Star power: Troubled ITER nuclear fusion project looks for new path


In 1985, then Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and US president Ronald Reagan launched one of the unlikeliest ideas of the Cold War.

Under it, the Soviet Union would team up with United States and other rivals of the day to develop nuclear fusion: the same limitless energy source that powers the Sun.

Today, 30 years on, their dream is still a long and agonising way from reality.

Launched in 2006 after years of wrangling, the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) project is saddled with a reputation as a money pit.

It has been bedevilled by technical delays, labyrinthine decision-making and cost estimates that have soared from five billion euros ($5.56 billion) to around 15 billion. It may be another four years before it carries out its first experiment.

But, insists its new boss, a page has been turned.

“There has been a learning process,” said Bernard Bigot, 65, a scientist and long-term chief of France’s Atomic Energy Commission (CEA) who was named ITER’s director general in March, replacing Japanese physicist Osamu Motojima.

“Today, there’s a real awareness among all the partners that this project has to have a dimension of strong management to it.”

ITER’s job is to build a testbed to see if fusion, so far achieved in a handful of labs at great cost, is a realistic power source for the energy-hungry 21st Century.

Fusion entails forcing together the nuclei of light atomic elements in a super-heated plasma, held by powerful magnetic forces in a doughnut-shaped chamber called a tokamak, so that they make heavier elements and in so doing release energy.

Graphic explaining the workings of ITER, the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor

The principle behind it is the opposite of nuclear fission—the atom-splitting process behind nuclear bombs and power stations, which carries the risk of costly accidents, theft of radioactive material and dealing with dangerous long-term waste.

Despite the long haul, buildings are now emerging from the dry, yellowish soil near Aix-en-Provence, in the Mediterranean hinterland of southern France.

“The tokamak building is scheduled to be finished in 2018 and all 39 buildings by 2022,” Laurent Schmieder, in charge of civil engineering, told journalists during a press tour of the site.

The tokamak—a word derived from Russian—by itself is an extraordinary undertaking: a 23,000-tonne lab, three times heavier than the Eiffel Tower.

“This is a project of unprecedented complexity… a real challenge,” said Mario Merola, in charge of ITER’s internal components division.

Management tangle

Part of ITER’s problems lie in a diffuse managerial structure and decision-making among its partners: the 28-nation European Union, which has a 45-percent stake, the United States, Russia, Japan, China, India, South Korea and Switzerland.

The partners are providing their contributions mostly in kind, which has been a cause of messy, protracted debate about who should provide what, when and how. It has been further complicated by the role of national agencies, which in turn deal with their own suppliers.

In some cases, said Bigot, discussions have dragged on for six whole years without resolution.

Bernard Bigot, head of France’s Atomic and Alternative Energies Authority (CEA) and ITER director-general nominee, pictured at the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) in Saint-Paul-les-Durance, southern France, on May 18, 2015

He said that he told ITER’s board he would only take the top job if everyone agreed there was a need for change.

“A CEO has to have the power to make a decision and to have it applied,” he said.

Bigot has named his first priority as getting a fix on where the project stands overall.

By November, there will be a new progress report, with the likelihood of a further increase in the price tag. The project has no reserve fund to deal with the unexpected—something that Bigot hopes to change.

Journalists visit the construction site of the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) in Saint-Paul-les-Durance, southern France, on May 18, 2015

In 2010 ITER abandoned its goal of obtaining the first plasma in 2018 and set a new date for a year later, but Bigot said that this deadline “clearly isn’t feasible”.

So far around seven billion euros have been contractually committed to the thousand or so companies working on the scheme. Every year of delay adds 200 million euros to the bill.

Technicians work at the construction site of the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) in Saint-Paul-les-Durance, southern France, on May 18, 2015

“There have been difficulties, but we still have total faith in nuclear fusion as being worthy of the investment,” said Bigot.

“But clearly if we can’t manage this project correctly, if undertakings are not kept… (the project) could be in danger.”

Sudden onset of ice loss in Antarctica so large it affects Earth’s gravity field .



A glacier system on Livingstone Island located near the Antarctic Peninsula, discharging ice into the ocean

A group of scientists, led by a team from the University of Bristol, UK has observed a sudden increase of ice loss in a previously stable region of Antarctica. The research is published today inScience.

Using measurements of the elevation of the Antarctic ice sheet made by a suite of satellites, the researchers found that the Southern Antarctic Peninsula showed no signs of change up to 2009. Around 2009, multiple glaciers along a vast coastal expanse, measuring some 750km in length, suddenly started to shed ice into the ocean at a nearly constant rate of 60 cubic km, or about 55 trillion litres of water, each year.

This makes the region the second largest contributor to sea level rise in Antarctica and the ice loss shows no sign of waning.

Dr Bert Wouters, a Marie Curie Fellow at the University of Bristol, who lead the study said: “To date, the glaciers added roughly 300 cubic km of water to the ocean. That’s the equivalent of the volume of nearly 350,000 Empire State Buildings combined.”

The changes were observed using the CryoSat-2 satellite, a mission of the European Space Agency dedicated to remote-sensing of ice. From an altitude of about 700km, the satellite sends a radar pulse to Earth, which is reflected by the ice and subsequently received back at the satellite. From the time the pulse takes to travel, the elevation of the ice surface can retrieved with incredible accuracy. By analysing roughly 5 years of the data, the researchers found that the ice surface of some of the glaciers is currently going down by as much as 4m each year.

The ice loss in the region is so large that it causes small changes in the gravity field of the Earth, which can be detected by another satellite mission, the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE).

“The fact that so many glaciers in such a large region suddenly started to lose ice came as a surprise to us,” continued Dr Wouters. “It shows a very fast response of the ice sheet: in just a few years the dynamic regime completely shifted.”

Data from an Antarctic climate model shows that the sudden change cannot be explained by changes in snowfall or air temperature. Instead, the team attributes the rapid ice loss to warming oceans.

Many of the glaciers in the region feed into ice shelves that float on the surface of the ocean. They act as a buttress to the ice resting on bedrock inland, slowing down the flow of the glaciers into the ocean. The westerly winds that encircle Antarctica have become more vigorous in recent decades, in response to climate warming and ozone depletion. The stronger winds push warm waters from the Southern Ocean poleward, where they eat away at the glaciers and floating ice shelves from below.

Ice shelves in the region have lost almost one-fifth of their thickness in the last two decades, thereby reducing the resisting force on the glaciers. A key concern is that much of the ice of the Southern Antarctic Peninsula is grounded on bedrock below sea level, which gets deeper inland. This means that even if the glaciers retreat, the warm water will chase them inland and melt them even more.

Dr Wouters said: “It appears that sometime around 2009, the ice shelf thinning and the subsurface melting of the glaciers passed a critical threshold which triggered the sudden ice loss. However, compared to other regions in Antarctica, the Southern Peninsula is rather understudied, exactly because it did not show any changes in the past, ironically.

“To pinpoint the cause of the changes, more data need to be collected. A detailed knowledge of the geometry of the local ice shelves, the ocean floor topography, ice sheet thickness and glacier flow speeds are crucial to tell how much longer the thinning will continue.”

Cold weather kills far more people than hot weather .


Cold weather kills 20 times as many people as hot weather, according to an international study analyzing over 74 million deaths in 384 locations across 13 countries.

Cold weather kills 20 times as many people as hot weather, according to an international study analyzing over 74 million deaths in 384 locations across 13 countries. The findings, published in The Lancet, also reveal that deaths due to moderately hot or cold weather substantially exceed those resulting from extreme heat waves or cold spells.

“It’s often assumed that extreme weather causes the majority of deaths, with most previous research focusing on the effects of extreme heat waves,” says lead author Dr Antonio Gasparrini from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine in the UK. “Our findings, from an analysis of the largest dataset of temperature-related deaths ever collected, show that the majority of these deaths actually happen on moderately hot and cold days, with most deaths caused by moderately cold temperatures.”

The study analysed over 74 million (74,225,200) deaths between 1985 and 2012 in 13 countries with a wide range of climates, from cold to subtropical. Data on daily average temperature, death rates, and confounding variables (eg, humidity and air pollution) were used to calculate the temperature of minimum mortality (the optimal temperature), and to quantify total deaths due to non-optimal ambient temperature in each location. The researchers then estimated the relative contributions of heat and cold, from moderate to extreme temperatures.

Around 7.71% of all deaths were caused by non-optimal temperatures, with substantial differences between countries, ranging from around 3% in Thailand, Brazil, and Sweden to about 11% in China, Italy, and Japan. Cold was responsible for the majority of these deaths (7.29% of all deaths), while just 0.42% of all deaths were attributable to heat.

The study also found that extreme temperatures were responsible for less than 1% of all deaths, while mildly sub-optimal temperatures accounted for around 7% of all deaths — with most (6.66% of all deaths) related to moderate cold.

According to Dr Gasparrini, “Current public-health policies focus almost exclusively on minimizing the health consequences of heat waves. Our findings suggest that these measures need to be refocused and extended to take account of a whole range of effects associated with temperature.”

Writing in a linked Comment, Keith Dear and Zhan Wang from Duke Kunshan University, Kunshan, Jiangsu, China say, “Factors such as susceptibility or resilience have not been included in the analysis, including socioeconomic status, age, and confounding air pollutants…Since high or low temperatures affect susceptible groups such as unwell, young, and elderly people the most, attempts to mitigate the risk associated with temperature would benefit from in-depth studies of the interaction between attributable mortality and socioeconomic factors, to avoid adverse policy outcomes and achieve effective adaptation.”

Fine particulate air pollution linked to risk of childhood autism .



Fine particulate air pollution refers to particles found in the air that are less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter, or 1/30th the average width of a human hair. It can be found in dust, dirt, soot and smoke.
Credit: © Iliana Mihaleva / Fotolia

Exposure to fine particulate air pollution during pregnancy through the first two years of a child’s life may be associated with an increased risk of the child developing autism spectrum disorder (ASD), a condition that affects one in 68 children, according to a University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health investigation of children in southwestern Pennsylvania.

The research is funded by The Heinz Endowments and published in the July edition of Environmental Research.

“Autism spectrum disorders are lifelong conditions for which there is no cure and limited treatment options, so there is an urgent need to identify any risk factors that we could mitigate, such as pollution,” said lead author Evelyn Talbott, Dr.P.H., professor of epidemiology at Pitt Public Health. “Our findings reflect an association, but do not prove causality. Further investigation is needed to determine possible biological mechanisms for such an association.”

Dr. Talbott and her colleagues performed a population-based, case-control study of families with and without ASD living in six southwestern Pennsylvania counties. They obtained detailed information about where the mothers lived before, during and after pregnancy and, using a model developed by Pitt Public Health assistant professor and study co-author Jane Clougherty, Sc.D., were able to estimate individual exposure to a type of air pollution called PM2.5.

This type of pollution refers to particles found in the air that are less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter, or 1/30th the average width of a human hair. PM2.5 includes dust, dirt, soot and smoke. Because of its small size, PM2.5 can reach deeply into the lungs and get into the blood stream. Southwestern Pennsylvania has consistently ranked among the nation’s worst regions for PM2.5 levels, according to data collected by the American Lung Association.

“There is increasing and compelling evidence that points to associations between Pittsburgh’s poor air quality and health problems, especially those affecting our children and including issues such as autism spectrum disorder and asthma,” said Grant Oliphant, president of The Heinz Endowments. “While we recognize that further study is needed, we must remain vigilant about the need to improve our air quality and to protect the vulnerable. Our community deserves a healthy environment and clean air.”

Autism spectrum disorders are a range of conditions characterized by social deficits and communication difficulties that typically become apparent early in childhood. Reported cases of ASD have risen nearly eight-fold in the last two decades. While previous studies have shown the increase to be partially due to changes in diagnostic practices and greater public awareness of autism, this does not fully explain the increased prevalence. Both genetic and environmental factors are believed to be responsible.

Dr. Talbott and her team interviewed the families of 211 children with ASD and 219 children without ASD born between 2005 and 2009. The families lived in Allegheny, Armstrong, Beaver, Butler, Washington and Westmoreland counties. Estimated average exposure to PM2.5 before, during and after pregnancy was compared between children with and without ASD.

Based on the child’s exposure to concentrations of PM2.5 during the mother’s pregnancy and the first two years of life, the Pitt Public Health team found that children who fell into higher exposure groups were at an approximate 1.5-fold greater risk of ASD after accounting for other factors associated with the child’s risk for ASD — such as the mother’s age, education and smoking during pregnancy. This risk estimate is in agreement with several other recent investigations of PM2.5 and autism.

A previous Pitt Public Health analysis of the study population revealed an association between ASD and increased levels of air toxics, including chromium and styrene. Studies by other institutions using different populations also have associated pollutants with ASD.

“Air pollution levels have been declining since the 1990s; however, we know that pockets of increased levels of air pollution remain throughout our region and other areas,” said Dr. Talbott. “Our study builds on previous work in other regions showing that pollution exposures may be involved in ASD. Going forward, I would like to see studies that explore the biological mechanisms that may underlie this association.”

Blood to feeling: Scientists turn adult human blood cells into neurons


Scientists at McMaster University have discovered how to make adult sensory neurons from human patients simply by having them roll up their sleeve and providing a blood sample.

Specifically, stem cell scientists at McMaster can now directly convert adult human blood cells to both central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) neurons as well as neurons in the peripheral nervous system (rest of the body) that are responsible for pain, temperature and itch perception. This means that how a person’s nervous system cells react and respond to stimuli, can be determined from his blood.

The breakthrough, published online today and featured on the cover of the journal Cell Reports, was led by Mick Bhatia, director of the McMaster Stem Cell and Cancer Research Institute. He holds the Canada Research Chair in Human Stem Cell Biology and is a professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Biomedical Sciences of the Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine. Also playing a key role was Karun Singh, a co-author in the study and holder of the David Braley Chair in Human Stem Cell Research.

Currently, scientists and physicians have a limited understanding of the complex issue of pain and how to treat it. The peripheral nervous system is made up of different types of nerves — some are mechanical (feel pressure) and others detect temperature (heat). In extreme conditions, pain or numbness is perceived by the brain using signals sent by these peripheral nerves.

“The problem is that unlike blood, a skin sample or even a tissue biopsy, you can’t take a piece of a patient’s neural system. It runs like complex wiring throughout the body and portions cannot be sampled for study,” said Bhatia.

“Now we can take easy to obtain blood samples, and make the main cell types of neurological systems — the central nervous system and the peripheral nervous system — in a dish that is specialized for each patient,” said Bhatia. “Nobody has ever done this with adult blood. Ever.

“We can actually take a patient’s blood sample, as routinely performed in a doctor’s office, and with it we can produce one million sensory neurons, that make up the peripheral nerves in short order with this new approach. We can also make central nervous system cells, as the blood to neural conversion technology we developed creates neural stem cells during the process of conversion.”

His team’s revolutionary, patented direct conversion technology has “broad and immediate applications,” said Bhatia, adding that it allows researchers to start asking questions about understanding disease and improving treatments such as: Why is it that certain people feel pain versus numbness? Is this something genetic? Can the neuropathy that diabetic patients experience be mimicked in a dish?

It also paves the way for the discovery of new pain drugs that don’t just numb the perception of pain. Bhatia said non-specific opioids used for decades are still being used today.

“If I was a patient and I was feeling pain or experiencing neuropathy, the prized pain drug for me would target the peripheral nervous system neurons, but do nothing to the central nervous system, thus avoiding non-addictive drug side effects,” said Bhatia.

“You don’t want to feel sleepy or unaware, you just want your pain to go away. But, up until now, no one’s had the ability and required technology to actually test different drugs to find something that targets the peripheral nervous system and not the central nervous system in a patient specific, or personalized manner.”

Bhatia’s team successfully tested their process using fresh blood, but also cryopreserved (frozen) blood. Since blood samples are taken and frozen with many clinical trials, this allows them “almost a bit of a time machine” to go back and explore questions around pain or neuropathy to run tests on neurons created from blood samples of patients taken in past clinical trials where responses and outcomes have already been recorded.”

In the future, the process may have prognostic potential, explained Bhatia, in that one might be able to look at a patient with Type 2 Diabetes and predict whether they will experience neuropathy by running tests in the lab using their own neural cells derived from their blood sample.

“This bench to bedside research is very exciting and will have a major impact on the management of neurological diseases, particularly neuropathic pain,” said Akbar Panju, medical director of the Michael G. DeGroote Institute for Pain Research and Care, a clinician and professor of medicine.

“This research will help us understand the response of cells to different drugs and different stimulation responses, and allow us to provide individualized or personalized medical therapy for patients suffering with neuropathic pain.”

This research was supported by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, Ontario Institute of Regenerative Medicine, Marta and Owen Boris Foundation, J.P. Bickell Foundation, and the Ontario Brain Institute and Brain Canada.

20 Things You Didn’t Know About The Periodic Table


periodic-table

1  You may remember the Periodic Table of the Elements as a dreary chart on your classroom wall. If so, you never guessed its real purpose: It’s a giant cheat sheet.

2  The table has served chemistry students since 1869, when it was created by Dmitry Mendeleyev, a cranky professor at the University of St. Petersburg.

 With a publisher’s deadline looming, Mendeleyev didn’t have time to describe all 63 then-known elements. So he turned to a data set of atomic weightsmeticulously gathered by others.

4  To determine those weights, scientists had passed currents through various solutions to break them up into their constituent atoms. Responding to a battery’s polarity, the atoms of one element would go thisaway, the atoms of another thataway. The atoms were collected in separate containers and then weighed.

 From this process, chemists determined relative weights—which were all Mendeleyev needed to establish a useful ranking.

6  Fond of card games, he wrote the weight for each element on a separate index card and sorted them as in solitaire. Elements with similar properties formed a “suit” that he placed in columns ordered by ascending atomic weight.

7  Now he had a new Periodic Law (“Elements arranged according to the value of their atomic weights present a clear periodicity of properties”) that described one pattern for all 63 elements.

 Where Mendeleyev’s table had blank spaces, he correctly predicted the weights and chemical behaviors of some missing elements—gallium, scandium, and germanium.

 But when argon was discovered in 1894, it didn’t fit into any of Mendeleyev’s columns, so he denied its existence—as he did for helium, neon, krypton, xenon, and radon.

10  In 1902 he acknowledged he had not anticipated the existence of these overlooked, incredibly unreactive elements—the noble gases—which now constitute the entire eighth group of the table.

11  Now we sort elements by their number of protons, or “atomic number,” which determines an atom’s configuration of oppositely charged electrons and hence its chemical properties.

12  Noble gases (far right on the periodic table) have closed shells of electrons, which is why they are nearly inert.

13  Atomic love: Take a modern periodic table, cut out the complicated middle columns, and fold it once along the middle of the Group 4 elements. The groups that kiss have complementary electron structures and will combine with each other.

14  Sodium touches chlorine—table salt! You can predict other common compounds like potassium chloride, used in very large doses as part of a lethal injection.

15  The Group 4 elements (shown as IVA above) in the middle bond readily with each other and with themselves. Silicon + silicon + silicon ad infinitum links up into crystalline lattices, used to make semiconductors for computers.

16  Carbon atoms—also Group 4—bond in long chains, and voilà: sugars. The chemical flexibility of carbon is what makes it the key molecule of life.

17  Mendeleyev wrongly assumed that all elements are unchanging. But radioactive atoms have unstable nuclei, meaning they can move around the chart. For example, uranium (element 92) gradually decays into a whole series of lighter elements, ending with lead (element 82).

18  Beyond the edge: Atoms with atomic numbers higher than 92 do not exist naturally, but they can be created by bombarding elements with other elements or pieces of them.

19  The two newest members of the periodic table, still-unnamed elements 114 and 116, were officially recognized last June. Number 116 decays and disappears in milliseconds. (Three elements, 110 to 112, were also officially named earlier this month.)

20  Physicist Richard Feynman once predicted that number 137 defines the table’s outer limit; adding any more protons would produce an energy that could be quantified only by an imaginary number, rendering element 138 and higher impossible. Maybe.

Childhood Parasomnia, Like Nightmares, May Significantly Increase Risk For Psychotic Symptoms


The term parasomnia is one experts use to classify sleep abnormalities and disorders, such as nightmares, night terrors, and sleepwalking. And according to a new study published in the British Journal of Psychiatry, children who experience parasomnias may experience psychotic symptoms when they grow older.

“We have previously demonstrated a cross-sectional relationship between the presence of nightmares and night terrors and psychotic experiences at age 12,” researchers wrote. “However, it is essential to determine whether parasomnias are possible precursors of psychotic experiences using longitudinal data. Therefore, we examined the relationship between the most common parasomnias in childhood…to later psychotic experiences reported at 18 years using data from a large UK birth cohort.”

The cohort is the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children, which began in order to see what factors into development, health, and disease during childhood. The present study culls the cohort’s parental reports and participant interviews to assess individuals’ experience with nightmares at certain ages throughout the study: between ages 2 and 9; age 12; and age 18.

The results showed those who have nightmares and night terrors at age 12 are more likely to experience psychotic symptoms at age 18. However, this link was influenced by cofounding variables, such as age, mood, family history, as well as baseline psychotic experiences at age 12.

“The presence of anxiety and depressive symptoms as confounding factors in those with sleep disturbance could potentially explain the findings,” Dr. Andrew Thompson, lead study author from Warwick Medical School, said inpress release. “Experience of stressful events has also been related to both the development of both nightmares and psychotic symptoms in late childhood and may be important.”

While this confirms the prior study’s finding of a relationship between nightmares, night terrors, and psychotic symptoms, it doesn’t speak to sleepwalking. And in this study, the relationship with night terrors wasn’t as strong. Even so, researchers conclude these findings “suggest that specific parasomnias … are a potential risk indicator for the development of … psychotic experiences.”

The National Sleep Foundation reported parasomnias often run in the family, and there may be a genetic factor in many cases. Brain disorders, too, influence parasomnias, as do other sleep disorders, such as obstructive sleep apnea.

But for some, parasomnias can be improved just by adopting healthy sleep habits. Maintaining a regular schedule, managing stress, and getting the recommended amount of sleep can control symptoms. Drug therapies are also available.

Source: Fisher L, Wolke D, et al. Childhood sleep disturbance and risk of psychotic experiences at 18: UK birth cohort. British Journal of Psychiatry. 2015.

Over 100 Scientific Studies Agree: Cannabis Annihilates Cancer


Considering that up until about 85 years ago, cannabis oil was used around the world to treat a variety of diseases, including cancer, it is not surprising that the phasing out of cannabis to treat illness coincided with the rise of pharmaceutical companies.

Over 100 Scientific Studies Agree - Cannabis Annihilates Cancer

Rick Simpson, a medical marijuana activist, is on a crusade to help others heal. He regards cannabis as the most medicinally active plant on the face of the earth, and shared this apparent miracle with others — completely free of charge. He now has thousands of testimonials from those who were healed from ‘incurable’ disease to back up his claims ~ that cannabis annihilates cancer.

For the naysayers out there who are still not convinced about the effectiveness of cannabis for curing cancer, the astounding healing attributes of the plant are well documented by a wealth of peer-reviewed studies.

Traditional medicinal plant backed by modern medicine

Breast cancer

A study in Molecular Cancer Therapeutics explored the relationship between the use of cannabidiol (CBD) and the subsequent down regulation of breast cancer tumor aggressiveness. The researchers concluded that CBD represents the first nontoxic agent to decrease the aggressiveness of metastic breast cancer cells in vivo.

Several additional studies support these findings, including “Pathways mediating the effects of cannabidiol on the reduction of breast cancer cell proliferation, invasion and metastasis” and “Cannabinoids: a new hope for breast cancer therapy?

Furthermore, the journal PLoS One reports further evidence of how cannabinoids modulate breast cancer tumor growth and metastasis by inhibiting specific receptors.

Colon cancer

As published in Pharmacological Research:

“Studies on epithelial cells have shown that cannabinoids exert antiproliferative, antimetastatic and apoptotic effects as well as reducing cytokine release and promoting wound healing. In vivo, cannabinoids – via direct or indirect activation of CB(1) and/or CB(2) receptors – exert protective effects in well-established models of intestinal inflammation and colon cancer.”

The team concluded that the administration of cannabinoids “may be a promising strategy to counteract intestinal inflammation and colon cancer.”

Moreover, research in the Scandinavian Journal of Gastroenterology established that colon cancer cell lines were strongly affected by cannabinoids.

Leukemia

Cannabis was shown to induce cytotoxicity in leukemia cell lines, according the the journalBlood:

“We have shown that THC is a potent inducer of apoptosis, even at 1 x IC(50) (inhibitory concentration 50%) concentrations and as early as 6 hours after exposure to the drug. These effects were seen in leukemic cell lines (CEM, HEL-92, and HL60) as well as in peripheral blood mononuclear cells.”

It also did not appear that the cannabis was simply aiding other chemo drugs — it was independently bringing about results with the active compound THC responsible for cancer cell death in vitro.

Likewise, a study in the Molecular Pharmacology Journal found that non psychoactive cannabidiol dramatically induced apoptosis (cell death) in leukemia cells. “Together, the results from this study reveal that cannabidiol, acting through CB2 and regulation of Nox4 and p22(phox) expression, may be a novel and highly selective treatment for leukemia.”

Two additional studies, “p38 MAPK is involved in CB2 receptor-induced apoptosis of human leukemia cells” and “Gamma-irradiation enhances apoptosis induced by cannabidiol, a non-psychotropic cannabinoid, in cultured HL-60 myeloblastic leukemia cells“, also demonstrated the effectiveness of cannabis in promoting leukemia cell death.

Immunity

Research published in the paper Prostaglandins, Leukotrienes and Essential Fatty Acidsfound that cannabinoid compounds play a vital role in modulating the immune system to improve the outcome of a cancer diagnosis. In short, the team believes “[t]he experimental evidence reviewed in this article argues in favor of the therapeutic potential of these compounds in immune disorders and cancer.”

Moreover, the study Cannabinoids and the immune system confirms that cannabimimetic agents have substantial effects on natural killer cells, thereby providing therapeutic usefulness in reducing tumor growth and the induction of apoptosis. Therefore, cannabis demonstrates a “subtle but significant role in the regulation of immunity and that this role can eventually be exploited in the management of human disease.”

Cervical cancer

Uterine cervical cancer cells are significantly influenced by cannabis as well. Published inGynecologic Oncology, the research team discovered that the compound induced apoptosis in cervical carcinoma (CxCa) cell lines.

Melanoma

The most deadly form of skin cancer, melanoma has relatively few options of treatment beyond prevention and early detection. With this in mind, the findings of the study Cannabinoid receptors as novel targets for the treatment of melanoma are of particular note. In animal tests, cannabinoids encouraged cancer cell death, while decreasing growth, proliferation and metastasis of melanoma cells.

Non melanoma skin cancers also respond well to cannabinoids. According to research in the Journal of Clinical Investigation:

“Local administration of [cannabinoids] induced a considerable growth inhibition of malignant tumors generated by inoculation of epidermal tumor cells into nude mice. Cannabinoid-treated tumors showed an increased number of apoptotic cells. This was accompanied by impairment of tumor vascularization, as determined by altered blood vessel morphology and decreased expression of proangiogenic factors (VEGF, placental growth factor, and angiopoietin 2). … These results support a new therapeutic approach for the treatment of skin tumors.”

These are just a few examples — among hundreds — that demonstrate the effectiveness of cannabis in eradicating cancer without adverse side-effects. Additionally, the following documentary explores the history and modern uses of cannabis to heal serious diseases such as cancer, AIDS, Crohn’s disease & more.

Watch the video. URL:https://youtu.be/VsDic2na8co

Thunder god vine used in traditional Chinese medicine is a potential obesity treatment


An extract from the thunder god vine, which has a long history of use in traditional Chinese medicine, reduces food intake and causes up to a 45% decrease in body weight in obese mice. The weight-loss compound, called Celastrol, produces its potent effects by enhancing the action of an appetite-suppressing hormone called leptin. The findings, published May 21 in Cell, are an early indicator that Celastrol could be developed into a drug for the treatment of obesity.

“During the last two decades, there has been an enormous amount of effort to treat obesity by breaking down leptin resistance, but these efforts have failed,” says senior study author Umut Ozcan, an endocrinologist atBoston Children’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School. “The message from this study is that there is still hope for making leptin work, and there is still hope for treating obesity. If Celastrol works in humans as it does in mice, it could be a powerful way to treat obesity and improve the health of many patients suffering from obesity and associated complications, such as heart disease, fatty liver, and type 2 diabetes.”

Leptin is a fat-cell-derived hormone that signals to the brain when the body has enough fuel and energy. Humans and mice that lack leptin signaling eat voraciously and become morbidly obese, suggesting that leptin-enhancing drugs may be effective for treating obesity. But leptin does not reduce hunger or in obese individuals despite high levels of the hormone in the bloodstream, leading many researchers to speculate that leptin insensitivity is the root cause of obesity. Despite longstanding research efforts, drugs that can effectively alleviate leptin resistance have not yet been found. However, one potential clue to this problem came several years ago when Ozcan and his team discovered that leptin resistance is associated with a stress response in a cell structure called the endoplasmic reticulum (ER).

In the new study, Ozcan and his team screened an existing database containing whole-genome gene expression profiles from human cells that were treated with more than one thousand small molecules. They found that Celastrol was the most effective at producing an expression profile that could be associated with improved ER function and leptin sensitivity in human cells. Within only one week of Celastrol treatment, obese mice reduced their food intake by about 80% compared to untreated . By the end of the third week, treated mice lost 45% of their initial body weight almost entirely by burning fat stores.

An artist’s depiction of the thunder god vine vs. obesity in mice. Credit: Eric Smith

This dramatic weight loss is greater than that produced by bariatric surgery—an operation on the stomach and/or intestines that helps patients with extreme obesity to lose weight. Moreover, Celastrol decreased cholesterol levels and improved liver function and glucose metabolism, which collectively may translate into a lower risk of heart disease, fatty liver, and type 2 diabetes.

Even though Celastrol did not produce toxic effects in mice, Ozcan strongly urges caution for now because in-depth toxicology studies and controlled clinical trials are needed to demonstrate the compound’s safety in humans. “Celastrol is found in the roots of the thunder god vine in small amounts, but the plant’s roots and flowers have many other compounds,” he says. “As a result, it could be dangerous for humans to consume thunder god vine extracts to lose weight.”

In future studies, Ozcan and his team will investigate the molecular mechanisms by which Celastrol improves leptin sensitivity and produces . “We have been heavily focusing on this line of research in my laboratory and hope that this approach will help us to understand the mechanisms in nature that are leading to the development of obesity,” Ozcan says. “In the end, my main goal is to see this research leading to a novel and powerful treatment for in humans.”

ScienceAlert


http://www.sciencealert.com/the-woman-who-looked-at-faces-and-saw-dragons