Health & Spirit

Why Lupus is Mostly a Woman's Disease

Scott LaFee on

Of the 16,000 cases of lupus -- a chronic autoimmune disease that can damage any part of the body -- that are reported each year in the United States, 90 percent occur in women. Sex differences have long and obviously been suspect as a driving factor, but now scientists think they have a specific culprit: over-expression of a gene called Tlr7.

Tlr7 is found on the X chromosome. Normally in females, who have two X chromosomes, one Tlr7 gene is inactivated as a way to control gene expression -- the genetic instructions issued by that gene. French scientists found that immune cells in female patients with lupus had two functioning copies of the gene, which impacted normal functioning of the cells.

Men with an extra X chromosome have a condition called Klinefelter syndrome. Men with this syndrome develop lupus at much higher rates than other men.

Lupus has been associated with dozens of genes so over-expression of Tlr7 isn't likely to be the sole causative agent, but scientists say if they can find a way to inactivate it on the second X chromosomes, it could produce a measurable therapeutic benefit.

Body of Knowledge

If you took all of the urine the world produces in one day, it would take a full 20 minutes to flow over Niagara Falls.

Number Cruncher

An Arby's junior roast beef sandwich (126 grams) contains 304 calories, 78 from fat. It has 8.7 grams of total fat or 13 percent of the recommended total fat intake for a 2,000-calorie daily diet.

It also contains 36 milligrams of cholesterol (12 percent); 782 mg of sodium (33 percent); 36.2 grams of total carbohydrates (12 percent); 1.4 g of fiber (6 percent); 4.3 grams of sugar and 17.4 g of protein.

Stories for the Waiting Room

Until the 1700s, the preserved dead of ancient Egypt were considered to be a kind of therapeutic. Specifically, by consuming powered mummy one could cure ailments from epilepsy to vertigo. The demand for medical mummy was so great that pyramid schemes and other cons were common, and warnings were issued to avoid "white mummies," who were actually more recently departed travelers to Africa who had been temporarily buried in the Sahara's desiccating sands.

Doc Talk

Circle of Willis: A collection of vessels in the brain that come together to supply blood to the brain and surrounding structures.

Phobia of the Week

Athazagoraphobia: Fear of being forgotten or ignored -- hey, are you paying attention?

Never Say Diet

The Major League Eating record for sausage sandwiches is 13.25 in 12 minutes, held by Chip "Burger" Simpson, a professional speed eater who also holds records in consuming chicken wings and tamales, but strangely nothing involving a meat patty.

Best Medicine

Doctor: What seems to be the matter?

Patient: I have a sore throat. I ache. I'm feverish.

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Doctor: Sounds like some kind of virus.

Patient: Everyone at the office has it.

Doctor: Well then, maybe it's a staff infection.

Hypochondriac's Guide

Trimethylaminuria is otherwise known as "fish odor syndrome," which pretty much describes the main symptom. It's caused by the body's inability to metabolize a compound called trimethylamine, which is what gives fish their fishy odor. Your body produces trimethylamine when it breaks down choline, found in eggs, liver, whole grain wheat and soybeans and trimethylamine-oxide in fish. If you lack the necessary liver enzyme to metabolize it, trimethylamine builds up in your body and eventually is excreted in urine, breath and sweat. It's an inherited condition. There is no cure. It's not particularly harmful, except perhaps to your love life.


"It is a mathematical fact that 50 percent of all doctors graduate in the bottom half of their class."


Medical History

This week in 1931, Alka Seltzer debuted in the United States, created by Hub Beardsley, the president of Miles Laboratories. Beardsley had originated the idea after a visit to Elkhart, Ind. during a severe flu outbreak in 1928. The outbreak seemed to have little impact at the local newspaper, where the editor explained that at the first sign of illness, he treated staff with a mix of aspirin and baking soda. Beardsley asked his chief chemist, Maurice Treneer to develop an effervescent tablet with aspirin (acetylsalicylic acid) and sodium bicarbonate as the main ingredients. The resulting tablet was a success, though Beardsley died in 1929 and did not see its debut.

Self Exam

Q: Look at one of your fingernails. Can you name its constituent parts? Yes, it has parts.

A: The nail plate is the visible part of the nail. The nail bed is the skin beneath the plate. The cuticle is the tissue that overlaps the plate and rims the base of the nail. Nail folds are liners of skin that frame and support the nail on three sides. The lunula is the whitish half-moon at the base of the nail plate. It's whitish because the epidermis there is thick and obscures the underlying blood vessels. The matrix is the part of the nail unit under the cuticle.


"Here lies Johnny Yeast.

Pardon me for not rising."

--A tombstone in Ruidoso, New Mexico. There is no record of when Yeast died, the cause of death or his profession. Though possibly he was a baker.


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