Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

How the battle of Waterloo could help doctors fight death from multiple organ failure

23.11.2004


Waterloo’s battlefield is reigniting the debate about whether modern medicine is always good for you, according to University College London (UCL) scientists who are launching a study of why some critically ill patients recover and others die from multiple organ failure - the number one killer of patients in intensive care.

Speaking today at a public lecture held in London, Professor Mervyn Singer from UCL’s Institute of Intensive Care Medicine said the impressive survival statistics of injured soldiers at the battles of Waterloo and Trafalgar serve as a reminder of how we underestimate the human body’s ability to heal itself under the most extreme conditions. Of the 52 privates in the 13th Light Dragoons wounded by sabre, gunfire and cannon injuries at Waterloo, only two subsequently died.

Prof Singer says: “Despite the non-existence of antibiotics, blood transfusions, life-support machines and other paraphernalia of modern intensive care, most of these soldiers recovered, often from life-threatening injuries. Yet with all our technical advances in medicine, mortality rates from conditions such as sepsis (bacterial infection of the bloodstream) haven’t improved dramatically over the past century. “The question we need to ask ourselves is whether our present understanding of underlying pathology in medicine is leading us down the wrong path, and whether our current interventions may even be injurious to the healing process.



“Modern treatments trigger changes in the patient’s inflammatory and immune responses or influence circulatory, hormonal, bioenergetic and metabolic systems in ways we don’t appreciate. Even lowering the temperature of a feverish patient may be counter-productive. We may need to be more strategic in our treatments and therapies, tailoring them to how the body responds naturally to sepsis and other critical illnesses.”

Survival statistics from the battle of Waterloo throw up an even more radical theory – could it be that multiple organ failure, triggered by severe trauma or subsequent infection, actually represents the body’s last-ditch attempt to survive in the face of a critical illness? By switching itself off and becoming dormant, as with hibernating animals during extreme cold, the body may thus be able to tide itself through the critical period. Support for this theory comes from the fact that the organs invariably recover, to the point of appearing remarkably normal, within days to weeks when the patient survives.

Professor Singer and colleague Dr Paul Glynne from UCL’s Institute of Hepatology are about to embark on a large study of multiple organ failure induced by sepsis, which kills around a third of patients in intensive care. Ultimately, they hope that by understanding why people either survive or die from this condition, new therapies can be developed to reduce the period of illness and mortality rate.

Preliminary work suggests that the body’s ability to store and use energy efficiently may play a part in determining whether a patient will recover. A recent study by Dr Glynne and Prof Singer has linked leptin, the protein hormone regulating hunger, body weight and metabolism, to sepsis-induced organ failure and recovery.

Dr Glynne says: “The body’s inability to regulate energy expenditure seems to play a key role in the development of sepsis-induced multiple organ failure. We think that some septic patients become deficient in leptin and this leads to energy failure and subsequent organ dysfunction. Exploring the relationship between leptin, body energy regulation and the severity of critical illness will reveal whether leptin, or one of its downstream targets, could potentially be developed as a new therapy for septic patients with organ failure."
Professor Mervyn Singer’s lecture, “Are we Ignoring the Lessons of Waterloo at our (Patients’) Peril?” held today at 1pm at UCL, is part of a series of lunchtime lectures which are open to the general public.

For more information about UCL’s Lunch Hour Lectures, please visit http://www.ucl.ac.uk/registry/events/lhl/

Jenny Gimpel | alfa
Further information:
http://ww.ucl.ac.uk

More articles from Health and Medicine:

nachricht Tracking movement of immune cells identifies key first steps in inflammatory arthritis
23.01.2017 | Massachusetts General Hospital

nachricht Team discovers how bacteria exploit a chink in the body's armor
20.01.2017 | University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

All articles from Health and Medicine >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Quantum optical sensor for the first time tested in space – with a laser system from Berlin

For the first time ever, a cloud of ultra-cold atoms has been successfully created in space on board of a sounding rocket. The MAIUS mission demonstrates that quantum optical sensors can be operated even in harsh environments like space – a prerequi-site for finding answers to the most challenging questions of fundamental physics and an important innovation driver for everyday applications.

According to Albert Einstein's Equivalence Principle, all bodies are accelerated at the same rate by the Earth's gravity, regardless of their properties. This...

Im Focus: Traffic jam in empty space

New success for Konstanz physicists in studying the quantum vacuum

An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...

Im Focus: How gut bacteria can make us ill

HZI researchers decipher infection mechanisms of Yersinia and immune responses of the host

Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...

Im Focus: Interfacial Superconductivity: Magnetic and superconducting order revealed simultaneously

Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.

While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...

Im Focus: Studying fundamental particles in materials

Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales

Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Sustainable Water use in Agriculture in Eastern Europe and Central Asia

19.01.2017 | Event News

12V, 48V, high-voltage – trends in E/E automotive architecture

10.01.2017 | Event News

2nd Conference on Non-Textual Information on 10 and 11 May 2017 in Hannover

09.01.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Tracking movement of immune cells identifies key first steps in inflammatory arthritis

23.01.2017 | Health and Medicine

Electrocatalysis can advance green transition

23.01.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

New technology for mass-production of complex molded composite components

23.01.2017 | Process Engineering

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>