Nervous System Interview - JT

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    I interviewed Dr. Trent Pansze, a local Pathologist. Why I chose to interview him was because I thought it wold be interesting to learn more about the relationship between the nervous system and pathogens. Dr. Pansze works in the laboratory at Mercy Regional Medical Center in Durango, Colorado. Pathology relates to the Nervous System because pathogens are anything that can make you sick and if they get into your nervous system then they can cause your nervous system to fail. 
Q:  Can you explain to the audience what you do for a living?
A:  .  I work as a pathologist in a hospital laboratory.  Specimens are removed from patients, either through surgery or cells through biopsy, and sent to the lab for processing of tissues.  Then I look at the cells through the microscope to determine generally if the cells are cancerous or benign, and specifically the diagnosis of the disease.
Q: What is a pathogen?
A: In general a pathogen is anything that can make you sick.  In medicine, pathogen is a term for infectious agents.
Q: What particular parts of the nervous system can be impacted by pathogens?
A: The first thing is the cerebrospinal  fluid.  The central nervous system is lined with a protective covering consisting of a series of layers called meninges. Pathogens have difficulty accessing the central nervous system through the meninges, however some specific viruses (eg polio), bacteria (eg haemophilus), and fungi (eg Cryptococcus) target the nervous system.  An infection of the cerebrospinal fluid or the meninges is referred to as meningitis. Once a pathogen is within the central nervous system it can cause a meningitis and/or infect a neural tissue directly.
Q: Is there a specific pathogen that can cause our nervous system to fail?
A: . See 3 above.  Bacterial meningitis and fungal meningitis tend to cause abcesses within nervous tissue and associated purulent inflammation.  This causes necrosis of neural tissue, as well as increases the pressure within the closed central nervous system.  Either of these pathogenic responses, including a modest increase in central nervous system pressure, can cause the nervous system to fail.  Viral meningitis tends to infect individual nerve fibers with resultant neural deficits.
Q: Could the body survive if we had no nervous system?
A: No.  The autonomic nervous system controls vital processes such as heartbeat and breathing.  Sensory and motor nerve functions allow movement and necessary senses such as vision (which are essentially necessary for survival).
Q: Can you explain how antigens and antibodies work? Can these things impact our nervous system?
A:  An antigen is a protein, usually present on cell surfaces, that our immune system can detect as “self” or “non-self.” The immune system is designed to recognize non-self antigens and mount a response to protect the body from foreign invaders. (If the body attacks a self antigen that is called an auto-immune disease; multiple sclerosis is an example of an auto-immune disease that targets the central nervous system.) Viruses, bacteria and fungi are recognized as foreign antigens by the immune system, and the body uses a variety of specialized cells to fight them. Some of these cells will engulf and poison foreign antigens, and some specialized immune cells (lymphocytes) will form a protein that binds and neutralizes a specific antigen.  These proteins are called antibodies.
Q: What is the most common nervous system disease?
A: Cerebrovascular accident (stroke) is the most common central nervous system disease.  The most common meningitis is viral meningitis, which is usually a self-limited non-lethal disease.
Q: Can you share a story about your most memorable case in regards to pathogens and the nervous system?
A: An overwhelming multiple infection which was a combination of the fungus cryptococcus and herpes encephalitis in an end-stage AIDS patient.
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