Dr Elizabeth Blackwell


Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell (1821 – 1910) was the first woman to receive a medical degree from an American medical school, as well as being the first woman on the British medical register.


Elizabeth Blackwell was born on February 3, 1821 in Bristol, England and moved to the United States in 1832 where she pursued a teaching career. However, even after receiving widespread opposition, she went to medical school and graduated first in her class. Her inspiration behind entering the field of medicine was from one of her close friends who was dying who told her that she wouldn’t have had to go through such terrible suffering if she were treated by a female physician.


Apart from being the first recorded female doctor, Elizabeth received many accomplishments during her lifetime. These include the fact that she set up a medical school for women in the 1860s who were rejected from places elsewhere but were determined to become physicians and even started her own private practice when she returned to England. In 1852, she published a book called ‘The Laws of Life with Special Reference to the Physical Education of Girls” which focused on the physical and mental development of girls in preparation for motherhood.


Since 1949, the Elizabeth Blackwell Medal is given to a woman physician from the American Medical Women’s Association. Hobart and William Smith Colleges also give the Elizabeth Blackwell Award to women for outstanding service to humankind. In the US today, women make up around 47% of medical students – an achievement that may not have been possible had it not have been for Dr. Blackwell’s determination to defeat gender inequality in medicine.

Finally, I would like to end on a quote by Dr Elizabeth Blackwell: she said that

“If society will not admit of woman’s free development, then society must be remodeled”


which just shows how much of an inspiration she really is. Maybe one day, one of you reading this blog will follow in her footsteps and accomplish exceptional targets that at one stage, seemed impossible.

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All about HIV

What is HIV?

HIV (or human immunodeficiency virus) is a lentivirus that destroys a type of white blood cell in the immune system called a T-helper cell, and replicates itself inside these cells. As this happens, the infected persons immune system gradually breaks down, result in them finding it harder and harder to fight off infection and diseases. HIV can be found in semen, blood, vaginal and anal fluids, and breast milk, and cannot be transmitted through sweat, saliva or urine.


Early effects of HIV

Signs and symptoms of HIV usually begin to appear in 2-6 weeks and last for 1-2 weeks in the form of flu-like symptoms due to the body and immune system producing antibodies in an attempt to fight off the infection. This is known as seroconversion and tends to consist of symptoms like:

  • fever
  • skin rash
  • sore throat
  • swollen glands
  • joint/ muscle pain

After the seroconversion period is over, a person may not experience any symptoms of HIV for a few years.


How HIV affects the immune system

As mentioned earlier, HIV infects cells by merging with the host T cells, entering the host cell and multiplying. If someone does not receive treatment for HIV, they could severely damage their immune system and result in it not being able to defend itself at all thus causing even the most minor infection to become life-threatening. They are also more likely to pass the virus onto others and even develop AIDS.


Confections associated with HIV

People who have HIV are more likely to develop coinfections – diseases that can both have an effect on HIV and be affected by HIV. Some of the most common coinfections to HIV include:

  • tuberculosis
  • hepatitis
  • pneumonia

Side effects of HIV

The most common side effects experienced by people with HIV include:

  • headache
  • tiredness
  • diarrhea
  • nausea
  • rash
  • high blood sugar levels
  • high cholesterol

Other possible side effects of HIV include:

  • anaemia
  • hepatitis
  • poor kidney function
  • glucose intolerance
  • inflamed pancreas

Treatment of HIV

HIV can be treated via antiretroviral treatment. This has proven to be a very effective form of medication and has significantly improved the life expectancy of many people with HIV. People who are receiving treatment usually take a combination of three different drugs at the same time – this is because the HIV can adapt quickly to combination therapy and become resistant to a single type of antiretroviral therapy.

However, a person taking these drugs may experience metabolic effects or conditions such as:

  • fat redistribution
  • insulin resistance
  • osteoporosis

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People With Depression Twice As Likely To Die After A Heart Attack



Coronary heart disease is the main cause of death in the UK, and depression has also been classed as a major health concern affecting more than 300 million people worldwide. However now, researchers have found out that the psychological disorder depression does infact increase mortality risk in relation to heart disease.

The study that took place was centred around people who were diagnosed with a heart attack formed from coronary heart disease. The health records of nearly 25,000 patients registered were followed for about ten years to see the effect of depression on their previous diagnosis. Overall, 15 percent of these patients were also diagnosed with depression after their heart disease diagnosis. In addition to this, depression proved to be the strongest risk fact for follow-up complications and was twice as likely to cause death than people without depression. Finally, of the 3,646 people who were diagnosed with depression, 50 percent died during the study, whereas only 38 percent of those who did not receive a depression diagnosis died over the course of the study.

Although the link between depression and heart disease is not a recent discovery, the researchers hope that their current findings prompt doctors and specialists to prioritise diagnosing depression. This could be done by using questionnaires or by taking symptoms (even if they may not mean anything) more seriously. The main researcher of the study, Dr. Heidi May, Ph.D., a cardiovascular epidemiologist at the Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute in Salt Lake City, UT, expressed the importance of testing for depressions in patients, especially with coronary heart disease…

“It can be devastating to be diagnosed with coronary artery disease,” says the lead author of the study. “Clinicians need to pay attention to the things their patients are expressing, in terms of both physical symptoms as well as emotional and nonverbal factors.This study shows that it does not matter if depression emerges in the short-term or a few years down the road – it is a risk factor that continually needs to be assessed. I think the take-home message is that patients with coronary disease need to be continuously screened for depression, and if found to be depressed, they need to receive adequate treatment and continued follow-up.”


Hopefully, this finding will make people understand the importance of treating depression and how it could potentially heavily decrease the level of cardiovascular risk. Of course there are other factors that also increase the risk of heart disease like obesity due to lack of exercise, however further research will aim to reduce the affect of other factors by finding ways to control them.

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog, if you have any questions or comments feel free to leave them down below!







Unhealthy Diet Could Raise Breast Cancer Risk In Early Adulthood

In previous studies, it had been discovered that a diet low in vegetables and high in carbohydrates snd red/processed meats was likely to cause chronic inflammation (long term inflammation) which in turn could lead to some kinds of cancer. However, it has now been found that this inflammation could actually increase a woman’s risk of breast cancer prior to menopause.


Some background to breast cancer

Breast cancer starts when cells in the breast begin to grow out of control.This can result in a tumor growing, and should this tumor be malignant (cancerous), it can spread to surrounding tissues. In females in the UK, breast cancer is the most common cancer, but thankfully about 65% of women diagnosed with breast cancer in England and Wales survive their disease for twenty years or more. 

For the study, researchers analyzed data from 45,204 women including information about their diet (mostly during their teenage, early adulthood years). Using a technique that associates food intake with markers of inflammation in the blood, theresearchers allocated an inflammatory score to each woman’s diet. The women were then divided into five groups based on their inflammatory score. This found that:

Women with the highest inflammatory diet score during early adulthood were found to have a 41 percent increased risk of premenopausal breast cancer, compared with those who had the lowest inflammatory diet score.

However, this study cannot be used as absolute proof as there are a number of limitations to it. For example, the people who had to state there adolescent diet may have recollected inaccurately, and the researchers did not have access to the women’s measurements of inflammatory blood markers during adolescence or early adulthood. Though, the study still manages to highlight the important of a healthful diet, especially in younger teenage/ early adulthood years of life.

Here is a quote from Karin B. Michels, Ph.D, one of the researchers who worked on this finding:

“Our study suggests that a habitual adolescent/early adulthood diet that promotes chronic inflammation may be another factor that impacts an individual woman’s risk. During adolescence and early adulthood, when the mammary gland is rapidly developing and is therefore particularly susceptible to lifestyle factors, it is important to consume a diet rich in vegetables, fruit, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and legumes and to avoid soda consumption and a high intake of sugar, refined carbohydrates, and red and processed meats.”

Hopefully, this finding will strengthen the understanding that the choices you make when you are younger can heavily affect your future.

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog, I hope you enjoyed reading it. Feel free to leave a comment down below if you have any questions!







Scientists Now Recommend Eating 10 Portions Of Fruit And Vegetables A Day

Lead author Dr. Dagfinn Aune, of the School of Public Health at Imperial College London in the United Kingdom, and colleagues recently released a set of findings saying that eating 800 grams of fruits and vegetables daily – or around 10 portions of 80 grams – was associated with the lowest risk of disease and premature death. This includes eating foods like apples, pears and green leafy vegetables as these were found to be among the most beneficial for health.

One ‘portion’ was defined as  being 80 grams worth of food, the equivalent to a small banana, or three heaped tablespoons of cooked vegetables (peas, cauliflower etc…)

To reach this finding, the researchers analyzed the data of 95 studies that looked at the health benefits of fruit and vegetable intake, and experimented on almost 2 million participants and around 43,000 cases of heart disease, 47,000 cases of stroke, 81,000 cases of cardiovascular disease (CVD), and 94,000 deaths. Through this, the team found that by eating 10 portions of fruit and vegetables daily, people can lower the risk of disease and death by 33 percent. In addition to this, eating 200g of fruit and vegetables daily was associated with an 18 percent reduced risk of stroke, a 16 percent reduced risk of heart disease, a 13 percent lower risk of CVD, a 4 percent reduced risk of cancer and a 15 percent reduced of premature death. Of course, the more fruit and vegetables you eat, the greater the health benefits are going to be. For example, the researchers calculated that if everyone ate 10 portions of fruits and vegetables daily, then around 7.8 million premature deaths could be prevented across the globe annually.

Finally, when it comes to thinking which fruits and vegetables are the best to eat, the greatest reduction in cancer risk was associated with intake of green vegetables (such as green beans), yellow vegetables (such as peppers and carrots), and cruciferous vegetables. As well as this, eating raw and cooked vegetables reduces the risk of premature death. The reasoning for why this may be was well explained by Dr Aune…

“This may be due to the complex network of nutrients they hold,” notes Dr. Aune. “For instance, they contain many antioxidants, which may reduce DNA damage, and lead to a reduction in cancer risk.”

Overall, the researchers believe their findings highlight the importance of fruits and vegetables as part of a healthful diet.

 ”We need further research into the effects of specific types of fruits and vegetables and preparation methods of fruit and vegetables. We also need mo

re research on the relationship between fruit and vegetable intake with causes of death other than cancer and cardiovascular disease.

However, it is clear from this work that a high intake of fruit and vegetables hold tremendous health benefits, and we should try to increase their intake in our diet.”

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How the brain processes fear

New research works out how the brain is involved in processing fear, which could potentially lead to new treatment options for people with mental health disorders.

Fear can be both useful and dangerous: it can protect people from danger by stimulating a ‘fight or flight’ response, yet it could also cause serious psychological discomfort and even mental health problems. The National Institute of Mental Health has explained that when the response of fear lasts longer than what is normally expected in a situation, this can interfere with an individual’s well-being and daily functioning – this is known as an anxiety disorder.

Because our brains are quite similar to that of animals, scientists have studied on animal models to to try and find out what exactly causes fear to be processed by the brain. For example, after researching on animals it was found that a mass of gray matter in the brain called amygdala plays a key role in processing emotions, emotional behavior, and motivation, and that the elongated ridges on the floor of each lateral ventricle of the brain (the hippocampus) is heavily involved in dealing with memory and emotions. The amygdala and hippocampus work with the hypothalamus by directly exchange signals when an individual recognizes emotional stimuli to deal with everything to do with memory and emotions.

When researchers tested their findings on humans, they surgically inserted electrodes into the amygdala and hippocampus of nine participants, who were asked to watch scenes from horror movies. From this, it was found that the had a form of medication-resistant epilepsy and the seizure activity in the electrode placements were high, showing that there is ”direct evidence that the amygdala first extracts emotional relevance and then sends this information to the hippocampus to be processed as a memory.”

One of the researchers, Zheng, explains the findings in more detail:

“Neurons in the amygdala fired 120 milliseconds earlier than the hippocampus, It is truly remarkable that we can measure the brain dynamics with such precision. Further, the traffic pattern between the two brain regions are controlled by the emotion of the movie; a unidirectional flow of information from the amygdala to the hippocampus only occurred when people were watching fearful movie clips but not while watching peaceful scenes.”


Finally, I would like to end on a comment by neurologist Dr Jack Lin

“This is the first study in humans to delineate the mechanism by which our brain processes fear at the circuitry level. This has huge implications for treating neuropsychiatric disorders. For example, current drugs available to treat anxiety disorder bind to large areas of the brain, leading to unwanted side effects. Our hope is that we will one day be able to target and manipulate the precise amygdala-hippocampal circuit involved in processing negative emotions while preserving positive ones.”


Thank you for taking the time to read my blog, I found this article very interesting so I decided to share it with my readers! If you have any questions or comments please feel free to leave them down below.

Thanks, Rohini




People with more male-like brains are more likely to develop Autism

It has been suggested that having a brain with features more commonly found in male brains gives rise to a higher probability of having autism.

Autism is a term used to describe a variety of complex brain development disorders which can cause social, behavioural and communication problems. As it a very wide spectrum disorder, no two people with Autism will have the exact same symptoms, therefore some people may need more help with their Autism than others depending on the severity of their symptoms. As well as this, Autism is found in approximately one in every 100 children;  in the UK, around 100,000 children have Autism, therefore making it quite a common disorder.

Studies on the brain have been taking place for quite a while: previous studied have found that average male brain differs from the average female brain in certain structural features – for instance, the average male brain is larger in volume. These discoveries were used and referred to when researchers chose to carry out their own research.

For the investigation, focus was put on cortical thickness as this is one of the brain features that varies between males and females and is also found to be altered in people with Autism. When cortical thickness was assessed in 98 adults with Autism and 98 adults without ASD, it was interestingly found that having  a brain that was anatomically more male-like was linked to a higher probability of Autism than having a brain that was anatomically more female-like. For example, the female participants with more male-like brains were about three times more likely to have Autism. However, the researchers have emphasised that much more work needs to be done to confirm these findings such as investigating on children and other sub-groups, not just adults.

Finally, I would like to end on a quote by the researchers themselves

“Our study demonstrates that normative sex-related phenotypic diversity in brain structure affects the prevalence of ASD in addition to biological sex alone, with male neuroanatomical characteristics carrying a higher intrinsic risk for ASD than female characteristics.”


ASD = Autism Spectrum Disorder (commonly known as Autism)

Thank you for reading my blog, I hope you found it an interesting read! If you have any questions or general comments please fee free to leave them down below.

Thanks, Rohini




Premature birth risk linked to bacteria in vagina and cervix

In a new study led by the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, it has been discovered that the rise of premature birth is infact linked to microbes in the cervix and vagina. It is also suggested that due to this finding, therapies that reduce the the risk-raising bacteria could be a very effective way to prevent premature birth,

In particular, it was found that higher levels of bifidobacterium and lactobacillus were linked to lower risk of premature birth, while higher levels of several anaerobic bacteria were linked to a higher risk. The team working on the study checked their findings by collecting samples from 616 women during weeks 22-32 of their pregnancy. Also, the researchers examined the microbiota in vaginal swabs of 1,500 pregnant women sampled at three different times during pregnancy: during weeks 16-20, weeks 20-24, and weeks 24-28. This shows that the study is reliable due to the extensive amount of work put in, however, these findings are still limited due to the study taking place on a small scale.

The finding was awarded with the March Dimes Award for Best Abstract on Prematurity and was even published in The abstract is published in the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology.

Premature birth is birth that occurs before the 37 weeks of pregnancy, which unfortunately is one of the leading cause of death worldwide among children under 5 years of age. as it can cause problems such as jaundice, breathing problems and vision/hearing loss. However, it has recently been found that the number of preterm births is rising again. Michal Elovitz, a professor in obstetrics and gynecology at Perelman and lead author of the study, explains:

“For the first time in 8 years, the number of preterm babies in the United States actually increased in 2016, and unfortunately, there are underlying causes that doctors still don’t understand.”


It has already been discovered that changes in microbes that live on or in our bodies affect our health. For example, scientists have discovered that skin bacteria release an enzyme that protects against disease.

The team have said that they would like to do further research to confirm their findings and even start to investigate whether targeting ‘bad’ bacteria or increasing the numbers of ‘good’ bacteria would be more effective when preventing premature birth.

Finally, I would like to finish on another quote by Professor Michael Elovitz:

“Decoding the causes of prematurity has been a riddle that’s stumped researchers and clinicians for years, but our new study is finally shedding some light on a path toward offering treatment to women we can identify as being at-risk.”


Hopefully, this new finding will prove to be very effective in helping to prevent premature births as much as possible. This way, many lives could be saved.

Thank you for reading my blog, I hope you found it interesting! If you have any comments or questions please leave them sown below!






All about cancer

What is it?


Normally, the human body forms new cells as you need them, replacing old cells that die, but sometimes this process can go wrong. New cells grow even when they aren’t needed, and old cells stay present even when they should have died. These extra cells can form a mass called a tumor which can be either benign or malignant. Benign tumors are not cancerous:  they can often be removed from the body and the cells from the benign tumor don’t spread to other parts of the body. However, malignant tumors are cancerous and are made up of cells that grow out of control. Cells in these tumours can invade nearby tissues and spread to other parts of the body.

Types of cancerImage result for types of cancer

Cancer is not just one disease but many diseases. There are more than 100 different types of cancer including breast cancer, skin cancer, lung cancer, colon cancer, prostate cancer, and lymphoma. Most cancers are named for where they start. For example, lung cancer starts in the lung, and breast cancer starts in the breast. The spread of cancer from one part of the body to another is called metastasis.

 Symptoms and Treatment

Symptoms and treatment depend on the cancer type and how advanced it is. Treatment plans may include surgery, radiation and/or chemotherapy, hormone therapy, immunotherapy and stem cell transplantation. 

Symptoms of cancer include:

  • lump in breast
  • coughing (more than three weeks)
  • chest pain
  • breathlessness
  • changes in bowl habits (blood in still, persistent bloating, diarrhoea or constipation for no obvious reason etc.)
  • blood in urine, between periods, when you cough or vomit
  • irregular shaped moles (more than one colour, bigger than 7mm diameter etc.)
  • unexplained weight loss


  • 356,860 new cases of cancer in 2014, UK
  • 163,444 deaths from cancer in 2014, UK – this is more than 450 deaths everyday
  • 50% of patients survive cancer for 10 or more years (2010-11, England and Wales)
  • Out of all cancer cases in the UK, 42% are preventable
  • Every four minutes, someone in the UK dies from cancer
  • Cancer survival is higher in women than men
  • 1 in 2 people in the UK born after 1960 will be diagnosed with some form of cancer during their lifetime
  • Smoking is the largest preventable cause of cancer each year in the UK

Treatment Research

  • September 8, 2009 - Proton Therapy for Cancer is discovered
  • March 22, 2011 – Some male survivors of childhood cancer who were thought to be      sterile are able to conceive children due to new surgical procedures
  • April 19, 2011 - Scientists explore ways to use chemicals produced by animals, plants and microbes to find a new drug to treat cancer
  • January 19, 2012 – clinical trial shows that using chemotherapy alongside radiation therapy provides a near doubling of survival time in patients with a certain type of brain tumor
  • March 15, 2012 - genetically engineered T cells are being studied for the treatment of a variety of cancers
  • June 24, 2013 - Drugs that block the MEK protein have shown promise in several cancers.
  • December 9, 2013 – modified T cells are effective in treating blood-borne cancers
  • December 7, 2015 – some cancer treatments damage the hart, so scientists and researchers are working to find ways to prevent and manage this
  • June 17, 2016 – early-stage cancer trials support the use of immunotherapy and precision as effective treatment for cancer
  • November 22, 2016 – scientists design a machine to measure the mass of a single cancer cell and predict how that cell will respond to drug treatment


It is a known fact that cancer is one of the leading causes of disease and deaths world wide, and whats worse, the number of cancer cases are expected to rise by approximately 70% over the next 20 years. Although cancer has not been overcome yet, I am sure that with the ever-growing discoveries and new techniques to combat it we will find a cure to cancer very soon. Only recently it has been proposed that it is possible to produce new drugs and therapies that will transform the treatment of metastatic cancers (when the cancerous cells escape the primary tumour and migrate through the blood to form secondary tumours in other parts of the body). This discovery could prove to be revolutionary as most deaths to cancer are due to metastasis and being able to stop them from migrating will not only reduce the problemof secondary tumours forming but also save many lives.

Thank you for reading my blog, I hope you have found the information provided interesting and that your understanding of cancer is hopefully a bit clearer. If you have any questions or any comments about cancer please write them down below!












Brain problems in babies may begin weeks before birth

Scientists have found in a new study that changes in the brain can put preterm (born before the 37 weeks of pregnancy) babies at risk of may brain disorders such as autism and ADHD. 

According to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a baby’s brain develops the fastest during the end of the pregnancy, This means that the brain of babies born preterm have not had the time to fully develop making them more susceptible to developmental disorders. Study co-author Dustin Scheinost – of the Department of Radiology and Biomedical Imaging at Yale School of Medicine in New Haven, CT – and colleagues note that previous research has identified numerous alterations in the brain in preterm babies at, or just after, birth. This discovery has provided very important insight into the brain implications of preterm birth, however the exact brain changes that occur prior to preterm birth still remain unclear.

“Studies of functional neural connectivity prior to preterm birth are needed to isolate processes that begin in the womb, if functional connectivity is altered in the preterm brain in utero, the untoward influences of extrauterine factors cannot be the source of those differences.”

The study that discovered this consisted of of 36 women, half of whom were at high risk of early delivery. Between 22 and 36 weeks of pregnancy, resting-state functional MRI was used to analyze the brain activity of each woman’s foetus and it was found that of the 32 human foetuses, 14 were delivered preterm and the rest were born full term with no complications.

Compared with babies that were born full term, the researchers found that those born preterm had shown weaker neural activity in utero. This weaker activity was localized to regions of the brain’s left hemisphere that are later involved in language processing.

In Utero – before birth 

It was already known that preterm infants were more likely to have brain changes in language regions, but the fact that the foetal differences in the babies in utero were detected in the same language regions is particularly surprising. This is because it proves that the changes in language regions were infact caused in the womb.

The team working on the study concluded that:

“[...] we provide the first evidence that neural pathways are likely to be altered prior to preterm delivery. This discovery suggests that factors influencing early delivery may also impact development of the human brain, which has implications for life-long health.

Future work will address sources such as infection and inflammation that may play a causal role in altering these parallel pathways, bringing us closer to understanding both the primary neurological injury and the optimal timing for early intervention.”

The researchers have said that in the future, they would like to continue to follow up the children in the study and monitor the long-term health outcomes.

I hope you enjoyed reading this blog, if you have any opinions or questions please feel free to leave them down below!

Thanks, Rohini

Source used – Medical News Today