Big Head Press

L. Neil Smith's
Number 399, December 24, 2006

Happy Zagmuk!


Merry Chistmas, Mice!
by L. Neil Smith

Attribute to The Libertarian Enterprise

As many of my readers are aware, I'm a Type II diabetic—just as many of them are, as well. There happen to be something like 16-20 million of us in America. Sometimes it seems as though, if you live long enough, your chances of becoming diabetic gradually approach 100 percent.

There are a great many attendant problems with diabetes. One of them is called "diabetic neuropathy". As the disease progresses, you see, something about the excess sugar in your bloodstream poisons your nervous system and diminishes circulation. There's also a phenomenon known as "blood pooling" which I hate to confess I've never quite understood.

In any case, beginning with your toes, your extremities start to go numb. I haven't really felt anything in my feet for several years, now, and the process has started with a couple of my more important fingers.

Yes, that's very scary.

And it creates special problems of its own, of course. If you're not diabetic, and you do something likely to damage your foot, it hurts. You quit doing whatever it was you were doing, usually before you get seriously injured. It's largely an automatic process, one you're probably not even conscious of most of the time. I probably wouldn't have written my first novel if I hadn't broken my right foot in two places during a Tae Kwon Do class. That was way back in 1978, before I became diabetic. I felt—and heard—the damned thing break, and before my Emergency Room evening was over, it hurt like the devil.

By contrast, I have no idea at all what I did to break the same foot (in a different place) a few months ago. I didn't even know it was broken until it swelled up so it looked like a baked potato with toes.

By then, of course, I had been walking around on this fractured phalange for a couple of weeks, and had broken the foot several times more. Now my toes are all shifted over one position so that the little one is sort of hanging out in space, connected to the rest of the foot only by muscles and tendons. An X-ray of it looks like a big spider that got run over by a truck. I'm wearing a pressure bandage and one of those big plastic spaceboot casts, and the whole thing is extremely annoying.

I'm telling you all this stuff, not to elicit sympathy, but as an introduction to a couple or three medical breakthroughs (or is it "breaks-through"?) that are about to change my life and those of many others. One of them, I'm extremely gratified to say, I predicted 30 years ago, when I was laid up in a more primitive and uncomfortable cast, writing my first novel because I couldn't really do anything else.

The first breakthrough, one I didn't predict, is a drug, called Metanx (pronounced, stupidly enough, "MET-an-ex" when it obviously should be "met-TANKS"). My doctor tells me it's acquiring a reputation for reversing diabetic neuropathy, something I'd thought impossible. Let me assure you it ain't. I have some hope it might even deal with a special kind of neuropathy, retinopathy, which is what you call it when diabetics slowly go blind. The only downside to the stuff, aside from the fact that it works gradually, is that now my broken foot hurts.

That's progress, two steps forward—ow! ow!—two steps back—ouch!

The breakthrough I did predict, I called the "Bassett coil", after the doctor who invented it. I read about it in 1977 in the National Inquirer, believe it or not. Despite the source, the story seemed credible, so when a badly shot-up Win Bear, hero of The Probability Broach, wakes up in Ed Bear's home, being treated by Healer Clarissa MacDougall Olson, he has these "Bassett coils" fastened all over his body.

For those who may be interested, The Probability Broach also predicted the laptop computer, the Internet, wireless LANs, wall-sized computer/television screens, and computer-aided forensics just like you see on CSI these days. Some of my predictions—electromagnetic autopistols, for example, and 350 mile per hour highways—have yet to manifest themselves, though I am quietly confident that they will, eventually.

But as usual, I have digressed.

The idea behind the coils, as I understood it way back then, is that electromagnetic fields can be used to encourage and control calcium ion deposition in the human body. Bassett's invention was seen as a way to help old people with broken bones heal faster—when they weren't healing at all without this treatment. I had a good family friend who had to have her femur surgically removed because it wasn't healing and finally infected, so I understood very well what's at stake.

It turned out that the primary use to which this progress was put was in the rapid healing of professional sports injuries—nothing to sneer at, since professional sports ends up financing a lot of medical progress.

The Probability Broach was published in late 1979, and is still in print. There's a graphic novel (comic book) version, and it's being serialized right now, online, at In 2007, the device I strap to my foot three times a day for 20 minutes is called a "bone stimulator". It's made by Exogen, a part of Smith & Nephew (no relation).

The bone stimulator is ultrasonic, rather than electronic, and one thing it accomplishes is to increase circulation drastically, it says here, while stimulating various complex features on the membranes of individual cells. It's a little black plastic disc held in place with a Velcro strap, and there's a lead to a small box about the size of an overly thick PDA. The only sensation I can associate with it is of an increased warmth, although any pain I was feeling is now gone, along with a sense of strain and distention that was bothersome and sort of ominous.

They tell me it'll take three to six months to complete treatment—they won't say how well my run-over spider will regain its shape. I'll declare it an unqualified success if I can wear my Luccheses again.

I miss my boots.

Although it's difficult to imagine anything much spiffier coming to pass than the bone stimulator, the really big news this holiday season—a Christmas present of inestimable proportion, from Canadian science to all sixteen million of us—is that diabetes has been cured.



In mice.

This has to do with a previously unknown effect that pain neurons have in the Islets of Langerhans. No, these are not Danish coastal features, but the parts of the pancreas that produce insulin, the lack of which constitutes Type I diabetes. It seems these naughty neurons secrete an enzyme, or cause it to be secreted, that shut the islets off.

But the neurons can be shut off, themselves, by judicious use of capsaicum, the stuff that makes chilis hot. Some other enzyme is then administered to the pancreas that turns the islets back on, and the diabetic organism—as I said, only mice, so far—are through with Glucophage, glypizide, blood tests, insulin injections, and can eat all the buttery mashed potatos, Mexican food, and chocolate cake they want.

Merry Chistmas, mice!

What's more, for reasons that are so far completely unknown, the capsaicum treatment appears to work on Type II diabetes—which in many ways has always seemed like a completely different disease—as well.

How soon this will get to people, I can't say. Not soon enough. If I weren't diabetic, I could look forward to living another 30 or 40 years without pain, and in tolerable good health—long enough to die of cancer, anyway. If the government-induced delay extends the process by even a microsecond, then it's time to abolish the FDA once and for all.

Then we can all have a Merry Christmas.

Can't we?

Four-time Prometheus Award-winner L. Neil Smith has been called one of the world's foremost authorities on the ethics of self-defense. He is the author of 25 books, including The American Zone, Forge of the Elders, Pallas, The Probability Broach, Hope (with Aaron Zelman), and his collected articles and speeches, Lever Action, all of which may be purchased through his website "The Webley Page" at

Ceres, an exciting sequel to Neil's 1993 Ngu family novel Pallas was recently completed and is presently looking for a literary home.

A decensored, e-published version of Neil's 1984 novel, TOM PAINE MARU is available at: Neil is presently working on Ares, the middle volume of the epic Ngu Family Cycle, and on Roswell, Texas, with Rex F. "Baloo" May.

The stunning 185-page full-color graphic-novelized version of The Probability Broach, which features the art of Scott Bieser and was published by BigHead Press has recently won a Special Prometheus Award. It may be had through the publisher, at, or at

Got Gear?  Best Prices on the Net!
The Musician's Choice
for Great Gear!
Search for your product with...
Musician's Friend Power Search
More than a Credit Card
Platinum Card Application
  • Extra Savings
  • Extra Rewards
  • Members-only Deals
  • Reward Point
The Musician's Choice for Great Gear!

Musician's Friend
Now accepting PayPal

Help Support TLE by patronizing our advertisers and affiliates.
We cheerfully accept donations!

to advance to the next article
to return to the previous article
Table of Contents
to return to The Libertarian Enterprise, Number 399, December 24, 2006

Big Head Press