Tag Archives: health

Vit D may prevent Multiple sclerosis and reverse the disease indefinitely in mice

Vitamin D based treatments to standard Multiple Sclerosis drugs were compared by a team led by biochemistry researcher Dr. Colleen Hayes, of the University of Wisconsin – Madison.

What did the team discover in mice?

Mice that exhibit MS, were given a single dose of Calcitrol, which is one type of Vit D supplement, followed by dietary Vit D supplements. All the mice got progressively better and regained more neurological function each day. To read the published original article click here.

This work was published in the Journal of Neuroimmunology, August issue of 2013, online.

Hayes believes that the calcitriol may cause the autoimmune cells attacking the nerve cells’ myelin coating to die, while the vitamin D prevents new autoimmune cells from taking their place

(Read more).

Dr Hayes has devoted her career to the study of multiple sclerosis and especially the role of Vitamin D. Current FDA approved MS treatments only work for some MS patients. Her team plans to continue questioning the relevance of Vitamin D in multiple sclerosis diagnosis and treatment.

Clearly, Calcitrol plus Vit D, was more effective than methylprednisonole, has potential for reversing inflammatory demyelinating disease safely and cost effective in mice.  If someone you know is suffering from MS, you might advise them to discuss Dr Hayes’ team’s recent publication with their Physician.  Should they wait until clinical trials are conducted in humans to get exposure to more sunlight and dietary sources of Vit D?

Prior Studies on correlation of Levels of Vit D and MS
Previously some studies have linked low levels of Vitamin D with higher risk of multiple sclerosis (MS).

Inheriting genetic risk factors for multiple sclerosis (MS) is not sufficient to cause this
demyelinating disease of the central nervous system (CNS); exposure to environmental risk factors is also required. MS may be preventable if these unidentified environmental factors can be avoided. MS prevalence increases with decreasing solar radiation, suggesting that sunlight may be protective in MS.

(Read more).

What should we do to prevent Multiple Sclerosis?
The research by Dr Hayes team clearly indicates that a person with multiple sclerosis currently should immediately discuss this published finding on the role of Calcitrol and Vit D in multiple sclerosis therapy.  What if you are related to someone with multiple sclerosis?

Eat more Vit D rich food and supplements
Expose to daily exposure of sunlight
If one day is cloudy, make up for it another sunny day
Winter months with less sunlight exposure must be supplemented with seasonal days with more sunlight exposure

Related Articles:
Worm Theory: to improve the immune system to fight asthma, multiple sclerosis and more

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What is the status of blood cancer or leukemia research and stem cell therapy today?

Most of us know someone or have heard of someone with blood cancer or Leukemia.  Some times, it is difficult to hear that a four year child died from blood cancer.  It is harder still to hear about the cancer clusters that develop in certain countries and in particular states.

In memory of all the children who lost their lives to childhood leukemia

In memory of all the children who lost their lives to childhood leukemia

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) had begun to compile a list of cancer clusters in USA which you may read by clicking here. It lists three clusters of childhood blood cancers. In 1997 to 2001, Churchill County, Nevada, Siera Vista, Arizona and Toms River, New Jersey reported a significant increase in number of children diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukemia and acute mylocytic leukemia. The goal was to identify possible triggers associated with the rising rates of blood cancer in children. You may click here to read how the small community of Woburn, MA, with a childhood leukemia rate higher than the nation’s average collaborated to solve the silent health risks of environmental contamination. A blockbuster movie has highlighted such a cluster.  An energized scientific community is committed to the study of blood cell production and it has already resulted in one of last century’s scientific breakthroughs – Stem Cell Therapy.  The search for leukemia triggers continues, to prevent the unnecessary loss of innocent children.

Blood Cancer Therapy
Therapy choices for blood cancer vary ranging from limited success to promising. The National Cancer Institute discusses here the key options currently available: Bone Marrow Transplantation (dependent on a donor match program) and Peripheral Blood Stem Cell Transplantation.  Many dedicated scientists are working on saving the lives of these children suffering from blood cancer.

Leukemia is diagnosed often during a routine blood count check

Leukemia is diagnosed often during a routine blood count check

Their job becomes difficult when some pediatricians, especially when faced with a cluster of children with early stages of blood cancer, fail to recognize the symptoms until it is too late to save their lives. Toddlers have several ailments in their little lives and the doctor generally mistakes early symptoms of blood cancer for a far lesser evil like fatigue. How is a doctor to even suspect that he/she may be faced with a cluster of children with not fatigue but blood cancer? It is hard for a doctor to imagine that a number of children in his/her practise may have blood cancer.  Early leukemia detection is critical for favorable treatment outcome.  So, researchers are trying to develop early blood cancer detection tools and therapy compounds.

Blood Cancer Stem Cell Therapy Scientists
Hematopoiesis is the term applied to the myriad processes in blood cell production. A culmination of the blood cell research by several scientists over several years led to a profoundly beneficial medical therapy for leukemia or blood cancer, namely blood stem cell transplantation. This activity of forming blood cells using stem cells is a tremendous scientific milestone of the last century and will save the lives of many. Several limitations remain, which are discussed here, and future research is focussed on overcoming these. One of the primary limitations is in virus infection after stem-cell transplantation with virus-specific cell lines.

Stem Cell Research has led to a promising therapy. Unequivocal proof that stem cells exist in blood (hematopoietic system) has given rise to their isolation and their utility studies in regenerative medicine (Read 2001 review).  Stem cells can be grown from embryonic cells or from a patient’s own mature cells transformed into stem cells. The ultimate goal is to take a person’s own cells, and transform them into the spcific cell/s the patient needs most. Say, a blood cancer patient needs more blood. Instead of requesting blood donation, the patient’s own stem cells for blood can be developed and injected right back into the bone marrow to make more blood. Since, it originated from the patient itself, there is little immune rejection issues and the patient’s chances of survival are quite good.  Currently, some limitations remain so success is not 100%.

Dr Irving Weissman, MD, Stem Cell Therapy Pioneer 2002 California Scientist of the Year. Photo California Science Center

Dr Irving Weissman, MD, Stem Cell Therapy Pioneer 2002 California Scientist of the Year. Photo California Science Center

One of the leaders of blood cancer therapy with stem cells is Dr. Irving Weissman of Stanford University, who is among the pioneers in this field and is determined to save many lives by creating a standard for stem cell therapy. He is confident that personalized stem cell therapy for leukemia, using the patient’s own cells for a source of blood regenerating stem cells (to lower rejection rates) for complete remission, is an attainable goal. He isolated the human hematopoietic stem cell and his lab discovered a novel method to transplant blood-forming stem cells into the bone marrow. In a 2011 Nature article, which you may click here to read, Irv discusses the difficulties his team encounters fourteen years after the first patient got a stem cell transplant.  He is focussed on treating the AML patient.

Another, who may soon become a leader among stem cell biologists is George Daley, MD PhD of Harvard Medical School and Boston Children’s Hospital.

George Daley MD PhD, Boston Children's Hospital. His lab is focussed on chronic myeloid leukemia (AML) and direct diffentiation to cell of interest

George Daley MD PhD, Boston Children’s Hospital. His lab is focussed on chronic myeloid leukemia (AML) and direct diffentiation to cell of interest

He coauthored the latest 2013 review, “A blueprint for engineering cell fate: current technologies to reprogram cell identity“, which he claims is already outdated because the field of stem cell engineering is moving so quickly. George says in a NOVA interview that induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS) have all the properties of embryonic stem cells and can be made quite readily from specific patients. But limitations of iPS cells include the fact that viruses are used to make them. He envisions scientists studying many kinds of stem cells including embryonic, iPS and direct conversion to cell of interest, with stem cells isolated from many sources, not just embryos. Scientists use various regulatory factors to coax stem cells to become specific cells and this field is growing.  The Daley lab focuses on blood/hematopoietic differentiation from human stem cell sources and the BCR-ABL oncoprotein of chronic myeloid leukemia.  Their primary research area is direct differentiation, where they attempt to bypass the route via pluripotent cells by coaxing a cell to directly become the cell of interest.  They continue to define the molecular genetic programming of cells.  The Daley lab was amongst the first to show that mature cells from a patient’s biopsy are capable of being reprogrammed to an embryonic – like state – a Scientific Breakthrough of the year 2008.   A key direction of future work is in beginning with the purest source of cells, because stem celsl retain the signature of the starting source cell.

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Bringing brain disorders back into balance with Brain’s thermostat?

Bringing a new path of hope to people with brain development disorders is Dr. Gina Turrigiano and her team at Brandeis University. They demonstrated for the first time in a live animal that the brain has a “thermostat” that maintains a balance of excitement. When it gets too excited a system exists to tone down the firing rate of the neurons or vice versa. This discovery has implications in brain disorder conditions in which the balance is lost in psychiatric conditions like autism where the brain does not get excited enough, or epilepsy in which the brain gets too excited. The brain’s “thermostat” keeps the neurons on an even keel even as they change in response to learning, development or environment factors. This thermostat worked even when the animal was awake or asleep. Read the original article published in the journal Neuron as the cover article on October 16, 2013 by clicking here.

Dr. Turrigiano says that if scientists can figure out how these set points are built, then researchers may be able to adjust them and bring the brains of people suffering from such disorders back into balance.

Dr. Gina Turrigiano, Brandeis University, pioneered "synaptic scaling" where neurons and neural circuits maintain both stability and flexibility

Dr. Gina Turrigiano, Brandeis University, pioneered “synaptic scaling” where neurons and neural circuits maintain both stability and flexibility

Dr. Gina Turrig1ano, was conferred the 2012 HFSP Nakasone award, McArthur Foundation award and the NIH Director’s Pioneering award for her pioneering work and introduction of the term “synaptic scaling”. The concept is that the developing and fully developed brain has inbuilt mechanisms that allow balancing the need for plasticity. It allows the brain to enable learning and development while maintaining the stability and integrity of the circuits that drive behavior.

Work in her lab has shown that neurons can “tune” themselves and scale down excitement or vice versa. However, this concept of “synaptic scaling” or thermostat control had never been observed in a life animal until now.

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The nutritive, medicinal and diuretic properties of Pumpkin flour

When fall arrives so does pumpkin season.  With so many people looking for avoiding gluten and looking for wheat substitutes, there is a new candidate – pumpkin flour.

Ancient Food Habits included Whole Grain. Yet, a gluten - free diet and other life style changes in modern day may keep many free of Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Arthritis. Copyright 2013 (c) Pursue Natural

Ancient Food Habits included Whole Grain. Yet, a gluten – free diet and other life style changes in modern day may keep many free of Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Arthritis. Copyright 2013 (c) Pursue Natural

Physiochemical characteristics of pumpkin flour
Fresh pumpkin is rather popular all around the world. Pumpkin pie is a staple in a Thanksgiving meal. Pumpkin spice latte is a fall treat in coffee shops. Pumpkin is added to soups and curries, and their young flowers dipped and fried around the world.  This vegetable is highly valued because it is so easy to grow and produce, and has a high nutritive value.

A delicious Pumpkin Pie - An American Tradition

A delicious Pumpkin Pie – An American Tradition

Nutrition value
Pumpkins are rich in carotene, minerals, vitamins, pectin, and dietary fiber.

Medicinal value
They are diuretic, tonic and calm thirst. Because they are diuretic do not overeat. You may also want to read “Pumpkin is mildly diuretic – so eat in moderation“. The yellow – orange characteristic color is due to the presence of carotenoids. They can be converted in the body to retinol (Vitamin A). Vitamin A is essential for normal immune function and vision. At present researchers are uncertain whether the biological effects of carotene is from antioxidant or non-antioxidant activities. Carotenoids are best absorbed in the intestine with fat in a meal, so you know what to do to truly enjoy the benefits of pumpkin. To read more click here.

Comparing Pumpkin flour with Wheat flour
Researchers have studied and compared fresh pumpkin, pumpkin flour and wheat flour. Fresh pumpkin (Curcurbita moschata, C. pepo, and C. maxima) has significantly higher moisture content and lower fat, protein, crude fiber and ash content than pumpkin flour. The researchers prepared cake substituting wheat flour with pumpkin flour and measured the contents. They found a significantly higher beta carotene, crude fiber and ash and decreased crude fat, crude protein and crude carbohydrate in pumpkin flour containing cakes. Wheat flour has higher protein content (>14%) than pumpkin flour (>9%). You may read more of the original article by clicking here.

Colors of Pumpkins
Depending on the species their colors may vary from green, white, blue-grey, yellow, red and ofcourse, the characteristic orange that we know and love.  Here are a collective exhibition of pumpkins at the 2013 New York Botanical Garden. a

A pumpkin caterpillar at the New York Botanical Garden 2013. Copyright (c) PursueNatural

A pumpkin caterpillar at the New York Botanical Garden 2013. Copyright (c) PursueNatural


A pumpkin sculpture at the New York Botanical Garden 2013. Copyright (c) PursueNatural

A pumpkin sculpture at the New York Botanical Garden 2013. Copyright (c) PursueNatural


A pumpkin sculptur at the New York Botanical Garden 2013. Copyright (c) PursueNatural

A pumpkin sculptur at the New York Botanical Garden 2013. Copyright (c) PursueNatural


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Autism Scientists seek public assistance to detect, measure and prevent Autism and major psychiatric disorders

You may want to visit and contribute your experiences at the  Autism Spectrum Disorder Task Force  site and inspire them in their public – private effort to achieve their goal. Their vision is to get the desired outcome in three to five years as a result of the work laid out to implement the Minnesota Autism Spectrum Disorder strategic plan. Help them in your own, unique creative way.

You may also contact the Science Department Leadership at various autism foundations, such as Autism Speaks, and Autism Support Network with your personal experiences, hunches and suggestions on which public – private large scale database efforts to fund.

Autism rates continue to rise at an alarming rate
Tomorrow the autistic child could be someone born in your family – 1/50 to 1/80th chance of happening today, with more boys being born with autism than girls. States are drowning with the rising numbers of autism cases. The role of environment cannot be ignored which you may read by clicking “Why is Autism observed in America and not in underdeveloped countries?“, although dyslexia and mild communication disorder is rising worldwide (Read more). The role of shared family genes is not being ignored but so far, no clear association has scientific merit. You may call it the Geek syndrome but as Steve Silberman describes, if the autism spectrum genes were eliminated from society, it would be disastrous for the evolution of society. He also adds here that Microsoft recently became the first major US corportion to offer its employees insurance benefits to cover the costs of behavioral training for their autistic children. The number of autistic children among their employees were high enough to justify that – a fact that did not exist even over a decade ago. And their numbers continue to rise.

History of Autism
John Hopkins Neuroimmunopath has a FAQ site on their “Focus on Autism“.  They are researching the role of the immune system in Autism.  You might want to visit their site to consider what unseen factors inside the body control the symptoms of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).  After all, the first cases of Autism in USA were diagnosed at John Hopkins by Dr. Leo Kanner and published in 1943 to alert the public.  Dr. Hans Asperger of Austria described a similar group of patients around the same time and the distinctive sypmtoms got a diagnostic name.

Although historical accounts point to the existence of what could be isolated cases of autism, the mid 20th century is the first time clusters of patients with distinct ASD symptoms began to be diagnosed.  Unfortunately, ASD cases are rising at a rate that we find alarming, even if we allow for a certain threshold of misdiagnosis.  There is no known cure for ASD.  Since we do not know a cause we cannot begin to prevent onset of ASD, which usually strikes suddenly and without warning around the age of 18 months, according to parental reports.  Although there is no doubt that genetics or inherited family factors plays a role in susceptibility to ASD, scientists cannot rule out a potential major role for non-heritable risk factors.  A strong supporting reason for this is an observation by parents of Somali origin, which you may read by clicking “Why is Autism observed in America and not in underdeveloped countries?“. Scientist urge for more research on the important role of Vit D, as a possible environmental risk factor in Autism Spectrum Disorder. You may read their review by clicking here. Research studies on gene x environment are identifying which pesticide, herbicide, fungicide classes are of greatest concern in susceptible populations.

What is Autism
Sceptics abound (Read Forbes magazine article here).  Many do not know what is Autism.  Just like in the early 1980s the average person had no idea what HIV and AIDS was; similarly, the average skeptic today is unacquainted with autism and untouched by the daily adversities of living with autism.  Those who have never seen or been in the same room, let alone family, of an autistic individual, will not have any empathy for this discussion. Take your autistic child to public museums, movie theaters, enclosed botanical garden exhibitions. Tell every skeptic who frowns with displeasure that this disruptive individual is a healthy, autistic person. Your job is educational in nature and to reach as many skeptics as you can. If you believe that Autism research needs more believers, then you will have to leave a skeptic alone in the same room with a severely autistic child. Then, leave the skeptic alone in the same room with simply a misbehaved child. The skeptic will realize that there is a difference. Then, to justify urgency, you can show evidence as to how the numbers of autistic children are growing, and soon to become a growing burden on society as they age and their parent – caretakers die. Who will take care of them? Additionally, society is losing 1/50 of every young male or 1/80 of every young child who could contribute gainfully to social security or medicare. Can society let such monetary contributors get lost without a question? In 1960 there were 4.9 workers paying into the social security system for every beneficiary collecting (click here for Time magazine article). In 2035 there will be 1.9 workers for every social security recipient. With rising autism rates, how many of these 1.9 workers will be unable to contribute to this social equation and instead require social care as their caretaker parents die?

AutismIt is possible that part of the reason why no other risk factors have been identified may be that genetic and non – genetic factors need to be studied together in order to get a complete ASD profile.  What factor/s changed globally in the developed world around mid 20th century?  The scientists need the assistance of the public to solve this mystery as observant team members.  You may click here to learn more about facts of ASD and the Autism Fact Sheet of John Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health.  The origins, detection, measurement and prevention of conditions that affect behavioral, socioemotional and/or cognitive development are specific to Autism and ASD and are discussed here.

Role of Dirt/Microbial biome in Allergy, Asthma and ASD?

A variety of Hookworms

A variety of Hookworms

A blogger, summarizes a recent research study and it’s conclusion that dirt may be necessary to prevent allergies in “Dirt Prevents Allergies“. The researchers, headed by Professor Bisgaard, followed a cohort of asthma patients for several years to identify what factors might have triggered their disease. While these researchers are still looking for asthma trigger factor/s in early childhood, they did find that there was a connection between lack of diversity of bacteria in the intestine and allergy and have published their results in the journal of allergy and clinical immunology in 2011. The “microbial biome” is the term used to define all the bacteria that a healthy intestine supports. You may click here to read “Worm Theory: to improve the immune system to fight asthma, multiple sclerosis and more”. Several families have reported the presence of a parent with multiple sclerosis and children with autism and/or allergy. There apparently is a age – related connection. A younger family member presents with autism while an older family member has symptoms of multiple sclerosis. neuron

Since, researchers are finding that the immune system is involved in both Autism – which is on the rise recently, and in food allergy – which too is on the rise in recent decades and often in the same family, we have to wonder if it is correct to ask, “Is Autism an immune reaction with an allergic profile?” However, why did the recent study of Bisgaard and colleagues not find a common factor in allergy and asthma yet?  Multiple sclerosis, a nerve disease, is also on the rise in recent decades, and often reported in families with autism and severe allergies.

Babies with no autism or allergy

Babies with no autism or allergy

When is the earliest trigger for the diseases that are on the rise in recent years? Why is the first symptom seen not at birth but a few months, several months or years later? What factors control later symptoms? Is it an age – related control? You may want to read a popular article “How I gave my son autism” by Thinking Mom’s Revolution, which lists eight things this mother would change given a change to move time back.

Health Analyses of Families with Autism using the internet

Health Analyses of Families with Autism using the internet

No single gene appears to control autism. Studies indicate that the main immune mechanism in autism is an innate immune reaction. Contrast this to adaptive immune response seen in diseases such as meningitis and encephalitis. What is the difference between innate and adaptive immune system? A simple biological explanation is given by the Univesity of Arizona researchers here.

The Autism Genome Project
The Autism Genome project(AGP) is a large-scale, public – private collaborative, genetics research project initiated by the National Alliance for Autism Research and the National Institute of Health and is aimed at sifting through the human genome in search of autism susceptibility genes. The vision is to identify predisposition to Autism and to identify the causal mechanisms.  A new born screening mechanism would allow for early intervention. AGP has identified a dozen autism related genes researched by 120 scientists from 11 countries. They indicate that two important gene networks in the central nervous system contribute to the susceptibility to autism, leading to impairments in social and communication skills. The estimated prevalence of autism in siblings is about 10%, while it is a whopping 90% in twins. However, although heredity plays a definite role, such children with autism are born only under certain environmental conditions, underlining the fact that unknown life-style changes trigger autism.  The role of lack of exposure to enough Vit D in autism is being researched, especially in countries like Sweden. AGP has also revealed that Autism shares risk genes with major psychiatric disorders. Which leads to the question, whether searching for a cure for autism might lead to an early diagnosis of major psychiatric disorders, prevention and cures? It appears that the diagnosis of dyslexia is more common in underdeveloped countries. However, when this same gene pool is exposed to the life – style changes of a developed country the diagnosis of moderate to severe autism is observed.

Innate and Adaptive Immunity
There is a growing body of evidence linking Vit D to various immune related conditions including allergy and auto-immunity, but none show a convincing link, meaning there is a connecting missing link which remains to be discovered. Lack of Vit D would normally not cause diseases like autism but, given the presence of this missing link, lack of Vit D or specific life-style changes, one becomes predisposed to diseases like autism.  Various diseases involve the innate and/or adaptive immune system:

Dr Belbedos and colleagues want to modulate the innate immune reaction in allergy and asthma therapy in young children.

Lyme disease is an innate immune reaction.

Measles suppreses both innate and adaptive.

Pertussis or whooping cough involves both innate and adaptive.

Mycobacterium tuberculosis is different – see fatal tuberculosis , where an acquired immunity is not enough but an innate immune response additionally, is required. The MyD88 pathway is crucial to protect against this disease. 90% of infected people do not show any symptoms. What protects them?

Vitamin D initiates an innate immune reaction. Apparently, its role in adaptive immune response has been known, but not in innate immune response. Too much Vit D is bad.

The National Institute of Health has explained immunity and the immune response in an article and include a video on immune response and a video on vaccines. The definitions of innate, acquired and passive immunity are followed by a video; if you scroll down, you will see the videos.

Related Video
Watch a video of a Pro-surfer, a father of an autistic son, and founder of a non-profit foundation school of Surfing for Autistic kids and how it makes them smile. Volunteers are pro-surfers.

Related Articles
A single shared component has been confirmed in allergy and autoimmune diseases
Proteins neuroligins and neurexins are important in Autism and Schizophrenia
G proteins: the connector proteins that try to prevent Autism Spectrum Disorder

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Your blood pressure is influenzed by hot to cold weather

Heart expert Dr. Padmanabhan has discovered that there is a connection between a drop in temperature during the day to your blood pressure (BP).  This may be because the arteries and veins tend to collapse with colder weather making it harder for blood to travel around the body.  This response to temperature changes may be under genetic control too. Which means some families may be more susceptible to temperature changes than others, so all people may not respond in the same way to weather changes. Those susceptible are 30% more likely to die from a deadly rise in BP than those who are not.

These heart experts realize that not many studies have correlated effect of weather on BP and recommend that physicians be aware of this. Quote

Temperature-sensitive subjects had significantly higher mortality (1.35 [95% confidence interval, 1.06–1.71]; P=0.01) and higher follow-up systolic blood pressure (1.85 [95% confidence interval, 0.24–3.46]; P=0.02) compared with temperature-nonsensitive subjects. Blood pressure response to temperature may be one of the underlying mechanisms that determine long-term blood pressure variability. Knowing a patient’s blood pressure response to weather can help reduce unnecessary antihypertensive treatment modification, which may in turn increase blood pressure variability and, thus, risk.

Sunshine plays a role in monitoring BP. Cloudy days raise BP.

Nature - the blazing, glorious sun that sustains all life shows one form in the sand dunes of Morocco. Copyright (C) Pursue Natural

Nature – the blazing, glorious sun that sustains all life shows one form in the sand dunes of Morocco.
Copyright (C) Pursue Natural

To read the original article published in Journal of Hypertension on 23 May 2013 by researchers in Institute of Cardiovascular and Medical Sciences, University of Glasgow, UK click here.

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Now is the time for your 2013 – 2014 flu vaccine

The 2013- 2014 flu season is here for the Northern Hemisphere. Los Angeles has reported it’s first flu case early September (Click here). New York city residents are surprised that flu season has already arrived and reaching people before their scheduled flu vaccination date. The first Los Angeles case is an H1N1 which is in this year’s flu vaccine combination to protect those vaccinated this season. The New York city strain has yet to be reported.  Fortunately, the flu vaccine of 2013 – 2014 has either three flu strains (trivalent) or the newly introduced four flu strains (quadrivalent) described more in detail below.  If you live in the Northern Hemisphere, you might want to begin flu vaccination plans much earlier this flu season, since the flu has already arrived atleast in two major USA cities and it is only early September. However, in Australia and countries of the Southern Hemisphere, the peak of the 2012 – 2013 flu season is expected to have just ended in August 2013, since the seasons are opposite.

This is what the flu virus looks like

This is what the flu virus looks like

Why should you take the flu vaccine?
The reason one has to take the vaccine every year is because the vaccine only provides immunity for about a year. Unlike the natural infection which gives you lifetime immunity, a flu vaccine does not. Even if in certain years the vaccine flu strain composition is exactly the same as in the previous year. The individual is  advised to take the flu vaccine annually. The answer is explained in detail in this previous article.

However, do take your doctor’s advice before vaccination. Certain flu vaccines are not recommended for all ages. For example, CDC recommends that one brand of inactivated flu vaccine called Affluria, should not be given to children 8 years of age or younger. A related vaccine was related with fever and fever – related seizures in young children in Australia. More about side effects below.  Young children who get inactivated flu vaccine and pneumococcal vaccine (PCV13) at the same time may be at increased risk for seizures caused by fever. Ask your doctor for more information. Tell your doctor if a child who is getting flu vaccine has ever had a seizure.addition,

Egg and/or latex allergy?
What if you have an egg and/or latex allergy? Consult your doctor. The answer is in this previous article.  However, there is a major update for individuals with egg allergy waiting to be vaccinated – Flublok.  In 2013, FDA has approved Flublok, for 18-49 year old, which is not developed in eggs but in insects. Hence, Flublok may be suitable for adults (but not children, teens and seniors) with egg and/or latex allergy.  Traditionally, the flu vaccine has been developed in eggs.  To learn more you may read a previous article, “Tracking the history of the development of the flu vaccine”, by clicking here.  The ability to develop the flu vaccine in insects instead of eggs is heralded as a boon to egg allergic individuals.  However, since it has been newly introduced in 2013, it remains to be clinically tested in individuals other than adults and hence, is not yet FDA approved in children, teens and seniors, since their immune system is different than a typical healthy adult.

Please, discuss with your doctor.  It is highly recommended to take the flu vaccine to avoid hospitalization and other secondary complications from a flu infection.  It is highly contagious.  Certain age groups are more susceptible than others.  The Centers of Disease Control of USA reports a total of 12,343 hospitalizations that occurred from October 1, 2012 through April 30, 2013, which translates to a cumulative rate of 44.3 influenza-associated hospitalizations per 100,000 people in the United States. The total number of influenza-associated pediatric deaths reported to CDC for 2012-2013 was 146 in USA. While the vast majority of the tested virus samples (>99%) showed susceptibility to the antiviral drugs oseltamivir and zanamivir, some varieties showed resistance. Watch an animated video of how the flu virus enters, and multiplies inside the human body.

Why do I feel fatigued after my flu vaccine?
The vaccine composition is changed every year. The WHO meets twice a year to discuss the varieties of flu strains causing flu infections and hopes to include the most “popular” strains in the flu vaccine composition (see below for for the 2013-2014 composition). However, the vaccine can accomodate a maximum of three to four flu strains. There might be a new flu strain that emerges later in the year. There might be a fifth or sixth flu strain also causing infections. The flu vaccine assists an individual in easing the “suffering from symptom” period. Therefore, a person who has the vaccine can still get the flu from a flu strain not included in the vaccine but the symptoms will be weaker. This is because the flu strains differ from each other very slightly and most of their characteristic proteins are included in the vaccine, hence “teaching” the body’s immune system to be ready to fight the flu infection.

There can be a slight fever and other side effects (see below) after the flu vaccine.  The symptoms would start right away and last 2 to 3 days. This might happen if the flu vaccine composition includes one or more flu strains that were not included in the previous year’s vaccine composition. If the individual has never been exposed to 1 or more of the flu strains in the vaccine, the immune system might react with symptoms like the flu. It is the immune system getting ready. The individual does not get flu from the inactivated flu vaccine and the live flu vaccine is too weakened to cause the flu. You may also read “Why am I feeling fatigued after taking the flu vaccine?

The New Quadrivalent Flu Vaccine: Until recently, the vaccine compositions have only had three different kinds (trivalent) of circulating flu varieties. This year, the vaccine choices include those with four different kinds (quadrivalent) of circulating flu varieties, approved by the WHO (see quote below). Do be aware of your vaccine choices in 2013 to 2014 – trivalent or quadrivalent and discuss with your care provider. The FDA approved companies in 2013 manufacturing the new quadrivalent flu vaccine are:

1) GlaxoSmithKline – Fluarix
2) AstraZeneca – MedImmune
3) Sanofi Aventis – Fluzone approved in June 2013 for children 6 months or older, adolescents and adults.

Two methods of delivery of Flu Vaccine

One method of delivery of Flu Vaccine

One method of delivery of flu vaccine

One method of delivery of flu vaccine

The 2013-2014 Influenza/Flu virus compostion
The compostion of the 2013 – 2014 trivalent and quadrivalent flu vaccine for the Northern Hemisphere:

The World Health Organization has met in Geneva Switzerland in February 2013 to decide upon the composition of the Influenza or flu vaccine composition of the upcoming 2013-2014 flu season. Read more.

Influenza/flu vaccine Adverse Effects

The CDC site has the following safety information. In addition to including three to four different flu varieties in the vaccine composition (trivalent or quadrivalent), the flu vaccine may be either inactivated or live. If inactivated, it can never cause the flu because it does not contain a live virus. However, inactivated flu vaccine could be associated with Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS), no more than 1 or 2 cases per million people. If the flu vaccine is live, it is made from a weakened virus and does not cause flu. Both may cause allergic reactions in less than one in million doses. Quote
Influenza (inactivated) vaccine side-effects
What are the risks from inactivated influenza vaccine?

With a vaccine, like any medicine, there is a chance of side effects. These are usually mild and go away on their own.

Serious side effects are also possible, but are very rare. Inactivated flu vaccine does not contain live flu virus, so getting flu from this vaccine is not possible.

Brief fainting spells and related symptoms (such as jerking movements) can happen after any medical procedure, including vaccination. Sitting or lying down for about 15 minutes after a vaccination can help prevent fainting and injuries caused by falls. Tell your doctor if you feel dizzy or light-headed, or have vision changes or ringing in the ears.

Mild Problems

soreness, redness, or swelling where the shot was given
hoarseness; sore, red or itchy eyes; cough
If these problems occur, they usually begin soon after the shot and last 1 or 2 days.

Moderate Problems

Young children who get inactivated flu vaccine and pneumococcal vaccine (PCV13) at the same time may be at increased risk for seizures caused by fever. Ask your doctor for more information. Tell your doctor if a child who is getting flu vaccine has ever had a seizure.

Severe Problems

A severe allergic reaction could occur after any vaccine (estimated less than 1 in a million doses).
There is a small possibility that inactivated flu vaccine could be associated with Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS), no more than 1 or 2 cases per million people vaccinated. This is much lower than the risk of severe complications from flu, which can be prevented by flu vaccine.
The safety of vaccines is always being monitored. For more information, visit: Vaccine Safety Monitoring and Vaccine Safety Activities.

One brand of inactivated flu vaccine, called Afluria, should not be given to children 8 years of age or younger, except in special circumstances. A related vaccine was associated with fevers and fever-related seizures in young children in Australia. Your doctor can give you more information.

This information was taken directly from the Inactivated Influenza VIS
(This information taken from Inactivated Influenza VIS dated 7/26/2013. If the actual VIS is more recent than this date, the information on this page needs to be updated.)

Influenza (live) vaccine side-effects
What are the risks from LAIV?

With a vaccine, like any medicine, there is a chance of side effects. These are usually mild and go away on their own.

Serious side effects are also possible, but are very rare. LAIV is made from weakened virus and does not cause flu.

Mild Problems
Some children and adolescents 2-17 years of age have reported:

runny nose, nasal congestion or cough
headache and muscle aches
abdominal pain or occasional vomiting or diarrhea
Some adults 18-49 years of age have reported:

runny nose or nasal congestion
sore throat
cough, chills, tiredness/weakness
Severe Problems

A severe allergic reaction could occur after any vaccine (estimated less than 1 in a million doses).

The safety of vaccines is always being monitored. For more information, visit: Vaccine Safety Monitoring and Vaccine Safety Activities.

This information was taken directly from the LAIV VIS
(This information taken from Live Influenza VIS dated 7/2/12. If the actual VIS is more recent than this date, the information on this page needs to be updated.)


The WHO headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland

The WHO headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland

A meeting in action at the WHO headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland

A meeting in action at the WHO headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland

World Health Organization (WHO) headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland recommends the flu vaccine composition each year for the Northern Hemisphere and the Southern Hemisphere.

Related Article:
Review by Anne Sealey: A Cruel Wind: Pandemic Flu in America, 1918-1920; Author Dorothy A. Pettit and Janice Bailie (Timberlane Books, 2008): The book has an excellent chapter on the biological detail of the flu virus, a historical narrative of the 1918 pandemic, and an intimate portrait of political life and social environment during the pandemic. It includes plenty of charts for statistical support.


Filed under Flu, Health, Science

Lead contamination in rice studies could not be replicated

Independent laboratories have not been able to confirm the levels of lead contamination in imported rice reported recently (April 2013) by various news agencies like BBC,CBS, Science Daily.  Some of the highest levels were found in baby food, reported the scientists, at the 245th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society. Since FDA and independent laboratories have not been able to confirm these findings yet, scientists led by Dr. Tongesayi’s team, which is with Monmouth University in N.J., have delayed publishing their findings. To read more about “Study Linking Rice to Elevated Lead Levels Withdrawn” in FoodProductDesign.com, you may click here, and “Study of lead levels in Rice under Scrutiny” in BBC News Science & Environment.

Lead has been recognized as a poison for thousands of years, but the profound impact that chronic exposure to even low levels of lead can have on developing children only became widely recognized in the United States in the 1970s.

A rice field in Korea

A rice field in Korea

The Lead Contamination in Rice Study

The US imports 7% of its rice and 65% of this rice is from China, Taiwan, India, Italy, Bhutan, Israel, Czech Republic. Dr Tsanangurayi Tongesayi of Monmouth University in New Jersey, US, and his team tested for heavy metal contamination in rice, especially lead, from local food stores in New Jersey. They were concerned by the higher lead levels and speculated that daily lead exposure was higher. These levels were two to twelve times higher than what FDA finds a health concern. They concluded these levels could potentially cause harm to health. To read the full BBC News reported article you may click here.

Children would be most at risk in groups that ate more rice than any other grain. Asians and Latinos are rice preferring societies. Other societies drink rice milk to substitute for milk (lactose or casein) intolerance and rice cakes to substitute for wheat (gluten) or oat intolerance.

An active area of research is why different people react differently to similar levels of lead exposure. This variability is the reason why the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) always refers to a child as having an “elevated” blood lead level – i.e., a level above which symptoms are frequently seen in children – as opposed to calling a child “lead poisoned”. There is clear evidence even very low levels of lead are harmful to children’s health. In addition, studies suggest individuals who suffer from chronic lead poisoning during early childhood are more likely to behave violently and engage in criminal behavior later in life. Hilary A. Godwin, Ph.D. Professor, UCLA Department of Environmental Health Sciences, article summarizes our understanding of the effects of lead exposure on children’s health, and explains why the focus of the pediatric and environmental health communities has shifted toward prevention of lead poisoning.

An important take-home message from all of these studies of the effects of lead poisoning is that it is better to prevent lead poisoning from happening in the first place than to treat lead poisoning after it has occurred, an approach often referred to as “primary prevention of lead poisoning”. Possible known sources of lead exposure are lead house paint, and contaminated soil.

Diet to lower absorption of lead

Diets rich in nutrients, such as iron, calcium, and zinc, and low in fat have been shown to reduce the amount of lead that children (and adults) absorb into their bodies for a given exposure. There is an interesting relationship between zinc and protein — people who do not include a sufficient amount of protein in their diets do not have sufficient amounts of zinc in their body. The body can get zinc from protein-rich foods such as nuts, pecans, pumpkin seeds, and sunflower seeds. The best sources of zinc include milk, yeast, peanuts, potato, whole wheat bread, cheese, beans, yogurt, brown rice, wholegrain cereals, etc. You may read more about such a zinc rich diet by clicking here for this Newsmax Feb 2011 article.

Interestingly, the 1999 Nobel Prize in Medicine was for discovering that humans need protein to absorb minerals like zinc. Which means a healthy diet must include protein and minerals like zinc.

Ironically, rice plants may come naturally fortified with zinc. One might speculate: could rice naturally fortified with zinc prevent detrimental effects of lead exposure through lead contaminated rice? Rice plants grown in zinc deficient soils suffer from “Khaira” disease, or zinc deficiency. You may read more about the Khaira zinc deficiency disease of rice in India by clicking here, for a 1985 journal article by scientists Chatterjee and Mandal, in the Department of Agricultural Chemistry and Soil Science, Kalyani, India. Total dietary intakes of zinc of the people from Japan, Indonesia and China, where rice is the primary cereal grain, was higher than the recommended dietary allowance of daily zinc intake from foods by the American standard diet (15 mg/person). You may click here to read more about the zinc levels of rice in these three countries. Needless to add, perhaps, this natural level of zinc in rice can protect upto a certain threshold of lead contamination in rice, and has been developed by ancient societies that consume rice over the millennia.

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Odors can identify and differentiate three stages of melanoma

The human skin produces numerous airborne chemical molecules known as volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, many of which are odorous. “There is a potential wealth of information waiting to be extracted from examination of VOCs associated with various diseases, including cancers, genetic disorders, and viral or bacterial infections,” notes George Preti, PhD, an organic chemist at Monell who is one of the paper’s senior authors.

A Melanoma nodule (From National Cancer Insitute)

A Melanoma nodule (From National Cancer Insitute)

Philadelphia based, The Monell Chemical Senses Center has an innovative way of detecting melanoma through a unique odor signature detection technique.  Tiny, nano-sized tubes can be bioengineered to recognize among other targets, a variety of odor factors which could evaluate the stage of a disease progression. Before this discovery can be brought to a doctor’s office, a portable measuring device has to be invented.

Examine your own skin regularly to know what is normal for you says Melanoma Research Foundation. Moles might resemble Melanoma but are usually benign or non-cancerous.  It is safer to take annual photos of your moles to detect any abnormal rate or changes.

If you wish to fund or encourage any aspect of this research do not hesitate to contact the researchers at:

George Preti, Monell Chemical Senses Center, 3500 Market Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA

You may want to read the original scientific article: Jae Kwak, Michelle Gallagher, Mehmet Hakan Ozdener, Charles J. Wysocki, Brett R. Goldsmith, Amaka Isamah, Adam Faranda, Steven S. Fakharzadeh, Meenhard Herlyn, A.T. Charlie Johnson, George Preti. Volatile biomarkers from human melanoma cellsJournal of Chromatography B, 2013; DOI: 10.1016/j.jchromb.2013.05.007

How to self – diagnose Melanoma?
What is melanoma? Mayo Clinic of Cleveland has a slide show on how to identify and self examine for melanoma, a skin cancer.

Melanoma Research Foundation has good photos on what Melanoma might look like.

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A single shared component has been confirmed in allergy and autoimmune diseases

Previous studies had shown that patients with a diverse range of autoimmune diseases often had minor changes in the BACH2 gene. Today’s cutting edge technology allowed scientists to glimpse some of the interactions this gene had with the entire genome to control immune function, says lead author Dr. R. Roychoudhuri. BACH2 plays a key role in the immune system. Although, the intracacy of the immune system remains elusive, it is understood that a healthy immune system knows how to recognize a foreign body and can attack it, to keep a person healthy while in an unhealthy immune system, the body’s own cells or friendly agents are mistaken as “foreign” and attacked resulting in allergy or autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis and asthma.

This non-profit kids health site lists in the chapter “Health Problems” the many allergy and autoimmune diseases a child may suffer from today. Perhaps, this discovery published in the respected journal Nature might some day help a child and the parent lead a healthier life (Click here to read Nature, June 2, 2013 article).

The Discovery

NIAMS researcher Kiyoshi Hirahara, M.D and colleagues discovered that the Bach2 gene played a key role in regulating the switch between inflammatory and regulatory cells in mice. The loss of the Bach2 gene in specific immune cells caused them to become inflammatory, even under what would be a protective situation. Says a team leader, Dr. Nicholas P. Restifo, “The gene shares its name with the famous composer Bach, since it orchestrates many components of the immune response, which, like the diverse instruments of an orchestra, must act in unison to achieve symphonic harmony”

Potential for Gene Therapy?
The studies were done in mice and will have to be replicated in human clinical trials, which as you know could take time. When the mice lacked the BACH2 gene the mice died within a few months of life.  If the BACH2 gene was introduced into the mice lacking this gene, it restored their immune health. Thus, gene therapy with BACH2, a gene common in patients with allergy and autoimmune disease, restored the immune health of lab mice.

A laboratory research mouse

A laboratory research mouse

Related Article

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G proteins – the connector proteins that try to prevent autism spectrum disorder
Do anorexics and autism spectrum disorder share any common characteristics?


Filed under Personalized medicine, Research, Science