Subjects Close to Their Hearts

The notion of doctors who experiment on themselves may conjure up memories of the late Dr. Jekyll, the creation of writer Robert Louis Stevenson, who, in an attempt to distill his evil and good natures, ends up turning himself into the monstrous Mr. Hyde.

But self-experimentation has always had a place in science. Self-experimenters count among their ranks luminaries like Isaac Newton and Nobel Prize winner Barry Marshall. Whether done for convenience or for the sake of convincing others to participate in their trials for new treatments, self-experimentation has been both a successful tactic and a fatal error in judgment.

There is no complete index of who has used themselves as parts of their experiments, so it's difficult to give it a batting average, but self-experimentation has had some excellent yields, such as cures for illnesses, like yellow fever and peptic ulcers, as well as the artificial sweetener Splenda.

These doctors and innovators went beyond the norm and literally put themselves into their work -- and produced results.

David Pritchard

While conducting research in Papua, New Guinea in the 1980s, David Pritchard noted a lower rate of auto-immune diseases, like hay fever and asthma, among people infected with the parasitic hookworm, Necator americanus.



In 2004, the immunologist and biologist from the University of Nottingham applied a wrap to his arm that contained numerous hookworm larvae, as reported in the New York Times at the beginning of this month.

Using his self-experiment to gain approval from the ethics committee of Britain's National Health Services, Pritchard now hopes to find patients willing to be infected in order to see if it will help eliminate their asthma and allergies.

Scott Silverman

Because of privacy and safety concerns, VeriChip and its CEO, Scott Silverman, have faced some protests about their technology. Their RFID tags, which are implanted in the arm, can be used to help access a person's health records in an emergency.



But, while the process of implanting one of the small chips has only been FDA-approved since 2004, Silverman has had one in his own upper right arm since May 2002. He designed the chip so it would act as a barcode of sorts; a signal from the chip opens automatic doors in his office and allows him access to his computer.

It enables him to be recognized by technology in his office -- serving as a sort of key.

Silverman explained to ABC News last year that he felt it was a good way to demonstrate both the ease of the product and the way that it functions.

Barry Marshall

Up to the early 1980s, most physicians assumed that stomach ulcers were caused by stress. But Dr. Barry Marshall was convinced from his research that they were, in fact, caused by bacteria. His theory was met with skepticism by researchers who questioned how bacteria could survive in the strongly acidic stomach.



In 1984, frustrated with his inability to display a strong animal model, Marshall came to the decision to use himself. He drank a solution containing Helicobacter pylori, giving himself stomach ulcers. He was ultimately able to treat his ulcers and show their bacterial origins.

Marshall, along with his collaborator, Robin Warren, was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2005.

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