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Thread: Money for Nothing

  1. #1

    Money for Nothing

    This may shock you but I spend time occasionally debating allocation of research money by the US govt. Last night, I made the social gaffe of expressing my views that pain deserved more money. NIH reports it spent 229 million on "pain related research" last year. However, a review of the grants reveals virtually all the money went to clinical studies and almost none to basic research. The clinical research was nearly all having another look at the elephant by three Hindu wise men to see whether the trunk is the main thing or whether the big ears tell the story. (Basically they study peripheral nerve injury such as diabetic neuropathy, and the centralization which can follow such things as irritable bowel syndrome--this is a long way from curing anything).

    Eclipsing my view was the view that AIDS deserves to receive 70% of the medical research money spent by the US because innocent children in Africa contract it in large numbers. (The millions of children who die from malaria are of course all unrepentant sinners, as are the twelve million cases of leishmaniasis). The other view was that since a scientist in Italy has now found that the universe MIGHT be one percent eliptcal rather than a perfect sphere NASA ought to get right on that with lots of satellites and rockets. (I always suspected that "perfect sphere" thing was a little too convenient--thank goodness NASA does not intend to let that thing lie).

    Here is the problem. We have limited resources and must make choices in allocating scarce research funds. Using theology or politically popular criteria is a shakey busienss in allocating research money. Everyone, guilty or innocent, benefits from better understanding of the mechnisms of life. No one wants to see suffering anywhere. But in the end, as we work on diseases, it would be nice to keep pain out of the picture as much as possible. As one who was awake inadvertently during a spine surgery (lots of curare and succinylcholine, not enough halothane), I am aware that there is no solid proof they are able to put newborns asleep during heart surgeries safely. The ugly truth is that since there is no really safe way to anesthetize them those two week old infants are awake.

    I don't even want animals to suffer. You may recall that the whale which sunk the Essex, which was the inspiration for Melville's Moby Dick, was found to have three harpoon heads and a long harpoon shaft embedded in its head. Pain takes people and things apart.

    How about we just make suffering the main target, get pain in its place, and then continue trying to help underlying diseases. The debate never ends on who deserves help the most. Who has most claim on our money. A universe which MAY be one percent elliptical, or someone in pain.

    I kind of worry more about Alan and TimC than I do about the mathematical shape of the universe. It is also wasting precious money to dump it into clinical "studies" where we already know that what we have right now doesn't work, no matter how many studies reattempt to "help". Why reevaluate every new anticonvulsant against every pain related disease. Why not do some basic research on how to block ion channels which carry the pain signal.

    This may sound odd, but encouraging bright young minds to learn cell biochemistry is the answer for AIDS, pain, and all of it, more than mish mash political gestures. We need trained minds, and we don't have them. You can get a grant to study the incidence of a disease, but you can't get a grant to cure it. Grants to cure require PhD's in biochemistry and they are rarer than IPods in North Korea, rarer than pictures of Chavez in the Bush family photo album. My child in school can tell you it was Virgil who explained Limbo to Dante in the Divine Comedy, but she cannot tell you what a ribosome is. (Incidentally, Limbo was just abolished by the Pope, so that knowledge is particularly irrelevant).

    The contest between applied and theoretical science has always been vigorous. Clinical M.D.'s have got to back away from the grants and allow that money to go to the PhD's who are answering the basic questions. Once that is done, then the clinicians can do their thing.

    Politics is kind of like Hollywood. A lot of people buy magazines to see what someone wore to one of the 167 annual awards events. This simply doesn't matter. Most of politics simply doesn't matter but reporters make a living pretending it is the only thing. Try not reading the newspaper for a year, such as being in a cast where you cannot raise your arms enough to hold a newspaper, and it will amaze you how it is all still there when you come back to them.

    If America has medical cures, the world will come to us, gratefully. If we tell them the universe is one percent ellipitical, they will tell us so is our head. Augustine said "physical pain is the greatest evil". Let's go after that one first, and then the world will suddenly discover we are not such bad guys after all. That is my politics.
    Last edited by dejerine; 10-11-2006 at 10:40 PM.

  2. #2
    Senior Member roshni's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2005
    Old Bridge, New Jersey, USA

    Dr. Albert Schweitzer said "Pain is a more terrible lord of mankind than even death itself."

    It would be good to see more money channeled into this type of research, particularly how the immune system contributes to pain responses.

  3. #3
    Senior Member mike's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2001
    Florence, Kentucky
    I imagine a lot of money is funded into pain research, but the problem is that little of it involves central pain. I think the closest thing researched that might help those with CP might be diabetic neuropathy because there is a big market for drugs that can help that condition. I don't know what the statistics are but I imagine that the percent of the population affected by CP would be very small. So why spend a lot of money researching it. Certainly the drug companies are not interested as their concern is the bottom line. If today a cure was found for CP, I think that the drug companies would charge a fortune per dose as they would contend that they would not generate enough volume to make much of a profit.

  4. #4
    Don't Touch That Spot
    That Itchy Twitchy Spot
    The Spot that Swells Up and Turns Red--

    the Eagles, sung to the tune of Achey Breaky Heart

    Man, am I glad we have NASA to spend money on research.

    A little red spot on Jupiter's surface, caused by a storm which pulls up sulphur from the life unfriendly surface, except for giant sulfur vent worms we ought to be looking for, has NASA working hard. This is not to be confused with the BIG RED SPOT, which is of the same origin. You can never be too careful though, so NASA is gearing up to study the little red spot because Jupiter is about to go behind the sun. NASA's planetary scientist, Amy Simon Miller made the cryptic comment, "We found that Jupiter tends to do interesting things behind the sun and we can't see it," You cannot trust Jupiter, everyone knows that--it is one sneaky planet. We are onto it now, though. Homeland Security is lining up the Escalades for an airline trip to Tahiti, which is the best place to view Jupiter; actually, the best place to view anything. (Clips from the jaunt will be available in Jackass 3.)

    This is suspiciously like NASA's claim that the secrets to how the universe formed is in the Kuiper Belt Objects, even though we have never been there to check it out. Now, I just hope they don't forget to check out the spot that swells up and turns red, which almost certainly, positively, beyond any doubt, contains the secret of how the universe formed and also how life began in the universe. NIH is shutting down so all funds can be directed toward the little red spot.

    Personally, I think the giant worms are spreading, and probably building rocket ships to invade earth. They lay dormant for years, but when they intercepted the Eagles' song on their SETI radios, they realized they had been discovered and had to act now, before we invaded. Worms have very tender skin. Let's get the capsaicin cannons and the glutamate lasers ready. Die in pain, ugly worms, die!

    Uh, wait, I took too much Lyrica/Topomax/Cymbalta, disregard post.
    Last edited by dejerine; 10-11-2006 at 10:21 PM.

  5. #5
    maybe those little ugly worms will bring with them,since they most likely will have much higher knowledge than us little earthlings,a cure for the worst of the worst kinds of pain.THEN,maybe all that freakin money NASA is spending will be worth it??could happen.i'll keep a candle burnin in my window for them.marcia

  6. #6
    Advertisers target shows aimed at kids because they know youngsters pester their parents to buy stuff. Consequently, we note the following from the Associated Press without surprise, regarding the high grade scientific pursuits at NASA:

    "NASA's educational arm distributed solar system trading cards designed for kindergarten- through third-grade students.

    Educational materials won't change overnight, but NASA will re-evaluate its decision once appeals to keep Pluto in the planet club die down, NASA spokesman Robert Mirelson said."

    That NASA Pluto trading card could become pretty valuable, right up there with NASA's secret foam adhesive recipe and autographed pictures of Jessica Simpson touring the Johnson Space Center in Houston. Also valuable are pictures of Heidemarie Stefanyshyn-Piper, the lady astronaut who passed out twice during her victory speech after the recent space trip. Nothing to worry about, the first time she had just been handed the bill for her space tourism jaunt and the second time was when she learned third graders were conducting a walkout over having to spell her name.

    No one with central pain will ever get to be an astronaut because they cannot tolerate the close skin contact of the space suit And NASA is afraid one of the lightning pains might ignite the spacecraft due to the oxygen rich environment. Also, the Americans with Disability Act does not specifically require handicapped parking spaces at the Canaveral Launch pad.

    A demographic of kindergarten through third grade seems about right for Buck Rogers and his friends over at NASA. NASA is the former scientific body which has abandoned all scientific missions in favor of human space travel. Recently Scientific American published an article stating that only a very few people would claim that the International Space Station made sense in terms of cost vs. scientific information. In layman's English, this means that growing crystals at a billion dollars a gram is not likely to retrieve the costs on ebay. The only other scientific experiment was to see if astronauts could hit a basketball goal in zero gravity. There may be others, but none so significant. Clearly, the money should have been spent to print some space trading cards for young grade school children.

    Since the guys doing stereotactic brain surgery have finally figured out how to map out pain in the thalamus maybe we could spend a little money there. Also, how about some brain trading cards for distribution at the NASA budget office. They could use some. When we say "no brainer" we mean something that is obvious, but it has a more literal meaning when spending billions on the space station, since shuttle flights are due to be cancelled in 2010 anyway.

    I just hope the Russian and the American coalition of the willing astronauts are up to it. They will have to hurry and produce that "valuable" scientific information quickly, maybe in the last millisecond or two after the solar panels are finally installed and activated and Pay per View kicks in. Of course, you can do a lot in a millisecond with a basketball. By the way, who is ahead now, us or the Russians?
    Last edited by dejerine; 10-22-2006 at 05:30 AM.

  7. #7
    Thanks to Michael Ziegler and the Journal of Psychosomatic Medicine, we have been made aware that even nausea and faintnig may be psychosomatic.

    The story put out to the public is that astronauts faint after flight because it makes you puke to go zero grav, so they stop eating and drinking and lose fluid, and also because the sympathetic nervous sytem "forgets" to compensate for gravity.

    Now the problem is that no one has ever really observed the sympathetic nervous system remembering, so it is hard to talk about forgetting. Nevertheless, we mustn't let Heidemarie off easily because as the article reveals, people can TRAIN their sympathetic nervous system to remember.

    What it all boils down to is that Heidemarie must have had some ulterior motive in fainting, aka SECONDARY GAIN, possibly even tertiary--(that guy who held onto her was pretty handsome, and had a great looking uniform. As for the encircling grip, After her first fainting episode,I sent an email and tried to warn her spouse NOT to be sympathetic, but he wouldn't listen. That was pretty much guaranteed she would faint again, and sure enough.

    Although disorders in the mind/body are suspected, it goes even deeper. The ugly truth is that Stephanyshyn-Piper most likely had some kind of secondary gain in NOT training her sympathetic nervous system. Yes, it's true! Dare we call it malingering? She is really lucky. She could have hit her head on the podium and had a goose-egg, but she collapsed straight down, obviously a ploy since the average self respecting fainter would have pitched forward. Having trained ourselves to deal with nausea, and realizing that nausea is traceable on PET scans to the limbic, frontal cortex, the EMOTIONAL center, the psychological causes are obvious. She WANTED to faint.

    A person of average fortitude, ie those of us who did NOT faint, would not have felt faint at all. She had a really bad attitude. Yes, according to the recent article in the Journal of Psychosomatic Medicine on space travel and fainting, "The concept that people can learn different cardiovascular and sympathetic nerve responses has important implications for psychosomatic medicine."

    So obviously, the question is WHY Stephynyshyn-Piper failed to train her sympathetic nervous system to obey? It would have been sympathetic to her attempts, the name itself "sympathetic nervous system" makes that pathetically obvious (sympathetic=sympathy+pathetic).

    It's funny. I don't seem to be able to retrain my sympathetic nervous system to stop the blotchiness on my extremities. It is really annoying to my doctor because he is used to seeing this in CRPS, but here I am with central pain and my sympathetic nervous system isn't working correctly. I just hope he doesnt' read the article by Ziegler or he might conclude that everything is psychosomatic. In the meantime, I am going through my 12 step exercises to stop allowing my sympathetic nervous system to go off and do whatever it wants. Since the sympathetics are not part of the conscious nervous system, this is pretty difficult. I can't tell if my sympathetics are listening. The phenoxybenzamine is just not clearing my livedo, so I clearly have a bad attitude, just like some astronauts apparently.

    Just in case you think the shuttle money should have gone for pain research, take a look at the absolutely overwhelming NASA pictures of the mission at

    This should remove once and for all the accusation that NASA ranks second to medical research. One look at the... whatever it is in the pictures, will silence that idea once and for all. As always, when viewing anything from NASA take care to avoid any golf balls heading toward you.
    Last edited by dejerine; 10-30-2006 at 04:15 AM.

  8. #8

    I must say, I doubted whether the three billion mission to Saturn and Titan woudl reveal how life began in the universe, but was I wrong. Now NASA scientists have discovered that if you expose methane gas to UV light, you get haze. They also speculate that in early earth life, a similar haze existed, feeding organisms. What a shock! Wait a minute, that means the organisms were already there to eat the haze. So Titan let us down.

    It was necessary to put in a lot of carbon dioxide with the methane to make the haze. NASA had speculated that there was lots of carbon dioxide on Titan, left there by comets. Unfortunately, the mission has revealed that there isn't any CO2 on Titan. This does make the experiment a little less applicable. However, as anyone who saw Lando Calrissian's methane gas mine in Episode V of Star Wars knows (the radical new theory on methane was actually concocted while one of NASA's scientists was watching this very movie), space is just packed with methane. Call me stupid, but I kind of wonder what all these organic molecules are doing, running around in space, so they can land on Titan, and cause of all things, organic molecules on Titan. If NASA hurries, the U.S. can get the concession rights on Titan's methane, although of course cow flatus might be a little cheaper and this would prevent the harm it does to earth's ozone layer)

    The haze may have cooled early earth or it may have warmed it. Scientists disagree, but they do agree that the haze is how life began in the universe, due to its temperature effects, WHATEVER they were. The scientists attempting to confirm their radical new theory that methane (which is produced by living organisms) and carbon dioxide (of which there is none on Titan) might have caused a haze was complicated by the fact that their telescopes were obscured by the haze in earth's atmosphere caused by sunlight hitting methane and carbon dioxide in our atmosphere. These guys are so smart to go out there to Titan and settle the whole thing!!!! It was all worth it Now we know how life began in the universe, just like NASA promised.

    Now that that is settled, we can get down to business and spend the money at NIH like any sane bunch of people would do. Hopefully, now that smog has answered everything (even if it threatens life now), we can worry more about pain research.
    Last edited by dejerine; 11-08-2006 at 08:14 AM.

  9. #9
    OMG! You were awake during your spine surgery? That's frightening.

  10. #10
    Le Type Francais

    Yep. Sure was. Explains why I cringe now when I go inside a hospital. Having gone through the experience, I cannot buy the mind/body thing. Pain is not invented. The central pain is worse, worse, worse. They wake up people during spinal fusions on purpose to see if they can still feel their toes, but then they give them valium or something to make them forget. In me, the anesthesiologist got confused and left me awake while they were cutting. I can remember things quite well, including the Beach Boys songs that were playing during the whole thing. I owe Brian wilson big time.His songs got me through a pain experience that was not good. Again, Central Pain is worse, because it NEVER ends. The realization that you are coming awake with your spine facing the open air in front of you is shocking and terrifying. However, it only happened once. The coming awake in the morning, or middle of the night, to realize I still have the awful burning, with all of its ramifications in pain is of course worse because you can face something bad once, but to face it every day, all the time, more or less takes you apart. The motor impairments are no picnic either. You really lose everything, but it is that moment when you wake up and realize you are still this person in pain and it is just as bad as when you woke up yesterday is mentally too much to face.

    There is this period of giving up every morning which takes varying amounts of time to get past before you can try to accomplish something worthwhile on a particular day. Most days, you kid yourself. You don't really do anything at all, you just recover fromt the blow on awaking, and distract yourself a little, but the pain is really winning, you just get better at pretending it isn't as the day progresses, until you collapse under pain exhaustion and then the cyle starts over. Can the public really feel okay about people with SCI having to live like this. Maybe the press could worry a little less if Kevin Federline's handbag label will allow him to continue his lavish lifestyle he had with Britney and worry a little more about some ghastly event transpiring in the lives of so many. The press is sensational but it has its sensibilities and something as ugly as this is bad manners to report on.

    If anyone with severe CP feels differently and has a heroic story to tell, let them tell it. I am still trying to find the words to express the agony, so if someone wants to celebrate and recount how great they are doing, they are free to express what the public wants to hear, that with a little mental effort, everything comes out just fine. I have a bad attitude. When I read of some idiot claiming pain is all mental, that succeeds in arousing me--it is a much greater insult than some resident accidentally letting me get too light during anesthesia.`I loved my surgeon though, I owe him so much.

    The odd thing was that I was able to stand the pain, it felt like being cut and poked with sharp points. What was bad was I kept thinking what was next. The surgeon's readjustment of those pointed "spreaders" that hold your neck open was especially gruesome. They rest hard under your chin and force up on your jaw--the pressure is unpleasant. There was a lot of meat being moved back by those things and I was afraid he would damage something. I felt impossibly vulnerable. Since what they were doing was that bad, and I was taking it, I thought something would come up next that was much worse. Fear of this dreaded anticipation raised my blood pressure enough that the anesthesiologist realized I was awake, cussed, and then gave me a bunch of halothane. Sometimes it pays to be scared out of your wits.

    Experiences like this prepare you for the reallly scary stuff, like central pain.
    Last edited by dejerine; 11-09-2006 at 01:44 PM.

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