Funtabulously Frivolous Friday Five 245

Just when you thought your brain could unwind on a Friday, you realise that it would rather be challenged with some good old fashioned medical trivia FFFF…introducing Funtabulously Frivolous Friday Five 245

Question 1

What is a HeLa cell?
Reveal the funtabulous answer

HeLa cells are an immortal cell line.

They were harvested from a patient Henrietta Lacks (…He La)

They are the oldest and most commonly used human cell lines as they can grow indefinitely, be frozen and thawed, divided into batches and shared among laboratories.

Henrietta Lacks (1920-1951) was an African-American woman who’s aggressive cervical tumour was biopsied at John Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland in 1951. Her cells were cultured by Georgo Otto Gey.  For years, Dr. Gey, a prominent cancer and virus researcher, had been collecting cells from all patients who came to The Johns Hopkins Hospital with cervical cancer, but each sample quickly died in Dr. Gey’s lab. What he would soon discover was that Mrs. Lacks’ cells were unlike any of the others he had ever seen: where other cells would die, Mrs. Lacks’ cells doubled every 20 to 24 hours.

Henrietta was never made aware that her cells were cultured for research, nor were her family notified or compensated for the commercial nature of the product, which was the standard at the time. Henrietta died later the same year aged 31 from metastatic disease. [Reference]

1976 – Michael Rogers told the story of the HeLa cell line’s connection to Henrietta Lacks in Rolling Stone: ‘The Double-Edged Helix‘ March 25 1976

Check out the movie as well…  The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

Question 2

In what year was smallpox declared eradicated?

Reveal the funtabulous answer


Although the last natural case of Smallpox was in Somalia in 1977, it was declared eradicated by WHO in 1980. It was the first disease to be fought on a global scale.  By the end of the 1960’s smallpox was still endemic in Africa and Asia.

The WHO Smallpox Eradication Programme ran from 1966-1980 and involved an active case identification and vaccination through the horn of Africa. [Reference]

Question 3

What is the oldest, continuously published, English language medical journal?

Reveal the funtabulous answer

The New England Journal of Medicine

1812 – January 1, the first quarterly edition of the Journal was published under the rather lengthy title of The New England Journal of Medicine and Surgery and the Collateral Branches of Medical Science – Conducted by a number of physicians. This first edition included publications including; Remarks on Angina Pectoris; the Morbid Effects of Dentition; domestic opium; the dissection of a Blue Female Child; and A Dissertation on the proximate cause of Inflammation, with an attempt to establish a rational plan of cure.

1823 – JVC Smith started the Boston Medical Intelligencer – devoted to the cause of physical education and to the means of preventing and curing diseases‘. However in 1827, with the publication of Volume 5 (1827-1828), the journal became insolvent

1828 – The editors of the New England Journal of Medicine and Surgery and the Collateral Branches of Medical Science purchased the Boston Medical Intelligencer and merged the publications to publish weekly with the new title of – Boston Medical and Surgical Journal (BMSJ).

1928 – After 100 years of publications as the BMSJ, the Massachusetts Medical Society (who purchased the publication in 1921 for $1), renamed the publication the ‘New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM)’  – [NEJM 1928 Feb; Vol 198 (1):1-2]
Each of the dates on the NEJM logo represent the founding of the four key milestones in the journals history


Newer journal publication dates:

1823 – The Lancet was first published October 5 1823 [Lancet 1823 Oct 05 Vol 1(1):1-36]

1840 – The British Medical Journal was first published in October 3 1840 as ‘The Provincial Medical and Surgical Journal‘ [Prov Med Surg J 1840; s1-1 :1] and renamed ‘The British Medical Journal (BMJ)’ in 1857

Question 4

What underlying condition might make you want to treat a patient’s nose bleed by inserting nasal tampons made of salted pork?

Reveal the funtabulous answer

Glanzmann thrombasthenia

Named after the Swis paediatrician Eduard Glanzmann (1887-1959)

In this condition the patient’s platelets contain defective or low levels of glycoprotein IIb/IIIa (GpIIb/IIIa), which is a receptor for fibrinogen. As a result, no fibrinogen bridging of platelets to other platelets can occur, and the bleeding time is significantly prolonged.

A Glanzmann thrombasthenia patient with epistaxis will bleed profusely…

An alternative approach, using nasal tampons consisting of salted pork, has been described in at least one case. How the pork works is unclear – it could that it is rich in tissue factor, or the salt may induce mucosal oedema and assist the tamponading effect of the pork ‘tampons’… or it could be coincidence. [Reference]

However, it’s not all doom and gloom, understanding of the role of GpIIb/IIIa in Glanzmann thrombasthenia led to the development of GpIIb/IIIa inhibitors, for the management of acute coronary syndrome. [Reference]

Question 5

How was viagra discovered?

Reveal the funtabulous answer

By chance…

In the late 1980’s researchers at Pfizer were investigating the therapeutic potential of PDE5 (cGMP phosphodiesterase) enzyme inhibitors. Over 1500 chemicals were screened and tested over 4 years, resulting in sildenafil, which later acquired the trade name Viagra.

However, Pfizer’s scientests weren’t investigating sexual dysfunction. Viagra was being studied as a potential therapy for hypertension and angina. Unfortunately, Phase II trials of Viagra demonstrated that it was not suitable for the treatment of angina (of note, Viagra should not be used with nitrates for angina, as profound hypotension can occur). However, the patients themselves simply didn’t want to stop taking the drug. Pfizer’s researchers soon realised the reason for this: Viagra produced prolonged erections following sexual stimulation. The rest is history. [Reference]

…and finally



Funtabulously Frivolous Friday Five

Dr Mark Corden BSc, MBBS, FRACP. Paediatric Emergency Physician working in Northern Hospital, Melbourne. Loves medical history and trivia...and assumes everyone around him feels the same...| LinkedIn |

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