Sunday, April 15, 2007

Sorry Zombie lovers, the McCoys were not infected with rage

Despite the fact that I'm currently reading Max Brook's oral history of the coming Zombie war, I was a bit put off by the misleading headlines last week. Imagine that, misleading headlines about medical research. The media went haywire about a report that a genetic disorder in the McCoy side of the Hatfield-McCoy might have caused all that hillbilly rage. You know, like in 28 Days Later.

Mostly for the non-medical folk who read this blog:

McCoy descendants have been found to have a high number of cases of Von Hippel-Lindau Syndrome (VHL). On my week of neurosurgery last year, I met a patient with VHL, and believe me, they weren't chasing me around the table, infected with rage. VHL doesn't cause rage. It causes tumors in lots of places, usually around rich vascular supplies, because of an autosomal dominant lack of a certain binding protein. One of the tumors that are common in certain subtypes of VHL are pheochromocytomas, adrenal gland tumors. Pheos present clinically with sudden episodes of sweating, crazy high blood pressure, etc., from basically a big dumping of catecholamines (like adrenaline) into the blood stream. Anyone who's watching 24 this season knows what happens when you inject people, like presidents, with shots of adrenaline. They start pretending to drop nuclear bombs on unnamed Arabic nations.

Pheochromocytomas are rare, but for some reason are classically represented on boards exams, so every medical student on earth can pick out a pheo on a standardized test from 20 miles away. But because they're so rare, and typically not as interesting as in the above test, non-medical folk just don't know anything about them.

Pheochromocytomas are also most commonly not related to VHL, although they are a hallmark of several of the multiple endocrine neoplasia syndromes. Again, boards questions for medical students, rarely obscure for non-medical folks.

Of course, my question immediately becomes, has there been an episode of CSI about a pheochromocytoma? Has there been an episode of House? If not, I bet you won't have to wait much longer.


Kyle said...

I can't wait!

Anonymous said...

yes! start of season 2, the death row guy episode.

Garrett said...

House, or CSI? :0)

michael said...

wait a second, what do you mean "pretend to" drop bombs? did i miss an episode or did you just spoil the next episode? i always knew palmer was weak!

michael said...

well i just saw the last episode. wtf?