I never thought I’d be bothered by the use of an apostrophe.

The scientific community has always had a problem standardising terms. From multiple aliases for proteins, to the spelling of sulphur (personal note: I will never spell sulphur with an f!).

Historically the naming of Down syndrome was a contentious issue. In 1965, when the World Health Organisation was trying to come to an agreement on what to call the syndrome the options put forward were:

  1. Langdon-Down’s anomaly
  2. Down’s syndrome or anomaly
  3. congenital acromicria
  4. trisomy 21 anomaly

‘Down’s syndrome’ was chosen over the more descriptive ‘trisomy 21’ as an acknowledgment of the contribution by John Langdon Down. Predictably there were some in the scientific community that disagreed with this decision who continued to use the term they thought most appropriate. The US National Institute of Health attempted to make a standard set of rules regarding the naming of diseases and conditions in 1974. The report, printed in the Lancet (1974, i798), stated: “The possessive form of an eponym should be discontinued, since the author neither had nor owned the disorder.” This is the nomenclature the international community use today, although generally the British continue to an apostrophe, and the French use trisomy 21 in tribute to the karyotype identification by a French scientist (whether you believe that to be Marthe Gautier or Jérôme Lejeune I will leave up to you). Normally I wouldn’t think this was a problem, but it’s really annoying when you’re trying to conduct a comprehensive literature search!. An apostrophe completely changes your search results!.

Anyway, that’s your Down syndrome lesson for this blog.

From a personal perspective PULSE is proving to be quite enlightening. I had a few reasons for wanting to do a PULSE assignment, and feeling closer to patients was a big part of it, but I also wanted to know whether I would cope not being in the lab for an extended period of time. In my mind working in a lab was why I became a scientist, as it was the best way of actually making a difference to patients’ lives. After 6 weeks I can honestly say I don’t miss the lab at all (sorry Emma!) and I’ve never felt like I’ve been making more of a difference. I’m already planning how I can carry on helping DSi when I return to my “normal” job.

Working from home is a very different experience. I’m used to an office/corridor/lab full of people, all working away, phones ringing and instant messaging meaning we’re always available. I have to be honest and say working from home is a little bit lonely sometimes, although it does mean I’m getting a lot done. Thankfully I have some great friends that are always up for dinner or a visitor for the weekend, so I don’t feel like I’ve totally lost touch with the world. The London PULSE volunteers are getting together for dinner tomorrow so that’ll be nice to hear about everyone else’s experiences first hand.

No pictures in this blog, but I’m in Teddington on Thursday, so expect a picture filled blog early next week.

PS. If I have made a mistake regarding the placement of an apostrophe whilst writing this blog I can only apologise.