Birth of nuclear medicine: Dec. 24, 1936
Dr. John Lawrence, long interested in how radiation can be used in medicine, introduces a new approach to fighting cancer when he uses a radioactive isotope of phosphorus to treat a 28-year-old woman with leukemia.
Lawrence was part of a research team with his older brother, Ernest, at the Donner Laboratory at the University of California, Berkeley. A few years earlier, the elder Lawrence brother had invented the cyclotron, a particle accelerator that creates radioactive isotopes. Together, the brothers were leaders in research in nuclear radiation, both in how it harms the human body, but also how it could be used to treat and diagnose diseases.
Radioactive isotopes, for instance, were found to be effective in diagnosing and treating certain bone marrow and blood disorders. Radiation therapy didn’t prove that effective in treating cancer, but it opened a new field of medicine, one that has become known as radiology.
John Lawrence was so confident in his research that he would often begin his lectures by serving an audience member a radiosodium “cocktail,” then use a Geiger counter to show the movement of the isotope through the person’s bloodstream.
Lawrence was a member of the American delegation to the 1955 Geneva conference on peaceful uses of atomic power, In 1983, the U.S. Department of Energy presented him with the Enrico Fermi Award for his “pioneering work and continuing leadership in nuclear medicine.” He is still considered the “Father of Nuclear Medicine.”
He died of a stroke in 1991.
More slices of history
Family criticism can lead to more weight gain
Women whose loved ones are critical of their weight may actually be prompted to put on more pounds, according to a new study.
Scientists at the University of Waterloo collected data on university-age women, including height, weight and how they felt about their weight. Five months into the study, the participants were asked whether they had talked to loved ones about their weight and what responses they had received. Three months later, the researchers again assessed the participants’ weight and feelings about their weight.
The researchers found that the women who received a higher number of acceptance messages from loved ones–messages saying that they looked fine–were more likely to maintain or lose weight. In comparison, the women who received fewer acceptance messages and whose loved ones were more critical of their weight ended up gaining about 4.5 pounds on average.
The study’s findings, published in the journal Personal Relationships, suggest that if a woman feels badly about her weight, she may be less likely to be more active and eat healthier foods. Researchers added that receiving acceptance from close friends and family may help women feel better about themselves and therefore help motivate them to achieve a healthy weight.
"Homing signal" in brain steers us in right direction
If you know people who never seem to get lost, it may be mainly because their brain is wired to give them a good sense of direction. Scientists at University College London say they’ve located a part of the brain that provides a kind of “homing signal” that continually updates as we move around.
The study, published in the journal Current Biology, found that the part of the brain that lets us know which way to face–called the entorhinal region–also signals in which direction we need to travel to get to our destination. People who are better navigators simply seem to have stronger homing signals. Scientists have long thought that this kind of signal exists, but that thinking had always been based on speculation.
For the study, 16 healthy volunteers were asked to navigate a computer simulation of a square environment with four walls. Each wall showed a different landscape and each corner displayed a different object, After becoming familiar with the environment, the volunteers were placed in a certain corner in the computer simulation, then asked to navigate to another corner. All the while, the researchers recorded their brain activity using MRI, to see which areas of the brain were most active as they tried to navigate the space.
The scientists said they were surprised by the “strength and consistency” of brain signals from the entorhinal region as people figured out how they needed to move. They said their next step is to test their findings in a more complicated environment.
The entorhinal region is one of the first areas of the brain affected by Alzheimer’s disease.
Teens driving old cars at higher risk of death
Not surprisingly, most teenage drivers in the U.S. drive older cars. But that could be placing them at higher risk of serious injury or death, according to a study published in the journal Injury Prevention.
Overall, the rates of fatal crashes are about three times higher for teenagers than they are for other adult drivers, usually related to the problems they have in maintaining control of their vehicles.
In the new study, the researchers analyzed data from the US Fatality Analysis Reporting System - which collects information on all vehicle collisions that result in a fatality within 30 days of the incident. The time period the study looked at was 2008 to 2012. Although one in three fatally injured teen drivers died in a mid-size or larger car, the researchers found that they were significantly more likely than middle-aged drivers to be fatally injured in a smaller car – 29 percent of the fatally injured teenagers died in a small car, compared with 20 percent of fatally injured middle-aged drivers.
The research also showed that vehicles that were at least six years old were involved in 82 percent of the teen driver fatalities. Also, 34 percent of the vehicles involved in teen fatalities were six to 10 years old, 31 percent were 11 to 15 years old and 17 percent were 16 or more years old.
The researchers calculated that fatally injured teens were almost twice as likely as middle-aged drivers to be driving a car that was 11 to 15 years old.