How To Let Go Of Blame And Live A Happy Life

How To Let Go Of Blame And Live A Happy Life“Even a happy life cannot be without a measure of darkness, and the word happy would lose its meaning if it were not balanced by sadness. It is far better take things as they come along with patience and equanimity.” ~ Carl Gustav Jung

I grew up in a financially turbulent home. My mom raised my sisters and me as a single mother. She lived paycheck to paycheck, often gathering coins from underneath couch cushions to buy food or other necessities as her money ran out mid-week.

It wasn’t easy for her– paying rent, supporting three kids with little outside support and working full-time, but she did it.

My father left when I was two. I often fantasized as a child about what he was like and why he left. Sometimes I wondered if he was alive at all, as my mother never talked about him. Overall, I was a happy child. My sisters and I were highly imaginative and loved playing outside, getting dirty and being with our friends. It wasn’t until we were in middle school that I started to realize we weren’t like other families around us.

There were times we went without heat and hot water for months at a time. There were times we collected food for our meals from a local church. But, the reality is my mom did the best she could at that time in her life and my sisters and I knew that.

As I grew into a teenager, I rebelled against my life’s circumstances. I was angry, and resentful. Why was I poor? Why did I have to be born into a broken, struggling family? Why did my dad leave? All of these things snowballed into me making excuses to drink, skip school and sink into deep depression. Ultimately, I blamed my circumstances for my unhappiness and in turn I disempowered myself.

By the time I was 17 I hit my own rock bottom. I was kicked out of school because my mom could no longer afford tuition. We couldn’t afford food, heat or hot water. Letters of foreclosure tormented our front door. My friendships were fading. I had no motivation, no hope for the future and no appreciation for my life. I would sit in my room cutting my wrists, feeling sorry for myself.

The time came to make a decision– exit this life or start living it. As I sat sobbing one day on my cold wooden floor, ready to bloody my wrists, I woke up. “What are you doing to yourself?” An internal voice demanded. “What am I doing?” I questioned.

I put the razor down, wiped the tears from my eyes and opened myself to a shifted perspective- one where I took responsibility and accountability for my life.

At first it was not easy, as I had to shift my mindset and take accept my life’s current realities. No one in this world was responsible for the quality of my life except for me and this was a hard truth to grasp.

These days, life is much different. I do not begrudge people for the past, instead I thank them. If my life experience had been different, I would be different, and I love who I am now (this certainly was not always the case).

The reality is, there comes a time when you will also have a choice to make. Are you going to live in the past and blame others for your life, or are you going to take responsibility for the gatekeeper of your physical experience (you) and live the life you want?

Here’s how to let go of blame and live a Happy Life:

1. Leave the past in the past.

When you blame others for your life you give away your power. It doesn’t matter what happened to you in the past– your spouse cheated on you, a parent abandoned you, a friend stole from you. Whatever bad things may have happened to you in the past are in the past. Do not allow the past to take away from your now. This moment, right here, is a new opportunity to start loving yourself and living your life for you.

“People spend too much time finding other people to blame, too much energy finding excuses for not being what they are capable of being, and not enough energy putting themselves on the line, growing out of the past, and getting on with their lives.” ~ J. Michael Straczynski

2. Forgive.

Forgive others when they hurt you. If you hold grudges toxic energy akin to snake venom circulates through your body, ultimately poisoning your happiness. Let go of negative emotions- they do not serve you. Forgiveness is powerful and healing. It allows your soul and energy to become realigned with source energy and the universe.

I used to blame my father for a lot of the bad things in my life. I felt he acted as a coward when he left, and it didn’t matter to him if I lived or died. Time after time, I believed he chose women over me, and I wondered how he could do that to his only child. The reality was, my father had his own demons haunting him from his troubled childhood. His life was imperfect, and so was he, as are we all. The day I forgave him was one of the most profound days of my life because I no longer carried around what felt like a million pounds of baggage on my shoulders. I started sending him love, and thanks because had he not left I would not be this version of me and I would not have had the opportunity to live through so many incredibly eye-opening experiences and ultimately grow into a more well-rounded, forgiving, grateful, determined and successful person.

Every human on this planet makes mistakes, and does things they later regret and wish to take back. The best thing we can do in these circumstances is offer love and forgiveness.

3. Live gratefully.

Gratitude is a powerful force. When you are grateful for what you already have, you will keep finding more to be grateful for. What can you say thank you for today? Perhaps your life, your lungs, your heart, your body, your mind, your health, your children, love (I’m sure you get the point).

When I first started my gratitude journey feeling odd about saying thank you.This was because I was not used to being grateful for the blessings in my life. I began by keeping a journal, and recording three things every single day that I was thankful for. There was no real criteria for me to follow, other than every day I had to choose three new things to say thanks for. After a few months of practicing this I noticed I was happier and more energized. I began seeing my life through a new lens, one of abundance rather than lack.

4. Send love.

“Where there is no love, put love — and you will find love.” ~ St. John of the Cross

Life is a journey full of experiences and lessons. When something goes wrong or someone treats you badly, send love into the universe and to everyone around you.

Did a lady during rush hour traffic push you out of the way to get onto the subway first? Did someone cut you off on the freeway? Is your boss acting passive aggressively? Are you fighting with a friend or family member? Did someone steal your money?

Send love. Allow these circumstances to pass through you like a quick breath of air, in and out. If you send them love and move on with your life, they will become powerless past situations your body will soon forget. In turn, you will receive love from the universe, for everything you put out comes back twofold.

5. Put envy aside.

Envy is a useless emotion. It serves no purpose other than to make you wish you were something you are not. I remember I used to envy this girl I worked with ten years ago. She was beautiful and talented. She graduated with the same degree I had and was quickly making waves in the professional world, meanwhile I was struggling to find a “normal” job. I fantasized about how wonderful it would be to be her, even just for a day.

Then one day I woke up and found out she was dead. She had died of a drug overdose. The whole time I was imagining she had a perfect and happy life, when in fact she was struggling with addiction and depression. She taught me not to envy others, for we never know the truth behind the appearance.

Ultimately, each of us has a special talent to offer the world. It is up to us to find the treasures hidden inside of us and use them as a positive force to bring light, happiness and love into the world. Our circumstances and experiences serve as launching pads to assist in motivating us to find our purpose and journey. Live your life in love with every moment and allow the magic of the universe to materialize into your experience.

Back to the Future of Global Health Security

Growing populations, rising global temperatures, urbanization, and easier trade and travel are all changing the world in ways conducive to the spread of infectious disease. The recent Ebola and Zika outbreaks have dominated news headlines and their toll has been terrible, but a more lethal infectious disease could do far worse harm.

“For infectious diseases, you cannot trust the past when planning for the future,” warned Margaret Chan, the head of the World Health Organization (WHO), at the World Health Assembly last week in Geneva. “What we are seeing,” she said, is “a dramatic resurgence of the threat from emerging and reemerging infectious diseases. The world is not prepared to cope.”

ZikaA health worker fumigates inside a home in a neighborhood after Nicaragua’s government declared an epidemiological alert due to the increase of dengue cases and Zika in Managua, Nicaragua May 9, 2016. (Photo: Oswaldo Rivas/Reuters)

To improve pandemic preparedness we must embrace the hard-won lessons of the past decade in global health, not ignore them. This is true in deploying people and resources to prepare for the inevitability of future outbreaks, but even more so when it comes to accelerating the development of the medical tools to diagnose, treat, and prevent those infectious disease outbreaks from turning into epidemics, or even pandemics.

After Ebola and Zika

After widespread concerns over the global response to the Ebola crisis, four separate review panels convened and made similar recommendations for improving the WHO’s capacity to manage dangerous disease events. Most of the proposed reforms are sensible, but depend on institutional, financial, and legal commitments that WHO member countries have been unwilling to make for more than a decade.

While the Ebola and Zika epidemics and rising alarm over yellow fever should motivate WHO member countries to do more, it is not self-evident that they will. Similar concerns were also expressed following outbreaks of SARS (2003), H1N1 (2009–2010), MERS (2012), and Chikungunya (2014–15). There may be more hope for creative approaches to capacity building. The new World Bank Pandemic Emergency Financing Facility (a $500 million outbreak insurance mechanism for poor countries) and the alliance for country-led assessment of compliance with the International Health Regulations (the legal rules supporting global health security) must be expanded and better resourced, but they are moves in the right direction.

Particularly given the slow pace of WHO reform and lagging improvements in countries’ surveillance and response capabilities, the role of groundbreaking innovations in medical technologies will be critical. Diagnostics, prophylactics, and treatment aren’t the only answers to the increasing threat of emerging infectious disease, but they can help control epidemics early and ensure the sustained engagement of medical personnel and volunteers.

Successfully spurring more development of medical tools won’t come primarily from extending the capacities of governments or intergovernmental institutions. Instead, it depends on inspiring, enabling, and coordinating the activities of the private sector, academia, and nonprofits. Each participant has a critical role to play. Governments bring their public health mandate, resources, and regulatory oversight. The private sector offers critical technologies, manufacturing assets, and expertise in commercializing and scaling innovations. Nonprofits and academic institutions have research and development capabilities, global reach into poor communities, and the mission to work on tough issues where markets otherwise fail.

All of these roles are essential, but they aren’t often well aligned. In the two years since the Ebola outbreak in West Africa began, hundreds of millions of dollars have been invested in clinical trials for more than a dozen drug and vaccine candidates, but no vaccine or drug for Ebola has been submitted for regulatory approval. And while it’s been nearly a year since reports first linked birth defects to the Zika virus in Brazil, there are still no adequately sensitive diagnostics to test for the virus and no clear vaccine candidate to prevent it.

Lessons From the Last Decade in Global Health

With more outbreaks on the horizon, we can’t afford to repeat this cycle of uncertain priorities and wasted time and investments. International mechanisms must be established to coordinate the upstream research and development (R&D) of new medical tools to respond to priority pathogens and the downstream testing, manufacturing, and delivery of those tools as part of the larger humanitarian response to an ongoing outbreak. These mechanisms may need to be governed separately, with the former operated as an independent entity or R&D network and the latter attached to an intergovernmental institution with the mandate and credibility to work with manufacturers and pandemic response and regulatory authorities.

With more outbreaks on the horizon, we can’t afford to repeat this cycle of uncertain priorities and wasted time and investments.

The following four lessons from past efforts to spur more technological innovation to address health needs of the world’s poor may provide ideas on how these mechanisms might function.

Lesson 1: Ensure adequate and sustainable long-term investment

Technological innovation requires predictable, sustained, and sufficient investment. Annual R&D funding for HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other infectious diseases rose to nearly $3.4 billion in 2015, a more than thirtyfold increase from a decade ago. While still a modest amount when measured against the wide range of health challenges that disproportionately affect the 5.7 billion people living in low- and middle-income countries, it is driving significant improvements in everything from maternal and childhood mortality to life expectancy. Perhaps the most dramatic example is the MenAfriVac vaccine. Developed and introduced by PATH and the WHO in 2010 for just 50 cents per dose, after years of sustained investment it has now been given to more than 230 million people and nearly eliminated the epidemics that regularly killed thousands in the African meningitis belt.

Ad hoc funding requests are not conducive to an effective pandemic response, and they all but guarantee that the essential work of medical R&D will not be successful. Even amid political wrangling between the White House and the U.S. Congress over the latest emergency funding request (for Zika) there is bipartisan interest in medical R&D. The negotiators should take advantage of that interest to pursue a more flexible, robust, and long-term appropriation of R&D funds. Those resources should not come at the expense of U.S. investments in health systems and surveillance needed to advance global health security.

Additional U.S. investments should be used to seed a more effective, long- term global response to the shared challenge of global health security. Governments from around the world must also shoulder more of the responsibility for investing in the necessary R&D. While more sustained donor investment is necessary, it is unlikely to be sufficient to achieve the global health security agenda. Innovative financing mechanisms can create incentives to draw in private finance and returnable capital in this challenging just-in-time environment.

Lesson 2: Coordinate R&D around a roadmap of priority goals

The rush of companies and nonprofits to pursue drug, vaccines, and diagnostic candidates amid a global health crisis is laudable but unsustainable. Medical technology R&D costs increase greatly with later stage clinical development. The trials sites and researchers necessary to support that work are scarce. Companies and NGOs that devote significant resources to respond to one outbreak with nothing to show for it are unlikely to do so again.

The United States, working together with other governments, donors, and technical agencies, should set up an independent scientific advisory committee to develop a roadmap to accelerate development of vaccines and diagnostics to improve global health security. This roadmap should focus on pathogens where more market mechanisms for R&D have failed, and prioritize the development of platform technologies that can be used against multiple diseases. The WHO has already developed a preliminary list of target pathogens. The Scientific Committee should monitor compliance with the roadmap and be linked to the global fund or networks of funders established to support this work. The funding must be sufficient to cover the cost to private companies of foregoing commercially viable projects to work on drugs or vaccines against these high-priority pathogens.

Lesson 3: Engage and energize a network of geographically distributed multi-sector partners

Researchers and manufacturers in emerging economies play an increasingly central role in global health. For instance, the low per-dose cost and wide reach of MenAfriVac was possible only because of the engagement of the Serum Institute of India, the vaccine’s manufacturer. Investments in global health security R&D should not disproportionately favor multinationals at the expense of innovators in emerging economies, who often have the cost structures and ability to respond to domestic markets in ways that global players may not.

Being prepared requires a plan that identifies and commits geographically distributed rapid development and manufacturing facilities to respond to epidemics, with negotiation of the necessary contractual arrangements in advance. Broad geographic engagement of private, public, and social sector partners will help diminish concerns that manufacturers may, in a crisis, prioritize national or commercial interests over global health needs. The 2011 agreement on pandemic influenza preparedness (PIP) framework for sharing influenza viruses, access to vaccines, and other benefits may be a model for addressing these concerns.

Lesson 4: Remember that sustainability depends on adequate systems and equitable access

One important lesson of the last decade is that it is not enough to fund global health technologies without the corresponding investments in the regulatory and procurement systems needed to develop and deliver those technologies and ensure their post-market safety. There must be a framework in place that identifies the stringent regulatory authorities that will approve studies and experimental treatments. There must also be clear rules about decision-making processes for “permission to use” investigational medical products. Regional, cooperative approaches to clinical trial oversight and registration offer a promisingapproach for countries with nascent regulatory authorities.

One important lesson of the last decade is that it is not enough to fund global health technologies without the corresponding investments in the regulatory and procurement systems needed to develop and deliver those technologies.

Product development partnerships such as the Medicines for Malaria Ventures and the Meningitis Vaccine Project have successfully used these principles to create a transparent framework for intellectual property management. This approach provides incentives for private investment in technology development while ensuring the resulting drugs, vaccines, and diagnostics are affordable and accessible, particularly in emergencies. Use of these access principles may be tied to participation in international global health security R&D funds.


Creating a sustainable and coordinated environment for supporting innovation is key to advancing the goal of improved global health security. This is true whether it is investing in “just-in-case” preparedness or a “just-in-time” response to an outbreak. Implementing the hard-learned lessons from the last decade in global health can help achieve this goal while ensuring that the assets, resources, and commitments of partners across various sectors all fully contribute to enhancing global security.

Designed in Seattle, this $1 cup could save millions of babies

A caregiver in India uses a specially designed cup, developed by Seattle researchers, to feed a premature baby who had trouble nursing. (PATH)

A caregiver in India uses a specially designed cup, developed by Seattle researchers, to feed a premature baby who had trouble nursing. (PATH)
Dr. Michael Cunningham, director of Seattle Children’s Craniofacial Center, is part of the Seattle-based team that created the feeding cup for premature and high-risk babies who have difficulty nursing.
Dr. Michael Cunningham, of the Seattle Children’s Craniofacial center, holds a NIFTY cup Wednesday, May 18, 2016.

A caregiver in India uses a specially designed cup, developed by Seattle researchers, to feed a premature baby who had trouble nursing. The device, dubbed the NIFTY cup, will soon be available to hospitals in developing countries, with… (PATH) More

Inventors from PATH, the University of Washington and Seattle Children’s designed a feeding cup that could help prevent starvation in premature and high-risk babies in developing countries who have trouble breast-feeding. It will soon be widely distributed in Africa.

When babies in poor countries can’t breast-feed, the results can be deadly, but a trio of Seattle researchers has found an innovative way to help.

Experts at the University of Washington, Seattle Children’s and the nonprofit global health organization PATH have spent the past five years developing a small, spouted feeding cup aimed at preventing millions of high-risk infants in the developing world from starving.
“We had this idea and we’ve been waiting for this opportunity,” said Patricia Coffey, an expert in neonatal health technologies at PATH.

Inventors of the NIFTY cup announced at the Women Deliver conference in Copenhagen this month that they will collaborate with Laerdal Global Health, a nonprofit manufacturer, to put the cups in the hands of hospital workers in Africa by later this year.

“We are quite excited about this partnership,” said Tore Laerdal, the firm’s managing director, who estimated the cups will sell for about $1 apiece.

The partnership is the next step in what’s expected to be widespread use of the NIFTY cup — formally known as the Neonatal Intuitive Feeding Technology — a soft, silicone bowl with a tiny reservoir and spout aimed at helping premature infants and those born with problems such as cleft palate.

“A normal newborn has the developmental skills to suck, swallow and breathe in a coordinated manner,” said Dr. Christy McKinney, an acting assistant professor at the University of Washington’s School of Dentistry.

“A preterm infant developmentally doesn’t have all those pieces in place.”

About 7.6 million preterm babies born in Africa and Asia each year have trouble feeding, PATH experts said.

Babies with cleft palates can’t generate suction because of the disorder and often have trouble using bottles, too.
Families and health-care workers in low-income countries typically try to feed such babies using whatever is available — coffee cups, medicine cups, even clean urine- collection cups — with disappointing results.

“Babies often cough or choke on the milk or aspirate,” said McKinney. “Spillage is a huge issue. Most cups spill about a third of the breast milk.”

With such tiny infants, losing even two teaspoons of milk per feeding can make the difference between adequate nutrition and starvation, the experts said.

In contrast, the NIFTY cup’s spout is designed to allow a mother to express breast milk directly into the bowl and then fit it to a baby’s mouth. The cup’s reservoir and spout allow the infant to control the pace of the feeding, suckling almost normally, said Dr. Michael Cunningham, director of the craniofacial center at Seattle Children’s.

“The cup was designed for what babies do,” he said.

Cunningham had the idea for the NIFTY cup back in 2007, during a trip to Ghana with Partners in African Cleft Training, a program that educates African surgeons and other health-care providers to treat the disorder.
Cunningham said he was shocked to see newborns with cleft palates suffering from malnutrition because they couldn’t eat.

“I could not believe it,” he recalled. “I saw two babies die of starvation.”

Oro-facial cleft is the most common craniofacial birth defect in humans, occurring in 1.2 of every 1,000 live births worldwide.

When he returned to Seattle, Cunningham met with McKinney, a former Peace Corps volunteer whose doctoral thesis focused on craniofacial problems. The two approached PATH with the idea and Coffey joined in.

Other feeding cups have been developed, including the Foley Cup Feeder, a small plastic cup with a spout created by a Michigan father. Cunningham took hundreds of the Foley cups back to Africa on a subsequent visit, where they were snapped up by health providers and parents.

“You handed it to the mother and she knew what to do,” he said.
The NIFTY cup is an improvement, Cunningham said. It’s bigger, 40 milliliters, and made of silicone, a material durable enough to be boiled and sterilized in an autoclave over and over.

The Seattle-designed cup has been tested in a pilot study in India, where 20 babies were successfully fed. A large clinical trial is pending in Ethiopia, but the inventors are quick to acknowledge there’s been no formal evaluation of the cup’s use.

That’s fine with Cunningham, especially when there are so few alternatives to keeping babies from starving.

“It doesn’t take much to know something works,” he said. “We know it works.”

Self-injectable contraceptives could be life-saver in Africa: health experts

Self-injectable contraceptives, which are being trailed in Uganda and Senegal, could revolutionize women’s lives in rural Africa and dramatically cut maternal and newborn deaths, health experts said on Tuesday.

The disposable $1 device consists of a small needle connected to a plastic bubble containing the contraceptive Depo-Provera which can be squeezed to inject a dose that lasts three months.

Self-injectables could have a major impact on the lives of women who cannot access clinics or who face opposition to contraceptive use from their partners, said the global health organization PATH which has designed the device called Sayana Press.

“This is a life-saver. This is a game-changer for family planning,” PATH’s Emmanuel Mugisha told the Thomson Reuters Foundation at Women Deliver, the world’s biggest women’s health and rights conference in a decade.

About a third of maternal deaths could be avoided by delaying motherhood, spacing births, preventing unintended pregnancies, and avoiding unsafe abortions, according to PATH.

Unwanted pregnancies also cut short girls’ education and stop them reaching their potential.

Mugisha, PATH’s Uganda director, said women in rural areas could spend an entire day trekking to a clinic and queuing for contraceptives only to discover they were out of stock.

“In Africa, one of the hindrances with family planning is access. The second hindrance is us men,” he said.

“Most men don’t want family planning. Some want more children, but others think it interferes with their sex life.

“With Sayana Press a woman has the freedom to decide when she wants children and when she doesn’t, and the man will have no control; the man will not know, which is very good.”

Mugisha said self-injectable contraceptives would also reduce the high numbers of women dying during botched abortions in Uganda.


Some 225 million women in developing countries have an unmet need for family planning, according to U.N. data.

If this need were met, unintended pregnancies would fall by 70 percent, unsafe abortions by 74 percent, maternal deaths by 25 percent and newborn deaths by 18 percent.

Trials with Sayana Press, which is manufactured by Pfizer, are being carried out to ensure women can remember to take it, administer it correctly and dispose of the device safely so that it does not get picked up by children.

Nomi Fuchs-Montgomery, an expert on contraceptive technology at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation which is helping support the trials, said early indications were very positive.

“We see so much promise with this,” she added. “This is really the future.”

Fuchs-Montgomery said increasing the availability of contraception had a major role to play in meeting many of the Sustainable Developing Goals – the U.N. goals agreed last year for ending inequality and extreme poverty.

Access to contraception allows women to complete their education, follow careers and participate economically which has “an incredible knock-on effect” on their wider communities and national development, she added.

PATH is also conducting trials in Burkina Faso and Niger where community health workers are using the device to deliver contraceptives to women.

‘We can’t keep looking at women as body parts or diseases’, says Women Deliver CEO

Conference in Copenhagen launches Deliver for Good campaign to highlight crucial areas for gender equality, including improving access to technology.

A new global campaign that makes the case for investing in women and girls was launched on the opening day of the Women Deliver conference in Copenhagen on Monday.

In Bangladesh, ‘Info Lady’ Mehedi Akthar Misty, right, helps Amina Begum, 45, to talk with her husband via Skype in a remote farming village 190km north of Dhaka

The Deliver for Good campaign highlights 12 critical areas that, with greater investment, could improve the lives of women and girls and speed up efforts to achieve gender equality.

“We can’t keep looking at girls and women as body parts or diseases. This has to be integrated,” said Katja Iversen, CEO of Women Deliver.

A panel of 25 experts pulled together existing data on each issue into a policy brief, which includes how each topic is linked to the targets of the sustainable development goals (SDGs).

“These 12 investments take a gender lens to the SDGs, where we have to invest politically, practically and economically,” Iversen said.

“The Deliver for Good campaign will drive action toward what we know is true: investing in girls and women unlocks untapped potential, and creates a ripple effect that benefits families, communities and entire nations. It’s 2016. Now is the time to turn the conversation from ‘if and why’ to ‘how and now’.”

Among the policy briefs is the case for improving women’s access to technology. If another 600 million women had access to the internet, annual GDP could increase by as much as $18bn (£12.4bn) across 144 countries, it says. Another makes the case for keeping children in school for longer, arguing that every extra year of education a child receives increases the average annual GDP by 0.37%. Meanwhile economists found that investing in the elimination of gender-based violence was one of the most cost-effective targets of the SDGs.

The public are invited to sign up to the Deliver for Good initiative, and contribute their own suggestions and comments on the 12 policy briefs, which will be updated in September to mark the first anniversary of the adoption of the SDGs.


The recommendations focus on preventing the practice and better supporting those who have been cut. This includes treating obstetric complications, treating depression and anxiety as a result of the FGM and offering counselling to women about their sexual health.

The guidelines warn health practitioners against the medicalisation of FGM – when parents ask health workers to carry out FGM believing it will be less harmful for the child.

“Health workers have a crucial role in helping address this global health issue. They must know how to recognise and tackle health complications of FGM,” said Dr Flavia Bustreo, WHO assistant director general. “Access to the right information and good training can help prevent new cases and ensure that the millions of women who have undergone FGM get the help they need.”

More than 5,500 delegates from 169 countries are in Copenhagen this week for the four-day Women Deliver conference. Including the number of people watching the live stream of proceedings, the event is believed to be the largest global gathering to discuss women’s and girls’ health, rights and wellbeing in the past decade.

“This week, more than 5,500 world influencers … are gathered here in Copenhagen to make change [and] ensure that the world delivers for women and for girls,” said the prime minister of Denmark, Lars Løkke Rasmussen, during the opening plenary. “That is a joint responsibility. The fight for equal gender opportunities is not just a women’s fight [or] a fight for women. It is a fight for all of us – women and men. It is a fight for a better and more prosperous world.”

Other speakers included the head of the World Health Organisation, Margaret Chan, Nobel peace prize winner Tawakkol Karman, former prime minister of Norway Gro Harlem Brundtland, and singer and activist Annie Lennox. The UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, sent a video message.

The conference opens as it emerged the UN agency responsible for ending deaths in childbirth and promoting family planning is facing a $140m shortfall this year as major donors, including Denmark, cut funding.

Vaccines: A Global Health Success Story That Keeps Us On Our Toes

Suspense and high stakes
It’s no secret that vaccines are considered one of the greatest global health achievements. Every year they avert an estimated 2 to 3 million deaths.  

During the last two centuries, vaccines have eradicated smallpox, reduced global child mortality rates, and prevented countless birth defects and lifelong disabilities, such as paralysis from polio.

But, the success story of vaccination is not yet finished.

There’s still a book waiting to be written that’s guaranteed to keep all of us, not just global health experts, up at night. Fortunately, many of the chapters full of suspense, high stakes and perseverance are being written right now.

Fast-tracking vaccine development – Ebola

In the past two years, vaccination research and development has kept the world on its toes.

During the height of the Ebola epidemic, the urgency of saving lives accelerated research and development efforts. By bringing together the best minds in vaccinology, clinical trials for a number of candidate Ebola vaccines rapidly got underway.


WHO was directly involved in trials of the VSV-EBOV (Merck, Sharp & Dohme) vaccine, one of the most promising Ebola vaccines being used in trials today. Preliminary results of the trial in Guinea indicate that the vaccine might be very effective. The vaccine is also being used to contain “flare-ups” of small numbers of new cases which are ongoing.

The trials using the VSV-EBOV vaccine have been conducted as “ring vaccination”, used in the past for smallpox vaccination. Through ring vaccination, the primary and secondary contacts of each person infected with Ebola are vaccinated, to form a protective ring of immunity, and to prevent further spread of the virus.

It is hoped that sufficient data from clinical trials will enable Ebola vaccines to be licensed in the near future. This will make vaccination in a future outbreak much easier.

Preparing for outbreaks – Zika

In fast-tracking the Ebola vaccine WHO learned some lessons and developed theR&D Blueprint for Action to Prevent Epidemics, which ensures that targeted research and development can quickly bring medical technologies, including vaccines, to people during epidemics.

The Blueprint aims to reduce the time between the declaration of an international public health emergency and the availability of effective tests, vaccines and medicines that can be used to save lives and avert crisis.

We’re already seeing this plan in action in the Zika response. With the Zika virus now linked to microcephaly in babies and other neurological disorders, more than 60 companies and research institutions are already working on a number of products, including 18 vaccines targeted for women of childbearing age.

While no vaccine has yet been tested on humans, the swiftness of the response provides hope.

High hopes for dengue and malaria vaccines

Perseverance in vaccine development is also starting to pay off in other areas.

During the last 60 years, the incidence of dengue has increased 30-fold. An estimated 390 million infections occur every year, with a quarter of people infected showing symptoms. At present the main method of preventing disease transmission is by controlling the Aedes mosquito, the same mosquitoes that transmits Zika.

However, the WHO Strategic Advisory Group of Experts (SAGE) on Immunization recently recommended that Dengvaxia (CDY-TDV), a vaccine for dengue, be considered for use in geographic settings with high endemicity. Additional vaccines candidates are already in various stages of development.

Because both multi-drug resistance and insecticide resistance are huge issues in eliminating malaria, new tools are needed to protect the 3.2 billion people at risk of the disease. The first malaria vaccine, RTS,S, is a step forward.

In 2015, SAGE advised WHO and partners to pilot implementation of RTS,S, which was developed by GlaxoSmithKline Biologicals and the PATH Malaria Vaccine Initiative, with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and a network of African research centres. The vaccine is set to be piloted in children aged 5-9 months in 3 to 5 sub-Saharan African countries in the coming months.

Research and development efforts must continue

It’s clear that new vaccines can be breakthroughs for global public health. Now, we need to ensure these breakthroughs become the norm.

In order to keep pace with new threats, investment in research and development must continue with the same intensity that we have seen in recent months.

The new 2030 sustainable development agenda is calling on governments to support research and development for new vaccines so that diseases like dengue, Ebola, malaria and Zika can become diseases of the past—ones we only read about in a future best-selling book about long-gone diseases.

As we mark World Immunization Week 2016, let’s continue to write the history of vaccination, celebrate the research and development successes, and work to ensure people of all ages receive the vaccines they need to help them stay healthy throughout their lives.

Find more information on vaccines and World Immunization Week at

A Race to Unravel the Secrets of the Zika Virus

Three-dimensional cultures that mimc fetal brain development. Credit Gabriella Demczuk for The New York Times
BALTIMORE — Leave it to the youngest person in the lab to think of the Big Idea.

Xuyu Qian, 23, a third-year graduate student at Johns Hopkins, was chatting in late January with Hongjun Song, a neurologist.

Dr. Song was wondering how to test their three-dimensional model of a brain — well, not a brain, exactly, but an “organoid,” essentially a tiny ball of brain cells, grown from stem cells and mimicking early brain development.

“We need a disease,” Dr. Song said.

Mr. Qian tossed out something he’d seen in the headlines: “Why don’t we check out this Zika virus?”

Within a few weeks — a nanosecond compared with typical scientific research time — that suggestion led to one of the most significant findings in efforts to answer a central question: How does the Zika virus cause brain damage, including the abnormally small heads in babies born to infected mothers?

The answer could spur discoveries to prevent such devastating neurological problems. And time is of the essence. One year after the virus was first confirmed in Latin America, with the raging crisis likely to reach the United States this summer, no treatment or vaccine exists.

“We can’t wait,” said Dr. Song, at the university’s Institute for Cell Engineering, where he and his wife and research partner, Dr. Guo-Li Ming, provided a pipette-and-petri-dish-level tour. “To translate our work for the clinic, to the public, normally it takes years. This is a case where we can make a difference right away.”

The laboratory’s initial breakthrough, published in March with researchers at two other universities, showed that the Zika virus attacked and killed so-called neural progenitor cells, which form early in fetal development and generate neurons in the brain.

In April, the team and other collaborators published a study in the journal Cell showing that this assault by Zika resulted in undersize brain organoids: Damaged progenitor cells created fewer neurons, leading to less brain volume.

That may explain the smaller brains and heads, a condition called microcephaly, of some babies exposed to Zika during pregnancy.


Guo-Li Ming, professor of neurology and neuroscience, and Hongjun Song, professor of neurology at the Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Md, are investigating how the Zika virus causes brain damage Credit Gabriella Demczuk for The New York Times
“I think they’ve nailed it,” said Dr. Eric Rubin, a professor of immunology and infectious diseases at Harvard. “That is totally consistent with the pathology that has been seen in the kids that died or the aborted fetuses. ”

The experiments here suggest other worrisome aspects of Zika infection: that even low doses of the virus for short periods can cause damage and that it is most dangerous in the first trimester of pregnancy but can also be harmful in the second.

“The really sad news is not only can the virus infect neural progenitor cells, but it turns them into a factory,” Dr. Song said.

“The cells produce more virus and they actually can spread it,” said Dr. Ming, adding that infected cells appear to create a “bystander effect,” releasing chemicals as they die that damage or kill neighboring uninfected progenitor cells.

And the organoid results contain a frightening hint of why Zika is also associated with adult neurological disorders, including Guillain-Barré syndrome, a temporary paralysis. Dr. Song said they found that Zika infection is “even worse” in glial cells, which support and insulate neurons and are present throughout life, not just in fetal development.

But there is much more to learn, and the collaboration catalyzed by a remark from a junior scientist now includes nine labs at six sites across the country.

Among them is a specialized lab at the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (Ncats), which is testing drugs on neural progenitor cells, hoping to find compounds that can stop the virus. Rapidly testing thousands of compounds in varying doses, the lab has already zeroed in on a promising candidate. If the drug succeeds in further testing, it could allow scientists to skip much of the safety evaluation necessary for creating new drugs or vaccines.

Many other researchers are also rushing to understand how Zika wreaks its damage. Teams in Brazil and at the University of California, San Diego have also found that the virus attacked neural progenitor cells and shrank brain organoids. The San Diego team reported that Zika overactivated a molecule that normally protects against viruses, and the excess activity seems to switch on genes that galvanize progenitor cell destruction.

A Rush of Research

In Rio de Janeiro, Stevens Rehen, a neuroscientist at D’Or Institute for Research and Education, said the Brazilian team was also testing drugs, seeking one that blocked the Zika virus. But they can test only those approved in Brazil; importing drugs from elsewhere involves weeks of red tape. “The idea is to be fast,” Dr. Rehen said.

Student researchers in the laboratory of Hongjun Song and Guo-Li Ming at Johns Hopkins Hospital, where scientists are investigating how the Zika virus causes brain damage. Credit Gabriella Demczuk for The New York Times
At the University of Pittsburgh, Carolyn Coyne, a microbiologist, and Dr. Yoel Sadovsky, an obstetrician and microbiologist, are investigating how the virus enters the placenta. They determined that Zika does not infect trophoblasts, placental cells that protect against most viruses.

Continue reading the main story

But there could be other routes: Does the virus sneak in through breaks in the lining? Does it hide in “Trojan horse” cells? Does it piggyback on antibodies from related infections, like dengue?

“Going through the placenta is not the only way to infect a fetus,” Dr. Sadovsky said.

Separately, scientists at other institutions, including Vanderbilt; the University of California, San Francisco; and Washington University in St. Louis, are examining questions like how the immune system recognizes the virus.

“We don’t know enough,” said Sara Cherry, a microbiologist at the University of Pennsylvania, who is also testing drugs already approved for other diseases, investigating their effects on cells from the placenta and blood-brain barrier.

“We don’t understand necessarily why Zika infection of the brain leads to particular cell deaths. Also, there may be different populations that are more or less sensitive to the virus.”

Indeed, Dr. Rubin, of Harvard, said, “It wouldn’t be surprising if the virus had to get to a specific kind of cell in the placenta, or that cell had to be in a specific phase in its growth cycle to get infected.”

Meanwhile, Dr. Ming and Dr. Song continue to explore. They are investigating which snippet of Zika’s genetic material is its lethal weapon, and are comparing Zika-infected brain organoids to tissue from a fetus aborted by a pregnant woman with Zika.

Experiments from all these labs will provide clues, Dr. Rubin said. But they will not tell the whole story. “In a person, it’s way more complicated,” he said.

Dr. Song and Dr. Ming, both 46, met as high school classmates in Wuhan, China. Now at the Institute for Cell Engineering, their offices are both on the seventh floor “She has the better view,” Dr. Song said.

Miao Xu, a scientist, in protective gear, preparing to work with Zika virus. Credit Gabriella Demczuk for The New York Times
“No, it’s the same,” assured Dr. Ming.

Longtime collaborators, “we do argue, but eventually we will come to an agreement,” she said. In their labs, students, like their two teenage children, “know when to go to me and when to go to her,” Dr. Song said.

Their son Max, 17, is an adjunct lab member of sorts, and his artwork mapping the Zika virus’s international journey graces the cover of the journal that published his parents’ first Zika study, Cell Stem Cell.

By February, the couple was puzzling over how to study the Zika virus when they had no samples of it; even if they could get some, their lab did not have university approval to work with Zika.

Then Dr. Song received an email from his friend Hengli Tang, a virologist at Florida State University. Since meeting as graduate students, they had vacationed and celebrated holidays together, but never worked together.

Dr. Tang studied H.I.V. and hepatitis C, and recently had equipped his lab to study dengue, a cousin of the Zika virus that is carried by the same type of mosquito. So when the Zika epidemic erupted in South America, it seemed a natural focus.

As a virus guy, Dr. Tang is comfortable with frightening pathogens. At gatherings with other researchers, he laughed, “We always start with, like: ‘What virus are you? I’m herpes.’”

But the brain was terra incognita, and Dr. Tang figured he needed a brain guy to support his Zika research grant application. “Who do I know in neuro?” he asked himself.

He emailed Dr. Song. Seconds later, the phone rang.

“He said, ‘I didn’t read the email, I just saw Zika and called,’” Dr. Tang recalled. “He was all excited and said, ‘We were just discussing where to find Zika, because we have the perfect system to study Zika.’”

The next day, neural cells were winging their way to Dr. Tang’s lab in Florida, packed in vials in ice, the first of many rapid-fire FedEx exchanges. (At one point, FedEx temporarily interrupted the breakneck pace by delaying a shipment, questioning whether the unit of measurement, milliliters, was correct, Dr. Tang said.) The Johns Hopkins researchers sent four kinds of cells: two types of stem cells, which can be turned into other human cell types; neurons; and neural progenitor cells.

6 Reasons to Think the Zika Virus Causes Microcephaly
Scientists increasingly believe that the Zika virus may cause birth defects in infants. Here’s why.
Dr. Song and Dr. Ming were betting the Zika virus targeted neural progenitor cells; they had long studied microcephaly cases unrelated to the Zika virus and knew progenitor cells were damaged in those cases.

They sent cells derived from two people, one healthy and one with schizophrenia, because those were the cells they had, and they wondered if schizophrenia would yield different results. It didn’t.

It takes years to learn to handle these finicky cells. Dr. Tang had no such experience, so a Johns Hopkins postdoctoral student, Zhexing Wen, immediately flew to Florida to help. Later, Xuyu Qian did, too.

To obtain samples of the Zika virus, Dr. Tang had to scramble. His usual supplier, a nonprofit tissue bank, was back-ordered till July, but finally a commercial source sold him a paltry two milliliters of Zika for $300 each. That was not nearly enough to test on the Johns Hopkins cells. So Dr. Tang had to propagate the virus, eventually producing 800 milliliters.

To do so, he wanted to mimic the journey the virus takes from animals to humans. First, he grew it in monkey cells, then in mosquito cells.

The first strain was from Africa, where Zika was identified in 1947. While quite similar to the Brazilian strain, Asian strains are closer, so he eventually obtained a Cambodian strain and another strain from the current epidemic in Puerto Rico. In the lab’s experiments, different strains have yielded similar results.

Because the students in his lab are young women, Dr. Tang opted for safe-handling precautions beyond those normally required for Zika.

He was not expecting much from the first experiments adding Zika to the four types of cells. “To be honest, this was supposed to be a pilot study,” he said. “We had no idea whether, first of all, the virus would even infect these cells.”

But within a week, the results were striking. The virus attacked neural progenitor cells much more aggressively than the neurons or stem cells.

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“I was overwhelmed,” Dr. Song said.

Suddenly they had a likely answer to “one of the very first questions people want to know,” Dr. Tang said.

The results suggested that the Zika virus was most dangerous in the first trimester, when most progenitor cells form. In those cells, the infection increased activity of an enzyme, caspase-3, which signals and also contributes to the death of cells, Dr. Ming said.

Dr. Rehen, the Brazilian neuroscientist working on similar research, described caspase-3 as a sort of smoking gun.

“If you see someone dead in the street, the person could be killed by a knife or by a car,” he said. “If you see caspase is involved, you can see that the weapon was a knife. The killer uses the knife; the killer is the Zika.”

In healthy humans, this and other enzymes contribute to “programmed cell death,” necessary so cells do not divide or grow endlessly, like cancerous cells. But kill too many cells or at the wrong time, and development goes awry, drastically.

Quickly, the Johns Hopkins researchers found their cellphones buzzing as other scientists saw ways to build on their results.

“There’s so many emails I can’t keep track,” Dr. Song said. “It’s, ‘I’m missing this piece, can you send me that?’ or ‘I don’t understand this part.’”

But the first experiments lacked a crucial element, they knew. They were done on cells in plates, in 2-D. How would Zika work in 3-D, in a more complex, more brainlike experiment?

Enter the brain organoids, spheres at most the size of a BB, containing stem cells differentiated into most types of brain cells. As they grow, they mimic fetal brain development; a 100-day-old organoid resembles the late second trimester of pregnancy, Dr. Ming said.

A visualization of the Zika virus in the lab at the NIH National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences in Bethesda, Md. Credit Gabriella Demczuk for The New York Times
They shipped organoids to Dr. Tang in Florida, a task made easier because three high school students, including Max, had spent summer internships designing miniature spinning bioreactors, used to incubate organoids. Constructed with 3-D printed parts, they were smaller than standard bioreactors and cheaper to use because they needed less cell-growing material.

Meanwhile, after the March finding, the Ncats lab in Rockville, Md., sprang into action. Wei Zheng, who runs the lab, part of the Therapeutics for Rare and Neglected Diseases program, said the fact that Zika increased the caspase-3 enzyme gave him a way to test drugs on cells infected with Zika.

First, search for drugs that block the spike in caspase-3. Then, weed out those drugs that are toxic to the cells themselves. Finally, see if any remaining drugs prevented the Zika virus from killing cells.

Dr. Zheng noted that Zika took about three days to kill its progenitor cell victims, and did not kill all of them. If it did, he said, “you wouldn’t see a baby” at all.

It is possible, though, Dr. Ming said, when Zika strikes very early in pregnancy, it destroys so many cells that miscarriage results.

A Possible Testing Gold Mine

Ncats has perhaps the world’s largest collection of drugs and compounds, some half a million. During a recent visit, an employee who goes by the name Pepper showed how samples are fetched from glass-walled carousels by giant yellow robotic arms in a meticulously programmed ballet resembling an albatross love dance.

Many of the compounds are untested in people. But one collection contains about 2,800 drugs approved in the United States or other countries. Another library holds about 2,000 compounds that have been through some human safety testing.

Those libraries are potential gold mines. If safety-tested compounds block Zika in laboratory cells, they can be tested in people faster than new drugs or vaccines.

“We want to focus on the drugs that are immediately useful in people with the disease,” said Dr. Christopher Austin, the director of Ncats, noting that similar drug-testing was done with Ebola, yielding some compounds that are in clinical trials now.

The Johns Hopkins researchers needed time to grow more neural progenitor cells, but Dr. Zheng started anyway, first on brain tumor cells he infected with Zika. Three compounds seemed effective – a caspase inhibitor, a Russian antidepressant, and a common vitamin – so he whisked them to other researchers to try.

After receiving progenitor cells, he started again. He found 173 drugs blocked caspase-3 increase, about three dozen did so without harming cells, and one — just one — prevented the Zika virus from killing cells. That drug, which he declined to identify, is not approved but has undergone safety testing and is in a clinical trial with cancer patients, he said.

He sent the drug to Johns Hopkins, where early testing is yielding similar results. But even if results are replicated in mice and humans, hurdles remain, including determining if it is safe for pregnant women and deciding who to treat, since many women infected with Zika have had healthy babies

Also, a drug that can “save the cells after they’re infected” is not the real prize, Dr. Song said. “The best drug would actually prevent the cells from being infected in the first place.”

Antiseptic gel to prevent infections in newborn babies gets EU approval

Gel reformulated from GlaxoSmithKline mouthwash will be used to fight umbilical cord infections in developing countries.

A mother holds her newborn baby, who suffered from an umbilical cord infection, in Makoror, Kenya.
A mother holds her newborn baby, who suffered from an umbilical cord infection, in Makoror, Kenya.
A mother holds her newborn baby, who suffered from an umbilical cord infection, in Makoror,
An antiseptic gel to help prevent umbilical cord infections in newborn babies, which was developed from a mouthwash, has been given the green light by European regulators.

GlaxoSmithKline developed the product, called Umbipro, with the charity Save the Children for use in developing countries. The gel will be sold at a not-for-profit price and could save 422,000 lives over five years, according to UN estimates.
Scientists reformulated the chlorhexidine solution found in its Corsodyl mouthwash into a gel that can be applied to newly cut umbilical cords. There is a greater risk of infection – a major cause of newborn deaths – in developing countries across Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, where more births happen at home and unsterile materials such as dung and ash are traditionally used on the umbilical cord stump.
The antiseptic gel was endorsed by the European Medicines Agency on Friday, an important step in getting it to developing countries. It will need to be approved by local regulators. GSK said it would submit applications in countries with moderate to high neonatal mortality rates.

Once approved, the company plans to initially produce about 6m units, packaged in single-use foil sachets that can be opened without scissors. The UK drugmaker said it would also share its manufacturing knowledge with other companies interested in making the gel.

Patrick Vallance, who runs GSK’s pharmaceuticals research and development department, said the gel proved the value of collaboration between makers of pharmaceuticals and over-the-counter healthcare products such as toothpaste and mouthwash.

The idea for the gel was triggered by a UN commission report in 2012 that identified chlorhexidine as an overlooked treatment which could potentially save 422,000 neonatal lives over five years.

Exercise Can Lower Your Risk of a Dozen Cancers by 20 Percent

That exercise is crucial for optimal health is nothing new. But did you know it’s also a powerful strategy to reduce your risk for cancer? It can also improve your chances of remission and recovery should you develop cancer.

Story at-a-glance

  • Exercise is an important component of cancer prevention and care; slashing your risk of cancer occurrence, improving your chances of successful recuperation, and diminishing your risk of cancer recurrence
  • Studies suggest physically active individuals have anywhere from 20 to 55 percent lower risk of cancer than their sedentary peers
  • Exercise may lower your risk of ANY type of cancer by about 7 percent; 13 cancers — including cancer of the esophagus, lung and kidney — are more responsive to exercise, resulting in a 20 percent lower risk

Well over 100 studies have looked at the role of physical activity on cancer prevention1 and they reveal a distinct pattern: the longer you exercise, the more pronounced the benefits.

Studies show that people who exercise during their early years have a lower risk of cancer later in life.

The degree to which exercise cuts your cancer risk varies depending on the type of cancer and other factors, but the data shows physically active individuals have a 20 to 55 percent lower risk of cancer than their sedentary peers. For example, compared to inactive people, active men and/or women have a:

  • 20 to 30 percent lower risk of breast cancer2
  • 38 percent reduced risk of invasive breast cancers3
  • 30 to 40 percent lower risk of colon cancer4
  • 44 percent lower risk of bowel cancer after the age of 655
  • 55 percent lower risk of lung cancer6

Exercise Lowers Your Risk of at Least a Dozen Different Cancers

Most recently, an analysis of 12 studies that included data from 1.4 million people of a wide range of ethnic backgrounds from both the U.S. and Europe over the course of 11 years found that those who exercised more had, on average, a 7 percent lower risk of developing ANY kind of cancer. As reported by Time Magazine:7

“[T]he reduced risk was especially striking for 13 types of cancers. People who were more active had on average a 20 percent lower risk of cancers of the esophagus, lung, kidney, stomach, endometrium and others compared with people who were less active …

‘Everybody knows physical activity reduces heart disease risk,’ says [lead author Steven] Moore [Ph.D.]. ‘The takeaway here is that physical activity might reduce the risk of cancers as well.

Cancer is a very feared disease, but if people understand that physical activity can influence their risk for cancer, then that might provide yet one more motivating factor to become active.'”

How Exercise Combats Cancer

So just how does exercise prevent cancer? Research shows there are many pathways and mechanisms at play; a synergistic orchestra of chemical reactions if you will, triggered by physical exertion.

When I first read about the exercise and cancer connection nearly 30 years ago, I was surprised and had no idea what the mechanism was. But here’s a sampling of what science has discovered in the last few decades. Exercise decreases your risk of cancer by affecting:

Mitochondrial function Perhaps most importantly, exercise promotes mitochondrial health.

Mitochondrial damage can trigger genetic mutations that can contribute to cancer, so optimizing the health of your mitochondria is a key component of cancer prevention.

In fact, mitochondrial dysfunction is at the core of virtually all diseases.

Exercise is one of the most potent stimulators of PGC-1alpha which stimulates mitochondrial biogenesis or production of new mitochondria.

It does this by lowering mTOR, insulin and leptin levels which also improves mitochdondrial autophagy (mitophagy) which is a key element of controlling malignant growth.

I review some of these details in my interview with Travis Christofferson’s about his book, “Tripping Over the Truth: The Return of the Metabolic Theory of Cancer.”

This book is a must-read for anyone interested in preventing or recovering from cancer.

AMPK, SIRT1, and mTOR Exercise stimulates AMPK and SIRT1, which secondarily inhibits mTOR, which then stimulates mitochondrial biogenesis and mitophagy, both of which are deadly to cancer.

In essence, cancer can be viewed as a metabolic disorder, and the key to prevention and recovery lies in restoring mitochondrial function and increasing mitochondrial numbers. Exercise helps you do both.

Energy balance, immune function and more Exercise affects several biological functions that may directly influence your cancer risk, including changes in energy balance, immune function, antioxidant defense, DNA repair, bowel motility and hormone levels.8
Blood sugar and insulin Exercise helps lower your blood sugar level and decrease your insulin resistance, and by creating a low sugar environment you strongly discourage the growth and spread of cancer cells.

Sugar’s ability to promote cancer has been known since the early 1930s, following Dr. Otto Warburg’s discovery that malignant tumors exhibit an increase in anaerobic glycolysis — a process whereby glucose is used as a fuel by cancer cells with lactic acid as an anaerobic byproduct.

This helps explain why a ketogenic diet appears to be such a potent strategy in the treatment of many cancers.

The reason for this is because while all normal cells in your body can use either glucose or ketone bodies from fat as fuel, cancerous cells lack this metabolic flexibility.

Body weight It also helps you shed excess fat and maintain a healthy weight (this is particularly true for high-intensity interval training).

Excess weight is a significant risk factor, and obesity is responsible for an estimated 500,000 cancer cases worldwide each year.9

The link between obesity and cancer is primarily hormone-driven, as fat cells produce excess estrogen.

This also helps explain why exercise during childhood reduces your lifetime cancer risk, and why obese children are at a significantly heightened risk of cancer in their adult years.

Blood circulation Physical activity improves circulation, driving more oxygen into your tissues, and circulating immune cells in your blood.

By improving blood flow to your liver, it also helps your body detoxify potentially harmful substances, including excess estrogen that may spur estrogen-sensitive cancers.

Adrenaline-dependent killer cells Physical activity triggers the release of adrenaline, which in turn helps circulate natural killer (NK) immune cells into tumors in your lung, liver, and skin, where they go to work to kill off and eliminate the cancerous cells.

The key that allows adrenaline-dependent NK cells to infiltrate cancer tumors is the immune signaling molecule, IL-6, which is released by muscle tissue during exercise.

Without IL-6, the adrenaline cannot produce this anti-cancer effect, because the IL-6 molecules are what guide the immune cells to the tumors.10,11,12,13

T cells Exercise alters T cells to a more effective disease-fighting form, called “naïve” T cells, which boosts the ability of your immune system to fight emerging and existing cancer cells. This helps explain why exercise is beneficial both for cancer prevention and treatment.14
Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease Regular exercise has also been shown to reduce your risk of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, brought on by an unhealthy diet, thereby cutting your risk of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) — a cancer that originates in your liver cells.15

Exercise Is Also Important During and After Cancer

A report by the British organization Macmillan Cancer Support16 argues that exercise is an important part of cancer care that really should not be overlooked. They recommend all cancer patients get 2.5 hours of moderate-intensity exercise each week. Johns Hopkins in the U.S. also recommends exercise during and after cancer treatment.17

Their reasoning is well-founded, as studies show that cancer patients who exercise can boost their odds of survival and reduce recurrence by about 50 percent.

Improved treatment success: Animal research suggests aerobic exercise helps boost the effectiveness of chemotherapy by increasing tissue oxygenation.18,19 Exercise also helps mitigate a number of common side effects of chemotherapy drugs and radiation, including reducing fatigue, protecting your heart and bone health, managing stress and anxiety, improving sleep and appetite, and offering pain relief.

Improved survival: Harvard researchers found that breast cancer patients who exercised moderately for three to five hours a week cut their odds of dying from cancer by about half, compared to sedentary patients. In fact, any amount of weekly exercise increased a patient’s odds of surviving breast cancer to some degree. This benefit remained constant regardless of whether women were diagnosed early on or after their cancer had spread.20

Reduced recurrence: A 2012 study found that breast and colon cancer patients who exercised regularly had half the recurrence rate compared to non-exercisers.21

Using Exercise as a Drug

Ideally, exercise would be used as a precise tool. I view it as a “drug” that needs to be carefully prescribed to achieve maximum benefit. Too little won’t have a significant impact while too much could cause injury and degenerate your health. If you have cancer, I would highly recommend discussing exercise with your oncologist, and/or work with a trained fitness professional to devise a safe and effective regimen. Here are a few key considerations:

Exercise efficiently: Avoid falling into the trap of exclusively focusing on the aerobic aspects of exercise, as this could actually prevent optimal health. It’s important to include a variety of techniques: strength training, aerobics, core-building activities, and stretching.

Most important of all however, is to make sure you include high-intensity, burst-type exercise once or twice a week. High-intensity interval training (HIIT) has been shown to be far more effective and efficient than other forms of exercise, and virtually any exercise can be turned into a high intensity routine, including walking (by speeding it up) and weight training (by slowing it down).

Find the right “dose:” Researchers have suggested there’s a dose-response relationship between exercise and lowered risk of cancer, with more exercise producing greater protection.22 The exact dosage needed for maximum cancer protection has remained elusive though.

Two large-scale studies that have helped shed some light on the situation looked for the“Goldilocks zone” in which exercise produces the greatest benefit for longevity in general. (Considering cancer is a top killer, maximizing longevity means you reduce your risk of all disease, including cancer.)

The greatest benefit was found among those who got between 150 and 450 minutes of moderate exercise per week. This lowered their risk of early death by 31 and 39 percent respectively. Exercising more than 450 minutes per week did not provide any further increase in longevity. In fact, exercising 25 hours a week or more only provided a 31 percent mortality risk reduction.

The studies showed that incorporating more high-intensity exercises can also boost longevity, compared to exercising at a consistently moderate pace.

Keep in mind that as you increase the intensity, you need to decrease the duration and frequency of your exercise. HIIT should only be done once to three times a week, max. Any more will likely be counterproductive, as your body needs time to recuperate from the strain. On non-HIIT days, do other less strenuous activities.

The sooner you start the better, but it’s never too late. If you have kids, now’s the time to put them on the track to health by coaxing and encouraging them to be as active as possible. In one study, women who exercised for just under 1.5 hours a week during their teenage years (but not in adulthood) had a 16 percent lower risk of dying from cancer in middle age.

They also had a 15 percent lower all-cause mortality risk. Those who were active as teens and kept up their exercise habit as adults had a 20 percent lower risk of death from all causes.23,24 That said, you’re not doomed if you’re now getting older and haven’t kept up your exercise routine. It’s never too late to start, as the biochemical changes produced by exercise will kick in no matter what your age.

Engage in non-exercise movement daily: Consider walking more, in addition to your regular workout regimen. A healthy goal is about 7,000 to 10,000 steps (or about an hour-long walk) per day. Also avoid sitting as much as possible. If you can, limit your sitting to three hours a day or less, as the mere act of standing triggers beneficial changes in your biology.

Exercise Improves Your Odds of a Long and Healthy Life

If you want to prevent disease, exercise! In light of the evidence showing that exercise has a profound impact on health and the prevention of disease such as cancer, it would be foolish in the extreme to ignore such advice. Especially when you consider the staggering failure rate of the conventional drug paradigm. Medical mistakes and dangerous drugs are in fact the third leading cause of death in the U.S.

Cancer is just one of a very long list of health problems that can arise as a result of chronic inactivity. Your metabolic andcardiovascular health are also largely dependent on exercise. In fact, one of the primary benefits of exercise is that it boosts your mitochondrial health, which can play a decisive role in cancer and other chronic diseases.

Ideally you’ll want to establish a comprehensive exercise program that includes high-intensity exercises and strength training — both of which have been shown to be of particular benefit for cancer prevention. Daily non-exercise activity and movement is equally important, as frequent and prolonged sitting has been shown to be as dangerous as smoking when it comes to cutting years off your lifespan.

Naturally, if you have cancer or any other chronic disease, you will need to tailor your exercise routine to your individual circumstances, taking into account your fitness level and current health. If at times you find you need to exercise at a lower intensity, or for shorter durations, don’t be discouraged. Always listen to your body and if you feel you need a break, take time to rest.

Just know that exercising for even just a few minutes a day is better than not exercising at all, and you’ll likely find that your stamina increases over time, allowing you to complete more challenging workouts.

If your immune system is severely compromised, you may want to exercise at home instead of visiting a public gym. But remember that exercise will ultimately help to boost your immune system, so it’s very important to continue with your program even if you suffer from chronic illness or cancer.

Also, if you have children, it would be wise to help them build a solid foundation for good health by encouraging daily physical activity. In many cases, that means devising ways to lure them away from electronic games and gadgets. One great way to do that is to exercise as a family, with focus on having fun together. Not only will everyone benefit from the physical activity, but it’ll help strengthen emotional bonds as well.

The First DNA Sequencing in Space Could Happen This Summer

Kate Rubins, a virologist turned astronaut, heads to the ISS this month to monitor more than 250 experiments, including genetic sequencing.

When Kate Rubins heard back from NASA in 2009, she traded her clean suit for a spacesuit. Rubins, a trained virologist, is a member of the 20th group of astronauts chosen by the space agency, and she is poised to make her first trip to the ISS this month. Since her selection, she has closed up her laboratory at the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research in Cambridge, Mass., and undergone extensive training for space that included prolonged underwater sessions and military pilot courses. Onboard, Rubins will be responsible for conducting and monitoring more than 250 experiments from researchers around the world, including an investigation into the mechanics of sequencing DNA in microgravity—a feat first pulled off last fall by Johns Hopkins University researchers onboard a parabola-flying plane. Rubins recently spoke with Scientific American about her upcoming sojourn to space, which will last about four months.

Is it rare for an astronaut to be a molecular biologist?

NASA has had biochemists in the past. Scientist-astronauts really started in the Apollo days, when they started bringing geologists in. Lately there’s more of a research focus on biology and molecular biology. So far I’ve worked to upgrade our hood, in which we do biology experiments on the space station. Now we have the capability to maintain a sterile environment for any experiments with living organisms.

Will you be conducting any of your own research up there?

My research on the ground was focused on smallpox, Ebola and viral genomics. For obvious reasons, we’re not bringing Ebola to the space station. But the work I’ve done with dangerous pathogens helps you concentrate and keep your head together in a difficult and high-pressure situation.

What’s one of your favorite experiments onboard?

One thing we’re trying to understand is how DNA-sequencing technology will work in the microgravity environment. This is really cool for me because very small, portable sequencing devices are also used in the field—during a monkeypox outbreak, for example. The kind of technology they use in a remote field medical center is the same kind of technology you’d probably start designing for an instrument on Mars or deep-space exploration. The really critical question for NASA is whether these devices can detect signatures of life in the universe.

So will you perform the first genetic sequencing in space?

I hope so, if it all works out with the timing. The first part of the experiment is more technology development: looking to see how this kind of sequencing technology behaves in microgravity. We don’t know if bubbles will form or how the sequencing reaction will work without gravity. The second part is, What happens to DNA in space? Sequencing DNA on the ISS will enable NASA to see what happens to genetic material in space in real time, rather than looking at a snapshot of DNA before launch and another snapshot of DNA after launch and filling in the blanks. We can also look at epigenetic modifications to the genome caused by radiation, sleep changes, and so on.

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