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What are your views on Kerala Tourism showing/promoting beef on Makara Shankranti?
I did not expect answers to the question open a Pandora`s box. I do not intend to stoke the fire further and at the same time if I do not express what I know I shall fail my conscience.An innocuous ad of the Kerala tourism department has evoked strong reactions from people who espouse their mistaken religious beliefs and abuse people of other faiths. They are not aware that a good chunk of Hindus too eat beef.I respect those who don’t eat beef or mutton. If my understanding is correct, there are two communities who definitely don’t eat meat—Brahmins, particularly south Indian Brahmins, and the Jains. And there may be some other communities too.They have become vegetarians at different times in the past. Beef eating has been a taboo rather a sin with these communities.Beef is by and large associated with the meat of cows even though it refers to the meat of bullocks and buffaloes too. There exists a ban on cow slaughter in India. Why only cow?The logic is that the cow has to be given protection because it gives Indians milk—the reason why it has been historically treated as a divine animal. Many may not be aware that India does not live on cow milk; India lives on buffalo milk.The cows account for less than 45 per cent of India's milk output today, and within that, well over half comes from exotic or cross-bred animals containing genetic material of ‘western' breeds like Holstein Friesian, Jersey and Brown Swiss. The native indigenous breeds – the true Holy Cows – still make up 45 per cent of India's milch animal population, yet produce just about a fifth of its milk. More than 55 percent of the milk that Indians consume now flows from the udders of buffaloes, which are neither born holy nor have holiness thrust upon them. http://www.thehindubusinessline.com › harish-damodaran › article22985221 **Cow Belt or Buffalo Nation? -Many farmers prefer buffaloes, due to the high milk fat content, which fetch higher milk prices, to the cows. Additionally, buffalo can be sold for slaughter, unlike cow where slaughter is banned in the majority of Indian states.India is a large global beef exporter, exporting 1,850,000 metric tons in 2016. The country ranks fifth globally in terms of beef production and seventh in domestic consumption. Despite a ban on cow slaughter, as the animal is considered sacred in the Hindu religion, the country's export figures have remained high due to water buffalo meat, also known as carabeef. Carabeef constitutes the greatest portion of the beef trade in India, enabling India to become the world's second largest exporter, accounting for nearly 20 percent of world beef exports. www.worldatlas.com › articles › the-world-s-largest-exporters-of-beef The World's Largest Exporters of Beef - WorldAtlas.comContrary to popular belief, India is predominantly a non-vegetarian country. Vegetarianism is often assumed as the norm in India, due to religious ideologies and caste. However, a nationwide survey conducted by the Office of Registrar General & Census Commissioner, reveals a different reality. According to the sample registration system (SRS) baseline survey of 2014 released by the registrar general of India, 71 percent of Indians over the age of 15 are non-vegetarian. yourstory.com › 2016/07 › india-non-vegetarian The myth that India is predominantly a vegetarian country ...The truth is millions of Indians, including Dalits, Muslims and Christians, consume beef. Some Hindus don`t reveal that they take beef. Some 70 communities in Kerala, for example, prefer beef to the more expensive goat meat. Researchers Dr Natrajan (US-based anthropologist) and Dr Jacob (India-based economist) conclude that closer to 15% of Indians - or about 180 million people - eat beef. www.bbc.com › news › world-asia-india-43581122 The myth of the Indian vegetarian nation - BBC News - BBC.comThe rise in meat consumption is predominantly driven by urban India, and the highest percentages of non-vegetarians come from southern states such as Telengana, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Kerala where more than 97% of the population are non vegetarians. In Karnataka (79%) the population that eat meat is on the rise.In the pre-Vedic period, the people of Indus Valley Civilization were omnivorous eating the meat of cattle, sheep, pig, gharials, fish and turtle; bones of these creatures were found during excavations in the sites.The elite castes or groups, which have been enjoying social status and power to represent communities, regions, or even the entire country, makes the stereotypes. The food of the powerful comes to represent for the food of the people.Food habits are generally stereotyped; one such stereotype is perpetuated by the outsider - north Indians stereotype south Indians just by meeting a few of them without thinking about the diversity of the region and vice versa.The Hindu religion was not participative; it has been very exclusive and many were non-players. Ordinary folks were only mute spectators who viewed the rituals with awe and fear. Hindu literature is replete with contradictory statements regarding meat eating. There are statements that condemn meat eating and commending meat eating. Selective quoting from texts has been creating and spreading all sorts of misconceptions. I shall list some quotes that talk about meat (mutton, beef, veal and venison) eating:Nrisingha Prasad Bhaduri, a leading Indologist and expert in Vedic scriptures, has discussed various references to beef in India's ancient and religious texts. "The Vedas encapsulate the essence of Hindu dharma. They are replete with instances of sages and even gods consuming beef. In fact, a guest in a Hindu household used to be referred to - according to the Vedas -as ' goghna' or he who is served beef as part of the hospitality ritual," he said. www.huffingtonpost.in › 2018/09/25 › rig-veda-say-that-indra-hindu-g...Yajnavalkya - one of the earliest philosophers in recorded history, questions many metaphysical propositions. Yajnavalkya says, 'I eat it (beef) only if it is cooked till it is tender'." The king of the gods, Indra, too is said to be fond of beef, Bhaduri reminds. In the Rig Veda, Indra demands that he be served 15 to 20 cooked oxen. www.telegraphindia.com › culture › Heritage Beef was an offering in Vedic age - Telegraph IndiaIn the Rig Veda (8.43.11), Agni is styled as uksanna and vasanna, ie eater of bulls and barren cows.“Fifteen in number, then, for me a score of bullocks they prepare,And I devour the fat thereof: they fill my belly full with food. Supreme is Indra over all.” (RV 10.86.14).“He in whom horses, bulls, oxen, and barren cows, and rams, when duly set apart, are offered up,—To Agni, Soma-sprinkled, drinker of sweet juice, Disposer, with my heart I bring a fair hymn forth.” (RV 10.91.14).“The bridal pomp of Surya, which Savitar started, moved along.In Magha days are oxen slain, in Arjuris they wed the bride.” (RV10.86.13)Rigveda (6.17.11) states that “Indra used to eat the meat of buffalo.”Manu Smriti 5.32. He who eats meat, when he honors the gods and manes, commits no sin, whether he has bought it, or himself has killed (the animal), or has received it as a present from others.Even a Brahmin can eat meat, if he wishes, but only after sanctifying it with water infused with Vedic mantras. Manu Smriti (5.36), states, “A Brahmana must never eat (the flesh of animals unhallowed by Mantras; but, obedient to the primeval law, he may eat it, consecrated with Vedic texts.”Lastly I wish to state that I am a vegetarian.Draw your conclusions!Edit: I recently viewed an interview #BehasWithBarkha, TM Krishna on Cow Skin being used in the making of Mridangams & "Hypocrisy" of performers, in YouTube wherein TM.Krishna, a Carnatic musician, reveals that the leather used in making the percussion instrument mridangam is actually secured by killing a healthy cow that has delivered twice and not from a naturally dead cow.
What do we know about the function of viruses in the microbiome?
Human ViromeThe human virome (representing human viral communities) presents greater technical challenges (1) for identification and enumeration compared to the microbiome.Technical difficulties with characterizing the human viromeWe identify bacteria in the human microbiome using conserved genomic sequences (16S rRNA). Lacking such conserved genomic regions, viral genomic sequences from human samples are compared to known virus reference sequence databases. Drawback is such databases don't include sequences from novel viruses (2) while the human virome likely harbors as-yet-undiscovered viruses and viral relics.Viruses have small genomes, and are proportionally fewer compared to bacteria. Thus, viral nucleic acids are proportionally minuscule in the total derived from human microbial communities. To detect them, we need to enrich viral nucleic acids before sequence analysis. In turn, enrichment methods could be unwittingly selective, bias against certain viruses, and lead to loss of low-abundance viruses (3).From 4The human virome constitutes viral communities all over the human body. They run the gamut from viral relics such as HERVs (Human Endogenous Retroviruses), retroviral genes internalized millions of years ago during evolution, to tissue-resident viruses such as CMV (Cytomegalovirus) in the respiratory tract. Contribution of these viral communities also runs the gamut from most essential such as HERV-W genes, necessary for placental development, to HERV-K, the most recent integrant, implicated in neurological diseases such as schizophrenia, cancers such as breast and prostate, and autoimmune diseases such as MS (multiple sclerosis), RA (rheumatoid arthritis) and SLE (systemic lupus erythematosus).Figure 1 from 5HERVs (Human Endogenous Retroviruses)Viral genetic material is either DNA or RNA. Retroviruses have RNA but use it to produce DNA, the reverse, 'retro', of the norm. When inserted into host DNA, this viral DNA replicates every time host DNA replicates. When retroviruses infect germline (eggs and sperm) cells, they acquire a vastly greater capacity to replicate. Now endogenous retroviruses (ERV), they are present not just in each and every cell of that host but also get passed on to each and every cell of the host's descendants.ERVs represent 8% of the human genome (6).How do we know we harbor such retroviral relics? By their striking structural genomic similarity consisting of gag, pro, pol and env genes flanked by two identical-at-integration non-coding long terminal repeats (LTRs), which contain the signal for transcription initiation and regulation.Over evolutionary time (~35 million years), ERVs accumulated mutations (insertions, deletions, substitutions) and/or epigenetic modifications (for e.g., DNA methylation) at the same rate as the host genome (7, 8, 9, 10), rendering them non-functional, i.e. unable to produce infectious viral particles.Recombinations between the two flanking LTRs removed the internal coding region leaving a single LTR and inactivating ERVs, which are 10–100 times more numerous than their full length counterparts (11), and many of these insertions are fixed in the host population.To date, no active ERVs have been discovered in humans. The human genome has ~100,000 ERV loci resulting from proliferations of ~50 independent invasions of the genome from free-living (exogenous) retroviruses (12, 13).Figure 2 from 14HERV classification is still a work-in-progress. Magiorkinis et al (15) classify HERV families as the typical, HERV-T; the old, HERV-L; the abundant, HERV-H; the indispensable, HERV-W; the last but not the least, HERV-K.HERV-K(HML2) or HK2, the most recent, is the only ERV lineage to still replicate in the human population within the last few million years.~1,000 HK2 loci in the human reference genome, apparently integrated over the last ~35 million years. Continuously replicating over this long period, most full-length integrated ERV loci (proviruses) converted to relics by recombination. Remainder acquired premature stop codons and/or frameshifts. All reference genome HK2 loci are therefore replication defective, and only 24 loci retain full-length open reading frames (ORFs) in at least one of their genes (16).RNA transcription and protein expression of HK2 and other ERVs are elevated in many cancers, some autoimmune/inflammatory diseases, and HIV infection, leading to a long and unresolved search for a causal role in disease (17, 18, 19). More recently, disease-associated elevation of HERV protein expression has driven research into their potential as immunotherapy targets for cancer and HIV treatment (20).HERV-W, the indispensable HERVs in the Placenta: Genes Syncytins 1 and 2The emergence of placentation during evolution is fundamental to human evolution.Indispensable for human fetus growth, the placenta is composed of multiple unique cell types called extravillous and villous trophoblasts. The latter differentiate into multinucleated cells called syncytiotrophoblasts, which secrete human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) and human placental lactogen (hPL), products that help optimize mother-fetus nutrient and hormone exchange.Viral relics in the form of specific HERVs are essential for placental development (14, 21, 22).Viruses were long suspected present in placenta with virus-like particles observed in human placenta (23, 24, 25, 26). These observations faded from memory until the discovery of the Syncytin genes in the late 1990s.Two Env proteins, Syncytin-1 and Syncytin-2 proteins, encoded by two different ERV loci, i.e., ERVW-1 and ERVFRD-1, located on chromosome 7 and 6, respectively, are expressed in the placenta. Independently co-opted numerous times among placental mammals and expressed in the placenta, these genes play a crucial role in the formation of the syncytiotrophoblast, a key function that sustains the highly dynamic and metabolically demanding placenta (27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35).Figure 1 from 36.- Viral genes like these may actually have been central in the emergence of placental mammals from egg-laying animals (29, 37, 38, 39, 40).Box from 36.In vitro studies (41) and reduced expression in pre-eclampsia (42, 43, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49) suggest these retroviral-origin genes are important in human placentation. Pre-eclampsia, 'toxemia of pregnancy', includes hypertension, liver and kidney toxicity, and if untreated, can lead to eclampsia, i.e. seizures, threatening the life of mother and child. These multiple, independent studies thus suggest that human placental syncytin expression is crucial for normal placental function and ensuing normal pregnancy.Mouse syncytin gene knockouts provide more definitive proof. Syncytin-1 knockout mouse: growth retardation, altered placental strcuture, death in utero (50). Syncytin-2 knockout mouse: impaired syncytiotrophoblasts (51).Serving a similar purpose in placentation of eutherian mammals, syncytin genes are thus a most extreme and powerful example of convergent evolution, having evolved independently multiple times through co-option of HERV genes.HERVs in the brain: No definitive proof of disease causation. Lot of correlative data for neurological diseases,Table 1 from 52.especially for schizophrenia.Tables 1 and 2 from 53HERVs and cancerHow to be sure something causes cancer? Likely causes are so numerous ranging from genetic predisposition to numerous environmental factors that pinning one or few down as causative agents is akin to the proverbial needle in a haystack. In 1965 Austin Bradford Hill proposed the famous Hill's criteria (54), essential in helping ascribe causality, as in the link between smoking and lung cancer. How does that pan out with HERVs (55, 56, 57)?Consistency of association: HERVs consistently expressed in many tumors (breast, ovarian, lymphoma, melanoma, sarcoma, bladder, prostate).Strength of association: HERVs rarely expressed in normal tissues.Temporal association: Environmental factors as in exogenous such as chemicals, UV radiation, smoking, viruses, and endogenous as in hormones and cytokines help drive HERV expression.Biological plausibility: no clear evidence yet.Experimental evidence: no clear evidence yet in humans (some mouse model data exists).Clearly work-in-progress.HERV-Breast Cancer link: 58, 59; HERV-Melanoma link: 60; HERV-prostate cancer link: 61.HERVs and autoimmunity (62, 63): MS (multiple sclerosis; 64, 65), RA (rheumatoid arthritis: 66, 67), SLE (systemic lupus erythematosus: 68), Sjogren's syndrome, Graves Disease.Association data; no causal data yet.Certain HERVs and herpes viruses associated with MS.Circulating anti-HERV antibodies present in >50% of SLE in some studies.Those with anti-HERV antibodies more likely to have active clinical SLE.Location-wise identity of Viruses in Human bodyHuman StoolStable over time (69), unsurprisingly healthy gut virome is influenced by diet (70).Abundance of food-related (plant) viruses (71).Eneteropathogenic viruses (72) found in both healthy and in those with GI tract illnesses (73).Novel bacteriophages encode genes for antibiotic resistance and bacterial metabolic pathways (69, 70, 74). More diverse in adults, much less so in a 1-week old infant stool sample (75). Clearly, we dynamically acquire a gut bacteriophage community over time.Novel viruses. Viruses from the new genus Gyrovirus in the Circoviridae family (76) are found in both chicken meat and human samples. Open questions: Do they replicate in humans, i.e. capable of cross-species transmission, or are they harmless?Diarrhea was associated with novel viruses such as astrovirus (77), cosavirus and bocavirus (78).Human SkinPersistent colonization by papillloma, polyoma, and circoviruses(79, 80). Innocuous for the most part. Exception is Merkel cell polyomavirus associated with severe skin carcinoma (81).Human circulatory systemAnelloviridae are ubiquitous in human populations (82, 83).An intriguing heart and lung transplant study (84) tracked circulating plasma virome months post-transplant, and found circulating virome changed with post-transplant treatment. Low dose of anti-viral (valganciclovir) and immunosuppressant (tacrolimus): Herpesvirales and Caudovirales dominate; high dose, Anelloviridae dominate.Graphical Abstract from 84.LiverFlavivirus GBVC (or Hepatitis virus G), a surprising partner in human health, delays HIV disease progression (85).LungInfluenza (flu), Corona and other less well-characterized viruses (86).Bocavirus found in both healthy and in those with respiratory tract illnesses (87).Bacteriophages: Cystic Fibrosis (CF) patients have bacteriophages similar to each other while those in healthy adults are unique to each individual (88). In this study, spouse of one CF patient and an asthmatic control shared some viral genomes found in CF patients. This suggests environment strongly influences human viral genome since shared environment was associated with shared viruses between spouses, and chronic pathologies that are very different, as CF and asthma are, could still lead to establishment of similar viral communities, perhaps because they both cause impaired airway clearance of microbes.CMV (Cytomegalovirus)CMV, a herpes virus, infects majority of the world’s population.In the US, ~60% prevalence in >6 years of age and ~>90% in >80 years of age in the years 1988-1994 (89).It's usually, but not always, benign (90).Associated with immunosenescence (immune aging) in the elderly (91).CMV-schizophrenia link: In a study of >1000 subjects, 15% carried a particular benign variant of a gene involved in the stabilization of neuronal connections and in synaptic plasticity, essential to learning and memory. Carriers of this gene variant had fivefold increased probability of developing schizophrenia following maternal CMV infection (92).CMV-Flu link: CMV could help body fight off flu: CMV-seropositive young adults make stronger anti-flu antibody responses (93). Seropositive means they were likely exposed to CMV and generated an anti-CMV immune response, as revealed by presence of circulating anti-CMV antibodies. Relevance of this type of finding? The well-adjusted human super-organism is one where their mammalian and microbial components work in harmony to keep pathogens at bay.FluFlu-HERV link: The influenza virus may re-activate HERVs that are associated with neuroinflammation, and white matter and myelin degeneration (94).Such HERVs have been implicated in Bipolar disorder and Schizophrenia (95, 96).Virome BibliographyCanuti, M. "About Viruses, the Importance of Being Earnest." Austin Virol and Retrovirology 1.1 (2014): 2. http://austinpublishinggroup.com/virology/fulltext/avrv-v1-id1002.pdf.Woolhouse ME, Howey R, Gaunt E, Reilly L, Chase-Topping M, Savill N. Temporal trends in the discovery of human viruses. Proc Biol Sci 2008;275:2111–5.Thurber RV, Haynes M, Breitbart M, Wegley L, Rohwer F. Laboratory procedures to generate viral metagenomes. Nat Protoc 2009;4:470–83.Delwart, Eric. "A roadmap to the human virome." PLoS pathogens 9.2 (2013): e1003146. A Roadmap to the Human ViromeWylie, Kristine M., George M. Weinstock, and Gregory A. Storch. "Emerging view of the human virome." Translational Research 160.4 (2012): 283-290. Page on els-cdn.comLander ES, Linton LM, Birren B, Nusbaum C, Zody MC, et al. (2001) Initial sequencing and analysis of the human genome. Nature 409: 860–921.Blikstad V, Benachenhou F, Sperber GO, Blomberg J (2008) Evolution of human endogenous retroviral sequences: a conceptual account. Cellular and Molecular Life Sciences 65: 3348–3365.Dewannieux, M.; Heidmann, T. Endogenous retroviruses: Acquisition, amplification and taming of genome invaders. Curr. Opin. Virol. 2013, 3, 646–656.Stoye, J.P. Studies of endogenous retroviruses reveal a continuing evolutionary saga. Nat. Rev. Microbiol. 2012, 10, 395–406.Magiorkinis, G.; Gifford, R.J.; Katzourakis, A.; de Ranter, J.; Belshaw, R. Env-less endogenous retroviruses are genomic superspreaders. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 2012, 109, 7385–7390.Stoye JP (2001) Endogenous retroviruses: still active after all these years? Curr Biol 11: R914–916.Belshaw R, Pereira V, Katzourakis A, Talbot G, Pa?es J, Burt A, Tristem M. 2004. Long-term reinfection of the human genome by endogenous retroviruses. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U. S. A. 101:4894 – 4899.Mayer J, Blomberg J, Seal RL. 2011. A revised nomenclature for transcribed human endogenous retroviral loci. Mobile DNA 2:7.Young, George R., Jonathan P. Stoye, and George Kassiotis. "Are human endogenous retroviruses pathogenic? An approach to testing the hypothesis." Bioessays 35.9 (2013): 794-803. Are human endogenous retroviruses pathogenic? An approach to testing the hypothesisMagiorkinis, Gkikas, Robert Belshaw, and Aris Katzourakis. "‘There and back again’: revisiting the pathophysiological roles of human endogenous retroviruses in the post-genomic era." Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 368.1626 (2013): 20120504. revisiting the pathophysiological roles of human endogenous retroviruses in the post-genomic eraSubramanian RP, Wildschutte JH, Russo C, Coffin JM. 2011. Identification, characterization, and comparative genomic distribution of the HERV-K (HML-2) group of human endogenous retroviruses. Retrovirology 8:90.Voisset C, Weiss RA, Griffiths DJ. 2008. Human RNA “rumor” viruses: the search for novel human retroviruses in chronic disease. Microbiol. Mol. Biol. Rev. 72:157–196.Young GR, Stoye JP, Kassiotis G. 2013. Are human endogenous retro- viruses pathogenic? An approach to testing the hypothesis. Bioessays 35: 794 – 803.Jern P, Coffin JM. 2008. Effects of retroviruses on host genome function. Annu. Rev. Genet. 42:709 –732.Marchi, Emanuele, et al. "Unfixed endogenous retroviral insertions in the human population." Journal of virology 88.17 (2014): 9529-9537. Unfixed Endogenous Retroviral Insertions in the Human PopulationMangeney M, Renard M, Schlecht-Louf G, Bouallaga I, et al. 2007. Placental syncytins: genetic disjunction between the fusogenic and immunosuppressive activity of retroviral envelope proteins. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 104: 20534–9.Dupressoir A, Lavialle C, Heidmann T. 2012. From ancestral infectious retroviruses to bona fide cellular genes: role of the captured syncytins in placentation. Placenta 33: 663–71.Kalter SS, Helmke RJ, Heberling RL, Panigel M, et al. 1973. Brief communication: C-type particles in normal human placentas. J Natl Cancer Inst 50: 1081–4.Vernon ML, McMahon JM, Hackett JJ. 1974. Additional evidence of type-C particles in human placentas. J Natl Cancer Inst 52: 987–9.Kalter SS, Heberling RL, Helmke RJ, Panigel M, Smith GC, Kraemer DC, Hellman A, Fowler AK, Strickland JE (1975) A comparative study on the presence of C-type viral particles in placentas from primates and other animals. Bibl Haematol 1975(40):391–40.Dirksen ER, Levy JA. 1977. Virus-like particles in placentas from normal individuals and patients with systemic lupus erythematosus. J Natl Cancer Inst 59: 1187–92.Blond, J.L.; Beseme, F.; Duret, L.; Bouton, O.; Bedin, F.; Perron, H.; Mandrand, B.; Mallet, F. Molecular characterization and placental expression of herv-w, a new human endogenous retrovirus family. J. Virol. 1999, 73, 1175–1185.Blond, J.L.; Lavillette, D.; Cheynet, V.; Bouton, O.; Oriol, G.; Chapel-Fernandes, S.; Mandrand, B.; Mallet, F.; Cosset, F.L. An envelope glycoprotein of the human endogenous retrovirus herv-w is expressed in the human placenta and fuses cells expressing the type d mammalian retrovirus receptor. J. Virol. 2000, 74, 3321–3329.Mi, S.; Lee, X.; Li, X.; Veldman, G.M.; Finnerty, H.; Racie, L.; LaVallie, E.; Tang, X.Y.; Edouard, P.; Howes, S.; et al. Syncytin is a captive retroviral envelope protein involved in human placental morphogenesis. Nature 2000, 403, 785–789.Frendo, J.L.; Olivier, D.; Cheynet, V.; Blond, J.L.; Bouton, O.; Vidaud, M.; Rabreau, M.; Evain-Brion, D.; Mallet, F. Direct involvement of herv-w env glycoprotein in human trophoblast cell fusion and differentiation. Mol. Cell. Biol. 2003, 23, 3566–3574.Blaise, S.; de Parseval, N.; Benit, L.; Heidmann, T. Genomewide screening for fusogenic human endogenous retrovirus envelopes identifies syncytin 2, a gene conserved on primate evolution. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. 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"Retroviral envelope gene captures and syncytin exaptation for placentation in marsupials." Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (2015): 201417000.Heidmann O, Vernochet C, Dupressoir A, Heidmann T. 2009 Identification of an endogenous retroviral envelope gene with fusogenic activity and placenta- specific expression in the rabbit: a new “syncytin” in a third order of mammals. Retrovirology 6, 107.Cornelis G, Heidmann O, Bernard-Stoecklin S, Reynaud K, Veron G, Mulot B, Dupressoir A, Heidmann T. 2012 Ancestral capture of syncytin- Car1, a fusogenic endogenous retroviral envelope gene involved in placentation and conserved in Carnivora. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 109, E432 – E441.Lavialle, C., Cornelis, G., Dupressoir, A., Esnault, C., Heidmann, O., Vernochet, C., & Heidmann, T. (2013). Paleovirology of 'syncytins', retroviral env genes exapted for a role in placentation. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. 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Page on els-cdn.comSchwarze-Zander C, Blackard JT, Rockstroh JK. Role of GB virus C in modulating HIV disease. Expert Rev Anti Infect Ther. 2012; 10: 563-572.Mahony JB. Detection of respiratory viruses by molecular methods. Clin Microbiol Rev. 2008; 21: 716-747.Schildgen O, Müller A, Allander T, Mackay IM, Völz S, Kupfer B, et al. Human bocavirus: passenger or pathogen in acute respiratory tract infections? Clin Microbiol Rev. 2008; 21: 291-304.Willner D, Furlan M, Haynes M, Schmieder R, Angly FE, Silva J, et al. Metagenomic analysis of respiratory tract DNA viral communities in cystic fibrosis and non-cystic fibrosis individuals. PLoS One. 2009; 4: e7370.Staras, Stephanie AS, et al. "Seroprevalence of cytomegalovirus infection in the United States, 1988–1994." Clinical Infectious Diseases 43.9 (2006): 1143-1151. Seroprevalence of Cytomegalovirus Infection in the United States, 1988-1994Simanek, Amanda M., et al. "Seropositivity to cytomegalovirus, inflammation, all-cause and cardiovascular disease-related mortality in the United States." PloS one 6.2 (2011): e16103.Fülöp, T., Anis Larbi, and Graham Pawelec. "Human T cell aging and the impact of persistent viral infections." Frontiers in immunology 4 (2013). Human T Cell Aging and the Impact of Persistent Viral InfectionsBørglum, A. D., et al. "Genome-wide study of association and interaction with maternal cytomegalovirus infection suggests new schizophrenia loci." Molecular psychiatry 19.3 (2014): 325-333. Page on nature.comCytomegalovirus infection enhances the immune response to influenza; A Virus In Your Mouth Helps Fight The FluNellåker, Christoffer, et al. "Transactivation of elements in the human endogenous retrovirus W family by viral infection." Retrovirology 3.1 (2006): 44. Page on retrovirology.comPerron, Hervé, et al. "Molecular characteristics of Human Endogenous Retrovirus type-W in schizophrenia and bipolar disorder." Translational psychiatry 2.12 (2012): e201. Page on nature.com.Leboyer, Marion, et al. "Human endogenous retrovirus type W (HERV-W) in schizophrenia: A new avenue of research at the gene-environment interface." The World Journal of Biological Psychiatry 14.2 (2013): 80-90.Thanks for the A2A, Matt Chanoff. I'll answer about the human mycobiome (fungal communities of the human body) separately.
Do astronauts feel heavy when they return to Earth?
Maybe! Since I’m such a good person, I’m going to print an entire chapter —Chapter 17, The Hard Thump of Reality— from my first award-winning book, “The Ordinary SpacemanTM: From Boyhood Dreams to Astronaut.” It will answer your question and hopefully, give you pause to purchase, and read, the remaining chapters of this wonderful story. Enjoy!The Hard Thump of RealityThe journey that began in earnest in December 1968 with me glued to a black-and-white tv set culminated in part on November 7, 2007, aboard the space shuttle Discovery. Orbital mechanics dictated that upon completion of my first jaunt into outer space— five months on the International Space Station— I must now face the prospect of my first homecoming from outer space. After 151 days in microgravity, Discovery’s touchdown at the Kennedy Space Center was scheduled for the late morning hours of November 7.Prepping for landing day is almost as hectic as launch day and orbital insertion. There are so many things that must be completed to get everything (and everyone) ready for coming home. Equipment used during the mission must be carefully packed for return to Earth. When NASA says “packed” they mean packed; equipment must be stowed in such a manner as to avoid any damage upon return to Earth’s gravitational field or from the hard thump of the orbiter’s main landing gear when the tires strike the Shuttle Landing Facility’s fifteen-thousand-foot-long concrete landing surface.That morning the crew awakened on schedule, downed a quick breakfast, and donned navy blue cotton long underwear made by Patagonia. The long underwear was comfortable against our skin and performed the critical function of covering our maximum absorbency garments, more commonly known as diapers. Heavier, less comfortable liquid-cooling garments would be put on at the very last possible minute over our diapers and long underwear. Over everything we would wear our Advanced Crew Escape System (aces) spacesuits. The highly visible and recognizable orange “pumpkin” suits serve as our first level of protection in the event of a high-altitude emergency bailout like that contemplated by the crew of the Columbia tragedy.The crew was busy on the flight deck checking the shuttle’s navigational systems, test-firing her reaction control system jets and manipulating all her hydraulically controlled aerodynamic surfaces— parts absolutely critical to the “one shot only” entry of this 215,000-pound spaceship, a hunk of tiles, insulation, and metal that must land with the lift of an aircraft. Just prior to landing, all jets are turned off and the shuttle must land as a glider. And with no go-arounds, there’s only one opportunity to do so safely.Flambo, Longbow, and Husk-Bo were packing up sleeping bags, experiments, trash— all the supplies and hardware— before the final thrust of the orbital maneuvering system (OMS) engines that would slow us down enough so gravity could gently tug us back into the Earth’s atmosphere. (STS-120 was known as the “Bo” crew. Led by Commander Pam “Pambo” Melroy and pilot George “Zambo” Zamka, all crewmembers adopted “Bo” call signs for the mission: Doug “Wheels” Wheelock became Flambo for his difficulty lighting a fire in the rain, Scott “Longbow” Parazynski for his height, Stephanie “Robo” Wilson for her robotic arm genius, Dan “Bo-ichi” Tani for his Asian heritage, Paolo “Rocky” Nespoli because no one could think of a good Italian “Bo” name, and yours truly became “Husk-Bo” for my home state.)Still, we managed to find time for zero-gravity play as we worked in the middeck. The gravitationally liberated Sony video camera was passed back and forth, videotaping “stupid astronaut tricks” as we launched M&Ms across the living quarters toward mouths stretched to their limits hoping for a successful capture of the tasty candies.We gathered and filled drink bags for each crewmember, readying us for the process called fluid loading. Required of astronauts on entry day, fluid loading tops off the fluids in your vestibular and blood pressure systems. Taking in salt tablets and fluids on landing day helps you better withstand and respond to a force it hasn’t experienced in quite some time— gravity.After a couple of weeks in space, your systems learn that it takes less effort to push blood “up” into your brain than when you were back on the Earth’s surface. With your bodily systems essentially running on idle, gravity has no trouble pulling blood away from your head and down to your feet. The results are potentially disastrous.Being a rookie astronaut, my knowledge of the fluid loading process was purely theoretical. My choice of beverages to load on landing day was based on an earthbound set of taste buds and included hot chicken broth (two bags— a big mistake), followed by purple grape drink and ending with tropical punch. The fruit drinks were artificially sweetened, as sugar diminishes the body’s ability to retain liquids, thereby lessening the benefit of fluid loading. Since my size and weight dictated that I needed sixty- four ounces of fluid over a two-hour period, I followed up my tasty combination of liquids with plain old iodinated water and the remaining mandatory salt tablets. The process began with a call from our commander to “initiate fluid loading.” I was not prepared for the ramifications of that simple directive.The choice of chicken broth stemmed from taste-testing sessions on the ground where it tasted like a bowl of Mom’s chicken soup. In space the salty chicken taste was not nearly as appealing. When Pambo called for us to load our second bag, I wasn’t even half finished with the first one and I still had purple grape drink, tropical punch, and water to get down. Fluid loading was not as easy as I’d thought it would be.With our preparatory tasks completed and three seats re-installed in the middeck, our focus turned to the upcoming oms burn. Critical to entry if completed successfully, it would drastically reduce our orbit’s altitude by slowing our orbital velocity. With the shuttle moving more slowly, the effect of gravity becomes more pronounced, pulling us toward Earth, which is the desired effect. The timeline would then begin to move at a breakneck speed, giving us less than sixty minutes before touching down.Our work on the middeck accelerated to what seemed like an almost frenetic pace. The flight deck crew had to be suited up and strapped into their seats before Pambo and Zambo would initiate the oms burn. The mission’s end would begin in earnest when Pambo’s gloved index finger hit the execute button of her center-console computer keyboard. The shuttle’s ancient software would then initiate the preset countdown to ignition of the two OMS engines. One floor below the flight deck, we worked with the primary goal to get everyone into their launch-and-entry suits and strapped down in their chairs.The suiting up of seven adult crewmembers is a task requiring forethought, planning, and teamwork. The order of suit-up was flight deck first: commander, then pilot, then mission specialist 1, and finally, mission specialist 2. Until they were strapped in, we couldn’t even begin to think about the three of us on the middeck. Middeck had an order too: returning ISS crew member first, then Wheels (also a rookie flier), and finally the crew’s veteran, Scott Parazynski. In the event of a last-minute problem, a veteran, experienced and familiar with the suits and hardware, is able to get suited up and strapped into position quickly and without as much help as a rookie.Once Flambo and Longbow had strapped me in prior to deorbit, there was nothing for me to do but relax and take in the experience and the final activities performed by my crewmates. At touchdown, I was lying on my back, perfectly comfortable in my recumbent space shuttle seat. Being six feet tall, my booted feet extended into two open and empty lockers.We hit the runway hard, the impact providing a jolt that clearly welcomed me back to my home planet. Much to my surprise, I was feeling like a million bucks. Safely back on the ground, I was in hog heaven, contemplating seeing my wife and kids after five long months. KSC’s astronaut support personnel opened the shuttle’s side hatch, and veteran astronaut Jerry Ross poked his head in.“Welcome home!” he said with a huge smile.An orange corrugated hose, or “elephant trunk,” was inserted through the hatch to pump cool air into the rapidly warming middeck. I could smell the scents of Earth, and it didn’t even matter which smells they were. It was awesome to be home. At least it seemed that way from my comfortable vantage point of lying on my back.Jerry coordinated the extraction of each crewmember in a clear and specific order. The “ISS guy” would be last. Scott and Wheels exited their middeck seats quickly and apparently readapted to Earth’s gravity within minutes. They hurriedly departed Discovery in anticipation of doffing the bulky, heavy, extremely warm suits they had been perspiring in for the last hour. Turning my head ever so gently to the left (now that I was back in the firm grip of Newton’s second law, moving too fast would cause “stomach awareness”), I watched as my crewmates were brought down the ladder from the flight deck, starting with my good friend from Italy, Paolo Nespoli.As Paolo slowly descended the short metal ladder under the watchful eye of Ross, I shouted, “Way to go, Paolo! Great job!” He slowly turned his head toward me, and with great effort, uttered a quiet and unconvincing “Thanks.” That was followed by the audible splat of a discharge of fluid from his stomach onto the middeck floor.Daunted by this resonant and disconcertingly visual display of fluid unloading, I returned my head to neutral and concentrated on the switches and dials mounted on the ceiling in an attempt to get that puking out of my mind and to once again bask in the sense of complete success that had previously washed over me.Finally it was my turn. Jerry Ross placed a calming hand on my left knee.“Are you ready?” he asked.“You bet!” I said, having no idea whether I was or not.He undid my remaining parachute- to- harness straps. (I had already released my five-point seat belt harness, as it’s a simple device requiring only the turn of a knob.)Watching for the telltale signs of uneasiness that only a veteran space flier could see, Jerry asked me to slowly sit up. It took me a great effort to rise to the seated position, even with an assist from Jerry’s strong arms. Upright for the first time on Earth in over five months, the entire middeck of the orbiter began to spin counterclockwise at an incredible rate. Fighting off nausea, I focused on one of the cream-colored lockers we’d opened and closed a hundred times as we packed up. The locker seemed to stare right back at me. Keeping my gaze affixed on my newly found reference point, I resisted the urge to turn my head as the shuttle support team shouted instructions to each other as they began to unload our personal gear.It took only a few seconds for the spinning of the middeck to slow down and ultimately come to rest, presenting me with the view that any earthbound astronaut would have expected.Jerry Ross asked again, “Are you okay?”“Yes,” I responded without much enthusiasm.“I need you to turn to your left and get down on the floor. You will have to crawl to the hatch,” he said.I turned left ever so slowly, anticipating the moves needed to get myself to my hands and knees on the shuttle’s middeck floor. I took a deep breath. Positioning my hands forward to catch myself should I lose control and fall in a pumpkin- orange heap, I made the move. The thickness of my launch-and-entry suit protected my kneecaps from the hard floor after 152 days of treading only on air. Success was achieved until I moved my head to look at the open hatch and freedom.The spinning started. Once again, I held firm. My head remained as stable as the faces on Mount Rushmore. It took less time for the spinning to stop than before. Confidence washed over my tired and overheated body. With newfound vigor and the hope that I was going to be able to exit without puking my brains out, I allowed myself the fantasy that I might even be able to perform the shuttle walkaround with the rest of the crew.It took a considerable amount of strength in my arms and upper body to pull my two-hundred-pound self into the opened hatchway. Nearly exhausted from the effort that took only seconds, I was greeted by two able-bodied flight surgeons. I gave them a weak but sincere smile as they hoisted my arms around their shoulders and lifted me from what was essentially a prone position. It was time to try and walk again. For the first time in over five months, my legs began to receive commands from my brain, the orders flying at the speed of light through a nerve system that seemed to be relearning everything from scratch now that gravity had returned. As if I were Tim Conway playing Mr. Tudball on The Carol Burnett Show, my size-thirteen black flight boots shuffled slowly across the gantry way to the door of the crew transfer vehicle (CTV).My intestines were having even more difficulty making the transition to normalcy. I had gone from mostly Russian food on the space station to a diet of American food aboard the shuttle. Thus, my internal organs had been in a constant state of gaseous protest for the last two days of the mission.While I was flatulating like a machine gun, I had not been able to have a successful bowel movement for two days. Coupled with the fact that landing day required me to don both a high-altitude g-suit and the Russian version of athletic compression shorts, my bowels were having a hard time fighting against the pressure.Finally in the vertical position, the call of nature was coming in loud and clear to me and to anyone close enough to listen or inhale. The fluid-loading protocol we had successfully completed a few hours before was beginning to see results. Sixty-four ounces of liquid and a number of salt tablets contained in my stomach and intestinal tract had a tremendous desire to be uncontained.So there I stood, fully clothed in my orange suit with polished black flight boots and all the requisite clothing and sublayers, and I had to take a crap!“Could I please use the bathroom?” I asked politely.There was only one toilet in the rv-sized CTV, and it represented everything pure and good from some porta- potty company.“It’s busy— the ladies are cleaning up,” said nasa flight nurse Cathy DiBiase.Desperate measures were needed. I had to focus on something to take my mind off my bowels. Unfortunately, after a long duration space flight, my ability to successfully “head ’em off at the pass” using only the muscles in my buttocks was severely diminished. I was squeezing my butt cheeks together as if there were no tomorrow.Finally my flight nurse suggested I could get out of my flight suit. Agreement came quickly. It was beginning to dawn on me just how hot I was with all those layers on. Being ever so careful to keep my head in a steady, upright, and stable position, I gingerly sat down in an imitation leather recliner. My flight nurse gently untied and removed the increasingly heavy black boots.Even the simple act of glancing down to watch her work brought me to the threshold of a regurgitory explosion. Next was the orange suit. Critical to the successful doffing effort would be my ability to hold my head still while they pulled the rubber-lined helmet ring over my large and unstable cranium. A time ripe for puking, it would require precise teamwork for my helpers to ease the metal ring over my head. I was required to drop my head forward, then not jerk it right back up once the ring had passed over. Many a strong and steely-eyed astronaut has blown chunks during this key maneuver.The overwhelming desire to hurl all over the floor was being trumped by my need for time in the toilet. With the orange suit now successfully removed I once again lobbied for some time in the crapper. My request was met again by what was now becoming anunacceptable response: “One of your crewmates is still in there.” The inability of this group to get me into the toilet was beginning to sound like a reason to drop trou and let it go right there in the middle of the floor. Continually returning to a “buns of steel” mentality, I squeezed my ass cheeks together with all my might.Failure was not an option!A second and more nauseating wave suddenly overcame my sensory organs. My body temperature was continuing to rise. Extremely warm and uncomfortably clothed in my high-tech undergarments, I readily agreed to the suggestion that I get into more comfortable garb. My blue cooling garment top was promptly removed (I had chosen not to wear the bottoms because in training I had determined that my legs would not require much cooling), followed by my long-sleeved underwear shirt.Facing the reality that removing my final piece of clothing— my long underwear bottoms— would have me standing there in front of God and everybody wearing only a diaper, I was extremely embarrassed. I asked if there were other clothes for me to wear. Nurse Cathy, as if impersonating a magician with a top hat, pulled a pair of synthetic, lined, navy blue running shorts out of nowhere. They looked amazingly like those worn by Frank Shorter in the 1976 Olympics, and had the potential to fit over just one of my legs . . . maybe. Nurse Cathy sympathetically declared that the only other choice was my red Hanes boxer shorts, reminiscent of an astronaut Christmas party video skit starring ISS Expedition 9 astronaut Mike “Spanky” Fincke performing zero-g gyrations in a parody of an underwear commercial from the nineties. My choices limited, and the privacy of the bathroom not available, I reached for the red cotton undies, then threw off my diaper, revealing myself to anyone within eyeshot. Hell, I simply didn’t care anymore! Naked as a jaybird, I fastidiously pulled on the shorts, one leg at a time, carefully avoiding any rapid movements that would put my “no puking” record in jeopardy. After I successfully donned the underwear, the words I had been looking forward to hearing were uttered from somewhere within the CTV: “The bathroom is open now.”Elated, I grabbed the long silver bar mounted overhead to stabilize my weakened body. Resuming my deliberate Tim Conway shuffle, I was handed a white puke bag by Nurse Cathy: “You know, just in case.”The toilet door was wide open; I was going to make it. My vision was captured instantly upon entering the tiny room. Poised proudly on a shelf above the small sink were seven bottles, six of which contained recent urine samples from my obviously dehydrated crewmates. Not the best thing for my neural synapses to begin their earthbound processing. I grabbed my bottle and maneuvered close to the toilet to minimize any potential messes. Red boxers down around my knees, I began urinating into my personal sample bottle.The smell was overwhelming! Sensing this could be the trigger I was trying to avoid, I positioned my left forearm against the wall in front of my face. Leaning forward, while simultaneously voiding into an unseen bottle below, I buried my nose deeply into the crevice formed by my bicep and forearm hoping to offset the putrid smell from the dark yellow discharge with the more tolerable scent of my own sweaty skin. The smell of epidermis and sweat seemed to do the trick.Having tightly screwed the lid back on its container, I placed it on the shelf. Crisis averted, my thoughts turned to a much needed bowel movement. I turned around slowly and lowered my backside until icy cold porcelain on naked skin informed me that I was now seated on the mobile “throne.”A torrential release ensued that was more welcomed than a raise in my paycheck. Confidence now bordering on arrogance, I thought nothing would get in the way of my successful no-puking return to Earth.A few minutes into my bodily function, my skin became increasingly warm. The aroma of “number two” was entering my consciousness. I cupped both of my hands tightly over my face, hoping to replace the acrid smell with one slightly more favorable to my senses. Breathing deeply, the sense of dread subsided and I was able to reason more clearly. Thinking that a flush of the toilet might be helpful, I twisted my body, reaching for the flush handle. As I was groping at the side of the toilet tank it become apparent that the flush handle was located down near the floor, for operation using one’s feet. Knowing that moving my head toward the floor would have disastrous consequences, I turned to what I hoped would be a successful plan B. It was not meant to be. One more whiff of an already completed critical body function told my brain that finally I had had enough. An oral discharge was imminent.I grabbed for the pristine white barf bag. I unloaded into that bag with a fervor not seen since my final sixteen-hundred-meter relay effort on the Hastings College track team. Volume quickly became a concern, as thrusts from my stomach muscles continued to push pale purple liquid from the depths of my gut. With a couple of final thrusts, complete with audible cues sounding like what one might hear after a successful frat party, my “Technicolor yawn” drew to a welcome close.Then, with me sitting on the stool in a considerably compromising position, the door flew open. “Are you okay?” Nurse Cathy asked predictably.“Yes, I’m fine,” I yelled. “I’m just throwing up! Please close the door.”As the door swung closed, I figured it was time to finalize my efforts. Having made sure my body was completely empty, I cleaned each and every orifice from which nastiness had emanated. Still not feeling too great, but much better than when I originally entered this tiny stink hole, I mustered up enough strength to stand and get out of the bathroom, back into a more welcoming (and fresher smelling) environment.Opening the door, I was greeted by a hospital gurney with a waiting iv bag, ready to replace the fluids I had so unceremoniously discharged only moments ago. I welcomed the opportunity to lie down and relax. Sheer exhaustion was beginning to set in. I desperately needed some rest. The ride back to astronaut crew quarters was only twenty or thirty minutes in actual time, but it seemed like a blissful eternity to me, asleep on my newfound bed. As we approached the Office of Space Communication (OSC) Building at KSC, where I would be transferred from the recreational vehicle into the biomedical wing, I was awakened by the din of welcoming voices.Emotion and excitement pulled me from my exhausted stupor. I was finally going to see my family! After 152 days in outer space— not to mention the week prior to launch spent in quarantine— I ached for the touch of my wife and kids. With the help of my good friend Mary Jane Anderson, a biomedical science investigator from JSC with Nebraska ties, the upper half of my bed was raised slightly.At the back of the murmuring chorus, standing strong and tall but looking a bit tentative was my son, Cole. As our eyes locked— in what for him must have been surprise at his dad’s pale-as-a-ghost gaze— I began to weep. The emotional release was almost as if something tragic had happened. He looked terrific, appearing to have grown at least six inches since I left the planet! He began to smile and I was at peace; I was home.With tear-blurred vision, I saw my wife, Susan, and daughter, Sutton, emerge from the crowd. As they cautiously approached the gurney, my tears gushed, this time accompanied by gulping sobs the likes of which I hadn’t experienced since the day after Columbia exploded, when I broke down and cried during church. I reached for Susan’s hand and pulled her tightly against my chest. We squeezed each other tightly for the first time in over 152 days. Between sobs of joy, hugs, and kisses, I whispered into her ear the words I had been rehearsing for months: “We did it, honey, we did it! We did it together! I love you so much!”Our personal time was short-lived. It was time for all my postflight tests. Sutton, now almost seven years old, watched with utter amazement as Mary Jane slid a newly opened catheter into a vein in my right arm. With rapt attention, Sutton watched her daddy’s blood being sucked into multiple clear-glass test tubes.“Daddy’s face is really white,” she said.Drawing blood was not reinforcing my body’s recovery from the weightlessness of space. In only a few minutes, the powers-that-be instructed me it was time to move to where postflight experimentation on me could begin in earnest. As they wheeled me to the next location, Susan and Sutton on either side of the gurney and Cole following closely behind, I recognized Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield. Dressed in his blue flight suit, he was moving along with our assembly. Destined to one day become the first Canadian to command the space station, I assumed he was there in some official capacity, although I didn’t have a clue as to what that might be. The person I would have expected was my crew support astronaut, Chris Cassidy. (Chris would also fly on the station during the period Hadfield served as the commander.) Cassidy had been on the landing strip helping us get out of the Discovery in his capacity as a “Cape Crusader” (the nickname for astronauts who are assigned to support a mission’s launch and landing operations), so it was possible Hadfield was acting as his backup.Suddenly Hadfield grabbed Sutton by the arm and tried to pull her away from the gurney. Anger welled up inside me. In a firm voice he told her she couldn’t be with her father because Daddy had to go do tests. Had I been possessed of any strength whatsoever, I think I would have punched him in the nose! I know he was trying to do his job, but this was important family time. Pushing my reconnection with them until later in the name of data gathering seemed inappropriate.As I was whisked away from my family, Susan was consoling Sutton with the reminder that we would be seeing Daddy very soon. My sense of loss and anger was offset when the small crowd burst into a rousing chorus of applause and shouts of “Way to go, Clay! Welcome home, Clay!”During the transit to where data collection would begin, I quietly suggested to Nurse Cathy that I needed to use the bathroom again. Helping me down from the gurney, she cradled my right elbow, giving me support as she directed me toward my destination. Her query as to whether I desired her assistance was met with my sincere “No, thank you.” I felt up to tackling this challenge alone.Nurse Cathy maneuvered me to the threshold of the restroom. It appeared enormous in size. In the room’s center sat a solitary white pedestal sink. To its right was a standard flush toilet. Reassuring Nurse Cathy that I was capable of doing this on my own, I began the daunting trek across the open tile to the desperately needed destination. Wiser since the ctv experience, upon reaching the toilet I removed all my clothing (t-shirt and briefs) for the upcoming discharge. It was not until I was far into my second bowel movement of the day that I realized a critical error had occurred. I had no puke bag. Fearful that yelling for help would further compromise an already tenuous situation, I scanned the area for anything that could serve as backup. There was nothing but the sink, and time was running out. It was time for MacGyver-like improvisation. Maintaining a steady head and posture, and stretching with all my might, I could not reach the sink. Undaunted, I made my next move. Sliding my ass carefully around the back circumference of the seat, closest to the tank, I was able to maneuver my backside to the point where my left cheek was firmly positioned on the side of the seat closest the sink, while my right cheek was hanging in mid-air, performing its own version of Wicked’s Defying Gravity. With a desperate lunge, I reached for the edge of the sink. But my fingers, weak from my five months in orbit, began slipping free from the rim. My body began to follow. I was sliding from the toilet, slipping under the sink. Then I spied the only option I had left. Reaching below the sink and stretching for all I was worth, I grabbed for the bright silver P-trap assembly. With a solid grip on the pipe, I pulled my chin up to rest on the edge of the sink, still managing to keep one ass cheek on the toilet seat.There was no time for further adjustments. A flood of fluids returned, accompanied by the verbal grunt of another Technicolor yawn. “Are you okay?” came Nurse Cathy’s dependable cry as she sprinted into the center of the bathroom.“I’m fine; I’m just puking,” I barked.Nurse Cathy was staring at a totally naked, totally embarrassed astronaut, stretched almost horizontally between a sink and a toilet, puking his brains out.Fatigue was wearing heavily on me by the time a group of Canadian scientists began prepping me for data collection for the Canadian Cardiovascular Investigation on ISS. They were studying the body’s cardiovascular system and its ability to deliver blood to the organs in a weightless environment. By observing the human body’s fluid system in zero gravity, they hoped to better understand how it works on Earth. A better understanding could lead to medical breakthroughs for folks with heart and circulatory problems.As a willing preflight volunteer, I was pretty much stuck doing whatever they wanted or needed, and they needed data collected immediately after landing. I was so exhausted it was difficult to keep my eyes open, but every time I began to fade away, one of the investigators would push or prod me to move this way or that way. It took several hours before they were finally finished. Another session would be required first thing the next morning.I didn’t care. I was about to spend the night with my wife for the first time in over 152 days. I knew what I wanted to do that night with Susan, but I was not at all optimistic that my body would comply. It simply didn’t seem possible that I would be able to stay awake. Unless I could get a catnap, my intimate night with Susan was going to consist of me lying down on the bed and greeting her the next morning.Finally, at the room in crew quarters I was to share with Susan, I received a phone call. Sutton was in the condo on the beach imitating her father . . . she was throwing up, too. Susan felt it necessary that she stay there with Sutton rather than coming all the way back out to crew quarters at KSC.While disappointed, I realized this would be best for all of us. I was fighting to stay awake and remain ambulatory. I hadn’t eaten anything in hours for fear of puking it right back up. My rehabilitation specialist, Mark Guilliams, was hoping we would be able to get in a short rehabilitation workout before I fell asleep for the night.Mark’s plans had about the same odds of happening as my romantic evening with my wife. I begged and pleaded with Mark and Nurse Cathy to just let me go to sleep. Mark negotiated; he would leave me be for the night if I agreed to a session on the stationary bike after my data gathering procedure the next morning. Willing to do almost anything in order to get to go to sleep, I quickly agreed. As our negotiations ended, Nurse Cathy wheeled an IV tower into the room with anti-nausea medicine in the clear plastic bag. I suggested, and they agreed, that it might be best if I ate something before going to sleep. My original plan for my first meal back on Earth was a medium- rare T- bone steak (Nebraska corn-fed beef) with a loaded baked potato and a good, hardy Cabernet Sauvignon (Silver Oak Cellars, perhaps).I settled for two pieces of wheat toast with grape jelly that Mark graciously brought to me on a Styrofoam plate with a napkin, and I loved every bite. With a hint of nausea and without my wife, the day of my triumphant return to planet Earth came to a close at 8:37 p.m. in that tiny room. It was my fifteenth wedding anniversary. Glowing faintly, a silent calculator marking my new earthbound pedometer, the numbers on the radio alarm silently clicked over from 8:36 to 8:37. My mind went blank . . . no dizziness, no thoughts of accomplishment, no regrets . . . just the restful peace of my first night’s sleep back under the influence of gravity.I slept for nearly nine hours. My body position had not shifted one iota from where it was when I crashed the night before. As I tried to roll over and get out of the bed to empty my screaming kidneys, I felt every ounce of my two-hundred-plus pounds. Every single movement required energy that just didn’t seem to be there anymore.I had to carefully position myself for each distinct movement, asif my body was a marionette and my brain a puppet master. Minutespassed before I reached the foot of the bed, my feet plantedsquarely on the floor. Head resting in my hands, I contemplatedthe scope and magnitude of the prospective journey to the toilet.My body insisted I had precious little time left. It had to be done.Focusing all my energy on my upper body, I made a lunge reminiscentof my long-jumping days in college and gained the two feetbetween myself and the entertainment center near the foot of thebed. Grabbing the edge, I pulled myself into an upright position.Leaning on furniture and walls I made slow, heavy progress tothe door of the crapper, where I worked myself into a stable positionwithin the doorjamb.Feeling like a contestant on America’s Biggest Loser or ExtremeMakeover: Weight Loss Edition, I rotated 180 degrees, then forcedmy gym shorts down as far as I could push without bending over.Privates liberated, goal in reach, I released my death grip on thedoor jamb and pushed every so gently. Gravity slammed my assdown on the toilet seat with the subtlety of an anchor hitting water,but the resultant trajectory was within the statistically dispersedvalue of plus-or-minus one sigma.When I had successfully completed phase 1 of my morningablutions, I began gathering the energy required to move on tophase 2— an activity I had been looking forward to for a very longtime— a nice hot shower.The wonders of Earth are magnified for an astronaut returningfrom a long- duration spaceflight. Consider, for example, thejoy I felt when I finally maneuvered my body— which felt gargantuan—to the door of the shower stall. There I found a prepositionedchair (thanks to Nurse Cathy) equidistant from everythingI would need. It was rapture, but nothing like the rapture of hotwater pulsing over my entire body, a temperature-controlled rainstormof ecstasy. For thirty-seven minutes I languished in thishaven of joy. It is beyond my powers of description to tell youhow good that shower felt, but the word orgasmic comes to mind.Next came a trip to the sink for my first Newtonian-controlledshave since launch. I couldn’t lift the hand holding the razor withoutthe assistance of the other arm. As I stood naked in front ofthe bathroom mirror, my earthbound view of the frailty of thehuman condition was really driven home. My alter ego was skinny,badly shaven, extremely pale, and in desperate need of some foodand sunshine.And he was an astronaut— a flown astronaut!“Puking: The Sequel” was humorous only after its completion.Less than three years later, descending the ramp steps to thefoot of Discovery, I would remember the debacle in full detail.Again in the OSC and again under the watchful eye of NurseCathy, I asked if she would please take me to the room where shehad witnessed my horizontal puking nakedness in 2007. NurseCathy walked me to the place we had shared our intimate momentnearly three short years before.The room that had appeared so enormous was quite small. I wasstunned. Surely this was not the same place. The cavernous roomI remembered, with a toilet and sink so carefully placed directlyin its center— where had it gone? Nurse Cathy and I smiled andhugged. Apparently, long- duration spaceflight can play tricks withyour mind.Keep lookin’ up!