Alphabet Challenge :: H :: A Pathologist Reveals the Secrets of the Heart [Video]: Scientific American

Pitiful Posting and the Alphabet Challenge


Here’s a link to a pretty cool video about the heart. It travels through the hearts of a normal child, a cancer patient, an oversized/fatty heart, a gunshot victim, and a teenager who overdosed.

A Pathologist Reveals the Secrets of the Heart [Video]: Scientific American.


SciAM :: Blocking HIV’s Attack & Timeline: A Few Landmarks in the Effort to Treat AIDS

According to this brief Scientific American article, about three years ago, a German research team cured a man of HIV. They used bone marrow from an unidentified individual that was naturally HIV resistant. These results may cause researchers to turn to genetic modification in order to make people HIV resistant.

Two megakaryoctes are visible in this slide of...

Bone marrow - Image via Wikipedia

HIV makes use of a particular protein called CCR5, which is found on the surface of some immune cells, to infect those cells.

Some people have inherited a specific mutation that disables their copies of the CCR5 protein, thus offering them greater protection against infection with HIV.

Investigators are trying gene-editing techniques to modify immune cells so that they lack the CCR5 protein, making them resistant to HIV as well.

Preliminary results from safety studies of the gene-editing approach in humans are encouraging, but there is still a long way to go.

Blocking HIV’s Attack: Scientific American.

Timeline: A Few Landmarks in the Effort to Treat AIDS: Scientific American

New Scientist :: Microscopic scales weigh up cancer therapies

Thiiiiis is pretty freakin’ cool. I ♥ science.

Microscopic scales weigh up cancer therapies – health – 16 November 2011 – New Scientist.

Normal cancer cell differences from NIH

(NIH) Normal Cells vs. Cancer Cells - Image via Wikipedia

Fatty Liver Disease

:: So I recently got this Clinical Veterinary Advisor off of Amazon. Definitely a nerd move and I’m sooooo excited about it. This will be the first of many posts in which I glean information and ideas from the book. ::

Micrograph demonstrating marked (macrovesicula...

Image via Wikipedia

Fatty liver disease, also known as Hepatic Lipidosis, is a condition in which triglycerides are accumulated in the liver in excess. We had a cat in the vet hospital this week that had developed the condition. She had been overweight, and was put on a diet in which she had to eat her  meals separate from the other cats in her house. She never really learned to eat the full meal and soon stopped eating altogether. This went on for several weeks before being brought to the vet’s attention.

Risk factors for this disease include:

Generally, this disease affects cats middle-aged or older. The patient brought to us is only 4 years old.

Early diagnosis will result in the best management of the disease. There is a 60-85% change of recovery in most cases, but recovery if lessened by the presence of pancreatitis. The condition can be diagnosed by CBC, unrinalysis, abdominal ultrasounds/radiographs, and other methods. Aspirating (using a needle to poke the intended tissue and gather cells) the liver and doing a cytology (staining the gathered cells on a slide) are preferred over a liver biopsy as it is less invasive.

Treatments can be expensive and tube feeding is required for several weeks. They include correcting electrolyte imbalance in the patient and nutritional support. Treating complications due to liver failure may also be a factor. Recurring fatty liver disease is uncommon unless the underlying cause is not addressed.



  1. Côté, Etienne. Clinical Veterinary Advisor : Dogs and Cats. 2nd. St. Louis: Mosby, Inc., 2011. Print.

Feline Immunodeficiency Virus

When working at the vet hospital, one of my favorite things is caring for the “Fantastic Four”. They are the quartet of kittens in the fancy setup in reception waiting to be adopted. There are 2 orange ones (my favorite color on cats), a tortoiseshell, and gorgeous tabby. They are sweet little bundles of energy that always attempt to escape when I have to clean out the cage. During the down time, I try to snuggle with at least one of them so they don’t turn into little demons.

Now the only thing that may affect their adoption is that they all tested mildly positive for Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV). They’re only about 4 months old and false positives can occur so they will be retested around 6 months.

FIV is a slow virus (lentivirus) and cats may appear normal for several years. Eventually the immune system may break down leading to greater susceptibility and a worse reaction to common illnesses or infections. Bite wounds are the primary source of transmission, with casual contact seemingly inefficient. Rarely, kittens can acquire infection from their mothers during passage through the birth canal or ingesting infected milk. The disease isn’t often spread by sexual contact.

The virus reproduces in nearby lymph nodes before spreading throughout the body to other lymph nodes. This leads to enlargement of the nodes and fever. According to a page on the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine the following are other symptoms that may occur in cats years after infection:

  • Poor coat condition and persistent fever with a loss of appetite are commonly seen.
  • Inflammation of the gums (gingivitis) and mouth (stomatitis) and chronic or recurrent infections of the skin, urinary bladder, and upper respiratory tract are often present.
  • Persistent diarrhea can also be a problem, as can a variety of eye conditions.
  • Slow but progressive weight loss is common, followed by severe wasting late in the disease process.
  • Various kinds of cancer and blood diseases are much more common in cats infected with FIV, too.
  • In unspayed female cats, abortion of kittens or other reproductive failures have been noted.
  • Some infected cats experience seizures, behavior changes, and other neurological disorders.

(The page also describes diagnosis of the disease if you’re interested.)

Hopefully upon retesting, those sweet kittens will be negative for FIV. The next step from there is adoption! 


The Sweetest “Caution” Dog Ever Who Just Happens to Have Heartworms (Dirofilaria immitis)

Pitbull - Kim

Image via Wikipedia

The perks of working at a vet hospital when you have a science based blog, is that it’s really hard to run out of material. At the moment, we have a pit bull waiting for adoption who is reported to be dog and cat aggressive and is also heartworm positive. He’s probably the sweetest dog ever (imagine the dog in the picture, only black), he just doesn’t seem to know how strong he is, which he displayed this morning by jumping all over me.

I’m sure most people have heard about heartworms and that they’re dangerous to our pet’s health but people may not know just how much.

– Scientific Classification –

Dirofilaria immitis is the canine form of heartworm, with other definitive hosts being wild canids and ferrets. Cats are an abnormal host. The worms are long and thin and the females can reach 28 cm. Adult worms are found mostly in pulmonary arteries and also in the righthand portion of the heart. There is a 6 month prepatent period with a minimum of 2 weeks inside the mosquito (who serves as the vector). Adult worms can live for 5 years.

Some cases of heartworms can be asymptomatic. Mild to moderate disease can result in a chronic cough and decreased exercise tolerance. Moderate to severe cases can lead to syncope (fainting), hemoptysis (coughing up blood), pulmonary hypertension, right heart enlargement and failure.

Diagnosis is based on an antigen test (for adult females), which is the most sensitive option. A dog can be tested after the 6 month prepatent period or just prescribed a preventative. Preventatives that can be prescribed are macrolides and are a monthly product. They kill heartworms acquired in the previous month.

The pit bull in our care doesn’t seem too bothered by his disease as of late. Hopefully he gets adopted by someone who can handle him soon!

Also, an update on the Old English Sheepdog :: she wasn’t in the treatment room when I worked today so hopefully she went home and is feeling better!

:: Information from this post is from my notes from an Introductory Parasitology class taught by Dr. Zajac at Virginia Tech ::

Parasite Terminology


Polydactyl Cat

Image by failing_angel via Flickr

The inspiration for this post is from a cat I met while shadowing at a Veterinary Hospital. I believe she was a Maine Coon and the poor thing came in with an extra digit on each of her front paws. The bad part wasn’t the digits, but the ingrown nails between them. Oddly enough, the nails had no pad associated with them so they were just growing from the webbing. The right paw was the worst with the actual ingrown nail (and a possible infection) and the left paw’s randomly sprouted nail had grown to spiral like a ram horn. However, the nails are beside the point. I’ve always been intrigued by diseases, especially ones that can result in something sprouting an extra limb, so I figure why not dive into the matter of polydactyly, also known as supernumerary digits.

As you might have guessed, polydactyly is a condition where an animal has extra fingers or toes. The extra digit may be fleshy, contain bones, or even be fully functioning. The postaxial manifestation (on the side of the little finger) is most common, followed by preaxial (by the thumb) and then central (the middle three fingers). The new digit may jut from an existing, normal digit, or (when associated with the hand) from the wrist as do the other digits. The condition is a congenital anomaly, meaning it exists at or before birth.

The U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM)/National Institutes of Health (NIH) list the following causes for polydactyly:

While supernumerary digits  may be associated with one of the preceding syndromes, or perhaps some even unlisted, it can also occur on its own. According to NIH, African-Americans, such as myself, are more prone to inheriting a 6th digit than other ethnic groups, which in most cases is not associated with a genetic disease. When occurring by itself, polydactyly might be due to an autosomal dominant mutation in a single gene.

Here’s a very short video. Very briefly, you can see the supernumerary digit.