Oct 1, 2014

One Doctor’s Quest to Save People by Injecting Them With Scorpion Venom

Posted by in category: biotech/medical

By - Wired

Because it’s so late on a Monday afternoon, there is a listless vibe inside the University of Washington lecture hall where Jim Olson is about to speak. The audience consists of a few dozen grad students struggling with end-of-day fatigue. They scarf down free chocolate-chunk cookies as they prepare to take notes, but sugar can sharpen mental alertness only so much. The talk they’ve come to hear, part of a biweekly series on current topics in neuroscience, doesn’t exactly seem like edge-of-your-seat material.

Olson’s first slide wakes them up. It is a pixelated photograph of an adorable 6-year-old boy named Hayden Strum, who sports a white Quiksilver T-shirt and a pirate-style eye patch. Hayden, who suffered from a pernicious brain tumor, came to Olson in 1995, back when Olson was just starting his career as a pediatric oncologist and cancer researcher. For four years, the doctor treated Hayden with successive rounds of chemotherapy and major surgeries, but nothing could save the boy’s life. Olson tells the audience that while sitting in the back row at Hayden’s memorial service, listening to the speakers express their pain, he had an epiphany about his scientific priorities.

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