Blue light from electronics disturbs sleep, especially for teenagers.


The pervasive glow of electronic devices may be an impediment to a good night’s sleep. That’s particularly noticeable now, when families are adjusting to early wake-up times for school. Teenagers can find it especially hard to get started in the morning. For nocturnal animals, it spurs activity. For daytime species such as humans, melatonin signals that it’s time to sleep.

As lamps switch off in teens’ bedrooms across America, the lights from their computer screens, smartphones and tablets often stay on throughout the night. These devices emit light of all colors, but it’s the blues in particular that pose a danger to sleep. Blue light is especially good at preventing the release of melatonin, a hormone associated with nighttime.

Ordinarily, the pineal gland, a pea-size organ in the brain, begins to release melatonin a couple of hours before your regular bedtime. The hormone is no sleeping pill, but it does reduce alertness and make sleep more inviting.

However, light — particularly of the blue variety — can keep the pineal gland from releasing melatonin, thus warding off sleepiness. You don’t have to be staring directly at a television or computer screen: If enough blue light hits the eye, the gland can stop releasing melatonin. So easing into bed with a tablet or a laptop makes it harder to take a long snooze, especially for sleep-deprived teenagers who are more vulnerable to the effects of light than adults.

During adolescence, the circadian rhythm shifts, and teens feel more awake later at night. Switching on a TV show or video game just before bedtime will push off sleepiness even later even if they have to be up by 6 a.m. to get to school on time.

Blue light prevents the release of melatonin, a hormone associated with nighttime and sleep. (BIGSTOCK)
The result? Drowsy students struggling to stay awake, despite the caffeinated drinks many kids now consume.

“Teenagers have all the same risks of light exposure, but they are systematically sleep-deprived because of how society works against their natural clocks,” said sleep researcher Steven Lockley of Harvard Medical School. “Asking a teenager to get up at 7 a.m. is like asking me to get up at 4 a.m.”

In a 2014 poll, the National Sleep Foundation, an advocacy organization, polled parents, asking them to estimate their children’s sleep. More than half said their 15-to-17-year-olds routinely get seven hours or fewer hours of sleep. (The recommended amount for teens is 81 / 2 to 10 hours.) In addition, 68 percent of these teens were also said to keep an electronic device on all night — a television, computer, video game or something similar.

Based on what parents reported, sleep quality was better among children age 6 to 17 who always turned their devices off: 45 percent of them were described as having excellent sleep quality vs. 25 percent of those who sometimes left devices on.

“It is known that teenagers have trouble falling asleep early, and every teenager goes through that,” said light researcher Mariana Figueiro of the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N.Y.

Figueiro investigates how light affects human health, and her recent research focused on finding out which electronics emit blue light intense enough to affect sleep. When comparing melatonin levels of adults and teenagers looking at computer screens, she was astonished by the younger group’s light sensitivity. Even when exposed to just one-tenth as much light as adults were, the teens actually suppressed more melatonin than the older people.
In another experiment, she had adults use iPads at full brightness for two hours and measured their melatonin levels with saliva samples. One hour of use didn’t significantly curtail melatonin release, but two hours’ did.

So although teenagers may be particularly susceptible, we all should be aware that artificial light can affect our circadian rhythms.

“The premise to remember is [that] all light after dusk is unnatural,” Lockley said. “All of us push our sleep later than we actually would if we didn’t have electric light.”

A study from 2013 found that people who spent a week camping in the Rocky Mountains, exposed to only natural light and no electronic devices, had their circadian clocks synchronized with the rise and fall of the sun. Although there were only eight campers, they all reacted in the same way, whether they considered themselves early birds or night owls.

So light serves as a cue, but how? It has long been known that the retina contains two types of photoreceptors, or light sensors: rods and cones. The cones allow us to see colors, while the ultra-sensitive rods are used for night vision, motion detection and peripheral vision. But surprisingly, neither of them is the body’s primary tool for detecting light and darkness and synchronizing our circadian clocks.

There’s a third kind of sensor in our eyes, officially discovered in 2002. Called intrinsically photosensitive retinal ganglion cells, or ipRGCs, these relatively crude sensors are unable to pick up on low levels of light — from a dim night light, for example — but sluggishly signal light changes.
They are the body’s way of sending ambient light information to the master circadian clock, a huddle of nerve cells in the brain. This clock makes the pineal gland start and stop the secretion of melatonin. The ipRGCs are most sensitive to blue light — that’s why blue light is bad for your sleep.

To counteract the effects of tablets’ blue light, Figueiro and Lockley recommend a free app, F.lux, that automatically warms up the colors on your various screens — more reds and yellows — at sunset and returns them to normal at sunrise.

“The amount of light you need [in order] to see is lower than the amount of light you need to affect your melatonin,” Figueiro said, which means that light-emitting screens can be used at night without disrupting sleep cycles if you put some distance between your eyes and the device. In other words, place the tablet farther away from your face than usual, or watch TV instead. Also, turning the brightness setting down on laptops, tablets and phones should help.

But for teenagers, this doesn’t completely remedy the problem of early school start times. Lockley also blames the early-morning sluggishness of many students on school start times that ignore their changing body clock.

High schools in a handful of cities have shifted their start times to 8:30 a.m. or later. In a University of Minnesota study whose final report was issued in February, researchers who surveyed about 9,000 students at eight high schools found that such a shift correlated with improvements in grades, achievement tests, attendance rates and car accident rates.
In Virginia, Fairfax County has been considering delaying its high school start time until after 8 a.m. In Maryland, Montgomery County has discussed a change but has not decided on one yet.

Last week, the American Academy of Pediatrics issued a recommendation that middle and high schools delay the start of classes to 8:30 a.m. or later. Pediatrician Judith Owens, the lead author of this policy statement, said that later start times will help adolescents get the sleep they need and lower their risks of obesity and depression.

“Sleep is important for learning, memory, brain development, health,” Lockley said. “We’re systematically sleep-
depriving kids when their brains are still developing, and you couldn’t design a worse system for learning.”

Many Americans may believe early risers are more successful and that people can learn to live on little sleep, Lockley said, but that notion is neither true nor healthy.

“There’s no training people to live without sleep,” Lockley said. “It’s like trying to train people to live without food.”

From Liver Transplants To Brain Surgeries, These Are The 5 Highest Risk Operations.


All surgeries inherently pose some risk, which is why many people are often nervous before going under the knife. But some surgeries in particular are especially dangerous, due to sensitive organs or complex procedures.

In general, any procedures that are considered “invasive” can be risky. This could involve anything that involves a skin incision, anesthesia, biopsies, or endoscopies (such as colonoscopies or bronchoscopies), among other things. Complications during surgery can arise from anesthesia problems; for example, a patient might have an adverse reaction to the drug that knocks them out. Anesthesia also often involves intubation, or inserting a breathing tube, which could potentially lead to aspiration (inhaling food or fluid into the lungs). Sometimes, anesthesia can lead to malignant hyperthermia, or the extreme rising of the body temperature.

Other problems can be caused by bleeding problems, blood clots, or delayed healing. Of course, these complications are rare and shouldn’t prevent you from undergoing surgery, but they are all things of which surgeons have to be aware. Below are the five riskiest surgeries.

Open Heart Surgery

Open heart surgery involves any procedure that cuts open the chest and surgeons work on the heart muscles, arteries, or valves. The most common type of open heart surgery is coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG), which involves grafting or attaching a healthy artery or vein to a blocked coronary artery — essentially “bypassing” the blocked artery and providing blood to the heart. The surgeons provide the patient with general anesthesia, cuts an eight to 10-inch gap in the chest, then cuts through the patient’s breastbone.

This leaves the patient open to risks such as a chest wound infection — which is especially dangerous and likely for people with obesity or diabetes. The patient might also experience a heart attack or stroke, an irregular heartbeat, lung or kidney failure, chest pain, fever, memory loss, blood clots or blood loss, and breathing difficulties.

Liver transplants

The liver is an extremely valuable and significant organ; we rely on it to keep us functioning on a daily basis. It detoxifies the body and also transforms food into energy. Though liver transplants are relatively common procedures, they still remain very risky: the chance that the body will reject the new organ is quite high, so liver transplant patients often have to take medication that maintains their immune system for the rest of their lives, in order to keep organ transplant rejection at bay. Other complications include: bleeding, infection, blockage of blood vessels to the new liver, leaking of bile or blocked bile ducks, and initial lack of new liver function, according to Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.

Intestine transplant

If your intestine stops absorbing nutrients, electrolytes, and fluids, you have intestinal failure. Though patients with intestinal failure can be fed through total parenteral nutrition, which involves dripping a fluid through a needle or catheter into your vein, this can often cause life-threatening problems like liver disease, catheter infections, and even bone disease. So many doctors turn to a complete intestine transplant in order to avoid any adverse side effects of the feeding process. There are only a few medical centers in the entire world that complete intestine transplants, due to its extreme complexity and need for an expert hand. As with any other transplants, there’s always the risk that the transplanted organ will be rejected by the body, causing infection.

Cancer Operations

Cancer surgery involves any procedure that removes tumors from various parts of the body, in the hopes of demolishing any bit of cancer from the patient. Cancer surgery might involve the removal of breasts from breast cancer (mastectomy), or the removal of lungs from lung cancer (lobectomy and pneumonectomy). As with these other risky surgeries, the danger of any organ removals could lie in pain, infection, loss of organ function, bleeding, blood clots — and of course the return of cancer itself.

Brain surgery

Without a doubt, any type of brain surgery is probably the most dangerous. A craniotomy is the most common type of surgery to remove a brain tumor, in which the surgeon cuts out a part of the skull to get to the brain. Often, it’s not entirely possible for the surgeons to remove all of the tumor, so they remove as much as they can — called debulking. Craniotomies and other brain procedures can result in infection, hemorrhage or bleeding in the brain, blood clots, brain swelling, seizures, and even pneumonia. Some patients can also develop stroke due to low blood pressure, but these risks are quite rare. To be prepared for these types of surgeries or any surgeries — talk to your doctor about risks and the best way to ensure a smooth operation (your physician will most likely tell you that the chances of developing any adverse complications is quite rare).

New heart drug significantly reduces deaths and hospitalisation.


A new heart medication has been shown to cut instances of heart failure mortality by a fifth, and is expected to be on the market as early as next year.

heart-pills

Named LCZ696, the new drug is still in the trial phase, but has been shown to dramatically reduce cardiovascular deaths and the risk of hospitalisation for people with chronic heart failure.

The drug is being developed by Swiss pharmaceutical company Novartis, and was recently put to the test in the largest trial ever undertaken in heart failure, involving more than 8,400 patients. Compared to an existing heart drug, called enalapril, LCZ696’s effects were so significant and so overwhelmingly positive throughout this trial, a team of independent investigators ended it early. This is the first time in 25 years that a new drug has been proven to be more effective than existing heart medications.

According to Ben Hirschler at Reuters, not only does LCZ696 reduce deaths and hospital admissions, patients who were treated with it also reported feeling measurably better than those who were treated with enalapril. One of the principle investigators, John McMurray from the Clinical Research Initiative in Heart Failure at the University of Glasgow in the UK, reported its effects as “astonishing”.

“Once this drug becomes available, it would be difficult to understand why physicians would continue to use traditional (drugs) … for the treatment of heart failure,” said another of the principle investigators, Milton Packer from the Department of Clinical Sciences at the University of Texas in the US.

While the trial ended five months ago, the full results were only just released at the 2014 European Society of Cardiology Congress, the world’s largest cardiology conference. The results will also be published online by the New England Journal of Medicine.

“This result is better than we ever could have anticipated,” Novartis’s head, David Epstein, told Reuters.

According to the results of the trial, patients who took LCZ696 were 20 percent less likely than those on enalapril to die from cardiovascular causes and 21 percent less likely to be admitted to hospital, says Hirschler at Reuters. The results can be converted to approximately 90,000 fewer deaths per year in the US and Europe if patients with heart conditions were switched to the new LCZ696 drug, Epstein adds. The drug is expected to be on the market as early as next year.

Mariell Jessup, a heart failure expert from the University of Pennsylvania in the US, who was not involved in the study, commented that the new drug, “may well represent a new threshold of hope for patients with heart failure”.

E-cigarettes: The lingering questions .


In the haze of incomplete data, scientists are divided over the risks and benefits of electronic cigarettes.

E-cigarettes are touted as a safe alternative to tobacco, but research has been inconclusive.

In many respects, the modern electronic cigarette is not so different from its leaf-and-paper predecessor. Take a drag from the mouthpiece and you get a genuine nicotine fix — albeit from a fluid wicked into the chamber of a battery-powered atomizer and vaporized by a heating element. Users exhale a half-convincing cloud of ‘smoke’, and many e-cigarettes even sport an LED at the tip that glows blue, green or classic red to better simulate the experience romanticized by countless writers and film-makers. The only things missing are the dozens of cancer-causing chemicals found in this digital wonder’s analogue forebears.

E-cigarettes — also known as personal vaporizers or electronic nicotine-delivery systems among other names — are perhaps the most disruptive devices that public-health researchers working on tobacco control have ever faced. To some, they promise to snuff out a behaviour responsible for around 100 million deaths in the twentieth century. Others fear that they could perpetuate the habit, and undo decades of work.

Now, a group once united against a common enemy is divided. “These devices have really polarized the tobacco-control community,” says Michael Siegel, a physician and tobacco researcher at Boston University School of Public Health in Massachusetts. “You now have two completely opposite extremes with almost no common ground between them.”

Evidence is in short supply on both sides. Even when studies do appear, they are often furiously debated. And it is not just researchers who are attempting to catch up with the products now pouring out of Chinese factories: conventional tobacco companies are pushing into the nascent industry, and regulators are scrambling to work out what to do.

Some countries, such as Singapore and Brazil, have banned the products entirely. The US Food and Drug Administration has proposed to bring them under its control alongside tobacco — but the path to regulation has been beset by lawsuits and delays. In May, the European Union finalized a major revision to the rules governing tobacco products in its member states. These include standards for e-cigarette products and restrictions on advertising, but the updated rules will take years to come into effect. On 26 August, the World Health Organization (WHO) released a reportthat recommended, among other things, to restrict the indoor use of e-cigarettes, to ban certain flavours and to confine sales to those who are 18 years and older. The report will be debated at a meeting in October to decide how the products are treated under the international Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, which commits governments to regulating tobacco and trying to reduce its impact on health.

The open questions include exactly what is in many commercially available products and what health effects they might have. But researchers are also concerned with whether e-cigarette users will give up conventional smoking, or simply become ‘dual users’. Could e-cigarettes even act as a gateway, increasing tobacco use?

Siegel says that it is obvious what data and experiments are needed, but it is not guaranteed that anyone will agree about the results. “It’s not clear to me that science is going to end this,” he says.

Market conflagration

Devices for taking the smoke out of smoking have been around for years, but most have failed to gain traction or, like prescription nicotine inhalers, are restricted in their use. A Chinese inventor named Hon Lik is widely credited for developing the modern e-cigarette, about a decade ago. The Shenzhen-based company he worked for, now called Ruyan, commercialized the invention and has been joined by scores of competitors.

According to a study1 from the University of California, San Diego, there were 288 brands of e-cigarette available online in 2012, many with multiple products. By January 2014, there were 466, meaning that an average of more than 10 brands had been launched every month. Buyers have clearly been snapping them up: from a standing start a few years ago, the United Kingdom alone is now estimated to have more than 2 million users.

This explosive growth has blind-sided scientists and regulators alike. “I’m personally astounded by how quickly the market has grown,” says Wilson Compton, deputy director of the US National Institute on Drug Addiction in Bethesda, Maryland.

Further complicating the picture is the remarkably fast evolution of the devices themselves. Early models that resemble cigarettes — ‘cigalikes’ — have been joined by customizable vaporizers costing hundreds of dollars and sporting everything from gold plating to software that lets users tweak how the devices operate.

In response, researchers have radically scaled up their efforts to provide regulators with guidance. E-cigarettes promise to drastically reduce the death toll from smoking — without depriving users of the nicotine they crave. (A phrase often quoted in tobacco-control circles is that people ‘smoke for the nicotine but die from the smoke’.)

But on the central question — are e-cigarettes safe? — there are many uncertainties. Long-term consumption of nicotine divorced from tobacco is thought to be relatively safe for most people, barring pregnancy or certain rare conditions. But nicotine is not danger-free. There have already been overdoses from people drinking the liquid from e-cigarettes, or spilling it on their skin, where it is absorbed.

Also unknown are the long-term effects of regularly inhaling prop­ylene glycol, the chemical that makes up most of the liquid vaporized in e-cigarettes. This organic molecule is used in scores of commercial applications ranging from food to plastics, and it has been shown to be safe to consume except at very high levels. Some evidence from the theatre — where it is used to create fogs and mists — suggests that it may irritate the respiratory system, but there are no long-term data about the effects of inhalation.

Many e-cigarettes contain other chemicals added for flavouring, and little is known about these. There are also legitimate fears about quality standards for the products: toxic contaminants have been found, and in a very few cases batteries have exploded, leading to injury.

Manufacture of e-cigarettes is booming in China.

Around the world, researchers are now subjecting e-cigarettes to the same kinds of tests used to shed light on how conventional cigarettes damage human health. Some have found2 genetic changes to human bronchial cells grown in vitro in a medium exposed to e-cigarette vapour (seeNature 508, 159; 2014). These looked similar to changes induced by conventional tobacco smoke. Another study found3 that e-cigarette use, like normal cigarette smoking, led to a reduction in exhaled nitric oxide, which could be a sign that e-cigarettes alter lung function. But this work is early and still inconclusive.

Those who are positive about the potential benefits of e-cigarettes say that although their safety clearly needs to be monitored and further investigated, there is simply no way they can be as dangerous as conventional cigarettes.

“The key comparison here is to smoking,” says Lynne Dawkins, head of the drugs and addictive behaviours research group at the University of East London, UK. Dawkins says that the lower risks of e-cigarettes and the fact that many users believe they are an acceptable substitute for tobacco makes them generally a good thing. (Some of Dawkins’s research has been funded by e-cigarette companies.)

Snuff it out

Dawkins and others are optimistic that beyond being a safer substitute, e-cigarettes could help people to stop smoking. But in many of the jurisdictions where they are taking off, e-cigarettes cannot be sold as smoking-cessation aids. In the United Kingdom, for example, that would require them to be licensed as medicine. The United States also bans direct claims about helping people to quit, but some brands circumvent this with testimonials from users or other implied messages about the devices’ benefits.

In the absence of further controlled trials, researchers have scoured the Internet for data and conducted surveys of smokers. Dawkins and her team have found5 that many people report using e-cigarettes for smoking cessation, and that these users had a longer ‘time to first vape’ in the morning than smokers had to their first cigarette, possibly suggesting reduced dependence on nicotine.

But opponents of e-cigarettes have their own ammunition. One study published this year6 followed 949 smokers reporting their habits online, and found that the e-cigarette users were no more likely to quit tobacco than other smokers. Dawkins and other e-cigarette defenders counter that because the devices may appeal to the smokers who are most heavily dependent on tobacco, results such as this do not actually shed light on the question (see Nature http://doi.org/t3f; 2014).

One problem with using e-cigarettes for smoking cessation may be that at the moment most are probably less effective at delivering nicotine than conventional smoked tobacco, says Peter Hajek, a tobacco researcher at Queen Mary University of London. “I think they need about five years, if the regulators don’t kill them, to become as good as cigarettes in providing smokers with what they want.” This, he says, could ultimately render normal cigarettes obsolete.

But in many ways, those in favour of stricter controls on the devices are worried about giving up any ground in the fight against tobacco. As smoking becomes more difficult — for example, through restrictions on where smokers can light up — e-cigarettes may be used alongside conventional tobacco to maintain nicotine levels. Such dual use could undermine efforts to stop smoking entirely. And although dual users may consume fewer cigarettes than heavy smokers, which would reduce their risk of cancer to some extent, even very low levels of smoking seem to elevate risks of cardiovascular problems.

“It’s not clear to me that science is going to end this.”

Those who worry that e-cigarettes will do more harm than good also fret that they could make tobacco socially acceptable again. With many developed nations implementing heavy restrictions on advertising, as well as high taxes and medical warnings, tobacco consumption has been massively stigmatized. Now e-cigarettes — which are in many cases unregulated — threaten to disturb this status quo.

One of the opponents’ greatest fears is that e-cigarettes will help to attract young people to tobacco. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, Georgia, has found7 that in 2012, around 1.78 million adolescents in the United States had used e-cigarettes, and that a little less than 10% of those had never previously tried conventional cigarettes.

When those figures were released last year, CDC director Tom Frieden — who headed several anti-smoking initiatives in a previous role as New York City’s health commissioner — said that “the increased use of e-cigarettes by teens is deeply troubling”. And he warned: “Many teens who start with e-cigarettes may be condemned to struggling with a lifelong addiction to nicotine and conventional cigarettes.”

But teenagers often experiment, and it may be that this is all that these data show. Advocates of the devices say that if they were going to cause increases in smoking, then smoking rates would already be going up, given the number of people using e-cigarettes. This does not seem to have happened yet — in developed nations, smoking rates are generally decreasing.

Young and vulnerable

A contentious paper8 on this subject, and one that exemplifies the debate, comes from Stanton Glantz, director of the Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education at the University of California, San Francisco, who has spent years fighting tobacco and the industry that produces it.

In March, Glantz and his colleague Lauren Dutra analysed a survey of US adolescents and found that those who used e-cigarettes were more likely than others to smoke conventional cigarettes. They wrote that “in combination with the observations that e-cigarette users are heavier smokers and less likely to have stopped smoking cigarettes, these results suggest that e-cigarette use is aggravating rather than ameliorating the tobacco epidemic among youths”.

The paper drew strong criticisms for conflating correlation and causation. “These researchers are drawing conclusions that aren’t justified by the data,” says Siegel. Although there is clearly a correlation between heavy smoking and e-cigarettes, he says, it is not clear whether e-cigarettes are leading to smoking, or the other way around.

Glantz says that much of the ire directed at the paper is the result of the word ‘gateway’ being used in a press release, which he was unhappy with. He maintains that the data in the paper back the conclusion.

Overall, Glantz says, “properly regulated and available on prescription”, e-cigarettes might be a good thing, but they are currently increasing the number of children using nicotine, and promoting cigarette-smoking among children.

Parties on both sides of the debate had been petitioning the WHO even before it took its firm stance against the devices in August. In a 26 May letter to WHO head Margaret Chan, leading researchers including Dawkins, Bullen and Hajek argued that tough regulation would be counterproductive and would serve only to protect the conventional cigarette market. Harm-reduction approaches, they say, seem to have been “overlooked or even purposefully marginalized”.

Another group of equally eminent scientists — including Glantz — fired back in June, saying that there is insufficient evidence to show that e-cigarettes are useful for smoking cessation, that there is good evidence that they release toxic compounds, and that letting e-cigarettes go largely unregulated could once again allow tobacco companies the opportunity to influence policy.

Big tobacco is moving into the market with gusto. Leading US brand Blu — which Reynolds American, maker of Camel cigarettes, agreed to sell to rival Imperial Tobacco in July — has cornered about half of the US market by some estimates. Reynolds has kept hold of the popular VUSE brand. Altria, which is famous for the Marlboro cigarette brand, has its own MarkTen e-cigarette.

Jason Hughes, a tobacco researcher and head of the department of sociology at the University of Leicester, UK, notes that although e-cigarettes are often seen as something totally new, they may actually be just one more in a long line of attempts to make tobacco consumption more ‘civilized’, from chewing tobacco to cigarettes to cigarettes with filters. But they also represent a break point: although the nicotine in them is derived from plants, the users are now divorced from tobacco leaves completely.

Determining whether this break is truly a good thing becomes crucial when — despite continuous and graphic warnings of the risks of smoking — millions still put their lives at risk for a nicotine hit. Population studies to work out the true effects of this new technology are crucial, says Compton.

There is one thing that all researchers agree on: while they debate, e-cigarette use grows and grows. Whatever researchers think, says Compton, “The public is clearly voting with their feet.”

Scientists block malaria from hijacking red blood cells .


Australian researchers have managed to block a crucial step in malaria’s life cycle, a major breakthrough that could lead to new drugs that fight malaria.

shutterstock_malaria

Australians have managed to block the gateway that allows malaria parasites (Plasmodium falciparum) to hijack human red blood cells, a major breakthrough in the fight against the disease.

A team of researchers involving scientists from Deakin University, the Burnet Institute and Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, used two different genetic techniques to block the gateway – and both caused the malaria parasite to die.

The research, which was published in Nature, opens the door for new anti-malaria drugs that target components of this gateway. Currently there’s only one drug, artemisinin, available to treat the disease.

After entering the human bloodstream, malaria parasites invade red blood cells and cause them to stick to the walls of blood vessels, where the parasites remain hidden from the immune system while they suck up nutrients and grow quickly.

The parasites are able to control our red blood cells by sending out proteins through their membrane. This research has shown that, while there are many proteins, there is only one gateway in the parasite membrane through which they enter the red blood cells – and it can be blocked.

This is an important breakthrough, because this single gateway in the parasite membrane allows the transmission of up to 350 key survival proteins at every stage of the parasite’s lifecycle.

“This is a major advance in the quest for new malaria drugs. If we can discover a drug that blocks the protein complex that comprises this gateway, you can effectively block the functioning of several hundred proteins,” said Brendan Crabb, the Director and CEO of the Burnet Institute, and a co-author of the paper, in a press release.

Prior to this, the researchers knew this gateway existed, but had no evidence that it was the only gateway that all the parasite proteins relied upon.

“Now that we know that there is only one gateway through which all these parasite proteins, with diverse functions, can enter the host red blood cell, we can develop drugs to block the gateway, which will kill the parasite and stop its spread,” said Tania de Koning-Ward, an Associate Professor at Deakin University and one of the leaders of the team, in a Deakin story on the breakthrough.

“Not only can we block the gateway in the red blood cell stages, but we can also target the parasite at all of its life stages, including the parasite form that transmits to mosquitos, as the proteins that make up the gateway are also present in these other stages,” said de Koning-Ward.

To turn this research into a drug could take 10 to 15 years, de Koning-Ward adds, but with malaria killing more than 500,000 people each year, this is a crucial first step.

The lung-on-chip may replace laboratory animal tests .


Emulate launches to commercialize automated human Organs-on-Chips platform to accelerate drug development, detect toxicities and advance personalized medicine.

Company founded by Organs-on-Chips pioneers; secures $12 million in Series A financing to develop innovative products that emulate human physiology.

Lung-on-a-Chip

Combining microfabrication techniques with innovative engineering and biology, the Organs-on-Chips offer a new approach to bioemulation by mimicking the complex mechanical and biochemical environment required for organ-level function. This video of the Lung-on-Chip demonstrates how we mimicked human biology and disease on the chip.

“Emulate’s Organs-on-Chips platform provides, for the first time, a window into the inner-workings of human organs without having to invade a living body,” said James Coon, Chief Executive Officer of Emulate. “Our unique automated Organs-on-Chips approach to human bioemulation opens up entirely new possibilities to develop products with enhanced properties, improved efficacy and safety, and personalization to patients and consumers. The company will focus on key strengths of integrating design, biology and engineering to create revolutionary products. We are launching Emulate to be a leader in advancing innovative product design across multiple industries including drug development, healthcare, agriculture and consumer health.”

Common Modern Foods Which Cause DNA Damage


How important is what you put in your mouth, after all? How much man-made, toxic lab food can one ingest before negative symptoms show up? How much more sickness does this society have to endure before we finally stay united and demand more from our food system, through the choices we make every day?

A genetic researcher named Francis Pottenger might have an answer and the proof humanity needs these days to fully grasp the importance of HEALTHY FOOD. His amazing discoveries have contributed to the developing, new and fascinating science of epigenetics we learn about today.

What Did Pottenger’s Famous “Cat Study” Prove?

In 1930 Pottenger began a study with the intention to find out more about the nutrient quality or difference of raw versus cooked meat, as well as raw versus pasteurized milk.And he wanted to know if meat and milk, when modified by high heat, had an impact on growth and development. During the ten years of the study, nine hundred cats were studied, in order to not only see the short term effects of the food, but also the influence the cats’ diet and health status would have on their kittens over three generations. The results of this study were stunning: a seemingly simple modification in diet – in this case,consuming raw meat and raw milk versus heated and cooked meat and milk – can affect cats’ health over four generations!!

The conclusions of the study can be summed up in the following:

  • Physical degeneration caused by a poor diet in the mother is inherited in the offspring and passed on through the third generation. But when a mother’s diet is nutritious, not only does she benefit with good health, so, too, do her offspring.
  • Pottenger discovered that poor health could, indeed, be reversed. The third generation of cats that developed health problems from the entirely cooked diet was the proof in this experiment. Pottenger started to feed these cats raw milk and meat and cod liver oil. What he noticed was that with the first generation of cats as well as with the three successive generations of kittens they produced – each kitten was healthier than the prior one.

So, what Pottenger discovered 70 years ago and what ancestral cultures have been knowing for centuries is that :

The food we eat each day influences illness or wellness, not only in ourselves, but in our children, grandchildren, even our great-grandchildren, born or unborn.

Processed and Genetically Engineered Foods Cause DNA Damage

(Weston) Price eventually came to see the problem of diet and health as a problem of ecological dysfunction. By breaking the links among local soils, local foods, and local peoples, the industrial food system disrupted the circular flow of nutrients through the food chain. Whatever the advantages of the new industrial system, it could no longer meet the bio-chemical requirements of the human body, which, not having had time to adapt, was failing in new ways. (Michael Pollan)

Throughout our existence as humans, our genes have shown they are highly adaptable to the available food supply and a wide variety of diets. Our genes gradually adapted to new ways of eating and we continued to thrive. For example, two “new” nutrients which humans had to adapt to were lactose in milk and gluten in grains. Populations that were exposed to milk and grains for the longest periods of time have inherited the ability to metabolize these foods. This way, 85 percent of hunter-gatherer Australian Aborigines can not tolerate lactose, while only 2 percent of Swedish people – who have been consuming dairy as a staple for a long time – have problems metabolizing lactose in milk.

But all these “new” foods where WHOLE FOODS, unprocessed, unaltered, found in Nature.

How about the new era of highly processed foods from the industrialized diet?

Convenience and cheap prices were enough to fool people into believing that chemical concoctions sold widely in stores today can actually pass as food. Just the fact it can be chewed, doesn’t mean it fulfills its purpose.

Here are just a very few of the mostly used and most dangerous processed “foods” found in all stores these days and their impact on our DNA:

Genetically Modified Foods (GMO)

The truth is…every time (corporate scientists) insert a novel gene into a plant cell, the gene ends up in a random location in the plant’s genome. As a result, each new gene amounts to a game of food safety roulette, leaving companies hoping that the new gene will not destabilize a safe food and make it toxic. (Andrew Kimbrell, GMO expert)

For centuries humans have altered the genetic characteristics of plants naturally by selecting seeds from plants with desirable physical characteristics, such as taste, size and color. But “breeding” is totally different than the genetically engineered  monstrosities, which are created these days and sold as “food”.  The genetic code of GM plants has been modified by humans, whereas hybrid plants create their own genetic structure!

When researchers Ian F. Pryme and Rolf Lembcke conducted in vivo studies about the possible health consequences of genetically modified food, they concluded that genetic engineering creates widespread genetic mutations in hundreds of thousands of locations throughout the genome!

Food that’s made in the lab and was not meant to be recognized by your cells will eventually build up as toxic material in your body. What’s the worse that can happen? It starts with digestive problems, lowered immunity and eventually tumors and cancer.

Processed Omega 6 Fatty Acids and Trans Fatty Acids

With the advent of the Industrial Revolution and the processing of omega 6-rich vegetable oils- such as corn, soybean, canola and safflower oils- that are so abundant in our diet today – the balanced ratio of omega 6 and omega 3 fatty acids on which our human genome thrived for hundreds of thousands of years changed drastically. These days, it is estimated that we eat one-tenth of the amount of omega 3 fatty acids required for normal functioning. This is why a high percentage of our modern population is susceptible to food-related health conditions like heart disease, cancer, insulin resistance and diabetes, obesity, arthritis and other inflammatory conditions.

The elimination of toxic trans fatty acids alone, could avert tens of thousands of coronary events each year in the United States and around the world!

A team of molecular biologists at the National Institute of Nutrition in India performed a study on rats to to see how gene expressions are affected by trans fatty acids. What the team discovered was that rats fed higher levels of trans fatty acids had three types of gene expressions that raise insulin resistance. These observations help explain how consuming trans fatty acids increases the risk of diabetes and heart disease.

Sugar

In 1820 the average sugar consumption per person per year was less than 20 pounds. Today it is 150 pounds per year! No to mention that indigenous peoples didn’t know what sugar was for a very long time, and lived long, healthy lives without it.

What genetic “imprint” is left by sugar in our body? Epidemiologist Lisa Giovanelli performed a study collecting dietary information via a food-frequency questionnaire from 71 healthy adults. Giovanelli made the sugar-connection when her findings revealed that the more simple sugar (from soft drinks, desserts and other processed sweets) a person consumed, the more oxidative DNA damage occured in blood cells (lumphocytes). When the body doesn’t contain enough antioxidants, the free radicals can oxidize and in turn damage cells and DNA.

High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS)

In 1970 food technology, huge crop subsidies for corn and industrialization made it possible to manufacture inexpensive high fructose corn syrup. Today, HFCS is added to thousands of fast foods and beverages such as soft drinks.

One reason why HFCS raises a health alarm is that your brain doesn’t recognize it as food or that it has calories, although it is, indeed, calorie dense. Instead, your brain thinks you’re under eating and starving; to compensate it signals you to keep eating. And this dangerous chemical is found now in almost all processed foods which are considered a staple of most Americans’ diet. The outcome is obvious and obesity is just the beginning of a long list of health complaints.

This toxic substance can, too, damage gene expression; the damage is rather due to the chemical hydroxymethylfurfural (HMF), the syrup produced when HFCS is heated during processing or afterwards.

This effect was confirmed by a groundbreaking “bee -busting” study published in 2009. Thousands of bee colonies had been dying because for years, commercial beekeepers had been feeding HFCS to their bees when nectar from flowers was scarce. When the effects of HMF on individual human cells were further studied, there was also found a strong dose-response relationship ; the more exposure to HMF, the more DNA damage.

As you see, our DNA is quite vulnerable and constantly the subject of attacks on its composition and integrity from nutrient imbalances and oxidizing agents. It is a delicate balance, and bombarding it with toxic substances we take in daily will not maintain this balance for too long. Unless we re-learn thenormal, health way of eating! Because through epigenetic mechanisms from infancy to old age, our genes “remember” how they’ve been treated!

Article Resources:

Pottenger’s Prophecy – How Food Resets Genes For Wellness Or Illness by Gray Graham, Deborah Kesten and Larry Scherwitz.

Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, Price, Weston.

Price-Pottenger Nutrition Foundation

Trans fatty acids and cardiovascular risk: A unique cardiometabolic imprint? D. Mozaffarian and W.C. Willett,

Differential effects of dietary saturated and trans-fatty acids on expression of genes associated with insulin sensitivity in rat adipose tissue. N. Saravanan, A. Haseeb, and N.Z. Ehtesham, European Journal of Endrocrinology

Nutritional and lifestyle determinants of DNA oxidative damage: A study in a Mediterranean population. Carcinogenesis L. Givanelli, C. Saieva, G. Masala, G. Testa< S. Salvini, V. Pitozi, E. Riboli, P. Dolara and D. Palli.

Formation of hydroxymethylfurfural in domestic high fructose corn syrup and its toxicity in the honey bee. Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry B.W. Leblanc, G. Eggleston, D. Sammataro, C. Cornett, R. Dufault, T. Deeby and E. St Cyr,

In vivo studies on possible health consequences of genetically modified food and feed- with particular regard to ingredients consisting of genetically modified plant materials. Nutrition and Health I.F. Pryme and R. Lembcke,

What Makes Humans Special?


HALLMARK TRAITS of the human body did not all arise anew in our species. Instead they emerged piecemeal in our forebears over millions of years. Many of these traits seem to have helped support two defining trends in our evolution: upright locomotion and tool use.

 

What we know and don’t know about tornado formation


Tornadoes and their parent thunderstorms are among the most intensely studied hazardous weather phenomena. The vast majority of tornado research today is conducted in the US, where tornadoes occur more frequently than anywhere else on Earth. Theoretical contributions, computer simulations, and field observations, such as those from the 1994–95 Verification of the Origins of Rotation in Tornadoes Experiment (VORTEX) and subsequent projects, like the recently completed VORTEX2, have revealed a great deal.

 

http://scitation.aip.org/content/aip/magazine/physicstoday/article/67/9/10.1063/PT.3.2514

From the desk of Zedie.

Antarctic waters ‘rising faster’


Ice (BAS)

Parts of West Antarctica are undergoing significant change

Melting ice is fuelling sea-level rise around the coast of Antarctica, a new report in Nature Geoscience finds.

Near-shore waters went up by about 2mm per year more than the general trend for the Southern Ocean as a whole in the period between 1992 and 2011.

Scientists say the melting of glaciers and the thinning of ice shelves are dumping 350 billion tonnes of additional water into the sea annually.

This influx is warming and freshening the ocean, pushing up its surface.

“Freshwater is less dense than salt water and so in regions where an excess of freshwater has accumulated we expect a localised rise in sea level,” explained Dr Craig Rye from the University of Southampton, UK, and lead author on the new journal paper.

Globally, sea levels are going up, in part because of the contribution of the world’s diminishing ice fields. This is well known.

But the Nature Geoscience report is the first to show the direct consequences to sea surface height (SSH) around Antarctica itself.

While the satellite data record indicates there has been a general upward trend in SSH in the Southern Ocean south of 50 degrees of up to 2.4mm per year, those satellites also indicate a more rapid rise in waters sitting on the continental shelf.

Mass losses

Modelling by Dr Rye’s team suggests that this additional 2mm per year can be attributed almost exclusively to freshwater runoff from Antarctica, and not to some climatic oscillation that might make sea levels “breathe” up and down on decadal timescales.

“We can estimate the amount of water that wind is pushing on to the continental shelf, and show with some certainty that it is very unlikely that this wind forcing is causing the sea level rise,” Dr Rye told BBC News.

“And because we can model the freshwater forcing, and the fact that this is so much more like what we see in the real world, we can come to the confident conclusion that the signal is driven by freshwater forcing.”

Recent satellite studies have underlined the increased mass losses occurring in Antarctica.

Much of this accelerated ice discharge is occurring in the continent’s western sectors, particularly in the Amundsen Sea Embayment and along the Antarctic Peninsula.

In contrast to land ice, the sea ice around Antarctica stands at record levels and is becoming more extensive.

The growth is small and very regional in character, but nonetheless significant.

Quite how the freshening of surface waters might be influencing this phenomenon is now a target for study.

“That’s a really interesting question which I’d like to look into with further research,” Dr Rye said.

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