopped being a human a very long time ago.
Nania was the sound that some infants would make when they first saw the light of day. That’s how you could tell them. Nania was the sound She would make when she would dive into the state of nothingness to deliver her oracles to the visible world.
I went alone. My parents would not go that far for my shake, they would not consult Nania. I was not a matter of death, or revenge or love. I was just an abomination that need fixing or undoing.
Yellow filthy hair covered her shrinked body. Inside that disgusting hairball, only eyes and mouth were visible. And they weren’t a pretty sight to see. Her eyes were a desert of white shattered by thousands of bluish veins. Her mouth was that of a man-fly, saliva drooling from her mouth, her tongue in and out, collecting the saliva like a beggars hand collects coins, shamelessly exhibiting the endless hunger inside of her. She was ready for her meal.
She stubbed me with her eyes. “Na-nia, na-ni, nai-na nai, na-nia” she murmured, shaking back and forth as if tied to a rocking chair, momentarily phasing out of this world.
She was back. And she brought a verdict with her.
She laughed and then roared with her ancient voice:
“MUTE, mute, you have the Sin in you. You have the worm inside of you. You want to know more than you should. Your sin and arrogance will unmake us all. Good thing God have pitied us. Good thing your venomous tongue can’t move. Cause when your tongue moves, the worm moves.. And when the worm moves, the world trembles.
Be gone miasma.”
She was laughing. She was still laughing when I left her tent. She was still laughing when her tend mysteriously caught fire. She was still laughing when she caught fire. She was still laughing and shrieking while she was being consumed by the flames.
It was the brightest night the camp had ever seen.
No one came to her aid. Alone she lived, alone she burned to the ground.
Life went on without Nania, as if nothing had ever happened, as if she had never happened. The only thing that actually changed was that they had no more doubts over what they would do with me or to me. I was the man who torched Nania, and though the original spark was not mine, my newly earned respect would grant me permission to live amongst my race. They couldn’t understand me before. They hated me and despised me for what I was. I was a weakling, a useless res, I was an unfit before the murder of Nania. But now, I was a Force majeure. They still couldn’t understand me but now they were cautious. Some of them, being the smart beggars that they were, pretended to befriend me but quickly got bored from being around a mute.
We were a lively people. We hated standing still or staying for too long in one place. Being mute was like being a human swamp. No one could afford to stay for more than a minute around me. I made them sick. And they would have to live with that. A swamp inside their camp.
My people were lively. Our language was alive. It was made of the sound of things, of animals, of rivers, of the wind blowing through the autumn leafs. There were a few people among us that were blessed with the gift of synaisthisia as well and I was not one of them. They could hear the sound of light. They could hear the vibrations inside a stone when they were touching it. My tribe honored these people cause they would be the rare ones to give names to the sun and the moon and to the stupid things that couldn’t move at all but they were wise enough to not do so. It was expected of them to not do so. But my people knew that even immovable things moved. Mountains moved, slowly, cumbersomely but as they eons passed they would be moved. We knew that because it was the mountains that told us so. We knew that the earth was moving long before the strangers started to imagine it. Our world was a world in motion and we would move on and on and on. The elders taught us that if we dared to refuse to move, if we stood still, we would turn to stone, we would become petrified. Those who refused to move did not belong with us. Those of us who urged the rest of us to stay we would stone to death. After all, it was their fate to eventually turn into stone. We were just saving them time. And afterwards we would move on.
Names giving was much more than a ritual for my tribe. It was a lifelong art and a science. Some people, the special ones, were given names at birth and their names were the sounds they would first make. Other people, the successful ones, people that we already knew were destined for excellence, had the privilege of claiming whatever name they wanted for themselves, foreign names were a kind of title for my race, successful beggars who could take a lot of the foreigners money, were entitled to take their names as well. Any name. Just pick one oh king of Beggars. Everything is yours for the taking.
The rest of my tribe, most of my tribe, was not allowed to chose a name. A name would be chosen for them by someone close to them. A man could give a woman a name made of the sounds she made during lovemaking, a woman could do the same for a man. We were all naming each other. It was just a matter of time before someone heard your name from you. Unless you were a mute or a deaf. Then you were never to be given a name. Because it made no sense. You either couldn’t hear or talk. One who couldn’t hear could never speak a name properly and didn’t deserve a name. One who couldn’t speak his own name would never fully grasp the meaning of his own name and didn’t deserve a name either. One way or another, we were soundless and soundless for my tribe meant lifeless. Like a stone. Even worse. A stone was doing exactly what was expected of it. You, the mute or the deaf wasn’t. That is why we, the mutes and the deaf ones were never stoned to death. Because that kind of death was meant for human beings who disobeyed motion. We were just things. Stupid, lifeless, dump, soulless useless things. When they referred to us they would use a long pause. That’s what we were. Strands of silence in an ever singing and ever moving people. That’s why they preferred to not address us at all.
Eventually, if our race passed by a swamp or a moving sand, deaf and mutes would get thrown into it, a swamp was the only fitting burial ground for a mute or a deaf. Fortunately my race usually avoided such places and it would not go on purpose out of its way just to give a proper burial to an object.
They named me only after Nania died. The called me Tsura. And it was a choke of course. A travesty. That name did not befit me. They called me that to appease the mad demon inside of me that they held responsible for destroying the all powerful Nania. The name they gave me was a lie. And my people hardly ever lied or joked, especially when it came to names giving. That’s how scared they had became of what they thought I was.
The most insulting thing that could happen to someone was to change his real name. Names were changing all the time of course, small sounds were added or deleted from our names but for your name to completely change meant that you no longer were who you were supposed to be. And that was the absolute insult. Not punishable by death, but it was a lifetime sentence of people looking down on you.
Our elders taught us that. Our tribe was flawless and thus cruel to those with flaws. If your name changed it meant that your soul, your very essence was permanently damaged. Either that or that you were Deified. And we didn’t believe in gods. In a world in motion everything could happen. But we, never, ever, heard of a God, or of the sound of a man becoming a god. If we couldn’t hear it, it wasn’t there.
We knew when it was time to leave a place. It was when the sounds of the forest remained unchanged too long, or were steadily changing towards something sick, or were rapidly changing. Then it was to time to move on.
We had a name for the foreigners as well. We called them barbars, it was the sound they made that didn’t make any sense. Bar-Bar. Their machines were barbars as well but we had a different name for them.
Eventually we would bewitch one of the foreigners and get him to leave his place and live with us. He or she would then hand some or all of his belongings to us or leave them all behind, according to what we wished for him to do. We were always eclectic beggars. The seduced stranger man or woman would then join us but he was not allowed to interact with us or have any children. He was just an oddity, a “living” lesson for our young ones. The stranger taught our kids what not to become and why we were morally superior to the “deaf” and “mute” bar-bars. Barbars were more stupid than stones. They knew nothing of the sound of things. The stranger, uprooted, unwelcomed, alienated would eventually die of grief and solitude. Yes, people who lose even the slightest will to live do die, no matter what.
“Waterrrr is gooood!!!” Rodrigo said challenging the obvious fact that the waters of the river he was just emerging from were intolerably cold. It was a cold Autumn afternoon, the light was scarce but enough to reflect on the small riverdrops joyously decorating Rodrigo’s naked perfection of a body. It was so cold that the riverdrops were tempted to crystallize, but refused to do so. Fluid was the only way for them to enjoy their presence on a body with a cat’s grace. When it came to holding Rodrigo, not even the most possessive touch would dare be persistent, in fear that such a mindblowing beauty may prove to be fatally fragile.
“Let’s get back to the caterpillar” Rodrigo sang to me. Our language was a song. It was not spoken, it was sang. Caterpillar was what we called the camp. Once we started moving again, our people would transform into butterflies. But even butterflies need a place to rest their wings from to time.
Rodrigo started running. I tried to follow him but I couldn’t keep up with him. Everybody wanted to follow Rodrigo, few could keep up with him. The spirit of our tribe was breathed into him, he was poetry in motion, he was the poetry of motion.
When I finally returned to the caterpillar Rodrigo had already taken his place by the fire. Any place was for him to take, even that of the elders. Rodrigo had all the rights of a royalty. All of us were kings and queens but Rodrigo was the most royal of us all. He was still naked and eyes flashed at his sight but dare not persist or demand. They just begged. And begging from others of our tribe was very rear in a tribe of proud beggars.
I had no place near the fire. They would allow me to sit outside the story circle, to receive some of the fire’s warmth leftovers that escaped somebody else’s body. I was used to being sustained with leftovers. With food it was the same. I was eating from somebody else’s leftovers. I was with the tribe but I was not of the tribe. After’s Nania’s death they brought to me more food than I had ever seen, but I knew it was composed of leftovers. They were still treating me like a barbar but didn’t wanted me to know, in case my wrath broke upon them the way they thought it did upon Nania.
“Come over here”. Rodrigo invited me to the circle. That was an outrage. The circle would be enlarged to include a near barbar? That was unheard of. People would cast an angry look at him for insulting our ways but upon looking at his perfect figure they would instantly forget of their anger and beg of him to look back at them. Yes, Rodrigo, was the king of kings.
The fire would diminish itself in my presence, as if I was I not a chain uniting the circle but the gap that broke it and through which, fire would dolefully escape to nowhereness.
Rodrigo sprung to his fit and approached the fire. The circle was once again rearranged, not to be broken. He approached the fire, put his hands on top of it to learn what was worrying her. After the fire confined to him her troubles, Rodrigo started dancing for her. He became a fiery creature, danced the way a fire would dance if it was a boy, he danced with the fire.
He would dance as if possessed by the fire and then all of a sudden he would stand still for a short eternity in stances gravity normally would not allow, he would linger like a pelican to unexpectedly return to his devine fiery frenzy. He was simply breathtaking. The fire would sent him small sparks to adorn him, to adore him. She would follow his every move like a snake would follow a snake charmers flute. The fire would grow. She was revitalized by Rodrigo’s dance.
Rodrigo had charmed her and she gave him part of her heart. She always would. Rodrigo was the closest thing to a fire a man could ever become.