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[Portal] Medicine

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Marble statue of Asclephius on a pedestal, symbol of medicine in Western medicine

Medicine is the science and practice of establishing the diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, and prevention of disease. Medicine encompasses a variety of health care practices evolved to maintain and restore health by the prevention and treatment of illness. Contemporary medicine applies biomedical sciences, biomedical research, genetics, and medical technology to diagnose, treat, and prevent injury and disease, typically through pharmaceuticals or surgery, but also through therapies as diverse as psychotherapy, external splints and traction, medical devices, biologics, and ionizing radiation, amongst others.

Medicine has been around for thousands of years, during most of which it was an art (an area of skill and knowledge) frequently having connections to the religious and philosophical beliefs of local culture. For example, a medicine man would apply herbs and say prayers for healing, or an ancient philosopher and physician would apply bloodletting according to the theories of humorism. In recent centuries, since the advent of modern science, most medicine has become a combination of art and science (both basic and applied, under the umbrella of medical science). While stitching technique for sutures is an art learned through practice, the knowledge of what happens at the cellular and molecular level in the tissues being stitched arises through science.

Prescientific forms of medicine are now known as traditional medicine and folk medicine, though they do not fall within the modern definition of “medicine” which is based in medical science. Traditional medicine and folk medicine remain commonly used with, or instead of, scientific medicine and are thus called alternative medicine (meaning “[something] other than medicine”, from Latin alter, “other”). For example, evidence on the effectiveness of acupuncture is "variable and inconsistent" for any condition, but is generally safe when done by an appropriately trained practitioner. In contrast, alternative treatments outside the bounds not just of scientific medicine, but also outside the bounds of safety and efficacy are termed quackery. Quackery can encompass an array of practices and practitioners, irrespective of whether they are prescientific (traditional medicine and folk medicine) or modern pseudo-scientific, including chiropractic which rejects modern scientific germ theory of disease (instead believing without evidence that human diseases are caused by invisible subluxation of the bones, predominantly of the spine and less so of other bones), with just over half of chiropractors also rejecting the science of immunization. Read more...

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Asperger syndrome (AS) is one of five neurobiological pervasive developmental disorders (PDD) that is characterized by deficiencies in social and communication skills. It is considered to be part of the autistic spectrum and is differentiated from other PDDs and from high functioning autism (HFA) in that early development is normal and there is no language delay. The diagnosis of AS is complicated by the lack of adoption of a standardized diagnostic screen, and, instead, the use of several different screening instruments and sets of diagnostic criteria. The exact cause of AS is unknown and the prevalence is not firmly established, due partly to the use of differing sets of diagnostic criteria. Asperger syndrome is often not identified in early childhood, and many individuals do not receive diagnosis until after puberty or when they are adults. Assistance for core symptoms of AS consists of therapies that apply behavior management strategies and address poor communication skills, obsessive or repetitive routines, and physical clumsiness. Many individuals with AS can adopt strategies for coping and do lead fulfilling lives – being gainfully employed, getting married or having successful relationships, and having families. In most cases, they are aware of their differences and recognize when they need support to maintain an independent life. (More...)

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Hemagglutinin-alignments.png
Sequence alignment of 27 H9N2 avian influenza hemagglutinin protein sequences. The top section is colored by residue conservation and the bottom by residue chemical properties. Alignment produced with ClustalW.

Photo credit: Opabinia regalis

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  • ... that in Prehistoric medicine, a hole was cut into the skull to release evil spirits (Trepanning) and that there is evidence that many people survived the operation?

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