Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Fasting Promotes Stem Cell Regeneration in Intestines

As people age, we lose the ability to regenerate stem cells successfully in our body. Our organs grow old, and begin to fail. Our metabolism changes, and our body begins to lose muscle mass. Eventually, we reach the point in old age where we cannot function normally and die. To prevent this, scientists and researchers have been pursuing the "secret" to prolonging life for a long time. We want to live longer. We want to live healthier. So how can we? We have been told to eat right, exercise, and develop healthy habits. Medical discoveries have been made that provide us with a longer life compared to previous generations.

But have you been told to just not eat? That fasting was the way to become healthier?

I know, fasting seems like something done during lent or for personal reasons. Trust me, I love a good cheeseburger as much as anybody, and generally scoffed at the idea of fasting to promote health. Granted, I was younger, and mac and cheese was liquid gold that I could never give up. However, there is science backing up the idea that occasional fasting is healthy.

Take our stem cells for example. The role of our stem cells is to create new cells in our body where we need them. Hematopoietic stem cells become new red blood cells (RBCs) to replenish old cells. Tissue-specific stem cells become new cells within our organs. As we grow older, our stem cells slowly lose the ability to proliferate into new cells.

This is where fasting becomes an unexpected hero. Recent research shows that fasting can actually improve the regeneration of stem cells. MIT researchers have completed a study that shows the benefits from a 24 hour fast regarding stem cells. Using mice, they took away food and induced a 24 hour fast. During this time period, the mice began to break down fatty acids instead of food derived glucose. By doing so, the capability of the mouse intestinal stem cells to regenerate and produce new cells nearly doubled compared to stem cells from a non-fasting mouse sample.

The process of deriving energy in the human body is the same among other animals, including mice. The body uptakes food and uses the glucose in the diet and begins to break it down. When we don't eat, our body switches what it uses for energy. With no glucose available, our body turns to fat stored in our body and begins to break them down into fatty acids for energy. This process (lipolysis), according to the research done in this study, actually increases the ability for stem cells to regenerate by introducing stress in the body.

So the prospect of fasting is shown to have health benefits when fasting is done correctly. But even more impressive is the fact that this information can be used in a pharmaceutical environment.

The research team, in order to prove that the mouse stem cells had switched to breaking down fats, isolated messenger RNA from within the cells to look at what genes had been activated. For further clarification, messenger RNA (mRNA) is used within a cell for gene expression by sending a specific code of amino acids to ribosomes in the cell. The mRNA seen in this study indicated that fasting had activated transcription factors named Peroxisome Proliferator-acivated Receptors (PPARs). These transcription factors turn on the genes that switch energy production from the breakdown of glucose to the breakdown of fats. Therefore, the researchers took this experiment one step further and treated the mouse stem cells with a molecular compound named GW501516. This compound activates the PPARs within the cell. As a result, the increased production of intestinal cells from stem cells was also shown just from the introduction of this molecule.

The implications of this research are quite important. Jared Rutter, a biochemistry professor at the University of Utah School of Medicine, stated that "this work fits into a rapidly growing field that is demonstrating that nutrition and metabolism has profound effects on the behavior of cells and this can predispose for human disease." From this study, fasting and drug treatment involving PPARs can increase stem cell proliferation in our intestines. This could be beneficial for us as we grow older, or even cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy (which harms our intestinal cells). Maybe give fasting a try, it could help your body out in ways you didn't think were possible

*NOTE: To properly fast, DO NOT just stop eating and call it good. You need to drink plenty of water and only fast for about 24 hours. You could even follow a 16:8 diet where you only consume food for 8 hours a day and fast for 16. Fasting beyond 24 hours could cause your body harm. If you do decide to follow a longer fast than a 24 hour fast, get supervision to ensure that your body remains healthy.*

More information on this research can be found in these two articles:

https://www.sciencealert.com/fasting-for-just-24-hours-boosts-the-regeneration-of-stem-cells-study-finds-intestine-longevity

http://news.mit.edu/2018/fasting-boosts-stem-cells-regenerative-capacity-0503

The research article for this study can be found here:

https://www.cell.com/cell-stem-cell/fulltext/S1934-5909(18)30163-2

Monday, April 23, 2018

Thank You For Your Continuing Support!

A big thank you to everyone who views and enjoys this blog, you all have been a wonderful audience! I do apologize that I took such a long break in between posts, things in my life have been picking up in intensity. I'm nearly done with my second degree in Medical Laboratory Science and am also getting married to the love of my life! More topics and posts will be coming shortly as I will have more time to write in the near future. Again, thank you for your support. It is my privileged to bring these incredible discoveries to light for you to discover yourself.

"Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known."
- Carl Sagan

Aliens May Be Trapped On Their Planets

The notion that aliens are real is not new. With the discovery of planets in the Goldilocks Zone around stars, it's looking more likely that habitable planets are a little more common than we originally thought. This brings about the discussion of aliens. Surely, these planets house alien life. If the planets are habitable, shouldn't aliens be populated across the landscape? Maybe even have a space agency of their own? Flying saucers? And if they do exist, why don't we see more evidence out in space?

Could it be because they can't make it off their own planet?

Super-Earth planets, when discovered, are absolutely massive. They exist within the habitual range from their star, yet they can range in size up to 10x the size of Earth. This means that the gravity on those planets would be astronomically larger than our own. The amount of power required to get into space from those planets would be incredibly high. On a Super-Earth, we would need to have a mass of about 440,000 tons due to fuel requirements in order to escape the atmosphere. That's a little more than the weight of the Empire State Building.

"On more-massive planets, spaceflight would be exponentially more expensive," said study author Michael Hippke, an independent researcher affiliated with the Sonneberg Observatory in Germany. "Civilizations from Super-Earths are much less likely to explore the stars. Instead, they would be to some extent arrested on their home planet and, for example, make more use of lasers or radio telescopes for interstellar communication instead of sending probes or spaceships."


Therefore, it is theorized that these Aliens - if they do exist - might be stuck on their home-world due to the required power to achieve an escape velocity off of their planet. This however takes into consideration what we have, such as our fuel, our materials, and our designs. As of right now, evidence that Aliens exist flying around in space is grim. The only "evidence" that we have is accounts of flying saucers, lights, and shapes in the sky. If Aliens do exist, and they live on Super-Earths, then one of two possibilities may be true.

1). They haven't made it off their planet yet, but have developed other means of transport and communication.

2). They have made it off due to a leap forward in technological advancement and are far more advanced then us.

If the 2nd outcome is true, then we may be in trouble. The Aliens with that technology outclass anything we have, and would just roll over us. That or our government has already made contact with them and isn't telling us anything (that's a whole topic for another day). If the 1st outcome is true, it could explain why we really don't see much of Alien life in space. They can't make it off of their worlds due to an immense gravitational pull down. They don't have the capability to build spacecraft that could propel them into the edges of space. All they can do is broadcast radio waves into space, or rely on some other form of communication.

We as humans are very fortunate to live on a small planet like Earth. We can still put rockets and objects into space without using monolithic spacecraft. We have sent satellites into deep space, past the edge of our solar system. We might be the first species to do something like this if Aliens live on Super-Earths. Who knows, maybe in a couple of hundred years when we have spacecraft capable of interstellar and interplanetary travel, we will be the "Aliens" with crazy "UFOs" that other Alien species see and form conspiracy theories about.

The article written on Super-Earths can be found here:

https://www.space.com/40375-super-earth-exoplanets-hard-aliens-launch.html?utm_source=notification

The paper that Michael Hippke wrote on this topic can be viewed and downloaded here:

https://arxiv.org/abs/1804.04727

Friday, September 8, 2017

High Coffee Consumption May Lower Your Risk of Death

Coffee, the fuel that keeps us going as we make our way to work in the morning. It is the lifeline that students cling to as they make their way through college and exams. It's a massive industry that seems to keep growing as more and more coffee is consumed throughout the world. I drink it everyday, sometimes multiple times a day. A dark roast coffee with a little bit of milk added to it? That's my power-up that gives me a swift kick in the pants and gets me going every morning. Coffee is good for it's caffeine to keep us going, but is there any other benefit to it?

According to a recent study, it could possibly lower your risk of dying.

Mind you, this isn't saying that coffee makes you immortal, and that if you drink it then you last forever. However, a study recently presented to the European Society of Cardiology proposed that drinking a couple cups of coffee a day can lower your overall risk of mortality. "Previous studies have suggested that drinking coffee might be inversely associated with all-cause mortality but this has not been investigated in a Mediterranean country," said Dr. Adela Navarro, a cardiologist at Hospital de Navarra, Pamplona, Spain. In order to explore the effects of coffee, the study was conducted through the Seguimiento Universidad de Navarra (SUN) Project, a long-term study in which about 22 500 Spanish university graduates participate, which started in 1999. The study focused on 19,896 participants who were asked to complete a questionnaire that asked about their consumption of coffee and lifestyle habits. After a period of 10 years, the study followed up with each of the participants and compared the results to the National Death Index. Cox Regression Models were also used to determine a confidence interval with the data.

After 10 years, 337 participants died. Through this data, the experiment revealed that participants who had about 4 cups of coffee every day had a 64% lower risk of all-cause death (meaning all causes of death were analyzed in the 10 year period) compared to those who didn't drink coffee. In addition, for every two additional cups of coffee that were consumed, a 22% lower risk of death was also evident. To confirm that these results were not just coincidental, the team then focused on age, sex, and race as factors that could affect the outcome. By looking at the data, they determined that a lower risk of mortality was greatest for those aged 45 or older.

So this data looks promising, right? I mean, coffee could help us live longer! However, a couple questions arise after the completion of this study. In terms of chemistry, does coffee or caffeine have an effect on us? If the amount of years in this study increased, would the results change? And above all, this study focused on a Mediterranean country. Would the results be affected if they looked at the United States? The United Kingdom? Or even Russia or China?

If anything, this study might open a couple of doors to other research down the road. Sure, coffee is a wonderful drink, and this study might show some increased benefits beyond just having caffeine to wake us up. But for now, go ahead and grab an extra cup of joe, you may be helping yourself out in the long run. Just don't load it up with a ton of sugar, that just leads to all kinds of other problems.

Here is the article written for Forbes that was published:

https://www.forbes.com/sites/daviddisalvo/2017/08/27/drinking-coffee-may-lower-risk-of-death-in-healthy-people-according-to-new-study/#45c338674f82

Another article that focuses on a different coffee study, but with similar results:

http://annals.org/aim/article/2643433/association-coffee-consumption-total-cause-specific-mortality-among-nonwhite-populations

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Mars Might Not be Habitable (At Least on the Surface)

Right now, the hunt is on to locate possible alien life on Mars. Additionally, many organizations are looking to land probes on Mars, and quite possibly people in the near future. With all of this exploration going on that's directed towards the red planet, we've heard of water possibly existing on the planet (an earlier article reported here at Science Bureau). We've gathered samples from the surface of Mars for observation. And there just might be a new discovery that could change the way we look at Mars.

Turns out, there's a toxic cocktail of chemicals on the surface that completely sterilize the planet.


Yep, the toxic soil shows no signs of life, and the compounds within the soil are turned into potent bactericides by the ultraviolet light. A bactericide is a substance that kills bacteria, effectively sterilizing whatever surface it is touching. And the compounds found in the soil are located all over the entire planet. So chances are there's nothing in terms of alien life on the surface of Mars.


Granted, this is only the surface. There still exists the possibility of life that could exist at some point beneath the surface. Due to the current onslaught of ultraviolet light and radiation on the surface, the most hospitable area on the planet could be a couple feet below the surface. “At those depths, it’s possible Martian life may survive,” said Jennifer Wadsworth, a postgraduate astrobiologist at Edinburgh University who completed this research. Back in the 1970s, the Viking landers on Mars made the discovery of detecting perchlorates on the surface. Perchlorates are powerful oxidants that are often used in propellants for rockets. In short, they are not the best for human health if they are consumed. And in 2015, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter spotted signs of perchlorates that streaked on the surface, suggesting possible liquid movement on Mars.


At first, the notion was that alien bacterial life might have trouble existing in an environment with these perchlorates, but they could maybe exist in some form that could utilize the perchlorates as energy. With this in mind, Wadsworth worked with a fellow astrobiologist named Charles Cockell, and put the bacteria Bacillus subtilis through an experiment to simulate the surface on Mars. B. subtilis is a common soil bacterium and a contaminant found on many space probes. When the bacteria was mixed with perchlorates like the ones on Mars and blasted with UV light, the bacteria was found to die twice as fast when the perchlorates were present. In addition, the UV light also was observed breaking down the perchlorates into hypochlorite and chlorite, which are also destructive to bacteria.


The study also focused on other compounds found on the surface of Mars, such as iron oxides and hydrogen peroxide. When these were hit with UV light, the bacteria was found to die 11 times faster than combined with the perchlorates. So as of now, life on the surface seems like a dismal possibility. “I can’t speak for life in the past,” said Wadsworth. “As far as present life, it doesn’t rule it out but probably means we should look for life underground where it’s shielded from the harsh radiation environment on the surface.”


Luckily, that's what many space agencies plan to do. The European Space Agency plans to launch its ExoMars rover to the planet so that it can bore down 2 meters into the soil to retrieve samples and observe them for possible alien life. But for now, especially on the surface of the red planet, any alien life - if it did exist in the past - probably has no chance now thriving or even existing on the surface of Mars. Again, we may find something in the planet, but we are going to need to wait a few more years for some more answers.


A news article on this topic posted at The Guardian can be read here:


https://www.theguardian.com/science/2017/jul/06/mars-covered-in-toxic-chemicals-that-can-wipe-out-living-organisms-tests-reveal


The research paper published in the journal Nature can be found here:

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-017-04910-3

Friday, June 30, 2017

The Creation of Human Heart Tissue using a Spinach Leaf

For ages, mankind has tried to find new methods to producing viable human tissue to use in organ transplants and tissue repair. As medical and healthcare technology advance, so do the methods we use. For example, organs can now be grown from tissue samples using a 3D printer. Each day, new ideas and methods are discovered. And as of a month or two ago, a new one was determined to be a successful option.

We can create heart tissue samples from decellularized spinach leaves. Yeah, the same leaves you sometimes have in your salads.

Researchers at Worcester Polytechnic University have discovered a way to turn spinach leaves into beating human heart tissue. Before, issues with growing viable blood vessels to support the heart were troublesome. It is very hard to manufacture or print such small vessels for the heart. “The main limiting factor for tissue engineering … is the lack of a vascular network,” says study co-author Joshua Gershlak, a graduate student at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) in Massachusetts. However, one of the characteristics of leaves are their extensive vein network that supplies nutrients throughout the leaf. If these veins could be altered to provide blood flow to a makeshift heart, then the heart would have an adequate supply of blood.

So the research team first took a spinach leaf and decellularized it, meaning that only the shell of the leaf remained (no plant cells were left in the leaf). Then the team bathed the leaf structure in human cells, which allowed the human cells to infiltrate the spinach leaf scaffolding and surround all of the structures within. After a period of time, the cells began to take on the structure of heart muscle tissue. Finally, the team injected red dyed fluid and micro beads to stimulate the flow of blood in the leaf veins.

The eventual goal of this study is to provide a new method to repair heart tissue in victims of heart attacks or other cardiac issues. The veins in the leaf would be able to bring blood to the affected areas of the heart, supplying key nutrients in keeping the heart healthy and building new heart tissue. The research team also mentioned that they would be testing this theory on other plants (for example, inserting human cells into wood might help provide some benefits in repairing bones). “We have a lot more work to do, but so far this is very promising,” study co-author Glenn Gaudette, also of WPI, said. “Adapting abundant plants that farmers have been cultivating for thousands of years for use in tissue engineering could solve a host of problems limiting the field.”

This new discovery may provide a cheaper and efficient way in repairing tissue and organ damage in the near future. Quite possibly, we may not have to rely on using other more expensive methods (3D printing, using a pig's heart, etc.) And even so, how cool would it be to say that a chunk of your heart is actually spinach leaves? I know, super weird to say, but it could very well be a possibility.

An article written on this paper can be found here at National Geographic:
http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2017/03/human-heart-spinach-leaf-medicine-science/

PHOTO CREDIT TO NEW ATLAS
A second news article by New Atlas can be found here:
http://newatlas.com/spinach-leaves-grow-heart-tissue/48564/

The published research paper can be read here:
http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0142961217300856

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Cannabis Related Treatment for Epilepsy Proves Effective

Marijuana treatment is a touchy subject in today's society. Many express approval for using medicinal Marijuana to help treat cancer and other mental diseases (Parkinson's, extreme stress, etc.). However, others share a discontent with the drug, stating that it is a drug with no benefit and should remain illegal. Even so, multiple studies have linked Marijuana to problems with the brain, including reduced memory, levels of psychosis, and increased levels of random neural activity, . On the other hand, the drug has been shown to increase brain connectivity between neurons, relaxation, and hunger. So from all of this, one simple question arises: is Marijuana (or specifically Cannabis) good for you or bad for you?

From a scientist's opinion, the pros outweigh the cons tenfold.

There have been countless studies that show the benefits of using medicinal cannabis to treat diseases in the past few years. One great example is a recent story about an 11 year old girl that was diagnosed with Febrile Infection-Related Epilepsy Syndrome (Fires). This disease only affects one in a million children, but it is extremely terrible. The patient usually suffers hundreds of seizures a day for a fortnight after contracting an illness, usually a cold or the flu. Annalise Lujan, from Tucson, Arizona, was struck with these seizures one day after participating in a gymnastics competition and was rushed to the hospital. From there, she was hooked onto a ventilator and put into a medical coma. In a new move, the Phoenix Children's Hospital sought approval from the FDA to use marijuana derivative cannabidiol (CBD) as a treatment to try and save the little girl. After 48-hours of treatment with cannabis, Lujan’s seizures stopped and she woke up. The treatment of CBD literally save the little girl's life. "She was afraid. She cried. And, I whispered to her that she was very strong, she's beautiful, and she's strong, and she needed to keep breathing, and she did,” Maryann (her mother) stated in a story written by Kashmira Gander for Independent.

As seen with this story, the potential for cannabis related treatment is incredibly great. A recent study done last week by Orrin Devinsky, a neurologist at New York University Langone Medical Center, and a few colleagues tested 120 children that were diagnosed with Dravet syndrome. This syndrome kills about 20 percent of those with this disease by the time they are 20. The patients were treated with CBD (or Epidiolex, as branded by GW Pharmaceuticals who sponsered this study). Half of the children were given Epidiolex while the other half were given a placebo. Over a span of 14 weeks, they found that CBD reduced the seizures from about 12.4 to 5.9 per month, while the placebo group went from 14.9 seizures to 14.1 per month. However, some children experienced some adverse effects, such as fatigue, diarrhea, and vomiting. 8 of the children withdrew from the study because of these effects. Nonetheless, the benefit of CBD treatment can be seen. "We now have solid, rigorous scientific evidence that in this specific syndrome, cannabidol is effective at reducing seizures," said Orrin Devinsky.

The evidence is all there, and it is coming from many different studies and stories; CBD based treatment is an effective method for treating epileptic seizures across different kinds of diseases. When adding this onto the benefits that are being found for cannabis based treatment, the argument for the legal use of medicinal marijuana (and even legalizing marijuana) gets even stronger. Looking at these cases, maybe it's time we start utilizing this form of treatment to its potential. We could be saving lives by doing so.

For more information, the story of Annalise Lujan can be found here:
http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/cannabis-cbd-febrile-infection-related-epilepsy-syndrome-annalise-lujan-cannabidiol-a7770621.html

The study done on children with Dravet syndrome can be found here:
https://www.statnews.com/2017/05/24/cannabis-epilepsy-trial/

The original research article for the above study that was published by The New England Journal of Medicine can be found here:
http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa1611618