March 30, 2006

White Oak

I am excited! I spent last weekend at a conference in Yulee Florida at the most pristine, immaculate, beautiful privately owned concervation center, White Oak Plantation. There were amazing vet students from all over who are all doing amazing things to better our world. The whole thing just kept choking me up. We each shared the research we'd done over the summer thanks to our generous Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation grants (mine= "Prevalence of tuberculosis and brucellosis in milking dairy cattle in Bosawas Biosphere Reserve, Nicaragua"), had guest lecturers that talked about species conservation, animal-rescue work during the hurricanes, trap-spay/neuter-release programs and their effects on local endangered species, and so on. Definitely affirmed that I'm on the right path. I didn't even think about dancing all weekend, ha ha! Not to mention the fact that we were fed 5 star meals, had our own swimming pools and hot tubs, arcade, bowling alley, horses or bikes to ride, etc. When asked if the place was open to the public, they said "Well, we don't advertise, but if people want to stay here, we charge $600/night/person." As such, the likes of Bill Clinton, Snoop Dogg, Howard Stern, and other infamous personages have made it their escape of choice. We had personal tours of the vet clinic and animals there and (because we're vet students) got special treatment--access to touch some of the animals, for instance. Very exciting! They even offer externships and residencies and internships. I had no idea something like that existed. Very very exciting.


Thanks to my friend, Mitara, I have begun the invigorating, do-gooding, waste-not-want-not, cheap thing to do at 2am. Dumpster diving! Last night's goods:
5 pairs of shoes (including brand new hiking boots and leather boots)
6 or 7 gym bags
a leather tote
several shampoos
throat lozenges
lip collagen and lipstick
paint brushes
bubble toy
envelopes galore
address books
3 colors nail polish
hair coloring products
expensive perfume
makeup applicators
scrapbooking materials
anti-itch cream

Whoo Hoo!

March 29, 2006

Would you eat tissue cultured "meat"?

I took this article from an online forum, and have pasted my response below the ***s.

Future of meat is in the lab not on the farm, researchers say
Last Updated Mon, 27 Mar 2006 14:06:12 EST
Scientists who are growing animal muscle tissue in the lab are hoping to develop an industrial version that could cultivate beef, pork or chicken from a few muscle cells.
Instead of being cut from a farm animal, the meat would be grown in incubators from a few starter cells, a growth medium and some hormones to get the cells to divide.
The first attempts have been small in scale, but scientists are looking forward to the day when meat could be grown in industrial bioreactors or even in a device sitting on a kitchen counter.
"Right now, the scale that's being used in the research is about one-half of a litre for ... the incubator the muscle is grown in," said University of Maryland researcher Jason Matheny. He says a device similar to a bread maker could one day be used to manufacture meat in the home.
Matheny said muscle produced in an incubator could have reduced fat content, and the process would do away with problems such as bacterial contamination and mad cow disease.
While he hasn't tasted engineered meat himself, Matheny says others have.
"It has the taste and texture resembling the ground meat products that are already available," such as hamburger or chicken nuggets, he says.
"Producing a steak or ... a whole chicken breast is a much more difficult task, technically," said Matheny.
Researchers in the Netherlands have grown mouse meat and are now working on pork. Australian scientists served grown frog muscle tissue with apple brandy sauce at an exhibition in France in 2003. They said the meat tasted like jelly on cloth.
American researchers, funded by NASA, grew goldfish meat in 2001 as part of an experiment to see if fish could be grown to feed astronauts on long space missions. While the idea of growing meat for space travel is fairly common in science fiction novels, NASA has since pulled funding for lab-grown meat.
Vladimir Mironov, a tissue engineer at the Medical University of South Carolina, says NASA's decision cut off an important source of funding for his work.
Mironov says producing cultivated meat could be difficult to achieve and expensive in the short term. People would have to pay more for cultured meat than for the genuine article.
I thought this was a really great question. I am in veterinary school, so I forwarded the article to several of my professors to get a more "professional" opinion. Here's what they say:

From the Ethicist (trained as a lawyer):
Well, there is surely a "yuck" factor. I prefer to live a more natural life ... so this is unappealing to me. As for the ethics, some of the Center students thought it an ethical problem, others thought it not at all troubling from that vantage point. My own take is that it is NOT an ethical problem at the level of harming living beings unnecessarily. But because I'd so rather live a simpler life, I'd not purchase this kind of product myself.
So think my response is not unlike yours -- aesthetically, I don't want to go there. But my choice isn't based on a strong ethical instinct that this problem is like some of the other ethics-based issues that arise when one intentionally kills an animal for sustenance that one can get in another, less troubling manner.

From the Physiologist (a Ph D):
What comes to my mind is that I will most likely be pushing dasies before this idea sees the light of day (commercially). As long as the protein they generate has the appropriate number of essential amino acids, I see few limitations. The digestive tract doesn't care where the protein came from, it is only concerned with digesting it, and absorbing the generated small peptides and amino acids.

From the Anatomist (a DVM):
I am all for technology. Few years ago, there was an attempt to introduce chicken MYO-D gene into potato, and harvest chicken muscle meat. That did not happen. This new attempt also indicates the limitations faced by molecular biologists, who think they can redesign the world, but are limited by their knowledge of anatomy and physiology. Muscle requires constant exercise against load to develop and taste like meat! Putting muscle cells in a culture can't grow real meaty muscle. Anyway, we are already suffering from the ill effects of molecular biologists teaching medical students (they get grants, they get the jobs), soon, medical
doctors will be less well educated than nurses.

From an international wildlife vet (DVM):
Sounds like something from Star Trek no? I guess I feel better about this than the cloned pigs with Omega 3 fatty acids inserted. At least it would be sparing the animals, that is if, far into the future, it replaces traditional industrial agriculture. Probably worth a shot, I wouldn't be surprised if this does actually move forward as a way to make protein. Very interesting article. Thanks for sharing it with me.

From the conservationist/wildlife vet (DVM):
This has been coming for a LONG time, I first saw it discussed almost 40 years ago.
On the one hand, the cells have to come from some place initially -- but the animal of origin isn't necessarily killed, also the number of acres dedicated to agric. animals and their food, and water used could be much that's a good thing (right?).
On the other hand, if it's going to involve lots of hormones, chemicals and plastic and be an "industry" that is a big net user of resources and a polluter, I'd certainly be worried. Then of course, don't we all feed as though people in developped countries are already FAR to disconnected from the natural world? As with many issues I feel pretty underinformed! These are just quick thoughts, but it would make a fabulous forum for discussion. Thanks for pointing this out to me.

Personally, I think what the anatomist and the conservationist have to say are really poignant. That is, that meat has to be exercised IN AN ANIMAL for it to taste like meat. Also that of course this method decreases the "inhumanity" of raising meat, but that as just another industry, there will be wastes inherent--environmental concerns like plastic consumed, and monetary/energy concerns when it comes to the price of "raising meat" in the laboratory. Which is the lesser of two evils? I am inclined to say that calories are the most efficient energy to burn. Growing food for animals to eat to make meat for us to eat takes (or, rather, can take) very little fossil fuel, and the resource is eternally renewable. However if we move to growing meat in labs, we will be using more fossil fuels to fuel the electricity of the place, we will be using more plastics and creating more enviro-unfriendly waste, and so on. In the meantime, I remain a vegetarian.

March 22, 2006

Dream 11, 12

#11: I used a whole roll of toilet paper.
#12: My sister, my mom, Kate (my stepmom), and I were all pregnant. It was really stressful.

March 20, 2006

Lead by example

Lead by example. I try not to evangelize the things I think are right, though I do get very frustrated by people who don't know better (or much worse: those who do, and don't care). One of the reasons I'm in vet school is so that people will take me seriously (with a doctorate) and hopefully I can do things to "make a difference". I want to save the world, so to speak, but then sometimes I just get so discouraged. I think, "hell, let 'em screw the environment, contract cancer, add to the global warming, whatever comes of it, probably people deserve it". I think there's nothing I could ever do that would ever really make a difference. Then I think about all the things that made differences in my life, and they were all effects of people--individual people--living their lives their own way. I took notice and modeled them in whatever way, shape, or fashion. So when I'm overwhelmed with futility or all my debt or with how little time I have, I take a step back and remind myself: just live your life the way you feel is proper. The rest will follow. (or not!)

March 19, 2006

Sposta be studying

Uh oh. I don't like this repeating a year of school thing. Everything is so familiar that my brain won't hold onto the details because it's like, "Yup, I already got that information somewhere up here." It isn't overwhelmed like it was last year, but instead, it's a little bit bored, and so it doesn't delve into the information the way it did First Time Around. "Mountains and mountains of material? No problem, already read it, studied it, made study guides and diagrams and passed the exam. What?!!?! You want me to recall it off the top of my head NOW??! You must be crazy, I already passed the exam last year, and in real life I would never have to identify a string (artery? vein? nerve?) on a disarticulated animal's leg (is that a goat? cow? horse? is this a front or back leg? is this a left or right leg? is this facing caudally or cranially?)."........

March 18, 2006

Dashing AND Talented

Benjamin and Phillip. Ben and Phil. These are guys I am so proud of. They are working so hard. If I told you what they are working on, I'd have to kill you, and I'm too busy to think about cleaning up a mess. So let's just put our hands together for all their efforts!
Who are YOU proud of?

March 17, 2006

Tiger Lily

My neice, halfway through Chelsea's pregnancy:

Spring Break in Kentucky

O Kentucky, how I love thee.

[pictures: scraggly but springy Didrre and tree, Jezebel rides the moss dragon in MinnieSwope Holler, Lexington, Ben and Dad begin a hike, Nema's trio: Tarasita, Mom, me.]

Megan and Tara

This is the new little sweetie, Megan, and her goat, Tara, that came to grace our land after our precious Whinny died. She is a dream to ride, she loves to listen to her rider, she carries her tail up so beautifully any time she's being ridden. And the fat little tawny goat runs alongside, ears flapping up and down in silly contrast to the lovely dark bay Arabian.