Lousy Hairdos

Infanta Carlota Joaquina, courtesy of Museo Del Prado

Heard this while on a tour at Madrid’s El Prado: Those sky-high 18th century hairdos were considered chic but they were really lousy. As in filled with lice. Wealthy women bought sterling silver head scratchers to get to those really deep itchy spots. Also, their stylists slipped a bit of bacon into the buns to lure the bugs to one spot.

Now that’s a real BLT: Bacon, Lice and Trendy

And if the hair thing weren’t bad enough, women who dressed like  Carlota Joaquina of Spain (seen to the right) had to walk sideways through doorways and sometimes needed a helper to keep them upright if the dress weighed too much.

What Does the Future of Genetic Testing Mean for Us? For Our Kids?

Twenty-four years ago, when I was living in London and pregnant with Jack, my first son, I had a prenatal ultrasound but not amniocentesis. I don’t remember doing any kind of blood test for genetic testing. Though back then in  the U.K.,  blood was sometimes drawn without providing the same kind of detailed explanations they offered in the U.S. Maybe I had been tested for things without my knowledge.

In any event, during my next pregnancy (with twins), the technology was bumped up. I’m not sure if that was due to the change in time (two years later and more options) or change in locale (NY versus London). That time around, I had ultrasounds, an amniocentesis, and a blood test to check for a few of the genetic diseases that run in Jewish families.

For my final pregnancy, nearly 18 years ago, the number of genetic tests seemed to balloon faster than, well, my belly. It was nerve-wracking to hear all the things that could possibly be wrong. Fortunately, all went well.

I hadn’t given much thought to those pre-partum days until I picked up Bonnie Rochman’s The Gene Machine that explores the biology and bioethics of genetic testing. It’s a smart and compassionate read–not just for those of you who are considering parenthood but anyone with any interest in the future of medical testing and its impact on our health decisions. I recently had the opportunity to ask Rochman a few questions about her research:


RHE: You write with the perspective of a veteran health reporter and also as a pregnant woman offered an array of genetic tests. Was the impetus to write this book because you feel that we live in this wonderful time of information or because you feel parents need to be wary about a flood of too much information ?

BR: Both! There is no question that we do live in an incredible era of access to information about our children’s genetic makeup. So much of this information is illuminating and empowering, enabling parents to make more informed decisions about pregnancy and their children’s health. And that’s a great medical achievement. But it’s important to understand the limitations of some of the information we can tap into. The more comprehensive the test, the more likely it is to reveal information whose impact may not be totally clear. For example, tiny deletions or duplications of DNA may indicate a serious problem or they may be of little or no significance. Our understanding of what these changes mean lags far behind our ability to deploy these genetic technologies. You can see the challenges this presents.

RHE: Did your research confirm your hunches, or did your research surprise you in any way?

BR: When I first started researching this topic, I was a little in the thrall of all this amazing genetic technology. How cool is it that we’re now able to test all 20,000+ genes at once, rather than painstakingly examining them one by one? But I was overly naive and didn’t give enough thought to the sobering truth that the more you peer into your genes the more apt you are to find problems. For example, there was one study that really sparked my interest in exploring this subject further: It asked a bunch of parents if, hypothetically, they would want to test their kids for some common diseases of adulthood, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes. Parents overwhelmingly said yes, anticipating that their kids would get a clean bill of health. Yet these diseases are so common that, on average, each kid would have nine variants, or gene changes, indicating increased risk for these conditions. I was really surprised by that. It made me realize that the saying “no one is perfect” rings true not only from a psychological perspective but within a biological frame of reference too


RHE: The buzz word these days among geneticists  is “CRISPR”. Can you explain what this is and how it relates to the future of babyhood?

BR: For starters, CRISPR has nothing to do with the opposite of soggy, which is what my kids suspected. It’s an acronym for Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats. CRISPR is a tool to edit genes. It’s sometimes called CRISPR-Cas9 because it relies upon a protein called Cas9 to zero in on a particular defective DNA sequence and repair the mistake. Although it’s currently being used to try to address disease, many researchers expect that its power will eventually be used for less noble purposes — for enhancement, not curative purposes. For example, scientists are working on using CRISPR technology to repair muscle damage in children with Duchenne muscular dystrophy. If they’re able to crack the code, it doesn’t take too much imagination to predict a future where parents may try to apply that breakthrough to embryos or infants to build a better, stronger baby.

RHE: What should parents want to know or what should they ask?

BR: Parents should ask for clarity about what sort of information they can expect to learn from any genetic testing they choose before, during or after pregnancy. So many parents I interviewed told me that they didn’t really understand what they were getting into when they said “yes to the test.” It’s a good idea to ask if results are definitive or only indicative of increased risk of disease. The answer can help you decide whether to proceed with a particular test. It can also be very helpful for parents to ask themselves why they’re doing testing in the first place. If test results wouldn’t change the course of a pregnancy, for example, it might prompt some thoughtful consideration of whether testing is worthwhile. Genetic testing is an extremely personal decision. What one person finds helpful another person might find anxiety-inducing. There’s a broad spectrum of decision-making.

Is it Time to Replace the Heart as a Symbol of Love?

My Anatomically Correct Heart Necklace

I was downtown with my girls a few years ago checking out the arts-n-crafts tables at Union Square when I came across a heart necklace shaped like a heart. Like a real heart. Like if you didn’t know what a real heart looked like, you might have thought the necklace was a charm of a chicken breast with antennae sticking out.

I asked the saleswoman about it and she made some comment like “real love isn’t pretty.” That’s why she molded an anatomically correct organ rather than a heart-shaped heart.

My girls were appalled. I was sold. Not so much because I’ve got a dismal view on love—I’ll be celebrating my 27th anniversary next month—but because I appreciated the medical accuracy. .

I got thinking about my accurate-heart necklace with Valentine’s Day around the corner. And that got me wondering why—of all of our body parts—we connect love to the heart. It’s really just a pump.

Turns out, in ancient times the liver was the organ of desire.

a liver

Maybe the liver-love-thing didn’t catch on because getting someone a box of liver-treats on Valentine’s Day sounds like something you’d get your dog.

I think it’s time for a new Valentine’s Day body part. Rather than an organ responsible for bile (liver) or one for blood circulation (heart), we should pick one that has to do with hormones. Those are the chemicals that control lust, hunger, desire, growth, and probably cognition—all the things that in one way or another go into a solid romance. Among the hormone-spewing glands, the top contender is the hypothalamus. It’s the master gland tucked deep in the brain that releases hormones that controls all the other ones. It’s the conductor of your finely-tuned orchestra of hormones. And it’s shaped sort of like a diamond. How apropos for Valentine’s gifts.

So if you really want to express a deep biological desire for your Valentine, you certainly don’t want to tell someone you love them with all your liver (that’s so 2nd century A.D) nor that you love them with all your heart (so 20th century.) Tell them you lust for them with all of the power of your hormone-spewing hypothalamus.

For more information about Hearts and Valentines check out this podcast by WHYY’s The Pulse.

Alt-Facts and Medical History

L0006584 Descartes: The Nervous System. Diagram of the brain
Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images
Descartes: The Nervous System. Diagram of the brain and the pineal gland.
De Homine
Descartes, Rene
Published: 1662
Copyrighted work available under Creative Commons Attribution only licence CC BY 4.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

Last night at the New York Academy of Medicine, Dr. George Makari, a historian, psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, spoke about his latest book, The Soul Machine: The Invention of the Modern Mind. The book traces the debates about the origins of the mind and the soul during the 16th through 18th centuries. It’s really a history of what makes us human. It’s also a story about how medical ideas take hold.

In 1649, go instance, René Descartes, an eminent French philosopher, claimed the pineal, a pea-sized gland in the brain, was the seat of the soul, or as Makari explained, “the meeting place between the soul and the mechanical disruptions that came from memories, sensory information, passions, appetites and bodily forces.” Other experts at the time thought the idea was cockamamie. Descartes was later proven wrong. Still, ideas persist.

Makari’s talk, much to my delight, added a new wrinkle to my own hormone-history research. In my forthcoming book, I explore medical testimony given during a trial dubbed the “Crime of the Century.” Two college students were charged with murdering a young boy. A doctor, called in to testify on behalf of the defendants, claimed that one of the killers, the ringleader, had a faulty pineal gland that screwed up his hormones, sparking a killer instinct. In other words, his hormones made him do it. Or his pineal gland made him do it. Either way, the judge didn’t buy it and both boys were both sentenced to life in prison.

What struck me when I heard Makari talk about the 17th century pineal gland debates wasn’t so much what this little gland does or doesn’t do, but how scientific ideas—whether true, false, or alternative facts—linger and shape our notions of health and disease for better and for worse.


PS: We know the pineal emits bursts of melatonin, a hormone, that controls our internal clock. Whether over-the-counter melatonin cures jetlag and promotes a good night sleep, well that’s still up for debate.


Kangaroo Jack

Jack & me. He's a few hours old.

Jack & me. He’s a few hours old.

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What a nice scientific study to read on my son’s twenty-third birthday. Turns out that cuddling and nursing premature babies instead of just putting them in an incubator and giving them a bottle turns them into grounded, social adults.

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So 23 years ago today, my son was born a month before his due date. Just the night before that, I showed my husband a photo from one of my medical school books and under the caption of an image of a 34-weekish-old unborn baby, it best online pharmacy said: at this point the baby is fully formed, it just has no body fat. I’m paraphrasing, but it said something of that ilk. A few hours later my water broke (much to cheap generic viagra our shock) and a few hours after that Jack came out. The book was viagra what does it cost right. He was skinny. We were living in London at the time. My doctor was really relaxed about pregnancy and birth. No whisking baby Jack away to a nursery, no extra exams. It was just me and Jack in the hospital room to snuggle and nurse. We went home the next day. I’m not sure we were in the hospital 24 hours. The researchers in the new study—published in the December issue of Pediatrics—compared mothers of premies who got so-called Kangaroo care, to those who didn’t. Kangaroo care was adopted from Kangaroos who hop around with their little Joeys. For pouchless humans it means skin-to-skin contact, exclusive breastfeeding and leaving the hospital as soon as medically possible. This new study, by doctors in Bogota, Columbia tracked about 200 kids for twenty years, about half had been randomly chosen for the kangaroo category. They found that the Kangaroo online pharmacy reviews xanax

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kids scored lower on aggression, anti-social behavior, and attention deficit disorder. I’ve got to believe that one-on-one time with a newborn plus breastfeeding is a better approach than nurseries and bottles. I’m not completely convinced that the snuggling and breast milk is why my son (or any kid) is grounded, social, and not-aggressive. In any event, I was pleased to see the email of the results in my inbox on his birthday. It seemed like a sort of gift. And, well, if it’s more evidence—even just a little—to push for mothers and babies to be together with fewer medical intrusions, then that’s a good thing. But the study made me think of the reverse. Sure, babies benefit from being held closely, but we new mothers benefit too. Not sure if it’s hormonal thing and not sure if a study could prove a statistically significant advance for kangarooing moms, but I’ve got a hunch that the time my premature baby Jack and I spent together did just as much good for me as it did for him.

A Burger Joint Finds the Key to Happiness

Hahn Public Communications, thanks to Caitlin Gooch

Photo Courtesy of Whataburger

So I’m in Dallas at a medical meeting listening to doctors trumpet the benefits of hormone treatments and turns out that at the very same hotel is the kick-off for the WhataGames: Whataburger’s own version of the corporate Olympics. Whataburger is a family-owned and operated business with more than 800 fast-food restaurants spanning the south, from Arizona to Florida and as a spokeswoman said, going as far pharmacy technician hourly wage canada north as Oklahoma. Since when is Oklahoma far north? But then I found out this spokesperson is based in San Antonio. That’s where the headquarters are. Anyhow, half the Hyatt Regency lobby is doctors with blue lanyards milling about with heavy notebooks and the other half are folks in orange and white costumes, hooting and hollering. A lot of the doctors were telling me stories of burnout and redemption—how they left canadianpharmacyonline-rxed.com their emergency rooms practices to open lucrative private practices selling hormones. This wasn’t your typical medical meeting. It felt, as one doctor in the audience said viagra on sale to me, more like one long infomercial. The Whataburger folks were the peppiest conventioners I’d seen. (Though, in truth, most of the conventions I’d ever been to have been medical ones, not burger joint events). Some stocky guy who looked well into his 40s had a bright orange clown wig with a rainbow band around

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his orange one-piece costume. Someone else was wearing a bright orange foam football on his head. There were lots of women in orange tutus. What a kick off! It was held in the auditorium next door, with videos of different Whataburger joints, a manager online pharmacy canada paypal talking about employee morale in front of a big screen showing an Olympic torch. Everyone, regardless of theme, wore sunglasses adorned with flashing lights giving the room a sort cheap viagra online of disco effect. I know that all companies have their own ways to bond. At my son’s office, they formed a kickball league (and won the league!) and now that the season is over, they’ve got happy hour instead. But Whataburger is really taking it to the next level. It was fun and funny at the same time. The folks I talked

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to were seriously happy employees. And you have to imagine that happy employees make for better workers, which makes for better business, and better burgers. One woman, a general manager of a Florida Whataburger, told me that she eats Whataburger two meals a day at least five times a week. I was thinking that’s a lot of beef so I asked her what she ate for breakfast and lunch. Turns out Whataburger also does egg white breakfast sandwiches, salads and all kind of non-burgers. Another employee said that the best part of Whataburger is that you special order your meals, “unlike McDonalds where if you order a Big Mac, you get a Big Mac, maybe hold the pickle.” At Whataburger, it’s more like “bun, or no bun, toast instead of white bun. She said, “we did a study and there are over 36,000 ways to make a Whataburger. But now there are even more sauces, so who knows how many ways.” (That sales pitch should win at least a few points for her team.) Today launched The WhataGames, which begins with all restaurants competing against one another, followed by semi-finals, and ultimately culminating in a finalist competition in April, 2017. Teams are ranked in three categories: operations, corporate history, and customer service. Each contestant from the gold medal-winning restaurant is awarded $5000, silver medalists get $2500 and Bronze gets $1,000. The funny thing is in that the meeting next door,I was listening to a lecture about how to medicate your patients with hormones to make them happier. Maybe what we all need is one big pep rally.

Hahn Public Communications, thanks to Caitlin Gooch

Photo Courtesy fo Whataburger

Does my gut bacteria make me look fat?

In 2009, Dr. Jeffrey Friedman, a scientist at Rockefeller University, wrote an editorial in Newsweek about obesity purporting that body weight is biologically regulated. The piece elicited an onslaught of comments—all negative. Obese people felt victimized. And a slew is the canadian pharmacy legit of folks insisted that overweight people should take responsibility. This November, the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism is publishing the results of a study that found differences between the gut bacteria of obese participants compared to the thin ones. Among 84 volunteers (ages 7 to 20), the bacteria among the fat participants dumped more calories into garlic or viagra the body compared to the germs in everyone else, said Yale’s Nicola Santoro, MD, PhD, one of the investigators. Put another way, if an overweight person were eating the same meal as a thin one, the heavier person would store of that meal as fat. While the study is small, it seemed, at first glance, to lend credence to a biological basis of body size. My first thought buy generic cialis online was this: Are some folks born with an unlucky

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batch of gut buy cialis from online pharmacy bacteria? Or, on second thought does it mean that years of eating too much fostered this kind of fat-storing microbiota? “That’s the million dollar question,” Santoro responded. The real answer best canadian pharmacy is going to be that much like everything else about us humans, a mix of nature and nurture. If we are canadian pharmacy generic cymbalta lucky, doctors may figure out a way to help

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more skinny-making germs and kill off the fat-making ones. Still, I bet it’ll still take a healthy diet to keep the weight off. canadian pharmacy online safe In any event, the new study adds a new twist on the old adage: you are not what you eat. You are what your gut bacteria eat.

Here’s What a Bad Night’s Sleep Really Does to Your Brain

My apparently sleep-deprived twins, Joey & Martha, at dinner.

My apparently sleep-deprived twins, Joey & Martha, at dinner, circa 1997.

I’m probably the queen of preaching the importance of a good night’s sleep because I function so much better when I get the amount I need. But I solaraze gel canadian pharmacy rarely practice what I preach. There’s just too much to do. There’s just one last thing I need to read, or to see, and despite the lack of memory and the crankiness and all the other stuff that comes with a lack of sleep, somehow I fool myself into believing that staying up a little later and getting up a little earlier will help me accomplish more. And yes, I tell my children just the opposite. The odd thing about sleep is that we know what happens when we don’t get enough but we really don’t know the biological basis. Now, a new study from researchers at the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Groningen in the Netherlands found that in mice, sleep deprivation screws up connections in the hippocampus. The hippocampus is a C-shaped organ deep in the brain associated with memory and spacial relations. So a gridlock in the way messages travel is likely to distort memory. That deprivation could be why when I’m really tired, uk viagra suppliers I put down my house keys and then for the life of me, can’t remember where they are. Or maybe this scientific evidence is just the proof I need to

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convince pumping on viagra my kids to get a canadian pharmacy in leesburg fl good night sleep before they have an exam. And for the record, no matter how much sleep I get, I have really lousy spacial-relation issue which makes parallel parking nearly impossible. But while the potentially alarming news from the study published in the journal eLife–that lacking sleep shrinks a portion of the hippocampus–there was a bright side. A few good nights of sleep restore function and pumps up the hippocampus to its original size. Sleep, perhaps, is just as elusive as the hippocampus has been. For years doctors had no ideas what it did. In the late 1950s, investigators discovered its connection to memory. That’s because surgeons removed the hippocampus of a young man, hoping to cure his severe epilepsy. The surgery apparently lessened his seizures, but also cut off his short term memory. He lived, as one of his biographers wrote, in the permanent present tense. (The story of H.M., the patient, has http://cialisdosage-storeonline.com/ been retold in a recent off-broadway play, Incognito and two recent books, one by a scientist and the other by the grandson of the neurosurgeon.) In any event, until recently we knew the hippocampus was important for memory but the sleep connection is new. The really puzzling thing—or perhaps the most fascinating of all—is that while we are piecing together the impact of sleep deprivation, we really don’t understand the basic biology of sleep itself. What is going on during a good night’s sleep? Dr. John W. Winkelman, medical director of the Sleep Health Center, Brigham & Women’s Hospital in Brighton, Mass., cialis generic online once put it this way to me in an article I wrote for the New York Times: “Sleep is not the absence of wake. Your brain is active all night long, more active in REM sleep than when you’re awake. Glucose utilization is very high. People think wake is the room with the lights on and sleep is darkness, but in the darkness a best online canadian pharmacy lot is going on.” This study may be just the sleep aid I need. I’ve grown deaf to even my own nagging about the importance of a good night’s sleep. (I know my kids certainly have.) But reading about how losing sleep is impacting a brain structure—affecting the chemical signals—may be just the

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sort of impetus to get me to turn off the computer, the T.V., shut the book, calm down or do whatever it takes to best canadian pharmacy keep my hippocampus functioning the way it’s supposed to. For pointers about getting a good night sleep, click here for New York Times’s science writer, Roni

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Rabin’s generic cialis online pharmacy advice For further reading (and a fun read) about sleep, here’s a link to David Randall’s Adventures in Dreamland.

Racing Hormones: Athletes Broach the Subject

From "As One Girl to Another," a 1940 pamphlet for girls published by Kimberly-Clark (Courtesy of Duke University Rare Book, Manuscript and Special Collections Library, Durham, North Carolina

From “As One Girl to Another,” a 1940 pamphlet for girls published by Kimberly-Clark (Courtesy of the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University, Durham, North Carolina)

The last time I ran generic viagra a marathon—and probably the last time I will run a marathon—I staggered across the finish line. A few hours later I got my period. Maybe that explained my time, nearly an hour slower than I had hoped. My marathon-menstruation debacle was something I never thought I’d write about or care to think about. That was 12 years ago. A few weeks ago, I heard that Olympiad Fu Yuanhi announced to the world that her menstrual cramps threw off her swimming times. Her remarks, one year after a similar it’s-my-period’s-fault comment by British tennis player Heather Watson, seems to have launched a whole new perspective on women’s hormones and sports. The viagra blood pressure drop simple question, one that has plagued women for generations, is whether

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menstruation impacts athletic prowess. A 2011 study of rowers found no difference in performance when they tracked participants’ menstrual cycles with oxygen uptake, power output and other variables that impact physical abilities. But other studies have shown just the opposite. The more complicated question is cheapest viagra online this: If menstruation does have an impact, then which hormones are doing what? One study suggested that high levels of canadian national association of pharmacy estrogen during the first half of the menstrual cycle may make women more vulnerable to muscle tears. Or maybe it’s is it legal to buy viagra online not muscles but the metabolism. Other researchers wonder whether hormone fluctuations altered the way women metabolize carbohydrates—and that could alter energy stores resulting in underwhelming results during some times buy generic cialis online of the month. In the first half free offer cialis of the 20th century, getting your period was reason to avoid sports per comprare il cialis serve la ricetta altogether. (Having a menstrual cycle was also considered a valid reason to avoid higher education, but that’s another story.) in a nutshell: physical or mental exertion, according to the medical dogma of the time, was considered hazardous to the baby-making process. All this pseudo-scientific advice was based on hunches, that is not on any medical information, as historian Lara Freidenfelds, Ph.D explained in her brilliant book, Modern Period: Menstruation in Twentieth-Century America. A bit of walking during your period was okay, but women were http://viagraonline-edstore.com/ warned against doing any activity that sparked too much excitement and nothing that could “jiggle” emsam patch canadian pharmacy the uterus. Swimming pools were considered too cold. Jumping was considered too, well, jumpy. Advice like that was sure to keep any budding http://viagraonline-edstore.com/ female athlete from discussing her monthly fluctuations. The good news is that today’s openness about menstruation is the impetus for research. According to an article in last week’s New York Times, Northwestern researcher Lynn Rogers is launching studies to investigate precisely how fluctuations in estrogen and progesterone (the hormones that go up and down during the menstrual cycle) may impact athletic performance. I’d like to think that my hormones were to blame for my shoddy run. I really did feel bloated and kind of awful from start to finish. But I think it had more to do with the fact that I viagra sales

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Fatherhood Plummets Testosterone…Maybe

It’s so easy to tie things to hormones. We usually think of it as a woman’s thing. Fat after a baby? It’s taking viagra at 18 her hormones. Cranky when she’s hitting her late 40s? It’s her hormones. But what about http://genericviagra-edtopshop.com/ men? In the July issue of Hormones and Behavior, scientists link a man’s sinking testosterone levels during his partner’s buy tadalafil online india pregnancy to an increased investment in fatherhood. The study tracked 27 heterosexual couples, measuring everyone’s testosterone (men generic viagra genericcialisonline-rxnow.com online and women) three to four times during the pregnancy. Then they all filled out a survey about their investment, commitment, and satisfaction when the baby turned 3-and-a-half months. The study confirms earlier research suggesting that http://genericviagra-edtopshop.com/ men with lower levels of testosterone are better nurturers than higher-testosterone men who are thinking more about making babies than taking care of them. This kind of thinking meshes with the http://canadianpharmacy-rxedtop.com/ old fashioned notion that links all things manly and macho with testosterone and all things 365 online pharmacy cuddly with estrogen. It’s a notion that some doctors have been fighting against every since testosterone was named testosterone. In 1927, chinese herbal viagra when the University canadian pharmacy online codeine of Chicago’s Dr. Fred Koch eked out .0007th of a gram of active ingredient from 44 pounds of bulls’ testicles, he refused to give the newfound hormone a name. “It is our feeling that until more is known about the chemical nature of the hormone no name

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should be given,” he wrote in a scientific article, “The Testicular Hormone.” Eight years later, University of Amsterdam’s Ernst Laqueur purified the substance and called it testosterone. There was griping about the name. The problem was testosterone implied that it’s from the testicles and only from the testicles, which it isn’t. And that implies it’s just a man’s hormone, which it isn’t. The adrenal glands make is there a generic viagra testosterone. So do ovaries—in tinier amounts. Dr. A. S. Parkes, a British endocrinologist loathed the name. “The idea of maleness and femaleness as clearly defined endocrine states was finally shattered by the early work on the steroid hormones,” he said in lecture to the Zoological Society of London. But it wasn’t. Hormones do impact behavior. And maybe they are onto something. Women know

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to a few weaknesses. For one, cheap generic viagra it was small. More importantly, they didn’t compare parenting attitudes between fathers with plummeting testosterone to fathers without a decline. So where does that leave us? Well, its fun with viagra nice to see that at least 27 of these new fathers, according to this study, are enjoying their newborns and finding satisfaction with the diaper changing. I’m just not

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