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The Pharmacist Answers Podcast

Have a question for the pharmacist? Get your answers here! Clear explanations about complicated medical topics that anyone can understand. Disclaimer: The information contained in this blog and related podcast are not to be taken as medical advice, they are for informational and educational purposes only. If you resemble anything that is mentioned in this blog or related podcast, contact your doctor. The information contained in this blog and related podcasts is the opinion of the author and does not relfect the views of her employer, Walgreens. If you want to know what Walgreens thinks, ask Walgreens!
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Now displaying: February, 2017
Feb 27, 2017

Your eyes are more complex than any camera on the planet!

Cornea - a concave lens on the front of your eye that focuses light
Iris - the colored part, a diaphragm that controls how much light comes in (the pupil is the hole the light enters = equivalent to the aperture of a camera)
Lens - the "focuser", uses a process called accommodation to focus near to far and make the image as sharp and clear as possible
Retina - the sensor, and sends signals to the brain to translate light into an images

The retina has 2 types of sensors:
- Rods - detect light intensity
- Cones - color differentiation

Two special areas of the retina:
- Macula - right in the middle of the retina, they place that detects the most detail (that's why the center of your vision field is a clearer picture than the periphery)
- Fovea - the center of the macula, it contains cones (color sensors) only to aid in the translation of very fine details

Support structures
- Extra-ocular muscles - allows your eyes to move around in their holes
- there are chambers of fluid that are between each structure of the eye, and that fluid helps hold nutrients that feed those parts, and remove waste
- Choroid - the layer that holds all the blood vessels that feed the eyes
- Sclera - the whites of your eyes, an outer coating that hold everything inside
- Conjuntiva - the mucus membrane that attaches the sclera to the eyelids; produces liquid for lubrication and trapping invaders

PSA: Please don't vigorously rub or scratch your eyes, you could hurt them!   

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"Radio Martini" Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)  Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

Feb 20, 2017

Your brainstem is the most basic area of the brain.  The area of the brain that we have in common with almost all other levels of the animal kingdom.  It extends right into the spinal cord.  A lot of other whole body involuntary reflexes come from the spinal cord - that's another story for another day).

3 main parts:
- Medulla oblongata - rhythm center (heart rate, breathing, swallowing, vomiting and coughing reflex) - they're all involuntary
- Pons (not ponds) - the bridge between the cerebellum hemispheres and other brain regions, helps coordinate the right side and left side of your body for complex activities
- Midbrain - sensory reflexes (also involuntary) - blinking, eye focusing, pupil dilation in response to light, visual and auditory startling reflex that kick-starts the "fight or flight cascade".

Other eye focusing problems are not rooted in the midbrain, they are more likely rooted in the areas of the brain that control orbital muscles or in the areas that translate what your eyes are seeing.  Things like a "lazy eye" or drifting eye, or being cross-eyed.  There are therapies that doctors prescribe to try and strengthen the weak eye.

Blinking is usually a response to eye moisture.

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"Radio Martini" Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)  Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

Feb 13, 2017

The blood brain barrier is the last layer of cells between what's in your blood and the extracellular fluid around your brain cells.

You're born with it!  It's main job is filtration...

2 ways things get through the blood brain barrier:
- Passive diffusion: small, neutral molecules (water, gases, lipid-soluble)
- Active transport: glucose, amino acids, drugs (like a revolving door)

Permeability: how easily something can pass through a layer without work

Things that change permeability:
- Inflammation - stretches layer and makes holes bigger (meningitis, injury)
- Multiple sclerosis - an auto-immune disease that can degrade the BBB
- Alzheimer's - BBB becomes overwhelmed with antibodies and burns out

*Scary Section*
Rabies - the virus is small and can get through the blood brain barrier but the immune system cells, antibodies from the vaccine, and medicines can't
HIV encephalopathy - a mutation of HIV can get into the brain and use brain cells to replicate (rather than the well-known T-cells of the immune system).  There is also a rare symptom of HIV called HIV-associated dementia

Pregnancy causes the permeability of many areas of the body to change, and this includes the BBB (callback: microchimerisms)

Drugs that have central nervous system effects (good) or side effects (bad) cross the BBB.

So test yourself - use what you know of different medications and what job they're supposed to do and what negative side effects they cause and see if you can guess if they cross the BBB.

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"Radio Martini" Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)  Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

Feb 6, 2017

*Sorry again for crying baby*

The news reported that scientists had discovered a link between male DNA found in the brain of the women who gave birth to sons.

Microchimerism = DNA fragment of another organism that incorporates into you

This particular microchimerism involves the Y chromosome (because otherwise, you wouldn't know it was specifically male).

Other documented microchimerism studies have reason to believe they may be beneficial - especially in a process called immuno-surveillance (when the immune system is patrolling around looking for things that don't belong there).

The blood brain barrier is the last layer of cells between what's in your blood and your brain cells.  DNA fragments are small and can easily pass through the BBB, especially during pregnancy when membrane permeability (the penetrable-ness) has increased all throughout the body already.

The primary resource written by the scientists that did the study of the female brains states that their findings were pretty much inconclusive - partly due to the small sample size of brains they had available.  And they couldn't study living people.  They were mostly trying to decide if this male microchimerism had a positive or negative effect on alzheimer's risk.  The final conclusion - we dunno.  Another obstacle was that the complete health history of the samples they used was not known.

Other sources have stated hypotheses regarding the number of children a woman has and the risk of early onset alzheimer's.

This issue with reporting on studies like these is that Alzheimer's has so many factors that may increase or decrease risk and science is pretty sure there's NOT just one thing that will cause or prevent someone from developing this disease.

The only thing they could conclude is that microchimerisms are evolutionarily significant.

Here's the primary journal article.

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"Radio Martini" Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)  Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

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