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Ties that heal: Stanford Medicine magazine examines relationships

magazine spring 16 heartsTalk about pressure.

Ron Davis, PhD, has built a career solving biochemical puzzles — and now his son is desperately ill due to a biochemical puzzle of his own. So Davis, a professor of biochemistry and of genetics at Stanford, has taken on a new scientific challenge: sussing out the molecular cause of chronic fatigue syndrome, the disease afflicting his son.

The story of this quest appears in the new issue of Stanford Medicine magazine as part of the spring issue’s special report, “Relationships: Ties that heal.”

As the article called "The puzzle solver" explains, for Davis:

Each day has become a race to unravel the mystery of chronic fatigue syndrome, the disease that is killing his 32-year-old son, a freelance photographer who was forced to move into his childhood home five years ago when he was no longer able to care for himself. It’s a puzzle that Davis ruminates over day after day, his mind humming along in high gear, constantly shifting through data, hypothesizing, analyzing.

In Davis' case, a relationship is driving him to pursue new biomedical research. But relationships can also directly influence our health. Connections with others affect the production of hormones, the actions of immune cells and the pattern of our sleep cycles. The magazine's researchers are finding that relationships are a crucial, though difficult-to-measure, ingredient for health.

The magazine also includes "Sisters," a Q&A with actress Glenn Close and her sister Jessie about their family’s experience with mental illness and their fight to end stigma against the mentally ill. The online version of the magazine includes audio of the conversations.

More highlights of the special report include:

  • "Come together": An article about the benefits of supportive relationships for physical health.
  • "Overflowing lives": A piece about urinary incontinence and how the condition interferes with relationships and can change your relationship with yourself.
  • "Moment of youth": A feature about the beneficial bond that can form between at-risk teens and their doctors.
  • "Silver linings": An essay about the unexpected joy of raising a child with cerebral palsy.
  • "His dear Watson": A story about the love between one of the world’s leading experts on narcolepsy and his narcoleptic pet Chihuahua.

Additional articles include "Gut bust," a story about the decline in the diversity of our gut microbes and what we can do about it, and "You can go home again," an essay by a Stanford psychiatrist about returning to his home state of West Virginia to help fight the drug problem there.

Previously: Precision health: a special report from Stanford Medicine magazine, Stanford Medicine magazine tells why a healthy childhood matters and This summer’s Stanford Medicine magazine shows some skin.
Photo - of thank you notes made by Whitney Dafoe, Ron Davis' son - by Timothy Archibald

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