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  1.  (1114.1)
    Witch Doctor is a forthcoming medical horror comic from writer Brandon Seifert and artist Lukas Ketner. Witch Doctor combines horror archetypes and really sick shit from the real world. This is the book's workblog. For more information, read the first entry.


    Whenever Warren talks about his allergies, I can't help but think, "He should go get some intestinal worms."

    It's hard to find allergies outside the industrialized world. They're a luxury of easy living, like White Liberal Guilt. They did this study in Venezuela where they compared the number of people with allergies to the number of people with intestinal worms. Among the upper-class people, only 10% had intestinal worms, and 43% had allergies. In the slums, there was twice the worms, half the allergies. And out in the rain forest, the native tribes had an 88% rate of worms -- and no allergies at all.

    There's this antibody we've all got called Immunoglobulin E (IgE). For a long time scientists couldn't figure out what it was for; they actually thought it was a mistake of evolution, because they only ever found it in large numbers when someone would have an allergy attack -- IgE is what causes an allergic response. But then they discovered that it's great for fighting parasites, which are too big and complicated for the rest of our antibodies to easily deal with. If you take IgE out of lat rats, they get swamped with parasites.

    Parasitic species may outnumber the rest of us free-livers as much as four to one. Our bodies have evolved to be constantly fighting them. And it may be that when our bodies can't find out traditional internal Red Menace, they may start mistaking harmless dust and strawberries and penicilin for no good rotten pinkos.

    In Blog #4 I talked about the Red Queen Race, the constant evolutionary arms race between a parasite species and its host, where both sides are frantically racing to stay in one place. This is the flip side of that -- old soldiers never die, and stockpiled armaments are only missing a target.

    Sickle cell anemia is an inherited blood disease where your red blood cells collapse into little stabby bits because the hemoglobin, the protective container the cells stick oxygen molecules in, is built wrong and can't hold its shape if it doesn't have oxygen inside. If you get the gene for it from both your parents, you'll probably be dead really early in life.

    But sickle cell anemia is great for killing malaria. Malaria is a protozoan named Plasmodium that likes to renovate our red blood cells and turn them into little summer homes. And the errors in hemoglobin structure caused by sickle cell makes their summer homes fall down around them. If you get malaria early in life, and you got the sickle cell gene from one of your parents, then the sickle cells will kill enough Plasmodium that your naive little immune system can usually figure out how to kill the rest -- and it'll remember how for the rest of your life. Sickle cell anemia basically lets your body vaccinate itself against malaria, something science can't do yet. So the places where you find a lot of sickle cell anemia? You also find a whole lot of malaria. It only becomes a blood "disease" when there's no malaria around for it to protect you from.

    (There clearly need to be creatures called "Immunogoblins" in Witch Doctor. I'm just not sure what they'll be like yet.)

    So, that's your lesson for today, class. In actual Witch Doctor news, we've got ourselves a MySpace now, and we'd love you to be our friend. Please add us, and send us a message introducing yourself. Work proceeds on our first issue, and we're currently firming up plans for the release party on May 1st and the Virtual Release Party in a chatroom somewhere soon after that. And go check out the pretty new design on the website!

    Previous Entry: 5: Meet the good doctor :: Next Entry: 7: Our vampires are different
  2.  (1114.2)
    planaria
    Planaria are So Much Cuter.
  3.  (1114.3)
    They really are adorable, aren't they? Still they're no Trypanosoma, the parasitic cause of sleeping sickness, which has "many enchanting features" that make it "the darling of experimental biologists."
  4.  (1114.4)
    True. But they are the cutest things ever; even under a microscope- and they really do have eyespots! :D
    Mostly we worked with E.coli in lab, though.
  5.  (1114.5)
    E. coli is pretty interesting by itself. What do you do that causes you to look at planaria under microscopes and stick lampreys to objects in classrooms?
  6.  (1114.6)
    I used to be a bio major...before I switched to art and got my BA.
  7.  (1114.7)
    Ah, fair enough. Sounds like my last girlfriend, oddly enough.
  8.  (1114.8)
    Brandon - ...there are more people like me around? Eerie.
  9.  (1114.9)
    Well, I wouldn't necessarily go that far. But Biology-to-Liberal Arts Majors aren't as uncommon as, say, unicycling chemist dancers, who I also know one of.
  10.  (1114.10)
    A Unicycling Chemist Dancer?

    ...I don't know that many chemists, but the ones I do know? Wouldn't be that much of a stretch of an imagination.