Multiple Sclerosis is an incurable disease of the central nervous system (CNS) and is more prevalent in women than in men. If effects more than 100,000 people here in the UK and people who are in their 20s and 30s are the most likely to develop symptoms. In MS, the myelin around nerve fibres is mistaken as foreign and so the body attacks the myelin layer around these fibres stripping it sometimes completely off the nerves. This clearly disrupts nerve impulses by slowing them down as the myelin provides electrical insulation for the electrical impulses carried by nerves. Some don’t get through at all! This can cause someone problems with their eyesight, balance and thus simple activities such as walking.
However, this week it was reported that there is a treatment available for patients that could ‘halt’ their MS. Some doctors have said that the treatment could stop the disease for up to five years. Not all patients are eligible though; it is a high risk treatment and so not all people are suitable; some people may be at too high a risk. 281 people underwent the treatment and of those, almost 50% benefited from it, but unfortunately eight patients died shortly afterwards.
The treatment is known as autologous haematopoietic stem cell transplantation (AHSCT). It involves ‘resetting’ the patient’s immune system to stop it attacking its own myelin. The high risk element of the process is this ‘resetting’ as it requires toxic drugs to remove the cells in the patient’s bone marrow, which is dangerous. After the stage of the treatment, the patient must undergo a stem cell transplant in order to provide them with a new immune system that does not continue to attack the myelin around nerve fibres.
The trial on 281 people has allowed doctors to predict what type of people would be best suited for this treatment in the future. The results suggest that younger patients with relapsing MS, and who aren’t responding to other available treatments will be the best suited for the riskier treatment, should they decide that it is the best option for them. Although this treatment is not currently available on the NHS, it soon could be if more and more people show positive results from further trials.
I think I mentioned before that every week, on a Friday morning, I go and volunteer in a day care centre for elderly people with dementia, for about two hours. It is probably the highlight of my week, to get out of school and speak to new people for a change.
The main reason I like it so much is the difference I can make to a person’s day just by being there. As well as for me, it gives them a chance to see and speak to new people, they love me being there to chat with them. We talk about all sorts of things and it’s interesting to hear some of the stories they have to share about growing up, working and living sixty years prior to our generation. We play games, do quizzes, read the newspaper among other things and I love the fact that what usually could be someone who’d just sit in a chair all day, will actually interact with you; they will join in with games and activities that they wouldn’t otherwise do.
It also gives their carers a bit of a break, to grab a drink and get some paperwork done while I spend time with the women there. They like having me there because it means that they can do something a bit different and that the elderly women have something a bit different to do likewise.
However, there are always challenges with anything like this any of you decide to do. It is wonderful, but sometimes it can be hard to get some people to join in with activities you are doing so thats when you have to put across your enthusiasm and help them to accomplish what seems to us as simple tasks. By the time it comes round to be their go again, they will have forgotten what to do, which means you require patience and a maintained level of enthusiasm. This kind of thing would be pointless if it presented no challenges at all, and dealing with these has helped educate me into how to deal with similar things I may encounter in the future.
To me, the greatest satisfaction I can get is to brighten up someone’s day, even just a little. Volunteering at a day care centre or residential home, I have found to be extremely rewarding because you can change people’s days, just being present. Anyone interested in healthcare or wanting to choose a career heavily people-based, you should try and get some experience like this because you will make a lot of people’s days better, as well as your own. 🙂
At the start of the academic year, I decided that I wanted to work on my own science project. It took me probably six weeks to think of what I wanted to do, and as a result, I haven’t actually done a great deal of practical work. There is a huge range of projects that some of my friends are doing, including experimenting with bath bombs, hydrogen peroxide and even horse blood. My project is probably less appealing to many than those, but I decided to focus my project on probiotic drinks.
Many probiotic drink companies make big claims about their products that are sometimes questionable. I’ve always wondered whether that, the bacteria that are in the drinks, can actually survive after passing through the stomach acid, and then grow and multiply when they reach the intestines. I would carry out a number of experiments, to test these claims, as well as a few others.
The first practical element of my project was an experiment to find out whether there was as many bacteria in the bottle as the website claimed there were. I had to dilute the drink six times adding one part to nine of distilled water. This was so that I would be able to count the amount of bacterial colonies I had cultured on the agar plates. If I hadn’t diluted first, I would be faced with millions of colonies on one plate of agar.
Nothing is conclusive as of yet, but the results I have got already suggest that the actual number of bacteria in the bottle is significantly more than the number the website claim.
In the next few weeks, I hope to look at the effects of stomach acid on the bacteria and if they will still grow after coming into contact with strong acid. I will be posting more about this project when I produce some conclusive results in different sections of my experimental work.