Saturday, August 26, 2017

Gila Monster Venom Provides Hope to Individuals with Type 2 Diabetes

The first official sighting of the shy Gila monster occurred in Arizona's Gila River basin. It prefers
hot, dry climates including the Mojave Desert, the Sonoran Desert, and the Chihuahuan Desert. This particular lizard spends approximately 95% of its time tucked into an underground cave and is nocturnal so spotting one while hiking in the desert is quite unusual.

The Gila monster is the largest native U.S. lizard. Its heavy body features short legs, a thick body, and a short, incredibly fat tail. Healthy Gila monsters grow until they’re approximately 20 inches from nose to tail and weigh in at about 4 pounds. Brilliantly colored, bead-like scales, called osteoderms, and that have a color range that includes pink, yellow, bright black, and orange patterns cover the lizard’s entire body.

Unlike many lizards that zip along at a pretty good clip (the spiny-tailed ignuana can reach 21mph,) the Gila monster is slow. Incredibly slow. While walking, their top speed is an estimated 1mph. Rather than chasing down their pray, which includes birds, mice and other small animals. They’re also very fond of eggs and will frequently climb a cactus and raid a bird’s nest.

Between their colorful appearance and slow movements, it’s difficult to avoid the temptation of picking up a Gila monster if you’re lucky enough to spot one in the wild. This is a bad idea. Gila monsters have the distinction of being one of just two lizards that produce venom. To the best of anyone’s knowledge, no human has ever died because of a Gila monster’s bite, but you will experience excruciating pain while you wait for the poison to dissipate.

Gila Monster Venom

Its slow speed makes it impossible for the Gila monster to chase after prey. Its survival depends on it’s ability to quickly immobilize whatever prey walks past the lizard’s hiding place. It does this by biting down hard on the bird or mouse. The jaws lock on and hold tight for several long minutes, during which, venom travels through long grooves in the lower teeth and into the prey’s blood stream. Sometimes the Gila monster will even chew on its prey, presumably to shorten the time it takes for the venom to impact the mouse or bird. Once the animal dies, the Gila monster swallows it whole.

The entire system for bringing down prey and the resemblance the venom and delivery process bears to venomous snakes has prompted researchers to hypothesis that both the Gila Monster and the Mexican Beaded Lizard share a close evolutionary link with snakes.

How Gila Monster Venom Helps Diabetics

It’s my understanding that research into Gila monster venom originally started because a handful of researchers were curious as to why humans experienced such intense pain after the lizard bit them. When the researchers analyzed the venom, they discovered it contained exenatide-4 which is very similar to a human peptide, glucagon-like peptide-1 analog (GLP-1.)

In a person who hasn’t been diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes, GLP-1 aids in the production of insulin whenever the individuals blood pressure starts climbing. This is important since the insulin is responsible for taking stored sugar from the fat cells and using it for energy. In addition to helping those with Type 2 diabetes properly use their fat stores, the exenatide-4 found in the Gila monster venom decreases the length of time it takes to digest meals, which means the individual doesn’t feel hungry as often, which helps them maintain a healthier weight. While it’s possible to inject GLP-1 into the system and therefore help regulate the blood sugar level. The problem with they system is that GLP-1 doesn’t last long once it enters the system. In order for the person to get the help needed, they’d need another injection approximately once every hour. Exenatide-4 doesn’t break down as quickly, which means significantly fewer shots, lowering the risk of infection while improving overall quality of life.

At this point it’s not advised that anyone who hasn’t been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes should use exenatide-4 for weight loss. However, there are some who feel that as the scientific community learns more about Gila monster venom and exenatide-4, they will learn how to use exenatide-4 to help people overcome eating addictions, enabling them to lose weight. Some wonder if it might not prove to be a key to aiding those with alcohol, tobacco, and other drug addictions.

Researchers believe that the Gila monster relies on the exenatide-4 found in their system to help them regulate their metabolism, allowing them to go a very long time between meals.

Research and clinical trials revealed that in addition to helping those with type 2 diabetes better regulate their appetite, the exenatide-4 also sustain a healthier blood sugar level.

Exenatide-4 is marketed as Byetta.

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Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Understanding the Startle Reaction: A Handy Guide for Writers

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Humans are born with a natural startle reaction that’s connected to the sympathetic nervous system. The working theory of most experts is that the startle reaction is nature’s way of making sure everything has a fighting chance of saving themselves should they find themselves caught in an unexpected attack. The startle reaction has been observed in both vertebrates and invertebrates.

Behaviorist call this instinctive reaction to being scared the startle response, most of us are more familiar with the term of fight or flight reaction. In most cases, the instinct to flee is too instinctive to ignore. The good news is that in most cases, the desire to run disappears as our conscious mind identifies whatever it is that spooked us and we’re able to logically deal with the situation.

The Science Behind the Startle Reaction

Interest in the Alexander Technique, a method used to help control a musical performer’s body tension and movement and how they impact the quality of their performance, led Frank Pierce Jones to devise a 1951 experiment that enabled him to “see” precisely how the body reacts when a person is startled.

During the course of his experiment, Jones observed that the first thing that occurred when a person gets startled is that the amygdala and hypothalamus trigger the a bodily response before the rest of the brain even fully recognizes the threat. Once the response is triggered, the spooked person’s neck muscles contract, forcing the head to move as five different muscles around the eyes tighten. The impulses telling the body to move, race downwards, flattening the chest while simultaneously contracting abominable muscles, nature’s way of preparing your body to survive a blow. While all this is happening, your arms jerk into a defensive position while your knees flex and prepare to race from the location. It takes less than a split second for this to occur.

Researchers have observed that the startle response kicks in approximately 20 milliseconds after the initial exposure to stimulus. It can end after approximately 500 milliseconds.

Researchers measure how people respond to the startle response by both attaching sensors to the muscles surrounding the test subject’s eyes, monitoring the electrical conductance of a in their skin, and videotaping the response to observe the physical reactions at a slowed down, frame-by-frame manner.

Controlling the Startle Response

Strictly speaking, it’s not possible to override the startle response. What is possible is learning how to become increasingly aware of your surroundings and adapting a semi-alert attitude at all times. These skills and life adjustments are what allow soldiers and police officers to remain cool, calm, and collected while they’re in the middle of an intense situations, though they’ll still get startled and jump when exposed to unexpected stimuli once they’re in a safe environment and are relaxed.
While it’s not possible to completely override the startle reaction, it is possible to train the body to adapt a specific stance or reaction following exposure to unexpected stimulus. Martial arts, military organizations, and law enforcement agencies use muscle memory to trigger a specific, fighting stance, that allows the person to respond in a manner that’s more fight than flight.

When the Startle Response Goes Into Overdrive

A startle response is a good thing, but in some people, it can go into overdrive, causing them to become over stimulated to a wide assortment of things, triggering extreme stress, anxiety, and tension. More importantly, the medical community believes that an overactive startle response indicates a person is struggling to cope with broader neurological conditions, which can include but aren’t limited to:

  • ·         Huntington’s Disease
  • ·         Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
  • ·         Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • ·         Hyperekplexia
  • ·         Schizophrenia

 It’s believed that by learning more about over-reactive startle responses will enable doctors to better determine how advanced a patient’s cognitive issues extend, leading to the ability to customize a treatment program that’s better adapted for each patient. Some feel that by monitoring the startle reaction, it becomes easier to determine exactly how well the patients respond to medications and psychological therapy.

Source Articles:

Saturday, September 10, 2016

WeWriWa Snippet for 9/11/16-Like Buffy

Hi all!
If you stopped by a couple weeks ago when I last posted, I can’t thank you enough for the helpful comments you made. Each one was great and gave me a great deal to think about, which I’ve always felt was the whole point of the WeWriWa blog hop. I’m always blown away by all the support and great advice the writing community has to offer. Thanks so much!

I’m still posting from my contemporary romantic thriller WIP, Shattered Glass. The protagonist is a
comic book writer and pop culture junkie who has managed to land herself in the middle of Wyoming, where she’s currently stranded without any type of cell phone signal.

This week’s snippet is short, thanks to some 2 word sentences and a bit heavy with pop culture references. It picks up right wherethe last snippet I posted left off.

“No Winchesters. No problem.” Harlow shoved the phone into her back pocket. “I’m a strong, independent woman. I’m smart. I’ve taken two self-defense classes. I don’t need to be saved by any guy, no matter how handsome and accomplished they are. I can take care of myself. Like Buffy.”
The words sounded good, almost believable, yet they failed to calm her twitchy nerves.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

WeWriWa Snippet for 8/28/16 Shades of Supernatural


I'm back for another week of WeWriWa fun! If you haven't heard of WeWriWa, it's a fun little blog hop where authors of all experience levels and genre's come together to share 8-10 sentence long snippets of their work. Over the years, I've found that it's a great way to tighten my writing. I've also met some truly fabulous writers who've been a fantastic source of support and advice.

Life stuff has prevented me from doing much fictional writing during the past year. I missed it. Particularly since I've had this idea for a contemporary novel, Shattered Glass,  percolating for a  few years.

I posted the opening lines a few weeks ago, during which it was revealed that my MC's cell phone had no signal. Since I live in a semi-rural area, spotty cell phone reception is a part of life, so I couldn't help poking a little fun at how pop culture's rather cliched method of using this as ominous foreshadowing.

As always, any and all advice is welcome. Thanks!

Harlow tapped at the screen with her fingernails, which didn’t magically create a signal. “If I was in the first act of a Supernatural episode right now, this would be a very, very bad thing.” Instant regret winged through Harlow as her mind’s eye conjured a contingency of black eyed demons, or worse, standing behind her. She rushed to paint a silver lining on her naturally dark imagination. “Of course, if this was the show, Dean and Sam would be here right now.”
Her gaze bounced to Elk Snort, around the parking lot, and to the street. Not a single black Impala, lanky Winchester brother, or salt filled rifle to be seen. Damn.