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Posts from the ‘Mystery’ Category

Green Sweat: Possible Explanations

An interesting and rare medical symptom was mentioned by Kevin, MD today. He links to an article about a Chinese man who began to perspire green sweat. Kevin asks for any ideas. I used my good friends, Google and Pubmed to find some possible explanations:


  • Chromhidrosis: a rare condition characterized by the secretion of colored sweat which is caused by the various oxidative states of lipofuscin pigment. The pigment is produced in the apocrine gland. Here is a case report about it. Or an other one in the official journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

A 56-year-old man, hospitalized for recurrent fever, latent jaundice, and epigastric pain, progressively developed macules on his hands and feet… an increased level of bilirubin may cause a rare transient green discoloration when it is excreted through eccrine sweat glands.


  • Pseudomonas infection
  • Bleeding diathesis (red sweat)
  • Copper exposure (blue sweat)
  • Contamination from corynebacteria, paint, chemicals or clothing dye

Bizarre Medical Experiments

I’ve never thought experiments like these below could be done on this planet. I thought we’re better. Maybe I was too naiv. A list of many more similar experiments will be published in the book, Elephants on Acid this November. You can buy it from Amazon. Why should we talk about these? Probably to know what not to do in the future…

Milgram told subjects they were participating in an experiment to determine the effect of punishment on learning. One volunteer (who was, in reality, an actor in cahoots with Milgram) would attempt to memorize a series of word pairs. The other volunteer (the real subject) would read out the word pairs and give the learner an electric shock every time he got an answer wrong. The shocks would increase in intensity by fifteen volts with each wrong answer.


Heath referred to his homosexual subject as patient B-19. He inserted Teflon-insulated electrodes into the septal region of B-19’s brain and then gave B-19 carefully controlled amounts of stimulation in experimental sessions. Soon the young man was reporting increased stirrings of sexual motivation. Heath then rigged up a device to allow B-19 to self-stimulate himself. It was like letting a chocoholic loose in a candy shop. B-19 quickly became obsessed with the pleasure button. In one three-hour session he pressed it 1500 times until, as Heath noted, “he was experiencing an almost overwhelming euphoria and elation and had to be disconnected.”

Stubbins Ffirth was a doctor-in-training who lived in early nineteenth-century Philadelphia. To gain his medical degree, he undertook to determine whether yellow fever is contagious. He used himself as the test subject, exposing himself to the disease in every way he could imagine. He smeared himself with the blood, urine, sweat, and black vomit of yellow-fever patients. He dribbled the vomit into his eyes. He even drank undiluted vomit fresh from the mouth of a patient.

His “driving” experiments consisted of putting subjects (human beings) into drug-induced coma for months on end (up to three in one case) while playing tape loops of noise or simple repetitive statements. His experiments were typically carried out on patients who had entered the institute for minor problems such as anxiety disorders and post-partum depression, many of whom suffered permanently from his actions.

  • Heartbeat At Death

On October 31, 1938, John Deering volunteered to participate in an experiment, the first of its kind, to have his heartbeat recorded as he was shot through the chest by a firing squad. The prison physician, Dr. Stephen Besley, figured that since Deering was being executed anyway, science might as well benefit from the event. Perhaps some valuable information about the effect of fear on the heart could be learned.


Read more in this book!

(Hat Tip: Boing Boing)

Curing cancer? The dichloroacetate story

Maybe it seems to be a simple solution for curing cancer, but The E-cclesiastic Manifesto blog writes about a drug called dichloroacetate:

A team led by Dr. Evangelos Michelakis at the University of Alberta in Canada have figured out a new use for a safe, cheap chemical already used in medicine for a host of metabolic disorders. This chemical is Dichloroacetate (DCA), and it turns cancer into an angsty, suicidal teenager… the drug must go through the laborious, sisyphic and prohibitively expensive (~ $800m) process of gaining FDA approval. In the case of a drug that needs to be tested on nearly every single type of cancer the process would run into the multiple billions.

This means that no pharmaceutical company is going to get this drug FDA approved, especially since it also makes some of their less effective patented drugs worthless. As a matter of fact, they’ll probably lobby against it with all their might.

But never forget about a possible post-reaction just like in this case as Respectful Insolence commented the story (without using a beta-blocker): Dichloroacetate: One last time… But he writes in the original article that:

So where do I put on my pharma shill hat? Patience, dear readers… This drug has only been tested in cell culture and rats. Yes, the results were promising there, but that does not–I repeat, does not— mean the results will translate to humans.

I’ll follow the reply posts on the subject and will let you know when something important happens.


Update from the comments:

Update of the update:

Update of September:

  • Health Canada has approved the first human trial of an experimental cancer drug called dichloroacetate, or DCA, in people with an advanced form of an aggressive brain cancer.

Update of October:

Francis Crick and the LSD

That’s why I read frequently (a newly dugg old story). Oh dear, I don’t want to become a drug addict:

FRANCIS CRICK, the Nobel Prize-winning father of modern genetics, was under the influence of LSD when he first deduced thedouble-helix structure of DNA nearly 50 years ago.

The abrasive and unorthodox Crick and his brilliant American co-researcher James Watson famously celebrated their eureka moment in March 1953 by running from the now legendary Cavendish Laboratory in Cambridge to the nearby Eagle pub, where they announced over pints of bitter that they had discovered the secret of life.

Crick, aged 88, later told a fellow scientist that he often used small doses of LSD then an experimental drug used in psychotherapy to boost his powers of thought. He said it was LSD, not
the Eagle’s warm beer, that helped him to unravel the structure of DNA, the discovery that won him the Nobel Prize.


Woman swallows spoon by accident

It is unbelievable. How the hell can someone swallow a spoon? The article says that the 26-year-old Sydney woman gulped down the implement during a laughing fit.

Quick poll: do you usually laugh with a spoon in your mouth?

The woman was placed under general anaesthetic and it took doctors 90 minutes to ease the piece of cutlery out of her throat and mouth.

The technique used by Bedholm and Lee involved using snares to lasso either end of the spoon and pull it upright to it lined up with her oesophagus.


She was lucky this time…

The cause of Beethoven’s deafness

I’ve always been curious about the cause of Ludwig van Beethoven’s deafness. The genious of music died on March, 26, 1827 and the record of his postmortem examination was lost and rediscovered in 1970. Beethoven had plenty of problems, but now I focus on his neurological symptoms. First, please read a portion of the autopsy report:

The external ear was large and irregularly formed, the scaphold fossa but more especially the concha was very spacious and half as large again as usual…the external auditory canal was covered with shining scales… The Eustachian tube was much thickened, its mucous lining swollen and somewhat contratced about the osseous portion of the tube… The facial nerves were of unusual thickness, the auditory nerves, on the contrary, were shiveled and destitute… The convolutions of the brain were full of water and remarkably white; they appeared very much deeper, wider and more numerous than ordinary.

Here is the list of the suggested diagnoses: syphilis, otosclerosis, sarcoidosis, Paget’s disease, typhus, measles, scarlatina, Whipple’s disease, Systemic lupus erythematosus.

Wikipedia article says:

Around 1801, Beethoven began to lose his hearing. He suffered a severe form of tinnitus, a “roar” in his ears that made it hard for him to perceive and appreciate music; he would also avoid conversation… Beethoven’s hearing loss did not affect his ability to compose music, but it made concerts — lucrative sources of income — increasingly difficult.

As a result of Beethoven’s hearing loss, a unique historical record has been preserved: he kept conversation books discussing music and other issues, and giving an insight into his thought. Even today, the conversation books form the basis for investigation into how he felt his music should be performed, and his relationship to art — which he took very seriously.


The American Journal of Medicine has an article on the subject. They stated that no diagnosis has been accepted as the universal etiology of his complaints, but not only one disease caused all of his symptoms. According to close friends of Beethoven, he was particularly never out of love. That’s why the most probable cause of his deafness was the exposition to Treponema pallidum. So the best explanation for most if his complaints is syphilis.


  • London SJ. Beethoven: case report of a titan’s last crisis. Arch Intern Med. 1964;113:442-448
  • Forbes E, ed. Thayer’s Life of Beethoven. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press,1973.
  • The Sound that Failed; The American Journal of Medicine, Volume 108, April 15, 2000.

Wikimedia Commons

Male pregnancy and lactation?

I’ve been collecting material on this topic for a long time. The question is not so dumb as you think. Can a man give birth to a child? Obviously not, but it’s worth examining this phenomenon. Take a look at what a man needs for pregnancy and what could be the solution:

  • womb: a solution could be ectopic pregnancy as an amazing 5% of extrauterine pregnancies are viable. The other method is the artificial womb.
  • hormones: oral doses of female hormones would be administered to the man to make him receptive to the pregnancy.
  • implantation: fertilization would be done in vitro by implantation into the abdominal cavity
  • delivery: it would require open surgery (Cesarean section) to remove the baby and the placenta. Removal of the placenta is the real danger because it forms such intimate connections with surrounding vessels that massive hemorrhage is likely.
  • lactation: it’s possible as there are more medications that stimulate a man’s mammary glands (mostly in hormone treatment of prostate cancer patients).

The dangers of such a course of action are far too high for the idea to be taken as anything more than a bit of scientific “what if” entertainment, however. is a well-known hoax site monitoring the world’s first male pregnancy. The site hosts even news coverage, video clips of Mr. Lee, an ultrasound video of his “baby” or an interview with Mr. Lee Mingwei himself.

At last, create your own genetically healthy online child at They mission statement says:

Using our state-of-the-art technologies, you can quite possibly ensure that your child’s life may be free of such diseases as cancer, Alzheimer’s, and heart disease — as well as conditions like obesity, aggression, and dyslexia.

How beautiful it would be!



Mr. Mingwei

Image source


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