Tuesday, July 28

Well.....Hi. Here, have some M's.

I've been away. Maybe you've noticed.

I've got a lot to say about why I've been away, why I stopped writing, what stopped me, and what I learned from it. For the moment, let's just say: A lot. Okay?

The good news (at least on my end, can't speak for you) is that this is one of those things. You know. It's like jumper cables. Once I've started again, I'm back (at least I think so, that's the way it usually works, we'll see). I hope so.

At the moment, I just have to sit and shake my head and wonder at the utter irony of what is actually bringing me back to this space, right here, right now. The thing, the huge thing, that got me to write again. Because you know, there have been a lot of close calls. It isn't like I haven't had things to write. I have. Every day. I've had a "ooh, that's a great post for today" feeling every day. But I haven't been able to get myself to get here and write. Until today. And so this day, this motivating event, carries with it some sort of heft. What is it that could move me so?

M & M's.

Yeah. Really.

Well, and a little irony, too. I love irony. Can't claim to know it had jumpstarting powers, but hey, there are plenty of mysteries remaining in the universe that elude our understanding. Can't know everything.

So. M&M's. I have always known that M&M's had some sort of deeper role to play than simply being a snacky delicious good thing that melts in your mouth not in your hand, which is not really quite true, but it was a catchy slogan. I always knew, since my childhood days in which, whenever I got my grubby hands on some M&M's, I would arrange them in little pyramids by color, which I know will prompt you to wonder if I am that anal about everything, which will prompt me to tell you that I am the least anal, like the-other-side-of-the-world-from-anal, person you have ever met, it's just that I really like to line up M&M's in little pyramids especially on the little glass table in the TV room in my parents house, and now I'm going to stop using the word anal because it's starting to really gross me out when I'm trying to focus on the deliciousness of M&Ms. I will say, though, that the brown ones are always the base of the pyramid because there's the most of those in a package, which really isn't right, but there are some things in life you can't control, and that's one of them. I will also say that when you make pyramids, you sometimes have to go back to the bag to get a few more M&Ms so that you can complete the pyramid neatly and symmetrically, which I think is kinda self-reinforcing for making M&M pyramids. I'm not sure, but I think so.

Now, mind you, this was in the days before blue M&M's. And there was even a time when there were no red M&Ms (I'm wondering if I'm making a serious faux pas capitalizing the M, when they are more lower case kinda things, but I'm in over my head now, so I'm sticking to it). And there certainly were no buy one color that you like or print your goofy little wedding logo on an M&M kind of things. There were just the regular old colors. And when they brought in blue, well, I just didn't think that was right. But, trusting in the gods as I do, I knew they must have a reason. So I didn't send them a letter or anything, even though I would have preferred purple.

And now, here we are today. July 28. And the mystery has been revealed. If you wait long enough, it always happens. I think it's called faith, although I think for most people faith and M&M's are really two different conversations. Their loss.

This morning, I was bopping around on facebook like I sometimes do, and I took a look at an article that a friend posted about the false goodness of Vitamin Water. I like Vitamin Water, especially the new 10 calorie kind, which is really 25 calories if you drink the whole bottle, which you obviously do, but still. So I read it, and basically, I thought they were going a little overboard comparing it to Coke (which I also love but very rarely drink and which, coincidentally, I used last week to get rust off my daughter's old bike). I cogitated a while on the extreme reactions of people these days to additives and artificial stuff and the return to locally grown goodness, all of which I think is important and a good thing, but is kind of a turnoff when people are hysterical about it rather than informative. And you know, one of the things people are most hysterical about are food colorings. That's why the red M&M's disappeared. Red Dye #2. And they've got a good point. There's plenty of evidence that food colorings seem to be associated with behavior issues in kids, which is really interesting and is a REALLY good reason to monitor them more carefully and, when possible, avoid them.

Which brings us to the headline I witnessed as I continued to bop around the web.

Warning: If you are an ardent animal rights advocate who cannot tolerate the idea or any images of animals used for medical research, you should probably not go on, because there's a picture and a description you really won't like. And if that scares you because you think there's gonna be terrible pictures of disfigured animals so you don't want to go on even if you aren't an AARA, don't worry. It's not that bad.

Today, my friends, we are talking about Brilliant Blue G (aka BBG), which is very similar to the food coloring compound used to color those newfangled blue M&Ms.

Come on. You knew it too. You knew that M&Ms were gonna save the world. Admit it.

So (drum roll please)...it turns out that BBG, administered promptly (it has to be given right away, it's just given by IV) after spinal cord injuries, produces a powerful and significant benefit. In rats, it restored mobility. It allowed them recover and walk again.

The only side effect is that the rats temporarily turned blue, which, if you can get past the animal research thing, is actually kinda cute and it's temporary anyway. (Would I trade turning temporarily blue for being able to walk? You betcha.)

There is currently no, I repeat NO, standard treatment available for people who arrive in an emergency room for a spinal cord injury. This one is hopefully going into clinical trials shortly. And the reason that they thought of trying it out in the first place is that BBG is similar to the coloring in blue M&M's (Ii already said that, but I thought it bore repeating) and so has been approved as safe.

How does it work? Well, of course you should read one of the articles, either the summary on CNN or, for the nerds among us, the abstract of the actual study, (and actually, if you visit the site of the journal, you'll also get to read a really cool article in the latest edition about why dinosaurs were big). It's really interesting, but just in case you don't wanna do it, here's the deal.
Because you should be informed. Yeah. You should.

So when there is a spinal cord injury, ATP (adenosine triphosphate), which is like the molecular currency of energy between cells, rushes to the site of the injury. ATP kills healthy motor cells, which makes the injury even worse. Our spinal cords have a lot of molecules called P2X7, which allows the ATP to latch on to motor cells and send messages to kill those cells (including the healthy ones). BBG (the colorant) blocks the function of P2X7, so the ATP can't find a home where it can destroy cells.

Aren't scientists cool?

(which prompts me to give a special shout out to my friend and chorus sister Emily, who is both a scientist--see above--and who also sorts M&Ms by color, thereby offering indisputable proof of said coolness)

Damn. Now I gotta go out and get some M&Ms and a Vitamin Water. See? That's why I haven't been writing. Blogging makes you fat.

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