Today a gray hair sprang up when I started rinsing out the
shampoo from my morning shower. Not so happy about gray hairs, but I am happy
to report no wrinkles -- or, better yet, no crow’s feet. For those not familiar with signs of aging,
crow’s feet otherwise known as "laugh lines" are those lines that radiate from
the eyes. Once you start getting crow’s feet, even makeup won’t help hide them
There are a numerous reasons why people start getting
crow’s feet as they age. One rationale is that the skin starts to lose its
collagen and elastin, which result in wrinkles. Geneticists say that another reason for those laugh lines are heredity, and still others say that the origins of crow’s feet are the result of years of laughing,
frowning and squinting.
I am not a big fan of crow’s feet, so I try to refrain from
making big facial expressions when I laugh. Keeping in mind that the world is
my playground keeps me from frowning. And finally, as much as I love looking up
at clouds I try to avoid that activity when it is sunny as to avoid squinting
at the sunlight and smoke. So far, so good.
Health experts recommend that hydrating skin often is an
excellent way to avoid laugh lines. It is recommended that one should drink
plenty of water, moisturize the skin with eye creams and wear sunscreen when
For those of you who didn’t heed the aforementioned
avoidance tips and have already started to develop wrinkles around the eyes,
don’t fret. The government agency known as the Food and Drug Administration
(FDA) has recently approved a form of botulinum toxin known to treat those
This botulinum toxin (known as Botox Cosmetic) is an
injectable drug, which contains small amounts of the toxin produced by the
clostridium botulinum bacterium. It is reported to temporarily paralyzing
muscles, reducing the furrowed appearance of the skin thereby smoothing away
wrinkles around the eyes.
According to the news, this drug treatment is the only
current FDA approved medication for eye wrinkles. The most common side effects, according to the
government agency, involve swollen eyelids.
Candida is a common source of hospital-acquired infections,
a fungus that affects the blood stream, and is occurring more frequently to
become the fourth most common pathogen found in blood cultures in the U.S.
The infections resulting from Candida can lead to sepsis, a
dangerous life-threatening complication where inflammation throughout the body
can damage multiple organs and result in septic shock. Candida infections in
the blood have a mortality rate of 40 percent, due largely to the extended
time needed to test blood for the pathogen.
Faster automated test results are one the rise. A wonderful
team of life scientists have come to the rescue with the creation fast result
test used within their clinical studies. The fast results producing test is
known as “T2Candida,” which identified the pathogen in whole blood samples in a
few hours, rather than the two-to-five days needed by current tests.
This inventive tool is the brain child of employees from T2
Biosystems, a Lexington, Massachusetts biotechnology company, along with life
science colleagues from Brown University and Harvard University medical
At this writing, their technology is still considered
investigational and not yet approved by FDA for clinical use. However, this
faster testing tool is very innovative and will bring a tremendous boost to
laboratories worldwide since the rapid detection of pathogen can lead to early
intervention that will ultimately save lives.
The growth of sports lab testing on illicit drug use and
abuse is on the rise due to the seriousness of blood boosting. Yearly, over
100,000 sports drug tests are conducted worldwide at a cost of $30 million. The
hope is that the lab tests detect and deter drug abuse among competitors.
With so much money on the line for both individual athletes
and their countries, the temptation for the use of sports enhancement drugs is
powerful. Huge sums of money and prestige are the rewards of a sporting event
Just about every type of sport -- including archery,
gymnastics, even water polo -- has seen steroid blood boosting abuses, or doping
as it is sometimes called. Steroids have been uncovered in the test specimens
of amateurs and professional athletes at both high school and college levels.
In early 2000, laboratorians gained significant global
recognition and employment opportunities when approached by sports authorities
to join forces to uncover and discourage drug abuses. The World Anti-Doping
Agency (WADA) was founded in 1999 after a doping scandal during the 1998 Tour
de France occurred. WADA is an international agency which awards accreditation
to testing labs. Currently, up to thirty-four testing laboratories have been
awarded accreditation by this global agency.
Athletes violating illegal drug use are operating on a
risk-reward factor. They know they will be tested and retested on an ongoing
basis throughout the sporting event, with a high risk is getting caught. But
the reward of instant notoriety, vast wealth, and multiple endorsement contacts
for many abusers outweighs the risk.
Enhancement drugs are sheer boosters. The best analogy is
these drugs introduced into the blood stream are similar to pouring super turbo
gasoline into racing cars. We know that the enhanced racing cars are going to
run faster than the racing car with just normal gasoline pumped in. “Jacked up”
gasoline or blood it is considered cheating, in that the normal attributes are
enhanced giving the victor an unfair advantage. So, as drug use and abuse
increases, undoubtedly the need for lab testing will rise as well.
As scientists, we know that vitamin D is essential for the
formation, growth and repair of bones -- and for normal calcium absorption and
immune function. Healthcare studies are quick to lay out the multiple benefits
of vitamin D, which include but are not limited to immune system regulation; it can also reduce the severity and frequency of asthma symptoms; it has been shown to reduce the
risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis in women; various studies have shown
that people with adequate levels of vitamin D have a significantly lower risk
of developing cancer; and high vitamin D doses can help people recover from
tuberculosis more rapidly.
The field of mental health has just recently added another
benefit. Specifically, the Endocrine Society's Journal of Clinical
Endocrinology & Metabolism 2014 publication is all a buzz about the mental
health risk of vitamin D deficiency. According to research, the potential of a
schizophrenia diagnosis is raised when there is a marked deficient in this
Specifically, individual lacking vitamin D are more at risk
to be diagnosed with schizophrenia as opposed to persons who have sufficient
levels of the vitamin in their system.
Why does vitamin D play such an important role in reducing
the occurrence of this mental health disease? That tidbit is unknown at this
time. But what is known is that observation studies and blood tests on vitamin
D and schizophrenia reveals that patients with schizophrenia have lower vitamin
D levels than healthy people, which leads to the thought that vitamin D deficiency
is more common among people with schizophrenia.
Endocrinologists and food scientists are working
collaboratively to better understand that why of this puzzle. Without a doubt, more
research into the much-talked-about vitamin D will be forthcoming.
Our modern world has seen some unintentional, insane acts,
but what I am about to write about borders on chilling thoughts.
Over the weekend, a friend of mine mentioned that there seems
to be a problem with contaminated water being used to dilute pesticides sprayed
on fresh foods. Virologists and food scientists are looking into the
possibility that viruses are entering the food chain via pesticides.
According to my friend – who happens to be a microbiologist
and a wanna-be chef – the report about this happenstance appeared in the
International Journal of Food Microbiology (IJFM). If interested, the title of
the 2012 article is “Persistence of Human Norovirus in Reconstituted
Pesticides.” The article addresses the possibility that contaminated pesticide
applications may be the source of viruses in fresh produce chains. In fact, the
pesticides may be a potential source of noroviruses in fresh food supply
It seems that farmers utilized a variety of water sources
for producing fresh fruits and vegetables. Some test samples of waters from
wells, rivers and lakes contained the human norovirus (hNoV).
I know it is summer, but if you can think back to previous
winters, much of the news media covered the hNoV, which is also known as the
winter vomiting bug, hNoV is one of the most common stomach bugs in the world.
The reason for the high alert on the hNoV bug is that the
virus is highly contagious, causing vomiting and diarrhea, and the number of
affected cases is growing. And what is worst is currently there is no cure.
So, it stands to reason that the consumption of fresh produce
sprayed with contaminated water may be causing the frequent associated with
outbreaks of hNoV. The IJFM article did state that it remains difficult to
identify where in the supply chain the virus first enters production, but ongoing analysis is being conducted of several varieties of pesticides to track
and trace the origin of the virus.
I don’t even know how to process this unintentional public
health occurrence. It’s like a bad television sci-fi rerun of the Twilight
Zone. Hopefully the collaborative efforts of food scientist, microbiologists
and virologists can get to the bottom of the issue and save the day.
I have always loved the expression "tickled pink," which
essentially means that one is very much pleased and entertained.
Well, my friends, I don’t know about the pink part, but I can
truly say that the art of tickling has reached new and innovative heights. Yesterday, I was reading an interesting article about a team of scientists who
have uncovered that the stimulation of a patient’s nerves in their ear may
improve heart health.
It seems that it was already known that the transcutaneous
electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) machine, which when used relieves labor
pains, can also improve cardiac performance when electrical pulses are applied
to the small raised flap at the front of the ear canal.
The electrical stimulation -- which causes a tickling
sensation when applied -- is effective because the pulses influences of the
heart’s nervous system by reducing the nervous signals that can drive failing
hearts too hard.
I am particularly excited about this research because, first
of all, it is noninvasive. And, secondly, everyone should find value in this study
because the World Health Organization (WHO) states that cardiovascular disease
(CVD) is the number one cause of death across the entire planet.
This innovative use of the TENS machine may be just one of
the right prescriptions the doctor ordered. In a sense, the research and its
findings supports the old proverb which says, “A happy heart is a healthy
What the world now knows about the human immunodeficiency
virus infection / acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (HIV/AIDS) has expanded
tremendously over the past decade. The Center for Disease Control and
Prevention (CDC) and other health agencies have done an excellent job in
teaching, as well as research. HIV/AIDS
is a global issues that is being dealt with on a worldwide scale. Just recently, Denmark made a significant mark on the research front.
Two Denmark institutions named Aarhus University and Aarhus
University Hospital recently reported that they have uncovered via a pilot
study that the anti-cancer drug romidepsin may increase the virus production in
latent HIV-infected cells. HIV can hide in a "state of hibernation"
in the so-called CD4 cells.
This vital information was discovered during a pilot study
by HIV researchers from Aarhus University and Aarhus University Hospital. The
study is part of a bigger research project investigating the possibilities of
combining activation of HIV and a vaccine to strengthen the ability of the
immune system to fight HIV. The findings were shared in this year’s
international AIDS conference in Melbourne, Australia.
What is amazing is that this same research team had earlier
shown that a medication called drug panobinostat could activate hidden HIV in
the cells. But with this most recent pilot study the scientists have been
demonstrate the possibility to activate the hidden virus to levels detectable
in standard blood methods.
This is exciting research findings, in that the mechanism to
activate and expose the hibernating HIV virus may lead to future interventions.
Every blue moon, when the money prize skyrockets, I purchase a
lottery ticket. Generally, what drives me is the multi-million dollar money
prize. However, just recently I learned that our gambling impulses may actually
be driven by our genes.
Scientists uncovered that there are two major areas of the
brain, namely the medial prefrontal cortex and the striatum, that control our
Collaborative studies conducted by both the University of
California (UC)-Berkeley and University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
(UIUC) involved performing brain scans
on several genes which affect how gamblers deal with trial-and-error and betting learning.
The upshot of their research is that it suggests that people’s gambling
and stock market investing strategies are determined, for the most part, by their
genes and the release of a dopamine neurotransmitter chemical. This chemical is
released by brain cells to signal other brain cells during the reward and
The researchers pointed out that previous research has clearly
shown the important function of neurotransmitter dopamine in social
interactions. The UC/UIUC scientific endeavor is the first study to illustrate
the interactions to specific genes which regulates dopamine functioning.
What defines learning?
When does learning actually start? How does learning occur? Theses all
question that regardless of your life science specialty, you have probably
Each of you probably has your own answer, but here’s what
several University of Arizona (UA) scientists think about the learning puzzle
box.The UA team took a unique approach in that they looked at the infant
learning development of 15-month old infants. Their findings were interest.
They found that infants need ample sleep in order to learn about the world
around them. Sleep deficiencies, including interrupted naps impair their
In fact the research team, who titled their work “Early Learning
in Infants May Depend on Sleep”, found that infants who could garner daytime
naps displayed a higher level of learning.
In their research, the team played recorded of
"phrases" created from the same three syllables, until the babies
became familiar with the syllables. These phrases were taught in between during
scheduled sleep and nap time with varying allotments of sleep for the test
The infant’s facial expression as they recordings were
played helped the scientists rate their level of attention. The findings
revealed that infants with longer glazes who were sleep deprived, were
different than those that received ample sleep.
The study contained more details such as REM analysis and
flashing lights in combination with the phases all of which are too detailed to
highlight within this space. But the just of the theme is that this ingenious
research study has finally nailed down early learning patterns.
I am looking forward to reading up on the next phase of
research coming out of UA and perhaps how it can be augmented to tie into the
sleep research for Parkinson disease (PD).
Studies have revealed that sleep patterns definitely play a vital role
on the benefits of sleep for PD patients and cognitive functioning.
Specifically, recent studies have shown that there are benefits in daytime
naps, which suggests a specific relationship between sleep and this illness.
According to Wikipedia, “A cloaking device is a theoretical
or fictional stealth technology that can cause objects, such as spaceships or
individuals, to be partially or wholly invisible to parts of the electromagnetic
Basically what this means in non-Einstein-physics jargon is
light could be reflected and absorbed by the object causing it to be visible or
invisible dependent on light manipulations.
Now for the question of the day for all sci-fi fans: Who
doesn’t want a cloaking device? The beneficial possibilities of a visible-to-invisible
device are endless.
Cloaking devices are no longer fictional, they are real. In
fact in 2013 China stated that they were leading the scientific pursuit for the
design of the world's first invisibility cloak.
But St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital genetic scientists
have gone one step further than concealment. It seems that their laboratory
experiments have uncovered a way to turn brain tumor cells into normal cells.
Specifically, what the life scientists of the
hospital’s Genetics and Tumor Cell
Biology department have uncovered is that three proteins called” BMP2”, “BMP4”
and “BMP7” can actually stop the growth
of brain tumor cells and turn them into normal brain cells. They suggest that
this method is a safer way to treat rare but often fatal childhood brain tumor,
medullo-blastoma. The traditional and conventional therapies combine surgery,
irradiation and chemotherapy, all of which can lead to permanent neurocognitive
Although much of the research in this area is still in the
developing stages, it still shows tremendous promise for the future of
A bully’s mean attitude stomps into the china shop of a
person’s life like an ox. It does not matter what age you are, where you work,
or live, bullies are everywhere. Now it seems that these relentless oppressors
come in microscopic sizes too.
Just recently Netherland scientists have uncovered evidence
that oxytocin hormone, a neurotransmitter, which is created in the brain leads
to internal group conflict. Specifically, the neurobiological researchers put
forth the theory that this neuropeptide can lead people to an act of
self-sacrifice to benefit their own group, thereby showing aggression against
threatening out-groups. The results f this study supports the belief that
oxytocin promote trust.
There are new published works that refer to oxytocin as the
"bonding hormone". It seems that this hormone functions as the cause
of defensive aggression to neutralize a threatening out-group. When the
competitors are not considered a threat, then the hormone acts in an altruistic
ways towards its own group.
The neurobiological summation of all of this is that
conflicts between groups escalate when other groups are seen as a threat. And
then the threat is low, conflict acceleration is less low.
The Netherland researchers believe that their findings
supports Charles Darwin’s thesis on evolutionary altruistic group behavior at
the molecular level.
What in the world is going on? Today I read two conflicting articles regarding the global shortage of food for people and the worldwide abundance of food for pets.
The first document stated that there is a severe shortage of food for humans and literally thousands are starving on a daily basis. Then the other document, which was separated by just a few web page clicks away, stated that four out of five pet owners are spending $5 to $7 billion dollars annually in order to feed their animal companions gourmet meals. It seems pet owners - who can afford it - are splurging on food purchases loaded with added antioxidants, protein and vitamins because they consider their pets as members of their family.
Again, what the what?
Thank the heavens food consumption or lack thereof for humans is moving to the forefront. For example, the University of Minnesota Institute on the Environment (UMIE) looking into the food shortage in a unique and innovative way. Scientists at this institution have discovered that existing land dedicated for crops could feed a billion of additional people without adding hardship to the environment. This is important since the population is increasing.
Because farming, deforestation, and fertilization activities account for close to 35% of the world's greenhouse gas emissions, particularly in Brazil, China, India and the United States are and other UMIE and other reports reveal that states that "feeding a growing human population without increasing stresses on Earth's already strained land and water resources may seem like an impossible challenge", but it is not.
There are countless worldwide studies underway by various research institutions seeking to focus on improving natural food systems in targeted regions, so that crop actions may make it feasible to reduce damage to the agriculture's environmental and at the same time meet basic eating requirements of billions of people.
The human body is equipped with 5 senses: sight, touch, hear, smell and taste. Our sense of smell as it relates to eating is important because it helps us enjoy the favor of food and drinks. As laboratory biologists we know that the sense of smell -- like the sense of taste -- is part of your chemosensory system, or the chemical senses.
Most people tend to think of digestion as consisting of only tasting, chewing, swallowing and the inner organs churning foods. However, digestion is really a two-part process: the first part being the intake of food, otherwise known as mechanical; and the second part, which the chemical digestion which begins when you smell food. Nerve impulses from your nose trigger the chemical release of enzymes and other substances that will eventually break down food to release the nutrients inside. So as you can see when eating, the smell sense is as vital as the senses for sight and taste.
The other day a news announcer stated that a team of Florida State University (FSU) neuroscientists have uncovered high-fatty diets foods may adversely affect the smelling sense, so much so that individuals to lose their sense of smell. This FSU study was reported to be the first of its kind to show a correlation between high-fat diets and a loss of smell.
Interestingly enough the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) addresses the impact and treatment of smell disorders. Statistics collected by this governmental agency reveal upwards of 2% of U.S. citizens report having problems with their sense of smell. NIDCD's website states that smell disorders cause noticeable parallel problems with the sense of taste as well.
Furthermore, the NIDCD website states that when a person's "smell is impaired some people change their eating habits. Some may eat too little and lose weight while others may eat too much and gain weight."
On another but similar note the National Institutes of Health (NIH) reports that the global obesity rates are high and increasing. NIH studies reveal that 2 in 3 adults are considered obese and an estimated one in three children and adolescents are considered obese and an estimated one in three children and adolescents are considered to be overweight.
The news story mentioned that as a result of the pioneering results from the high-fatty diet/lose of smell research, FSU and other private and governmental institutions most likely will examine the correlation between high-sugar diets and smell and whether or not exercise could slow down a high-fat diet's impact on smell.
Examining the mechanics of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) is poetry in motion. The genius of DNA is that this nucleic acid that carries the genetic information in the cell and is capable of self-replication and synthesis of RNA. However, with any science- poetic or not - a glance at ethical behavior is necessary.
Epically and ethically speaking any DNA research work is both challenging and powerful as the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) would tell you. Genetic research raises ethical and moral questions that the public, researchers, and policy-makers must consider.
Ethics has and continues to play a strong role in the field of genetics. The meaning of 'ethics' is hard to pin down, and the views many people have about ethics are shaky, because many people tend to equate ethics with their feelings. And although there are numerous debates regarding the long-term effectiveness of gene therapy, it is clear that future research endeavors will lead to a time when all diseases will be treated in individualized custom-made fashions.
One research project that may open the door to this future is the recent collaboration between the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council and the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute Single Cell Genomics Centre. Scientists at both institutions uncovered a powerful single-cell technique to help examine the impact of the environment on human development and the traits they inherit from our parents.
The new technique will assist genetic scientists in mapping epigenetic marks on the DNA within a single cell. Epigenetic marks are the chemical protein tags that that serve as DNA cellular memory or recorder. This recorder remembers a cell's experience long after it has faded.
This environmental memory can range from diet makeup through illness episodes. The partnership research teams believe that these marks will help in understanding the stages from as early as embryonic development. The future clinical applications and pharmaceutical custom-made treatments may be explored due to this ground-breaking work.
Will the nature versus nurture debate ever be resolved? You know the controversy. The one that addresses the extent to which particular aspects of behavior are a product of either inherited by nature (i.e. genetic) or acquired (i.e. learned) characteristics. For decades, the nature/nurture debates were a monopoly within the psychology field, but lately life scientists have jumped on the band wagon. And it is a good thing they have, because the electronic advancements in molecular technology will one day soon answer many of the lingering nature/nurture questions.
To put the large volume of genetic versus environmental learning theories to bed, keen scientific and evidence-based studies are required. You see as early as the 1800's, academia deemed reading, writing and arithmetic as the basic necessary skills to build higher education upon. However, the primary question has been how can humans be better equipped to learn three these vital skills.
Currently there is global research being conducted to address this inquiry. For example, research conducted in the genetics department at the University College London (UCL), has revealed that about 50% of our genes Influence how well a person will read and do math. It has been long understood that math and reading abilities can be attributed to the family tree, however the genes affecting these skills acquirement characteristics have gone unidentified. Because of the vagueness of which genes are involved in reading and math cognitive development, a team of scientists from UCL, King's College London and the University of Oxford are leading studies to investigate the genetic basis of basic cognitive characteristics.
The collaborative study will examine the impact of genetics on basic reading writing and arithmetic performance skills of close to 3,000 British elementary school children. Educational tests will be administered and combined with DNA data. The hope is to find significant correlations in the genetics that influence mathematics and reading.
Another example involves similar skills attainment studies that are being conducted on the other side of the planet. Specifically, within the United States human development scientists at Ohio State University are conducting studies with identical and fraternal twin children to ascertain the role genetics reading skills. The research study titled the Western Research Reading Project is testing about three hundred subjects. The ultimate goal is to reveal the influence of the environment on reading performance over time. What they may uncover will add to the understanding of the environmental influences on reading skills, thereby settling a few nature/nurture questions.