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McGill Reporter
February 5, 2004 - Volume 36 Number 10
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Body talk

We truly live in an age of wonders, when it is possible to take the living organ of one person and put it into the body of another. Old news? Not at all — it's relatively recent. For centuries, deliberately cutting into a cadaver was legally prohibited. Which means that the specific geography of this sack of jelly we call our bodies was pretty much a mystery to those in the medical profession.

Anatomical illustration

Of course our knowledge of our bodies has changed with time and circumstance — the Egyptians had a pretty good handle on what is sloshing around in there, if only to keep it together for the afterlife. The Greeks and Romans did a certain amount of experimentation as well.

How it all was transmitted and translated through the ages is Vivian Nutton's area of expertise. The professor from the Wellcome Trust Centre for the History of Medicine at University College in London will come to McGill to discuss recent discoveries in medieval manuscripts that have thrown light on the dissection practices in Roman times.

Vivian Nutton, "Ancient anatomy and its influences: Some new manuscript discoveries," Feb. 11, 4:30 pm, 3647 Peel Street, Don Bates Seminar, rm. 101. Information: 398-6034

Kidding around

Kids don't come with an instruction manual. No matter, as everyone from Benjamin Spock, to your dear old Ma, to the Supreme Court of Canada are too happy step in to fill that advice void. Which leads to the next problem — who do you listen to?

Child on a swing

Raising a kid isn't what it used to be: Attention Deficit Disorder diagnoses are on the rise, schoolyard bullying is increasingly in the news and children are bombarded with sexualized advertising at every turn. Should they be pushed harder in school? Less?

For years, the Faculty of Education has been helping parents learn the tools and strategies they need for raising a child today. The 13th series, "Parenting in the New Millennium," uses McGill's network of experts to address topics ranging from self-esteem to teen sexuality. Workshop leaders include professors, psychologists and other child care practitioners. Last year the workshops drew over 1,100 parents and professionals.

"Parenting in the New Millennium," Wednesdays from February 11 to April 14, 7:00 pm – 9:30 pm, 3700 McTavish Street, 1st floor, main lobby. 1 Workshop: $20; 3 Workshops: $50. Discounts for pre-registration. Information: 398-2712 jennifer.coutlee@mcgill.ca; www.education.mcgill.ca/parenting.

Healers in harmony

Students come and go, doctors move on to greener pastures, but some things in the Faculty of Medicine are forever: like the sound of music. That would be the music of I Medici di McGill, an orchestral ensemble made up of medical professionals and students from McGill and the Montreal community.

The group, founded by pharmacology professor Ante Padjen, is celebrating its 15th year with a concert at the Erskine and American Church on the corner of Sherbrooke and du Musée, on February 16 at 8 pm.

Conducted by maestro Iwan Edwards since 2000, I Medici provides both a social outlet for the musicians within, and a chance to do good works for the world outside of academia. The orchestra often performs for fundraisers and at local hospitals.

The program will open with Schubert's "Overture in Italian Style," Dvorak's "Cello Concerto in D minor," Op. 104 and Edward Elgar's "Introduction and Allegro for Strings."

Admission to all I Medici public concerts is free and donations at the door are always welcome. More information on the orchestra may be found at www.imedici.mcgill.ca.

Surviving as a solid

Illustration of frog in ice cube

The scarcity of food and freezing temperatures during winter drive many Canadian animals into hibernation, even though many of these organisms find themselves a hair's breadth from death. Torpor, the scientific term for deep hibernation, involves a drastic suppression of metabolic rate. This is not a pleasant slumber — metabolic rate in ground squirrels can fall by 96 percent, as their body temperatures reach ambient levels. In chipmunks, the heart rate plummets from 400 drumbeats per minute to a crawl of 23 beats per minute. In cold-blooded species, such as turtles and frogs, hibernation is quite literally blood-chilling. Up 65 percent of these animals' body water becomes solid ice. Despite the absence of a heartbeat, they still revive at the onset of spring. Ken Storey, the Canada Research Chair in molecular physiology and professor of biochemistry at Carleton University, uses molecular tools to identify the genes that allow these death-defying animals to survive the winter freeze, which he'll explain in his lecture "Nature's Frozen Vertebrates: Surviving as a Solid!" His research may one day herald an exciting new technique to prolong the shelf life of human transplant organs so surgeons no longer face a race against time when transferring life-saving body parts.

Ken Storey will present the Joan Marsden Lecture in McGill University's historic Redpath Museum Auditorium at 3:30 pm on February 19.

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