Institute of Regenerative Cures

My class got to go on a field trip last week.

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All the joys of barely being able to see the tour guide when you’re at the back of the group.

I know! Field trips in a Master’s of Science program? How ridiculous!

It was awesome. We went to the Institute of Regenerative Cures in Sacramento.

I arrived early and waited out front with some classmates. Our tour guide arrived and we waited out front a little longer til everyone showed up.

While waiting the tour guide, who had designed the building we were about to go into, told us about his hobby, early television history!

After the primer on early television we entered the building and got a tour of one of the best facilities for practicing biology in existence right now.

The building itself was actually built a long time ago for the California state fair. It was the “women’s building.”

The brick exterior and columnaic entrance have stayed the same since the building was constructed to maintain the historical site. The interior has been heavily modified.

The building had no roof back in the day and was just an enclosure for a bunch of different events that you usually see at state fairs.

The building was sold to the University of California system. They slapped a roof on it, and used it to store records.

Our tour guide said that he was called in to turn it into a biology facility later on. Half the building is used for bio research while the other half is rented out to other companies.

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The entrance hallway with pictures of the cooler discoveries at the Institute.

The researchers in the Institute are working on a number of things. They researched a treatment for the “bubble boy disease” there. They’re working on using umbilical cords to create bone marrow for transplants, using Tal proteins to treat Huntington’s, creating HIV resistant cells, and helping people who can’t swallow to swallow are just a few of the things they work on there.

Where all the research is done!
Where all the research is done!

The tour guide also showed us the section that he was most proud of as he had designed it. A set of rooms for making the actual drugs and proteins to export to hospitals. Making the drugs requires extremely sterile technique to prevent giving someone who is already sick something that will make them worse. The rooms are designed to be extremely sterile.

To enter the rooms you pass through an airlock where you are required to cover every inch of your body in a disposable gown.

The airlock goes to a hallway with access to three separate clean rooms.

There is “negative pressure” in the rooms. That means that air is constantly entering the room from the top and going out the bottom. This is so that if any cells that are worked with in the rooms get into the air, they will be redirected to teh ground and sucked out through a grate in the wall instead of ending up in someone’s medicine.

The air is cleaned excessively to about 3000 times more clean than average air before entering the facility.

There is a lot of electrical equipment in the rooms that will require replacing eventually. To prevent electricians from having to gown up just to replace a lightbulb, all the eletricals are accessible from panels on the second story of the building.

It was pretty cool for a scientist like me to see the best possible place to do research in. The tour guide mentioned that he does tours of the interior of the super clean rooms for smaller groups. I might take him up on that at a later time!

-GoCorral

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Numb Finger

I'll just watch the clock while the doctor looks at my Xrays in the other room.
I’ll just watch the clock while the doctor looks at my Xrays in the other room.

A day or two before I left for my vacation on Bois Blanc Island I woke up with my left pointer finger feeling numb.

I’ve had numbness like this on other parts of my body in the past, but its always gone away in a day or two.

This time the numbness has stayed around for around a month.

I used WebMD to try and figure out what was going on and there was some pretty scary things on there. Fortunately, I didn’t match all the symptoms of any of the more serious conditions.

A self-diagnosis wasn’t enough for me so I made an appointment at the local clinic.

My wife had her eye on a particular doctor at the clinic to be her own primary care physician. I tried to get an appointment with that doctor so I could preview her for my wife, but she was on maternity leave until November.

Instead I got an appointment with a different, but equally competent male doctor.

I’ve never had a male doctor for my regular visits. Neither has my wife. Nothing wrong with the doctor I saw today, but I’ve always been more comfortable with women. I think we’ll go to the female doctor on maternity leave for any future problems.

So! The numbness in my finger! I’d feared something horrible like peripheral neuropathy or Guillain-Barre Syndrome.

Instead the doctor said it was something much more mundane.

It was likely just physical trauma to my radial nerve which takes sensory information from my hand to my brain.

The damage would normally repair quickly, but its possible I’ve been aggravating the injury by sleeping on my hands.

So the injury might fix itself if I stop sleeping on my hands.

However it might be too late for the injury to fix itself within my hands.

In that case the nerve would need to regrow from my shoulder all the way down to my hand.

When nerves are regrown from the shoulder they extend about one centimeter each week.

My arm is roughly a meter long (I haven’t measured exactly), so if the nerve regrows from my shoulder then I won’t have feeling in my finger again for another two years or so.

So lets hope my finger gets better soon if I stop sleeping on it!

-Mister Ed