Category Archives: Science

How Nigerian Doctor Discovered Concussion Trauma in American Football Players

“There are times I wish I never looked at Mike Webster’s brain. It has dragged me into worldly affairs I do not want to be associated with – human meanness, wickedness and selfishness. People trying to cover up, to control how information is released. I started this not knowing I was walking into a minefield. That is my only regret.”

These are the words of Bennet Ifeakandu Omalu, a Nigerian physician, forensic pathologist and neuropathologist who first discover and publish a link between American football and the brain damage – Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), in former players.

Omalu’s work has changed a sport, and helped provoke a billion-dollar lawsuit and inspired a Hollywood film, Concussion (in which Will Smith played the role of Omelu) that was nominated for a Golden Globe.

But Omalu who knew little about American football attracted many enemies. American Football club owners and fans love their game very much that they saw Omalu as a threat to the game. They rejected his findings and questioned his right as a Nigerian to link their beloved American football to a brain trauma.

“I really wish I wasn’t brought into this…Lead a quiet life, enjoy my life, die a simple death. But now I have no choice. My life has been impacted in the most negative way. People are reacting very emotionally to me. They don’t like me. Call me all types of names but I am simply speaking to the truth,”

he said.

The Discovery of CTE

Omalu first discovered the CTE when examining the body of Mike Webster, a former pro football player with the NFL’s Pittsburgh Steelers while working at the coroner’s office in September 2002.

Webster had displayed patterns of distressing behavior before his death from a heart attack at age 50, and Omalu was curious as to what clues the former player’s brain would reveal.

After careful examination of the brain, Omalu discovered clumps of tau proteins, which impair function upon accumulation. It was similar to “dementia pugilista,” a degenerative disease documented decades earlier in boxers, though it had yet to be connected to football players.

After confirming his findings with top faculty members at the University of Pittsburgh, Omalu named the condition chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) and submitted a paper titled “Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy in a National Football League Player” to the Medical journal Neurosurgery.

Omalu’s discovery was discredited by the mouthpiece of the National Football League (NFL) and the Mild Traumatic Brian Injury (MTBI) Committee discredited Omalu’s research as “flawed” and refused to acknowledge a link between the sport and the brain damage in former players.

However, Omalu gained an important supporter in Dr. Julian Bailes, chairman of neurosurgery at the West Virginia University School of Medicine and a former team physician for the Steelers. With Bailes and lawyer Bob Fitzsimmons, Omalu founded the Sports Legacy Institute (later renamed the Concussion Legacy Foundation) to continue studies of CTE.

Omalu pressed forward with his examination of Terry Long, another former football player who had committed suicide at age 45, and discovered the same buildup of tau proteins. His follow-up paper to Neurosurgery was published in November 2006.

Despite the NFL’s public evasiveness, Omalu and his supporters scored a victory when Mike Webster’s family was awarded a significant settlement in December 2006.

Omalu’s Nigerian and Academic Background

Omalu was born in Nigeria during the civil war of 1968 in Idemili South, a small town in eastern part of Nigeria. The sixth of seven children of a civil engineer and a seamstress, Omalu was admitted to the Federal Government College in Enugu at age 12 and at age 15 he began medical school at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN).

After earning his first of 10 degrees or board certifications in 1990, Omalu interned at University of Jos Teaching Hospital (UJTH), before being accepted to a visiting scholar program at the University of Washington in 1994 at the age of 25. He then served his residency at Harlem Hospital Center, where he developed his interest in pathology.

In 1999, Omalu moved to Pittsburgh to train under noted pathologist Cyril Wecht at the Allegheny County Coroner’s Office. Omalu holds eight advanced degrees and board certifications, later receiving fellowships in pathology and neuropathology through the University of Pittsburgh in 2000 and 2002 respectively, a Master of Public Health (MPH) in epidemiology in 2004 from University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health, and a Master of Business Administration (MBA) from Tepper School of Business at Carnegie Mellon University in 2008.

Movie and Book

Bennet Ifeakandu Omalu and actor Will Smith CREDIT: GETTY IMAGES

Will Smith was one NFL fan who allowed Omalu’s findings to challenge his thinking and, in preparing to play Omalu in the 2015 film Concussion, he watched him perform four autopsies and saw first-hand how he would play music and talk to the deceased person.

Will Smith said, “I was inspired by Bennet’s courage and faith…He combines that into one gorgeous human being. I was ecstatic to find that depth of character. I love that guy.”

Omalu released his book, Truth Doesn’t Have a Side on the 9th of this month with the forward written by Will Smith.

Omalu is currently chief medical examiner of San Joaquin County, California and is a professor in the UC Davis Department of Medical Pathology and Laboratory Medicine.

Omalu who only became an US citizen in February 2015 is married to Prema Mutiso, originally from Kenya. They live in Lodi, California and have two children, Ashly and Mark.

Sources: Wikipedia, Telegraph,

Archives Reveal Why Africa Should not Depend on Monsanto for GMOs

New innovations in the pharmaceutical and biotech industry must pass through trials to find out the effectiveness and side effects. The innovation is given a Go, if the benefits way outweighs the side effects, if not it is taken back to the lab for more research.

While Food biotechnology may be the solution to food insecurity in Africa through GMOs, Africa must research, develop, produce the GMOs themselves. African nations must understand the innovation enough to be able to decide whether it should be adopted or modified to benefit  their citizens.

Read: Biotechnology – Solving Nigeria’s Food Insecurity Challenges

The health and well-being of Africans cannot be left in the hands of profit-at-all-cost multinationals who may want to use Africans as guinea pigs for new innovations. As much as trials are a big part of research and development (R&D), African countries must carry it out themselves for themselves.

Read: Genome Editing – An Opportunity for Crop Improvement in Africa

It is time for African countries to build their own biotech industry, not only because the future will depend on it, but mainly because multinationals like  Monsanto cannot be trusted as  investigation has shown that the food biotech company based in the United State has endangered people’s health just for profit. The Guardian reported that Monsanto sold banned chemicals for years despite known health risks, archives reveal.

Read: Africa Must Produce its Own Technology

It was reported that Monsanto continued to produce and sell toxic industrial chemicals known as PCBs for eight years after learning that they posed hazards to public health and the environment, according to legal analysis of documents put online in a vast searchable archive.

According to The Guardian, Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are long-lived pollutants that were mass-produced by Monsanto between 1935 and 1977 for use as coolants and lubricators in electrical equipment such as transformers and capacitors.

By 1979, they had been completely banned in the US and elsewhere, after a weight of evidence linking them to health ailments that ranged from chloracne and Yusho (rice oil disease) to cancer, and to environmental harm.

Yet a decade earlier, one Monsanto pollution abatement plan in the archive from October 1969, singled out by Sherman, suggests that Monsanto was even then aware of the risks posed by PCB use.

More than 20,000 internal memos, minuted meetings, letters and other documents have been published in the new archive revealed, many for the first time.

Read: Is Genetically Engineered Food Good For You

Most were obtained from legal discovery and access to documents requests digitized by the Poison Papers Project, which was launched by the Bioscience Resource Project and the Center for Media and Democracy. Chiron Return contributed some documents to the library.

Bill Sherman, the assistant attorney general for the US state of Washington – which is suing Monsanto for PCB clean-up costs potentially worth billions of dollars – said the archive contained damning evidence the state had previously been unaware of.

He told the Guardian: “If authentic, these records confirm that Monsanto knew that their PCBs were harmful and pervasive in the environment, and kept selling them in spite of that fact. They knew the dangers, but hid them from the public in order to profit.”

He told the Guardian: “More than 40 years ago, the former Monsanto voluntarily stopped production and sale of PCBs prior to any federal requirement to do so. At the time Monsanto manufactured PCBs, they were a legal and approved product used in many useful applications. Monsanto has no liability for pollution caused by those who used or discharged PCBs into the environment.”

3 Ways to Raise Your Kids to Solve Problems Like an Entrepreneur

When  children come up against difficulties, rather than encourage them to think through these conflicts on their own, most parents rush to solve the problems for them. Though, this is done with good intention, it doesn’t  improve the kids’ problem-solving skills.

This means, as a parent you are doing your children a big disservice because as put by the World Economic Forum , complex problem-solving will be the No. 1 skill needed in what’s been called the Fourth Industrial revolution (following on the heels of the Third — Digital — Revolution and inclusive of emerging technologies like VR and nanotechnology).

As for what’s happening now, those who can’t problem-solve today as kids will become adults who feel lost in the face of adversity tomorrow. And, as adults, they’ll encounter substantial challenges to finding success in the changing workforce: For one thing, they almost certainly won’t become leaders.

Leaders must be able to cope with problems directly and effectively, and those are skills that need to be learned in childhood. With that in mind, parents who want to set their kids up for success as leaders and innovators must teach them to solve, and welcome, problems from an early age.

Cultivating a Founder’s mindset in children

Founders come from all different backgrounds and perspectives, but they share one common trait: They can identify the right problem to solve (PTS). When a crisis flares or failure threatens, most people become emotional and fixate on the wrong things. This holds true in business, marriage, friendships, parenting — you name it. If cooler heads and clearer minds are to prevail, they must be able to cut through the noise to address the heart of the issue.

This matters as kids grow. Confidence is a natural consequence of effective problem-solving. When children fixate on the wrong aspects of a conflict, they become frustrated and discouraged because none of their solutions stick. They second-guess themselves and doubt their abilities to make good judgments in the future. That’s an incredibly damaging mindset, no matter what career path they pursue.

Moreover, the ability to define the PTS is invaluable in many areas of life and is especially key in business leadership. Children who learn to identify the PTS from a young age become capable of thinking clearly, taking targeted action and remaining calm even during moments of duress. As they grow older, they emerge as natural leaders.

Parents who want to nurture their children’s problem-solving skills can take the following steps to inspire creativity and critical thinking:

1. Introduce children to the scientific method as early as possible.

The scientific method provides a step-by-step approach to problem-solving, from developing a hypothesis, to collecting and testing data, to drawing conclusions from what you’ve learned.

Neuroscientist Daniel J. Levitin agrees this method promotes critical thinking skills in kids. His latest book, Weaponized Lies: How to Think Critically in the Post-Truth Era, is all about thinking critically and methodically. He notes that, having grown up with the internet and Google at their fingertips, many kids these days are great at finding information, but they’re not as strong at solving the problem of verifying a source’s credibility. The scientific method, he argues, can help teach them the critical thinking skills they may lack.

2. Teach them how to frame their questions.

Instructing your kids to define and pursue the PTS takes time and requires ongoing reinforcement, but that effort pays off handsomely when you find yourself in tough conversations with them. For instance, most kids will eventually ask their parents for an allowance. Some moms and dads acquiesce, while others refuse the request.

A child who hasn’t learned to articulate her reasons for wanting an allowance might throw a tantrum or act out to express her anger at being told “no.” But one who has thought through the problem will be able to have a more enlightening discussion.

Perhaps she’s craving a bit of independence as she enters her teen years, or she feels left out when her friends talk about their allowances. Those issues can spark rich conversations between parents and their children, and they create interesting opportunities for collaborative problem-solving.

When you find yourself in conflict with your children, ask probing questions to discover what’s really going on. For parents, what seems like an unreasonable request may indicate deeper issues at school or among their kids’ friends. By digging into your children’s requests and finding out their core needs, you’ll be putting your PTS lessons into action.

3. Integrate problem-solving into their daily experiences.

Many parents avoid talking about work with their kids. That’s a shame because children love to hear their parents’ stories. Talking about work is also a great way to impart problem-solving lessons to your kids, particularly if you’re an entrepreneur.

Rather than gloss over a bad day or shield your children from your work, open up to them about the obstacles you face. If they’re very young, you might need to dress up the details with colorful language and animated storytelling, but that’s just an opportunity to stretch your creative muscles.

Kids understand more than we realize, and they’ll be eager to learn about your work and how you deal with problems. What you share with them now will shape how they view their own roadblocks in the future. And that’s a good thing: Children who have healthy relationships with conflict exhibit better social skills and higher self-esteem than peers who are shielded from problems.

Source: Entrepreneur