The Anonymous Widower

Are There Any Medical Application For Large Amounts Of Electricity?

I ask this question, as an eminent medical researcher has just thanked me by text for my energy posts.

It could be that he sees some benefit in having lots of energy available from wind.

I have a few thoughts.

Are Electricity Bills Getting To Be A Larger Proportion Of The Running Costs Of Hospitals Or Medical Research Establishments?

We are all suffering to some extent from higher electricity prices, but some of the latest medical equipment with large electromagnets and powerful X-rays must be expensive on electricity.

Proton Therapy

Does proton therapy use very large amounts of electricity and is this one of the reasons, that these seemingly-powerful machines are thin on the ground?

So if electricity is much more plentiful and hopefully more affordable, is this going to mean that proton therapy is used more often?


The Diamond Light Source is described like this in Wikipedia.

Diamond Light Source (or Diamond) is the UK’s national synchrotron light source science facility located at the Harwell Science and Innovation Campus in Oxfordshire. Its purpose is to produce intense beams of light whose special characteristics are useful in many areas of scientific research. In particular it can be used to investigate the structure and properties of a wide range of materials from proteins (to provide information for designing new and better drugs), and engineering components (such as a fan blade from an aero-engine) to conservation of archeological artifacts (for example Henry VIII’s flagship the Mary Rose).

There are more than 50 light sources across the world. With an energy of 3 GeV, Diamond is a medium energy synchrotron currently operating with 32 beamlines.

When the history of the pandemic is written, Diamond may well turn out to be one of the heroes.

This page on the Diamond web site, lists some of the applications of a particular analysis, that Diamond can perform.

Under Life Sciences and Bio-Medicine, this is said.

One of the remarkable exploits of SRIR microspectroscopy is probing single isolated cells and tissues at sub-cellular resolution, collecting broadband molecular information with excellent spectral quality via the diffraction limited microbeam. Studying individual cells is important because it reveals the cell-cell differences (e.g. due to cell cycle or biological variability) which are averaged together in conventional IR imaging or spectroscopy. This is important for identifying the subtle underlying spectral differences of interest in the research.

Applications include developing spectral biomarkers for disease diagnosis – particularly cancer research, location of stem cells within tissues, following effects of natural and synthetic chemicals on stem-cell differentiation and quantifying drug sensitivity.

A key development recently achieved is moving from fixed and dried samples to ex vivo, living conditions in the natural aqueous environment and time-dependent studies of biological processes. The combined requirements of high spatial resolution, rapid data acquisition and high photon flux (due to strong IR absorption by water) make synchrotron radiation an invaluable microanalysis tool.

In the THz part of the spectrum, very bright (coherent) synchrotron radiation (CSR) is useful in the study of low energy modes, especially in highly absorbing samples. The THz properties of biological materials is a rapidly growing field, from the organism level (imaging) down to fundamental spectroscopy at the biochemical level, where, for example, the solvation shell around proteins can be studied via changes in low energy hydrogen bonds.

That all sounds impressive.

As with NMR, which I used in the 1960s and as since been developed into MRi, I wonder if important hospitals and universities will have their own mini-Diamonds to do the analyses described above.

Again what will be the electricity bill?


I suspect that electricity may be a significant cost of the running some of these new machines and an abundance of wind power, which reduces the cost of electricity, may improve medical research and treatment.



May 9, 2022 Posted by | Energy, Health | , , , , , | 4 Comments

Guided Beam Treatment Is Extending Life For Patients With Pancreatic Cancer

The title of this post, is the same as that of this article in The Times.

This is the first two paragraphs.

The lives of patients with inoperable pancreatic cancer could be extended by years with a “game-changing” radiation treatment that uses MRI technology to accurately target tumours.

A study has found that MRI-guided radiotherapy almost doubles the median survival rate in cases of inoperable pancreatic cancer compared with conventional treatment that uses CT scans.

It looks like a case of the more accurately you target your weapon, the more effective it is.

A few years before she died of a much more serious but totally unrelated cancer, my wife suffered from breast cancer.

  • The cancer wasn’t massive and it had probably been caused by a severe bruise, where she had been struck by an exploding air-bag in a car accident.
  • She also had a top-class surgeon in Cambridge. Barristers always get the best, as local chambers always know those who are being sued for malpractice.
  • To make sure, the cancer didn’t return she had targeted radiotherapy in Harley Street daily for four or five weeks.
  • She even travelled up to London from Suffolk daily on the train, often fitting Court appearances around the appointments.
  • A few weeks before she died, she was checked for breast cancer and pronounced clear.

The treatment had worked and it convinced me of the value of targeted radiotherapy.

I must say, it increases my optimism, that pancreatic cancer might be one cancer, where we can at least prolong life in many cases.

My optimism about pancreatic cancer probably started , after the results of the research to which I added funding in a small way were published. I wrote about them in There’s More To Liverpool Than Football And The Beatles!.

February 7, 2022 Posted by | Health | , , , , | 4 Comments

An MRi Scan in Harley Street

The doctors are trying to get to the bottom of why my heart doesn’t push as hard as it might.

So on Saturday lunchtime, I found myself in The Heart Hospital round the corner from Harley Street for an MRi scan. The hospital has an interesting history  having been refurbished at one time as a private heart hospital. Some of the expensive fittings show this.

Now it is part of UCLH and it was a very efficient procedure, as a cardiologist checked my heart with the machine.

I think the whole story shows how only the NHS can afford really expensive machines, but they must make the assets sweat.

My only complaint was the usual NHS one, of magazines that were fairly out of date. But hey who cares? I waited with a man, who had brought his wife in for something much more serious than I am suffering from. He was much better company than last year’s Hello.

It was also a simple bus ride without any changes from the stop at the end of my road.

June 18, 2012 Posted by | Health | , | Leave a comment

The BCA Drops the Case Against Simon Singh

The title says it all. But read about it in full on the BBC. Here are the first two paragraphs.

The British Chiropractic Association has dropped its libel action against the science writer Simon Singh.

Dr Singh was being sued by the organisation because of comments he had made in the Guardian in 2008 about the effectiveness of chiropractic.

I’m very happy for Simon, as this sort of case and costs give British justice a bad name.

If Simon had said something that was truly offensive, then the case should have been quickly found in the BCA’s favour.

If on the other hand what he said was fair comment or genuine scientific unease, then it should have been quickly settled the other way.

But the case was not and it cost Simon upwards of a six figure sum.  That is too high a cost to get real justice, as how could the average man on the Clapham Omnibus be able to afford such a sum?

But will Simon’s comments about chiropractors really make much difference? I’ve used them in the past and in most cases they have done just a little for the problems I’ve suffered from.  On the other hand, others swear by their treatments and go all the time.  We all have our views and follow them, so I suspect you’ll either back Simon or the BCA.

In one case though, I had spectacular results from an alternative form of therapy.  At school my humerus was broken in a bullying incident and I’d been plagued by pain in the upper arm and shoulder for well over forty years.  I’d seen several doctors, surgeons and osteopaths and no-one had been able to sort it out.  I’d even had a full MRI Scan.

But then I went to a guy, who put judo players back together.  He analysed the problem and gave me a set of exercises to do.  The result was that the shoulder acted like the other.

If there is a moral, it’s that you must try everything.

But let’s not resort to law to stop the competitors or promote things that may be against the established order.

The good methods will eventually win out and there will be losers.

April 15, 2010 Posted by | Health, News | , | Leave a comment

Experiencing an MRI Scan

I’ve heard from several people that they don’t like MRI scans.  My late wife didn’t, as she found them claustrophobic and noisy.  I’ve had two; one on my shoulder and the other yesterday on my brain.  They are both, but at least in the second, I was able to see out through a mirror.  I’ve also had a CT scan in Naples and apart from the technology, that was a similar experience, although less noisy.

So how does an MRI scan work.  This is the first paragraph of an excellent article in Wikipedia.

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), or nuclear magnetic resonance imaging (NMRI), is primarily a medical imaging technique most commonly used in radiology to visualize detailed internal structure and limited function of the body. MRI provides much greater contrast between the different soft tissues of the body than computed tomography (CT) does, making it especially useful in neurological (brain), musculoskeletal, cardiovascular, and oncological (cancer) imaging. Unlike CT, it uses no ionizing radiation, but uses a powerful magnetic field to align the nuclear magnetization of (usually) hydrogen atoms in water in the body. Radio frequency (RF) fields are used to systematically alter the alignment of this magnetization, causing the hydrogen nuclei to produce a rotating magnetic field detectable by the scanner. This signal can be manipulated by additional magnetic fields to build up enough information to construct an image of the body.

Note that they call the technique by its real name NMRI.  It was called that when I worked on an NMR machine in 1969 at ICI Mond Division.  I seem to remember that the guy who ran the department, Eddie Clayton, claimed that one day it will be used instead of X-rays.  I don’t think he was believed, but then the first images were taken in 1973, so it wasn’t far off.

The Wikipedia article also explains all the noise.

…These fields are created by passing electric currents through solenoids, known as gradient coils. Since these coils are within the bore of the scanner, there will be large forces between them and the main field coils, producing most of the noise that is heard during operation. Without efforts to dampen this noise, it can approach 130 decibels (the human pain threshold) with strong fields.

So it’s just mechanical interaction and not somebody trying to operate on your head with a road drill.  I’m partly deaf, or rather I have frequencies missing, so it doesn’t bother me.

But the real power of MRI scans is that show the body in amazing detail that enables problems to really be diagnosed.  In the first use of the technique they looked at my shoulder that had given me trouble all my life.  They ascertained that there was no serious problem and that exercise rather than surgery was the best way to proceed.  That was good news, not like yesterday’s. 

But only a few years ago, neither diagnosis would have been possible.

March 16, 2010 Posted by | Health | , , | Leave a comment

I’ve Had a Stroke

Yesterday morning, I woke up about five  and I felt rather strange around my top lip.  I was dry and put a lot of this down to half-a-bottle of red wine the night before.  I thought nothing more of it until after I went downstairs and tried to talk to one of my overnight guests in the kitchen.  My speech was all slurred.

In the end I phoned NHS Direct and they put me in touch with the on-call doctor, who phoned within about fifteen minutes.  He suggested that I get to hospital quickly, as it was a possible stroke.

Perhaps by a quarter past eight, I’d been driven to A&E at Addenbrooke’s Hospital.  I was interviewed by a triage nurse and then registered.  I then had all the usual tests and the feeling from the doctors was that it was more likely a virus that had got in a facial nerve.

But they wanted me to have an MRI scan just to make sure.

But as it was Monday and that is usually a busy day, so they were talking about an overnight stay in hospital.  But I’ve never spend a night in hospital since our first child was born over forty years ago and I really didn’t want to break that seqence now.  But luckily I got a cancellation.

If you’ve never had an MRI scan, everybody warns you about the noise and claustrophobia.  It’s not too bad, although I’d like to see a big counter that would tell you how long each phase has got left.  I had a small window and I could she the reflection in the glass of a counter, but I couldn’t read it.  Although, I could tell when it was coming to the end, as a digit disappeared.  This was my second scan.

I said luckily I got a cancellation, but perhaps it was unlucky as it confirmed I’d had a stroke.  And this had not been the first, as there appeared to be another older one.

I saw the Stroke Team before I left with my middle son at about five.

How do I feel now?  Miserable!  But at least the fact that I’m fit might have meant that the stroke wasn’t as bad as it could have been.

At least I was able to eat a good meal last night.

Perhaps the worst thing is that I won’t be able to drive for a month!

March 16, 2010 Posted by | Health | , | Leave a comment