Last Shangri-La

Collection of nerd-gasms.

I geek out over: books and libraries, Harry Potter, race and gender issues, microbiology, engineering, biotechnology, and photography.
Recent Tweets @
Posts I Like
Who I Follow


What is Multiple Sclerosis?

Multiple sclerosis (MS), also known as disseminated sclerosis or encephalomyelitis disseminata, is an inflammatory disease in which the insulating covers of nerve cells (myelin) in the brain and spinal cord are damaged. Damage to myelin causes interference in the communication between your brain, spinal cord and other areas of your body. This condition may result in deterioration of the nerves themselves, a process that’s not reversible. MS takes several forms, with new symptoms either occurring in isolated attacks (relapsing forms) or building up over time (progressive forms). Between attacks, symptoms may go away completely; however, permanent neurological problems often occur, especially as the disease advances.


Symptoms of multiple sclerosis vary, depending on the location of affected nerve fibers. Multiple sclerosis symptoms may include:

  • Numbness or weakness in one or more limbs
  • Partial or complete loss of central vision, usually in one eye, often with pain during eye movement (optic neuritis)
  • Double vision or blurring of vision
  • Tingling or pain in parts of your body
  • Electric-shock sensations that occur with certain head movements
  • Tremor, lack of coordination or unsteady gait
  • Slurred speech
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness

Heat sensitivity is common in people with multiple sclerosis. Small increases in body temperature can trigger or worsen multiple sclerosis symptoms.

Most people with multiple sclerosis, particularly in the beginning stages of the disease, experience relapses of symptoms, which are followed by periods of complete or partial remission of symptoms.

Some people have a benign form of multiple sclerosis. In this form of the disease, the condition remains stable and often doesn’t progress to serious forms of MS after the initial attack.

The Four Courses of Multiple Sclerosis

People with MS can typically experience one of four disease courses, each of which might be mild, moderate, or severe.

  • Relapsing-Remitting MS
    People with this type of MS experience clearly defined attacks of worsening neurologic function. These attacks—which are called relapses, flare-ups, or exacerbations —are followed by partial or complete recovery periods (remissions), during which no disease progression occurs. Approximately 85% of people are initially diagnosed with relapsing-remitting MS.
  • Primary-Progressive MS
    This disease course is characterized by slowly worsening neurologic function from the beginning—with no distinct relapses or remissions. The rate of progression may vary over time, with occasional plateaus and temporary minor improvements. Approximately 10% of people are diagnosed with primary-progressive MS.
  • Secondary-Progressive MS 
    Following an initial period of relapsing-remitting MS, many people develop a secondary-progressive disease course in which the disease worsens more steadily, with or without occasional flare-ups, minor recoveries (remissions), or plateaus. Before the disease-modifying medications became available, approximately 50% of people with relapsing-remitting MS developed this form of the disease within 10 years. Long-term data are not yet available to determine if treatment significantly delays this transition.
  • Progressive-Relapsing MS
    In this relatively rare course of MS (5%), people experience steadily worsening disease from the beginning, but with clear attacks of worsening neurologic function along the way. They may or may not experience some recovery following these relapses, but the disease continues to progress without remissions.

Since no two people have exactly the same experience of MS, the disease course may look very different from one person to another. And, it may not always be clear to the physician—at least right away—which course a person is experiencing.

What causes MS?

The major scientific theories about the causes of MS include the following:


It is now generally accepted that MS involves an immune-mediated process—an abnormal response of the body’s immune system that is directed against the myelin (the fatty sheath that surrounds and insulates the nerve fibers) in the central nervous system (CNS—the brain, spinal cord and optic nerves).


MS is known tooccur more frequently in areas that are farther from the equator. Epidemiologists—scientists who study disease patterns—are looking at many factors, including variations in geography, demographics (age, gender, and ethnic background), genetics, infectious causes, and migration patterns, in an effort to understand why.


MS is not considered a hereditary disease; however, a number of genetic variations have been shown to increase the risk. The probability is higher in relatives of an affected person, with a greater risk among those who are more closely related. In identical twins both are affected about 30% of the time, while around 5% for non-identical twins and 2.5% of siblings are affected with a lower percentage of half-siblings. If both parents are affected the risk in their children is 10 times that of the general population.


Although there is no known cure for multiple sclerosis, several therapies have proven helpful. The primary aims of therapy are returning function after an attack, preventing new attacks, and preventing disability.

Promoting Function through Rehabilitation

Rehabilitation programs focus on function—they are designed to help you improve or maintain your ability to perform effectively and safely at home and at work. Rehabilitation professionals focus on overall fitness and energy management, while addressing problems with accessibility and mobility, speech and swallowing, and memory and other cognitive functions.

The Role of Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM)

CAM includes everything from exercise and diet to food supplements, stress management strategies, and lifestyle changes. These therapies come from various disciplines and traditions—yoga, hypnosis, relaxation techniques, traditional herbal healing, Chinese medicine, macrobiotics, naturopathy, and many others. They are referred to as complementary when they are used in conjunction with conventional medical treatments and alternative when they are used instead of conventional treatments.

Medications for Modifying the Disease Course

The following agents can reduce disease activity and disease progression for many individuals with relapsing forms of MS, including those with secondary progressive disease who continue to have relapses: Aubagio (teriflunomide) Avonex (interferon beta-1a) Betaseron (interferon beta-1b) Copaxone (glatiramer acetate) Extavia (interferon beta-1b) Gilenya (fingolimod) Novantrone (mitoxantrone) Rebif (interferon beta-1a) Tecfidera (dimethyl fumarate) Tysabri (natalizumab)

Sources: 1 2 3 4

(via scientificthought)


Quorum Sensing Genes Discovered in a Bacteriophage

Some groundbreaking new research from my Leicester colleagues that’s too good to resist blogging…

View Post

As a reminder, here is a little background on quorum sensing

(via alscientist)


Big Pic: A Fruit Fly Born In Outer Space

Something seems a little off here…

(via scientificthought)


HIV-1 particles assembling at the surface of an infected macrophage.

Now We Know How HIV Causes AIDS

New findings by researchers at the Gladstone Institute of Virology at the University of California at San Francisco (UCSF) have upended how we understand the pathogenesis of the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS).

Within weeks of initial infection with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), up to 90 percent of the CD4+ T cells residing in the lining of the gut die, and rarely recover fully even after effective HIV therapy. In parallel, blood CD4+ T cell numbers dip precipitously after initial HIV infection and only rebound partially before beginning a steady and inexorable decline. This death of CD4+ T cells over the ensuing years leads to progressive immune deficiency, and thus AIDS.

Read more

(via scientificthought)

Perhaps the more tragic recognition of reality took place when it became clear to me that the war [in Vietnam] was doing far more than devastating the hope of the poor at home. It was sending their sons, and their brothers, and their husbands to fight and die in extraordinarily high proportion relative to the rest of the population. We were taking the black young men who had been crippled by society and sending them eight thousand miles away to guarantee liberties in Southeast Asia which they had not found in Southwest Georgia and East Harlem. So we have been repeatedly faced with a cruel irony of watching Negro and white boys on TV screens as they kill and die together for a nation that has been unable to seat them together in the same school room. So we watch them in brutal solidarity, burning the huts of a poor village. But we realize that they would hardly live on the same block in Chicago or Atlanta. Now, I could not be silent in the face of such cruel manipulation of the poor.
Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. “Why I am Opposed to the War in Vietnam.” Sermon. (1967)

THIS IS ESSENTIAL READING. (via unquotedmlk)

(via offbeatorbit)


Google glucose-monitoring contact lens project unveiled

Google has revealed the project of a contact lens that measures glucose levels in tears, giving 382 million diabetics all over the globe the smallest glucose sensor – and an alternative to pricking their fingers and drawing blood up to 10 times daily.

The device, which will take at least five years to reach consumers, is one of the few ways to make glucose monitoring for diabetic patients more convenient and less invasive, AP reported. 

To carry out the procedure, the device uses a small glucose sensor and a wireless transmitter to keep an eye on the blood sugar levels and adjust the dose of insulin required. 

“We’re testing prototypes that can generate a reading once per second,” Google indicated in the company’s official blog. 

“We’re also investigating the potential for this to serve as an early warning for the wearer, so we’re exploring integrating tiny LED lights that could light up to indicate that glucose levels have crossed above or below certain thresholds,” the corporation added. 

It was also stressed that it’s “still early days” for the technology, but some studies have already been carried out. 

The research began at the University of Washington, where scientists worked under National Science Foundation funding, and has been kept secret until this Thursday. 

The contact lens was later developed in the Google X lab – along with a driverless car, Google’s web-surfing eyeglasses and Project Loon, a network of large balloons aiming to take the internet to unwired locations. 

"You can take it to a certain level in an academic setting, but at Google we were given the latitude to invest in this project," one of the lead researchers, Brian Otis, told AP. "The beautiful thing is we’re leveraging all of the innovation in the semiconductor industry that was aimed at making cellphones smaller and more powerful." 

The device looks similar to a typical contact lens – however, it actually also contains two twinkling glitter-specks loaded with tens of thousands of miniaturized transistors, plus hair-thin antennae. 

"It doesn’t look like much, but it was a crazy amount of work to get everything so very small," Otis said at Google’s Silicon Valley headquarters, adding that the device currently represents the smallest glucose sensor ever made. 

In fact, the contact lens isn’t the only device created in attempt to facilitate the lives of millions of diabetics. A similar contact lens by Netherlands-based NovioSense is a work in progress. Also, Israel-based OrSense has already tested a thumb cuff. Finally, early designs for special tattoos and saliva sensors have been presented. 

One gadget, a wristwatch monitor, was approved by the FDA in 2001, but patients complained that low-level electric currents taking fluid from their hands was a painful process, and the device demonstrated some errors as well. 

"There are a lot of people who have big promises," Dr. Christopher Wilson, CEO of NovioSense, told AP."It’s just a question of who gets to market with something that really works first." 

Currently, 382 million people have diabetes, and by 2035 that number will rise to 592 million, according to International Diabetes Federation. Eighty percent of people with diabetes live in low- and middle-income countries, and most of them are between 40 and 59 years old. 

Among the countries that see the biggest quantity of diabetes cases in the population are China, India, the US, Brazil, and Russia.

from RT

(via timeturner)


Full report from the CDC here


Today, The Toast published an illustrated-essay/comic I wrote in November called “What Would Yellow Ranger Do?”. You can read it here. It’s about a few things, but two of them are the frustrations of being an immigrant(and the constant reminders of not fitting in) and exoticism. There’s quite a few drawings of the Yellow Ranger too, who I think is really cool.

I think it’s my first fully autobiographical piece, and it’s kind of harsh, and a bit mean, and pretty dismissive at times. I actually winced a bit while reading it over yesterday, because I don’t think I’m portraying myself in a particularly pleasant light. If just five years ago, if I’d met the rude, brash, unapologetically feminist person I am today, I’d be appalled.

In the six weeks between when I wrote this and today, the #NotYourAsianSidekick hashtag exploded all over Twitter(organized by the remarkable @suey_park). It’s about a lot of things, but the thing that struck at me the most was about carving out space for an radical brand of Asian American feminism that’s rooted in solidarity with other people of colour and rejecting the presumptions of white feminism when they do not work for PoC.

I’ve spent a lot of time buying into the myth that the only way for the marginalized groups to be heard is by politeness. Subservience, even. Logic. Intelligence. Scholarship. Proof. Evidence. Charts and graphs and studies and sources.

Postcolonial study has always been an undercurrent in a lot of the work I do, even if its mostly implied(it’s hard to make work that references museums a lot, without acknowledging how the concept of a museum actually started). But even when talking about race and feminism more overtly, I’ve always been academic about it, practically Spock-ish in my approach.

And I’m not sure it really works anymore, because I’m just not that kind of person. I’m not a great public speaker; I freeze up when I’m angry. I have lots of feelings and emotions when things are important to me, and my hands shake when I try to argue for them. But, it’s not my job to handhold people through the intricacies of postcolonial and feminist theory. I’m perhaps - a little bit tired of referencing Gloria Andalzua and bell hooks and Edward Said when what I really want to say is FUCK YOU. FUCK YOU FOR NOT LISTENING TO ME.

Which is to say, I think I’ve been spending an undue amount of time telling people why they should listen to me, why I’m worth listening to, why I’m smart and intelligent and make good points - rather than just standing up and speaking.

And I’ve been thinking a lot about how to make work that is more aggressively “me.” And it occurred to me, after decades of believing that there were just certain ways for women(of colour, especially) to behave or they just wouldn’t be heard, that the best way to make work that is aggressively me is to be aggressively me. And, I’m not very nice sometimes. I’m loud and frequently impolite, and sometimes I’m an antisocial hermit, and sometimes I’m gregarious and entertaining, and sometimes I’m an asshole. I am vast, I contain multitudes.

But, I don’t have to be logical to be heard. I have a voice, and I have the internet, and that is enough. I won’t always be right, but I deserve to speak, just as loudly as anyone else(besides, apologizing is something I’m pretty good at). I don’t have to be afraid that I am not speaking for all women, because I’m speaking for at least one woman of colour, and that’s enough. I will talk, scream, write and paint and sculpt and write and write and write because I am valid. My feelings are valid. My emotions are valid. My anger is valid. My sadness is valid. My happiness is valid. My disappointments are valid. My internal conflicts are valid. My mood swings are valid. My bad days are valid, as are my good days, and all the days in between because they are mine, mine, mine.

(via lazybookreviews)



Evolution Hidden in Plain Sight

It’s hard to believe that Escherichia coli could have any secrets left.

For over a century, scientists have picked the microbe apart–sequencing its genes, cracking its genetic code, running experiments on its metabolism, earning Nobel Prizes off of it, and turning it into, arguably, the most-studied organism in history.

Continue Reading

Carl Zimmer on one of the findings of the long-term experimental evolution project.  The experiment, led by Richard Lenski, has been ongoing for more than 25 years and 58,000 bacterial generations.  Here Zimmer recounts the evolution of the citrate-eating strain.  A great story of great science.

(via alscientist)

It’s hard for me to even remember the last time I was in a library.

[I]t’s impossible to see a world where we keep libraries open simply to pretend they still serve a purpose for which they no longer serve.

The End Of The Library | TechCrunch

Well, white dude with I’m guessing considerable stock in Google, is the library just there for your needs or purposes?

Maybe you enjoyed your exercise in wordplay and making points already made. But what was your point again? Books make libraries so without books libraries aren’t libraries? Books look different so libraries can’t be libraries? Libraries look different so libraries can’t be libraries? You don’t need libraries for books so we don’t need libraries? I’m sorry, what?

Oh but wait, we’re pretending? Pretending what? Pretending there’s an access divide? Pretending there’s a digital divide? Pretending information illiteracy? Pretending folks lack job skills? Pretending college students need help with citation (BAHA HAHAHAHAHHA)? Did I get a Masters in Pretending? I MEAN I DO HAVE A GREAT IMAGINATION SO I PROBS GOT STRAIGHT A’S. OR P’S FOR PRETENDING. I’m sorry, what?

(via yellowdecorations)

Also read this from BeerBrarian - The End of “The End of Libraries”

On Sunday, October 14th, yet another “End of Libraries” piece appeared. Per usual, it was written by a white male with no use for libraries, because every single time this trope appears, that’s part of the author’s demographic background. Beyond that, it’s a crucial part of the author’s background. It is overwhelmingly affluent white men who argue that because they do not use something, it has no value for anyone. Libraries. The Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program. Affordable health care. It’s the same argument.

(via thedanaash)

"The internet has replaced the importance of libraries as a repository for knowledge." Ah, yes, because you can trust everything you read on the internet.

Republicans play this game all the time. “I don’t need it, therefore it’s not important and we should get rid of it.” I can vividly remember the last time I was in a library. It was three weeks ago. I needed to do research and the material I needed was not online. Not every book is completely indexed in Google Books. And yes, an ebook is cheaper and faster than buying a physical copy of a book - but it’s harder to skim through an ebook quickly, and the physical copy at the library costs you nothing (up front; tax dollars etc etc).

Like I said, I was at the library three weeks ago. It was around 4 pm on a Tuesday. And you know what? It was CROWDED. There was a packed sign-up sheet for the computers. Kids and parents abounded in the children’s section. Older people and teenagers read at the tables in the main area. I had to wait in line to check out my book.

Before that, I had spent a lot of quality time on my library’s website. I like to read both physical books and ebooks. My library does Kindle loans. OK, their website is a crappy government website, and it can be a little difficult to navigate, but it’s doable. I read books I probably couldn’t or wouldn’t pay full price for, AKA a big part of the purpose of a library.

Libraries are not useless in the digital age, and even more importantly, they aren’t all empty. Just because YOU, PERSONALLY do not need or use something doesn’t make it a charming  but impractical relic of a long-forgotten age.

(via thebicker)

I work in a library. Here are some of the reasons people come to the library: 

  • They want directions. They want to collect food/garden/dog waste bags, all handed out free at libraries.
  • They want to print/photocopy/scan.
  • They want to access the internet, either on our computers or on their own, via the free wi-fi.
  • Often this is because they have to apply for benefits, housing or jobs through the official system which is only available online. If they haven’t internet at home, the library offers free internet access. Where else does that? Sometimes they aren’t computer literate, so they appreciate an environment where they can ask for help.
  • Maybe they’ll attend one of our free IT classes, ranging from the absolute basics to subjects such as Facebook, Office software, job hunting and how to use the Council’s Homesearch website. If they want something specific, such as how to use their own laptop or how to shop online, we can set up a one-to-one appointment, also for free.
  • Our study spaces are very popular. Often they are all taken by ten past nine, after we open at nine. The number of people who have asked me how much it costs and looked surprised when I explained that using the library space is free and doesn’t require you to be a member surprises me.
  • They want to read the newspapers or magazines the library buys (recently expanded with the launch of an emagazine service—I get to read SFX for free now, which is cool).
  • They’re researching their family tree and want to take advantage of the library’s subscription to Ancestry.
  • They want to consult the planning documents for a local development or the register of local voters.
  • They want to participate in a council  consultation.
  • They may have come to seek advice from an agency that operates a drop-in session at the library, such as the Citizens’ Advice Bureau or the police.
  • They may be attending an event, either run by the library (an author talk, a book group, baby Rhymetime) or by an outside company who have rented the meeting rooms (theatre productions, ESOL classes, yoga). The library itself has regular events for babies, children, teenagers, adults, adults with mental health difficulties, adults learning English…
  • We have regular class visits from the local schools. We read them a story and they all choose a book. Sometimes we go to them. It was actually really lovely to see how many children came into the library, talking excitedly about the Summer Reading Challenge we came and told them in Assembly.
  • Children still look for books when they’re doing their homework, you know. Children who weren’t born at the time of the Millennium and have grown up with the internet.
  • People actually still read books. Over thirty thousand items were issued in my library last month, and while we certainly have DVDs, Blu-Rays, CDs, Talking Books, Language  Courses, all those added together can’t be more than a couple of thousand.
  • Free books. I’m sorry, I am never over how wondrous that is. Thousands of books, free to borrow and read. (And for those incapable of making the journey to the library, we have a Housebound service.)
  • For all these reasons, we are really busy. Dozens of people join every day. Hundreds of people walk through the doors every day. Of course, there are people who don’t make use of libraries, who don’t need them. But really, someone who can’t remember the last time they went to the library can have no idea of the role they play.
  • Libraries are not irrelevant. Libraries are not cultural artefacts. Libraries are living and changing, a resource and a social space, free at the point of access, engaging the community, offering a wide range of services, accessible to all. And what other institution can you say that about? Libraries are important. 

(via laurel-sea)

libraries matter. 

(via retrogrammartown)

(via broadlybrazen)