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.
Mental illness is a disorder that influences the way a person behaves, feels and thinks about themselves and others. In today's world it is common knowledge that the symptoms of mental illness can range from mild to severe leaving a person unable to cope with life's daily routines.
Research over the past several decades have revealed that although the exact cause of most mental illnesses is not known, it is clear that many of these conditions are caused by a combination of biological, heredity (genetic), psychological trauma, and environmental stressors factors.
Most recently research is revealing that extreme deficiencies of vitamin D also may have significant adverse psychological consequences. As biologists we know that just about every tissue in the body has vitamin D receptors, including the cardiac, muscular, and immune systems. And what's even more fascinating is that the brain contains these receptors as well. As a result, vitamin D is needed at every level of the body for proper functioning.
In additional to the physiological functions, the psychological functioning can be impaired if insufficient levels are present. For example, the mood disorder called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), has depressive symptoms that occurs during the dark times of the year when there is relatively little sunshine, a source of vitamin D.
Several studies have suggested that the symptoms of SAD may be due to changing levels of vitamin D3, which may affect serotonin levels in the brain.
The other day I was reading an article that put forth evidence-based data that vitamin D deficiency raises risk of schizophrenia diagnosis. Schizophrenia is a chronic, severe, debilitating mental illness, in which one can display mild to severe psychotic symptoms.
These may include delusions, hallucinations, catatonia, negative symptoms, and disorganized speech or behavior.
According to a new study conducted by Isfahan University of Medical Sciences in Iran, vitamin D deficient individuals are more as likely to be diagnosed with schizophrenia as people who have sufficient levels of the vitamin.
Endocrine research findings support the theory that vitamin D may have a significant impact on psychiatric health. More research is needed to determine how the growing problem of vitamin D deficiency may be creating other mental health disorders.
Career coaches make good money teaching on the numerous meanings that a handshake can tell about someone. It seems that firm handshakes are better than weak and limp ones. And it is a definite no-no to extended a sweaty palm.
Just recently, a team of Kansas State University (KSU) biochemists have discovered that proteins also have hands and are quite fond of shaking them. However, these microbial handshakes facilitate bacteria in establishing and spreading infections.
Through research, scientists have uncovered the mechanism of how a protein's hands work in collaboration with infectious bacteria. It seems that the process begins with tiny protein loops on the surface of cells. These loops function like human hands making contact, but instead they are on the surface of bacterial cells.
It seems that these structures allow the bacteria to recognize and grab materials, such as iron from the environment surrounding it. As all cellular structures need iron to survive, putting a halt to the hand grabbing access will prevent the pathogenesis The KSU scientists are the first to observe this process and hope is that this new-found information will allow for biochemists and physiologists to develop specialized interventions and treatment from E. coli epidemics and other harmful microorganisms.
The positive outcome of this research could mean a boost to the antibiotic pharmaceutical field, which will in turn provide increased protection of humans and animal against bacterial infections.
I can definitely give a two hands-high five to KSU research findings.
A quick check of the CDC website will revealed that close to 40 million Americans smoke on a daily basis. And that first-hand smoke -- that is the smoker is participating in an activity that is the leading cause of preventable death in the US.
Advocates of reducing third-hand smoke recently gathered at the 247th National Meeting and Exposition of the American Chemical Society. One of the conferences educational offerings presented a study that warns that third-hand smoke could lead to damaged DNA, thus opening a route that may result in cancer to nonsmokers. The session was entitled "Third-Hand Smoke Causes DNA Damage in Human Cells," was presented by a genetics scientist, Dr. Bo Hang of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California.
What I find interesting is that the residue of third-hand smoke is long lingering on surfaces and in the air in rooms and cars and on the furniture, walls and carpets where a smoker had previously been dwelling.
Often, a courteous smoker will ask you the infamous question before lighting up, "Do you mind very much if I smoke?" The intent is to ask permission to smoke in your presence. But it seems from Dr. Hang and his colleagues' studies, that past toxic compounds can be found in areas that the smoker has left and you may have just entered. This is powerful information.
Also, the research reveals that surface-absorbed tobacco residue my undergo a chemical transformation when it interacts with compounds in the atmosphere, creating new and differing pollutants that can lead to skin and lung diseases.
In a study published by Medical News Today, scientist warned that third-hand smoke may be just as harmful as first-hand smoke. Some scientists have found that third-hand smoke is linked to liver, lung and skin problems. One solution offered for reducing the risk of exposure to third-hand smoke is to remove contaminated carpeting and furniture and to repaint walls and other surfaces.
So I guess the new rule of thumb is don't even think about smoking in my presence or in my absence either.
As a life-long benefit of your high school language requirement, surely you recognize the English version of one or more of these foreign questions: Sprechen Sie deutsch? (German); Parlez-vous francais? (French); and Habla usted espanol? (Spanish).
Aside from being able to order a meal or ask directions when one travels to foreign lands, neurologists have found that bilingualism is also helpful to aphasia sufferers. Aphasia, often caused by strokes or a brain injury, is an impairment that causes inability to use or comprehend words.
But thanks to rehabilitation and neurology collaborative studies, it seems that researchers have discovered that when a person speaks at least two languages and that person experiences brain damage, the less dominant language can be utilized to transfer knowledge to the primary language, thereby helping with the rehabilitation phase.
Without getting too technical, beneficial rehab treatment comes from the cognitive connections of similar sounding words in both languages creating likes between phonology, syntax and vocabulary. Scientists are calling this connection a "structural overlap" between languages.
On a different health topic from an equally interesting research approach, a geriatric epidemiological theory has been put forth that speaking a second language could prevent later-life dementia and cognitive decline.
I think just these two health research findings alone should strengthen the language course requirements in all educational institutions.
As the weather heats up due to seasonal changes, professional and amateur swimmers from Arizona to Zimbabwe will be stripping down to swimwear to begin the water splashing ritual. I can't think of anyone who doesn't like a dip in the crisp clear waters.
But beware, because the CDC has issued alerts that emergency room visits for injuries form pool chemicals is on the rise. The CDC notes that beginning 2012, there are been a noticeable increase of chemical-related illnesses.
It doesn't take much research to uncover that for over 100 years, chemicals have been applied to swimming pools to kill off bacteria and other pathogens that could make people sick. And with the invention of whirlpools and hot tubs, the same chemical applications were instituted. But according to the CDC, improper additive applications, such as over use, unacceptable mixing, and inadequate storage is causing a rise in injuries.
The CDC in collaboration with another government agency, namely the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission's National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS) has calculated that the number of hospital visits from chemical-associated pool injuries is on a steady climb. The most frequent diagnoses range from poisonings, vapor inhalations and the handling of chemicals without goggles and other protective wear.
What is notable is that both the CDC and NEISS report that the incidents of pool chemical-related injuries are preventable.
The result of the collaborative efforts between hospital emergency rooms and the two federal agencies collecting and analyzing data is a publication titled The CDC's Model Aquatic Health Code. This pamphlet can be used as a resource to prevent these types of injuries. I've viewed the model and let me say it is good to see that not only are volumes of public health data collecting data, but we also look to extract a meaningful outcome.
Healthy collaboration brings industry experts together to help businesses achieve their missions. When you collaborate with the right partners, the results will exceed your expectations. For example, a meaningful collaboration that is occurring is that of cardiovascular medicine and a federal regulatory authority, namely the FDA.
For close to 20 years, many professionals and laypersons have pushed forth the theory of ingesting low-dosages of aspirin to prevent cardiovascular problems, including heart attacks and strokes. But not so fast, for recently, the FDA has stated that everyone needs to understand there is no one size fits all cure as it relates daily aspirin dosages.
The FDA does support the research that low-dose aspirin can prevent "reoccurring" cardiovascular problems, but confirming aspirin can prevent the very first episode needs further evidence-based research.
As medical biologists, we know that aspirin, like other blood thinning medications, for such as Coumadin (warfarin), Pradaxa and others, interferes with the blood's clotting action, thereby reducing the potential for clots to develop and obstruct the flow of blood and oxygen.
The FDA suggests that pharmaceutical manufacturers collaborate with clinical life scientists to conduct additional scientific studies to confirm and support with data the beneficial affects of aspirin to prevent cardiovascular events. In the meantime, the federal agency is encouraging the public to consult with their individual primary physicians regarding a daily low-dose aspirin regime to ensure that ongoing ingestion is not contraindicative with other medicines and does not cause other health risks.
A philosophical unknown author is recorded as saying, "Gray hair is a blessing-ask any bald man." How true, though many men including male celebrities opt for the clean shaved head, many still crave the fashion of shiny and thick tresses.
As life scientists, we are all well aware of the biological importance of hair. Hair shades the head and keeps the scalp cool from extreme heated temperatures; hair protects our brains from ultraviolet rays; and hair can be utilized for toxicology studies in the detection of harmful substances.
For over a century, cosmetologists and biologists have been trying to cure problems of thinning and missing hair. And now geneticists, who are new on the scene, have been studying the DNA connection with baldness for decades.
Now scientists have jumped onto the hair color bandwagon. It was recently discovered by a team of Howard Hughes Medical Institute researcher that there is only one letter in the genetic code that determine hair color. It seems that this letter can generate blonde hair in humans.
Hair coloring is a big money industry. In fact the cosmetic industry has been making large sums on hair coloring for over 50 years. Treating the hair with various artificial dyes and bleaches can be dated as far back the Egyptians.
This newest discovery of genetic hair pigmentation will make every hair strand stand and take notice. For one day soon, it make be possible to forgo hair dyes and have a scientist click on certain letters in your genetic code to provide you with the hair color of your desire ... provided you have hair to begin with.
Reality is a unique concept to each and every individual. Our perceptions dictate to us what is real. But just because we see a thing a certain way does not make it so. I think this quote best sums it the point: "The real voyage of discovery is not is seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes." Proust.
Healthcare professionals are taking expeditions to new discoveries that are forcing them to throw out the old methodologies and create new ones. As much as we think we know about science, I can assure you that new knowledge will continue to be written for centuries to come.
How are undiscovered innovative territories uncovered? New healthcare frontiers are discovered as a result of tests and close scrutiny of testing results. However, lately there has been a lot of chatter regarding unnecessary laboratory testing occurring. More specifically, and most likely the heightened concern is a result of the new Affordable Care Act (ACA) and closer study of costs by insurance companies.
I read a couple of articles that put forth the idea that many tests are given, but just as many are thrown in the waste bin, because there wasn't a clear rationale on the part of the practitioner for ordering the test. In other words, there is a level of "uncertainty" involved on the clinician's part when they order and interpret the tests.
There is support that the greatest issue contributing to the "hasty uncertainty" involves a human factor of practitioners being overwhelmed due to demanding workloads and the on-going pressure to produce results.
This year, a collaborative research effort involving from the CDC and a few university hospitals will be examining how increased use of electronics and technology can assist clinicians in better lab tests decision making, thereby reducing the waste.
More technology is cool. I love technology. However a word of caution is time management considerations. Electronics specialists and healthcare providers need to come to the table and chat on managing time for injecting more electronics onto the scene. Often times more availability of technology inputs and outputs literally drown professionals. So a consideration should also be to ensure that a unhurried dedicated amount of time be set aside to examine the necessity of ordering; time to effectively transmit data; time to review electronic lab results before adding more technology on top of current tools. Enough said.
Not only is diabetes a complicated disease, it is a confusing disease as well. This week I read a series of conflicting epidemiology research reports, where on one hand the studies report that diabetes-related complications have declined. But on the other hand there are reports stating that the diabetes illness is rising in at an alarming rate.
What's behind the research inconsistencies?
I am thinking that the paradox must be linked to how the statistics for health outcomes are tallied and reported. For example, diabetes can cause serious health issues, such as heart attack, stroke and kidney failure and deaths. But it seems that rates for these illnesses are only linked to diabetes when attached to blood sugar complications.
I think researchers are struggling with placing the puzzle pieces together for a clearer outlook of diabetes due to the multiple disparity timetables for the onset of pre-diabetes, diabetes, type 1, type 2; discrepancies among age groups; variations among ethic groups; a large volume of adverse signs and symptoms; and many health prevention and treatments regimes expanding across pharmaceutical and surgical medicine to natural/herbal/lifestyle change remedies.
There is even literature suggesting sleeping patterns and insomnia could be attributed to the prevention or onset of diabetes. Diabetes can be attributed to sleeping too long or not sleeping long enough in respect to hours.
Furthermore, when the pre-diabetic/diabetic patient is sleeping, are they getting "good quality" sleep? In other words, they may be sleeping the right amount of hours, but is there mental distress and restless sleep.
To reduce the amount of conflicting information, there will need to be a more intimate relationship between epidemiologists, bioinformatics specialists and healthcare providers in order to pinpoint and attribute diabetes associated health complications and deaths.
There are two idioms regarding smoke, first one state, “There is no smoke without fire”; and the other assert “Where there’s smoke there’s fire”. However in the case of electronic cigarettes neither of these phrases holds water. Yes, there is no fire, but there sure is a lot of legislative and regulatory oversight smoke brewing.
Electronic cigarettes, also called E-cigarettes or ẹ-cigs, looks like the traditional tobacco cigarette, but it is actually a battery-powered device that contains favoring, glycol, propylene glycol, nicotine, and water. The attraction of this smoking technology is that for a smoker or one trying to quit smoking, the lifting a device to their mouth still provides the experience of smoking yet there is a reduction in inhalation of tar. The outcome is similar to if the smoker were wearing a nicotine patch, chew gum, or suck on lozenges. The claim is that this new device introduced to the American public around 2007, is reportedly healthier than tobacco cigarettes.
In a collaborative effort to address the unknowns regarding electronic cigarettes known as E-cig) healthcare professionals, regulatory, and manufacturers are reviewing the proposed stricter regulations released by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
For years healthcare professionals have been singing that tighter regulatory scrutiny, warning labels and restrictions to the sale of minors should be as rigorous for E-cig as they are for regular tobacco cigarettes. Another concern raised by the healthcare community is that there is not enough research data to validate the health outcomes and the potential affects.
Reportedly the smoking E-cigarettes is growing in popularity. A quick visit to the not-for-profit, Tobacco Vapor Electronic Cigarette Association (TVECA), reports that currently there are approximately 3.5 million users. Hollywood has been helpful in introducing the public to the technology. For those of you who saw the movie, “The Tourist”, may remember Johnny Depp puffing away on an E-cig. Also, supposedly, Leonardo DeCaprio has been seen smoking the electronic cigarettes while on leisure activities around New York City. TVECA and other supportive groups are currently gathering to petition the government to not increase FDA legislation on this technology.
Recently the FDA released their wish list for electronic cigarettes. You can obtain details with flesh by visiting their website, www.fda/gov, but the essence of their desires include, but are not limited to: sales from vending machines and to minors under 18 will be banned; manufacturer will have to undergo product application revealing ingredients and studies outcomes; manufacturers will be accountable to oversight activities; packages will have to carry warning labels; and commercial, advertising, marketing activities will be under regulatory scrutiny. In a future post, I will provide you with an update with the smoke settles.
Even toddlers re taught early about the benefits of using a mouthwash to reduce the onset of cavities
There are countless name brand and generic washes available that advertises to do just that. But recently a friend mentioned that rather than purchasing washes, they are embracing the environment-friendly approach of alternative the chemical washes with oils. It seems that you can literally swish your mouth out with oils, such as coconut, clove oil, sesame, or sunflower oil to and combat cavities and gum disease.
My friend went on to say that many store bought washes contain ingredients such as, but not limited to ethyl alcohol, methylparaben, hydrogen peroxide, chlorhexidine gluconate, coloring, perfumes, and preservatives. Since many of these chemical names are tongue twisters, her comment about having an au natural dental approach sent my curiosity soaring on how would this work?
I began my investigation of reading articles expressing the opinions of lay persons, health experts and dentists. Proponents of the oil gargling method claim that natural oils can actually prevent decay, aid in helping gum bleeds, and reduce plaque buildup. The ancient practice of Ayuvedic Medicine, which is known for herbal approach, supports the “oil pulling” (as it is called since “pull” out harmful toxins from mouth). Many practicing the method for hundreds of years expresses that the process works in making the mouth healthier.
Researchers express that studies show an oil wash can reduce strep bacteria. In fact during the Society for General Microbiology’s 2012 conference, the Athlone Institute of Technology of Ireland reported Streptococcus strains found in the mouth can be reduced with the use of coconut oil.
The biochemical sense which supports the method as we eat foods, our mouths creates an acidic environment. The acid lowers pH level giving rise to unhealthy bacteria which then leads to cavities. Since natural oils are alkaline based, swishing the mouth with oil neutralizes the pH and reduces the acid levels, thereby reducing the risk of cavities. So when the oil used as an alternative to store bought chemical washes; and the oil is swished and gargled with; and finally spit out followed with a clean water rinse, the toxins are expelled from the mouth.
All I have to say is based on published oil gargle research studies; it appears that my friend is not on a slippery slope.
Everyone has heard the expression,” There is no rhyme or reason”, which simply means something is occurring without any reasonable explanation or purpose. But with all the recent chatter regarding synthetic biology, there appears to be is a definite rationale to this fairly new science.
Synthetic generally means that a substance is produced by an artificial process. Without a thought we can quickly name several man made items, such as synthetic rubber and clothing fibers. I have been hearing a lot lately about synthetic biology.
Upon further investigation synthetic biology is defined as the manipulation of cells, genes, genomes, and proteins to produce things like biofuels, medicines and vaccines. The possibilities are as diverse and probably endless.
Has synthetic engineering replaced genetic engineering? I do not think one has replaced the other as much as even though the terms are used interchangeably, genetic engineers deal with the gene circuit of the organism, whereas synthetic biologists take on a wider scope (i.e. living and nonliving) of activities. Synthetic engineering are applying this method to human applications. Another way to view the differences is that genetic engineers are focused on structure (i.e. DNA assembly); whereas synthetic engineers are focused on function (i.e. activities alter intended purpose).
There is rhyme and reason to the divergence of these two fields. And I must admit I like the synthetic side a lot. Synthetic biologists are looking at the possibilities of growing enhancing our world, with such projects as growing the fuel and habitat infrastructure. For example, there is a team of these engineering that are looking at combining the living biological to grow in-live real estate properties. How cool is that?
A word of caution is being voiced by these new wave biologists. They are quick to point out that the knowledge being gained through synthetic data can be harmful in the wrong hands. There is a concern of use in bioterrorism, accidental release environmental toxins, and unknown adverse long-term evolutionary outcomes. But regardless of the potential dangers, these scientists are also swift in high lightening the benefits of synthetic biology activities. That being said, this area is on a growth path.