Plants communicate distress using their own kind of nervous system.

Another giant study confirms that your coffee habit is probably good for you.

Liver Transplant Highly Benefits, But May Not Fully Cure, Hemophilia, Report Shows

Prescribing Antibiotics for Children With Cough in General Practice Does Not Reduce Hospitalization Risk

A new study underscores previous findings that antibiotics are not a cure-all for children with coughs and respiratory infections. Not only that, researchers found little evidence that they even reduce the risk of children ending up in the hospital, according to the University of Bristol. The study involved 8,320 children ages 3 months to 15 years. Researchers said this further substantiates not making antibiotics a first-line choice when sick children come to the doctor.

This boosts the idea that it’s worth waiting out a cough or cold, rather than rushing your child to the doctor in hopes that a miracle cure awaits there. It also helps to know what kinds of things can cause a cough, and how to determine whether your child’s cough is serious enough to be seen by a doctor. That’s because there are many causes of cough that don’t need a prescription to treat, such as postnasal drip, asthma, gastroesophageal disease (GERD) and even certain medications your child may already be on.

You see, a cough is a symptom, not a disease in and of itself. And, as already mentioned, the causes of a cough are varied. By paying attention to certain details, for example, the sound of the cough, you will be able to decipher what the cause may be and, hence, know what to do to relieve it.

Even when sore throats are involved, 85 to 95 percent of cases are largely due to viruses — an infection that antibiotics can’t treat. Fortunately, there are many home remedies that not only can take the edge off a cough, but help with healing. Herbs such as eucalyptus, peppermint, anise, slippery elm and fennel can all help with coughs and sore throat.

Better yet, try honey for a cough. In this instance, I’m talking about pure, organic honey, preferably obtained from a local orchard, as most honeys on store shelves today are heavily adulterated with added sugars or other ingredients that take away from any healing properties the original honey may have had. The antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties of pure, unadulterated honey are well-known and proven, making it a great alternative to prescription drugs. Plus, a spoonful works just as well and even better than over-the-counter cough medications.

Your health is under siege from every direction. Environmental toxins, ultra-processed foods, EMFs, government-subsidized GMOs and a host of other threats surround us. It is simply not possible to protect yourself unless you are armed with cutting edge health information.

The most complex tasks can be made easy if you just take one step at a time. Taken as a whole, this 30-tip plan makes for a comprehensive guide that can change your life. Just a few of the topics addressed are:

  • What to eat and when to eat it
  • Exercise strategies that you can implement today
  • The power of emotional health
  • Enhancing your health with essentials like air, sunshine and water
  • How to get the restorative sleep that your body requires

Calcium supplement formulations similarly ineffective for normalizing parathyroid hormone following bariatric surgery

In adults with slightly elevated parathyroid hormone following Roux-en-Y gastric bypass surgery, supplementation with either calcium carbonate or calcium citrate did not restore normal PTH level, according to findings published in Clinical Endocrinology.

“Despite clinical recommendations of lifelong vitamin D and calcium supplementation, elevated levels of PTH, which is potentially harmful to bone health, are frequent following RYGB,” Lene Ring Madsen, MD, a doctoral student in the department of endocrinology and internal medicine at Aarhus University Hospital, Denmark, and colleagues wrote in the study background. “Besides vitamin D and calcium malabsorption, an altered diet including less dairy products may also influence the calcium intake after [Roux-en-Y gastric bypass surgery].”

In a 12-week randomized double-blind, controlled trial, researchers enrolled 39 adults (mean age, 49 years; 13 women) who had undergone Roux-en-Y gastric bypass surgery a mean of 6.2 years before study entry. Participants had elevated PTH levels after adhering for at least the previous 12 months to daily multivitamin supplement use (including 400-500 mg elementary calcium plus 400-800 IU of vitamin D3) plus use of a calcium carbonate (800 mg elementary calcium) and vitamin D3 (1,520 IU) supplement. The multivitamin was continued through the study period, whereas the other calcium carbonate and D3 supplement was discontinued at the start of the trial. Participants had PTH greater than 6.9 pmol (normal range, 1.6-6.9 pmol/L), 25-hydroxyvitamin D level greater than 20 ng/ml and normal levels of plasma ionized calcium (1.18-1.32 mmol/L).

Participants were randomly assigned at baseline to received either 1,200 mg elementary calcium daily in combination with 2,280 IU vitamin D3 (3,000 mg calcium carbonate daily as one tablet and one calcium-free placebo tablet 3 times daily with meals) or 1,200 mg elementary calcium in combination with 2,400 IU vitamin D3 (5,712 mg tricalcium citrate daily as 2 two tablets 3 times per day with meals). The primary outcome was the change in PTH from baseline to week 12.

Based on tablet count, both groups showed a high level of adherence to their regimens, according to researchers. Overall, the two calcium regimens were well-tolerated, although the calcium citrate group reported more symptoms of constipation vs. the calcium carbonate group (37% vs.10%; P = .047). At baseline, the calcium carbonate group self-reported lower daily intake of dietary calcium (791 g vs. 996; P = .042) whereas the calcium citrate group had somewhat higher levels of the bone-turnover markers CTX, osteocalcin and bone-specific alkaline phosphatase.

At 12 weeks, the researchers found no difference between the groups in changes to mean PTH levels or number of participants with PTH greater than 6.9 pmol/L. During the intervention, the calcium citrate-treated group showed more significant decreases in the bone turnover markers P1NP (-16.6% vs. -3.2%; P = .021), osteocalcin (-17.2% vs. -4.3%; P = .007) and bone-specific alkaline phosphatase (-4.0% vs. 3.7%; P = .027), and these differences remained significant after adjusting for daily intake of dietary calcium, the use of loop diuretics and thiazide. No difference in urinary calcium excretion was observed between the groups.

No significant changes in mean PTH levels were seen among the entire cohort during the intervention. However, in a subgroup of 12 participants with PTH greater than pmol/L at baseline, the added calcium supplementation did lower mean PTH levels by 1.25 pmol/L; P = .005) regardless of the type of supplement used.

A study with longer follow-up will be valuable in further investigating this topic, Larsen told Endocrine Today.

“The take-home message of this study is that based on current evidence, we cannot recommend calcium citrate over calcium carbonate as vitamin supplementation after Roux-en-Y gastric bypass. This is opposite to existing recommendations,” she said. “In Denmark, calcium citrate is not only more expensive, but requires more pills every day to get the amount of calcium recommended. We can now tell our patients that they can stick to calcium carbonate.” – by Jennifer Byrne

CRISPR: Crispy Fries Your DNA

Story at-a-glance

  • CRISPR gene-editing technology may have significant unintended consequences to your DNA, including large deletions and complex rearrangements
  • The DNA deletions could end up activating genes that should stay “off,” such as cancer-causing genes, as well as silencing those that should be “on”
  • The deletions detected were at a scale of “thousands of bases,” which is more than previously thought and enough to affect adjacent genes
  • As a result of CRISPR-Cas9, DNA may be rearranged, previously distant DNA sequences may become attached, or unrelated sections could be incorporated into the chromosome

By Dr. Mercola

CRISPR gene-editing technology brought science fiction to life with its ability to cut and paste DNA fragments, potentially eliminating serious inherited diseases. CRISPR-Cas9, in particular, has gotten scientists excited because,1 by modifying an enzyme called Cas9, the gene-editing capabilities are significantly improved. That’s not to say they’re perfect, however, as evidenced by a recent study that showed CRISPR may have significant unintended consequences to your DNA, including large deletions and complex rearrangements.2

Many of the concerns to date regarding CRISPR, or Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeat, technology have centered on off-target mutations. The featured study, published in Nature Biotechnology, looked at on-target mutations at the site of the “cuts,” revealing potentially dangerous changes that could increase the risk of chronic diseases like cancer.

Is CRISPR Scrambling DNA?

Researchers at the U.K.’s Wellcome Sanger Institute systematically studied mutations from CRISPR-Cas9 in mouse and human cells, focusing on the gene-editing target site. Large genetic rearrangements were observed, including DNA deletions and insertions, that were spotted near the target site.

They were far enough away, however, that standard tests looking for CRISPR-related DNA damage would miss them. The DNA deletions could end up activating genes that should stay “off,” such as cancer-causing genes, as well as silencing those that should be “on.” One of the study’s authors, professor Allan Bradley, said in a statement:3

“This is the first systematic assessment of unexpected events resulting from CRISPR/Cas9 editing in therapeutically relevant cells, and we found that changes in the DNA have been seriously underestimated before now. It is important that anyone thinking of using this technology for gene therapy proceeds with caution, and looks very carefully to check for possible harmful effects.”

The deletions detected were at a scale of “thousands of bases,” which is more than previously thought and enough to affect adjacent genes. For instance, deletions equivalent to thousands of DNA letters were revealed. “In one case, genomes in about two-thirds of the CRISPR’d cells showed the expected small-scale inadvertent havoc, but 21 percent had DNA deletions of more than 250 bases and up to 6,000 bases long,” Scientific American reported.4

The cells targeted by CRISPR try to “stitch things back together,” according to Bradley, “But it doesn’t really know what bits of DNA lie adjacent to each other.” As a result, the DNA may be rearranged, previously distant DNA sequences may become attached, or unrelated sections could be incorporated into the chromosome.5

Cas9, a bacteria enzyme that acts as the “scissors” in CRISPR, actually remains in the body for a period of hours to weeks. Even after the initial DNA segment had been cut out and a new section “pasted” into the gap to repair it, Cas9 continued to make cuts into the DNA. “[T]he scissors continued to cut the DNA over and over again. They found significant areas near the cut site where DNA had been removed, rearranged or inverted,” The Conversation reported.6

Does This Mean CRISPR Isn’t Safe?

It’s too soon to say what the long-term effects of gene-editing technology will be, and there are many variables to the safety equation. The findings likely only apply to CRISPR-Cas9, which cuts through the DNA’s double strand. Other CRISPR technologies exist that may alter only a single strand or not involve cutting at all, instead swapping DNA letters.

There are also CRISPR systems that target RNA instead of DNA and those that could potentially involve only cells isolated from the body, such as white blood cells, which could then be analyzed for potential mutations before being put back into the body.7

The Nature study did make waves in the industry, though, such that within the first 20 minutes of the results being made public three CRISPR companies lost more than $300 million in value.8

Some companies using CRISPR have said they’re already on the lookout for large and small DNA deletions (including one company using the technology to make pig organs that could be transplanted into humans). One company also claims it hasn’t found large deletions in their work on cells that do not divide often (the Nature study used actively dividing cells).9

The researchers are standing by their findings, however, which the journal took one year to publish. During that time, Bradley says, he was asked to conduct additional experiments and “the results all held up.”10 Past studies have also found unexpected mutations, including one based on a study that used CRISPR-Cas9 to restore sight in blind mice by correcting a genetic mutation.

The researchers sequenced the entire genome of the CRISPR-edited mice to search for mutations. In addition to the intended genetic edit, they found more than 100 additional deletions and insertions along with more than 1,500 single-nucleotide mutations.11 The study was later retracted, however, due to insufficient data and a need for more research to confirm the results.12

CRISPR-Edited Cells Could Cause Cancer

Revealing the many complexities of gene editing, CRISPR-Cas9 also leads to the activation of the p53 gene, which works to either repair the DNA break or kill off the CRISPR-edited cell.13

CRISPR actually has a low efficacy rate for this reason, and CRISPR-edited cells that survive are able to do so because of a dysfunctional p53. The problem is that p53 dysfunction is also linked to cancer (including close to half of ovarian and colorectal cancers and a sizable portion of lung, pancreatic, stomach, breast and liver cancers as well).14

In one recent study, researchers were able to boost average insertion or deletion efficiency to greater than 80 percent, but that was because of a dysfunctional p53 gene,15 which would mean the cells could be predisposed to cancer. The researchers noted, ” … it will be critical to ensure that [CRISPR-edited cells] have a functional p53 before and after engineering.”16

A second study, this one by the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, found similar results and concluded, ” … p53 function should be monitored when developing cell-based therapies utilizing CRISPR–Cas9.”17

Some have suggested that if CRISPR could cure one chronic or terminal disease at the “cost” of an increased cancer risk later,18 it could still be a beneficial technology, but most agree that more work is needed and caution warranted.

A CRISPR clinical trial in people with cancer is already underway in China, and the technology has been used to edit human embryos made from sperm from men carrying inherited disease mutations. The researchers successfully altered the DNA in a way that would eliminate or correct the genes causing the inherited disease.19

If the embryos were implanted into a womb and allowed to grow, the process, which is known as germline engineering, would result in the first genetically modified children — and any engineered changes would be passed on to their own children. A February 2017 report issued by the U.S. National Academies of Sciences (NAS) basically set the stage for allowing research on germline modification (such as embryos, eggs and sperm) and CRISPR, but only for the purpose of eliminating serious diseases.

In the U.S., a first of its kind human trial involving CRISPR is currently recruiting participants with certain types of cancer. The trial is going to attempt to use CRISPR to modify immune cells to make them attack tumor cells more effectively. As far as risks from potential mutations, it’s anyone’s guess, but lead researcher Dr. Edward Stadtmauer of the University of Pennsylvania told Scientific American, “We are doing extensive testing of the final cellular product as well as the cells within the patient.”20

Are ‘Designer Babies’ Next?

It’s easy to argue for the merits of CRISPR when you put it in the context of curing deafness, inherited diseases or cancer, and at least 17 clinical trials using gene-editing technologies to tackle everything from gastrointestinal cancer to tumors of the central nervous system to sickle cell disease have been registered in the U.S.21 Another use of the technology entirely is the creation of “designer babies” with a certain eye color or increased intelligence.

About 40 countries have already banned the genetic engineering of human embryos and 15 of 22 European countries prohibit germ line modification.22 In the U.S., the NAS report specifically said research into CRISPR and germline modification could not be for “enhancing traits or abilities beyond ordinary health.” Still, using gene editing to create designer babies is a question of when, not if, with some experts saying it could occur in a matter of decades.23

There are both safety and ethical considerations to think about. With some proponents saying it would be unethical not to use the technology. For instance, Julian Savulescu, an ethicist at the University of Oxford, told Science News he believes parents would be morally obligated to use gene-editing technology to keep their children healthy.

“If CRISPR could … improve impulse control and give a child a greater range of opportunities, then I’d have to say we have the same moral obligation to use CRISPR as we do to provide education, to provide an adequate diet …”24 Others have suggested CRISPR could represent a new form of eugenics, especially since it can only be done via in vitro fertilization (IVF), putting it out of reach of many people financially and potentially expanding inequality gaps.

On the other hand, some argue that countries with national health care could provide free coverage for gene editing, possibly helping to reduce inequalities.25 It’s questions like these that make determining the safety of CRISPR and other gene-editing technology more important now than ever before.

What Does a CRISPR-Enabled Future Hold?

We’ve already entered the era of genetic engineering and CRISPR represents just one piece of the puzzle. It’s an exciting time that could lead to major advances in diseases such as sickle-cell anemia, certain forms of blindness, muscular dystrophy, HIV and cancer, but also one that brings the potential for serious harm. In addition to work in human and animal cells, gene-edited crops, in which DNA is tweaked or snipped out at a precise location, have already been created — and eaten.

To date, the technology has been used to produce soybeans with altered fatty acid profiles, potatoes that take longer to turn brown and potatoes that remain fresher longer and do not produce carcinogens when fried. The latter could be sold as early as 2019.

The gene-editing science, in both plants and animals, is progressing far faster than long-term effects can be fully realized or understood. There are many opportunities for advancement to be had, but they must come with the understanding that unintended mutations with potentially irreversible effects could be part of the package.

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