Friday, March 30, 2018

Interstitium: Newly Discovered Organ of the Human Body?

Even though medical science had known its existence for decades, does the latest research designating the interstitium as an organ of the human body valid?

By: Ringo Bones 

Researchers studying the structure and distribution of spaces in the human body have recently discovered a structure in the human body that could represent a newfound human organ and this organ just might be the biggest organ in our body. The latest study was published in the journal Science Reports back in Tuesday, March 27, 2018. Anatomists have since known the existence of the interstitium for years as the widespread fluid-filled spaces within and between tissues all over our body, although not all experts are convinced of the status of the interstitium as a bona fide human organ. 

Dr. Neil Theise, professor of pathology at NYU Langone Health in New York who was a senior co-author of the study says that “I think it’s bigger than the skin.” “The skin, comprising roughly 16-percent of your body mass is thought to be your largest organ, as for the interstitium, my estimate is that 20-percent of the volume of the body is this, which is equivalent to about 10-liters in a young adult.”

For the study, Dr. Theise and his colleagues used a powerful microscope with a technique known as confocal laser endomicroscopy to examine and analyze healthy living tissue samples from human bile ducts. The samples were taken from 13 patients undergoing pancreatic surgeries at Mount Sinai Beth Israel in New York. The samples were infused with a fluorescent liquid, allowing the researchers to see every detail. They wrote in the study that they observed spaces where fluid accumulates. Those spaces appeared to be pre-lymphatic, meaning they appeared to drain into lymph nodes. 

Traditionally, when such tissue samples are examined under a microscope, the tissues are dehydrated and look like dense layers, Dr. Theise said. So the interstitium could have gone previously unnoticed because its structure was collapsed due to dehydration every time tissue samples were subjected to microscopic examination. Since its discovery and designation as a possible newly-discovered human organ, interstitium is now under scrutiny on whether it might play a role and help us understand on how cancer spreads in our body.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Lab Grown Human Eggs: Ultimate Fertility Treatment?

Besides a mere cutting edge laboratory curiosity, are laboratory grown human eggs the ultimate way to treat infertility caused by childhood cancers?

By: Ringo Bones 

As the latest cutting edge laboratory curiosity a research team at the University of Edinburgh have for the very first time been able to successfully grow human eggs in the laboratory. The purpose of the research was originally to explore how human eggs develop into maturity, which until recently, much of it is still a mystery to science. And after the team at the University of Edinburgh had successfully done it, the team says that the technique could lead ways of preserving the fertility of children having cancer treatment.  

Women are born with immature eggs in their ovaries that can develop fully only after puberty and given that aggressive chemotherapy and radioactive isotope therapy can destroy all of the egg cells and future ability for the ovaries to produce viable eggs capable of being fertilized. Women can freeze mature eggs or even embryos if they are fertilized with a partner’s sperm, before starting the chemotherapy and radioisotope therapy treatment – but this method is not possible for very young girls with childhood cancers. 

It took decades of work, but scientists can now grow human eggs to maturity outside of the ovary. It requires carefully controlling laboratory conditions including oxygen levels, hormones, proteins that stimulate growth and the medium in which the eggs are cultured. But while the scientists have shown it is possible, the approach published in the journal Molecular Human Reproduction still needs refinement. It is very inefficient with only 10-percent of the eggs completing their journey to maturity. And the eggs have not been fertilized, so it is uncertain how viable they are. 

One of the University of Edinburgh researchers, Prof. Evelyn Telfer, told the BBC “It’s very exciting to obtain proof of principle that it’s possible to reach this stage in human tissue. But that has to be tempered by the whole lot of work needed to improve the culture conditions and test the quality of the oocytes (eggs). But apart from any clinical applications, this is a big breakthrough in improving understanding of human egg development.” The process is very tightly controlled and timed in the human body – some eggs will mature during the teen years, others more than two decades later. 

Does Asparagus Really Cause Cancer?

Even though the study published in the journal Nature still needs further trials, does a chemical compound found in asparagus really causes cancer?

By: Ringo Bones 

The internet was set alight a few days ago after a study published in the journal Nature pointing that a chemical compound found in asparagus might be responsible in the spread of breast cancer tumors. Fortunately, there are still caveats concerning the study. For one thing the research was done only on mice and hasn’t been performed in humans yet. Which points to that old lab researcher adage that mice are not people and scientists know well ever since lab researches began that animal models don’t always mimic the way certain diseases work in human bodies. Part of the study’s results point to asparagine – the chemical compound found in asparagus – wasn’t found to cause cancer even in the mice studied. The compound merely made triple-negative breast cancer spread more quickly around the tiny rodent’s bodies. 

The truth is asparagine is a chemical compound that is truly all around us – asparagine is an amino acid that is naturally synthesized naturally in our bodies. It is also present in protein rich foods like dairy, beef, poultry, eggs, fish and other seafood. The amino acid compound is also present in potatoes, nuts, legumes, seeds, soy and whole grains. Levels of asparagine are pretty low in most fruits and vegetables, however, with the notable exception with the vegetable asparagus. 

At present, scientists don’t know yet precisely how consuming the compound influences production of it in the body. But figuring out the best ways to slow our bodies’ internal production of asparagine – via drugs or dietary interventions – could unlock new secrets to stopping the spread of cancer in our bodies. The researchers also think that it is possible that a leukemia chemotherapy drug called L-asparaginase may have the potential to slow the spread of breast cancer around the body. When scientists gave the mice the asparagine- stopping drug, which blocks production of the amino acid, it reduced the breast cancer’s ability to spread to other parts of the rodent’s bodies. Lead study author and Cambridge University cancer researcher Greg Hannon said in a statement: “When the availability of asparagine was reduced, we saw little impact on the primary tumor in the breast, but tumor cells had reduced capacity for metastases in other parts of the body.” Looks like asparagine bioavailability is the main governing model of metastasis of breast tumors.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Accurate Universal Cancer Blood Test: Major Medical Breakthrough?

With a team at Johns Hopkins University recently developing and testing a highly accurate cancer diagnosis procedure, does this represent a major medical breakthrough on our war on cancer? 

By: Ringo Bones 

A team at Johns Hopkins University has recently trialed a method that detects the eight most common forms of cancer with a reliability and accuracy several magnitudes more than existing cancer screening methods. Their vision is to provide an annual screening test designed to catch cancer early and save lives. However, one of the team members said more work was needed to assess the test’s effectiveness at detecting early-stage cancers. It has been known for some time now that tumors release tiny traces of their mutated DNA and proteins that then travels into the bloodstream. 

The CancerSEEK-test looks for mutations in 16 genes that regularly arise in cancer and eight proteins that are often released. The newfangled cancer test was trialed on 1,005 patients with cancers in the ovary, liver, stomach, pancreas, esophagus, colon, lung or breast that had not yet metastasized – i.e. spread to other tissues. Overall, the test found 70-percent of the cancers. Dr. Cristian Tomasetti, from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, told the BBC: “This field of early detection is critical. I think this can have an enormous impact on cancer mortality.” The earlier a cancer is found, the greater the chance of being able to treat it. 

Five of the eight cancers being investigated by the Johns Hopkins team have no screening programs for early detection. In some cases, the test also provided information about the tissue-of-origin of the cancer, but not all. Pancreatic cancer has so few symptoms and is detected so late that 4 in 5 patients die in the year they are diagnosed with the disease. Finding tumors when they could still be surgically removed would be “a night and day difference” when it comes to surviving cancer, says Dr. Tomasetti.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Is “Baby Brain” Real?

Used to be dismissed by pregnant women as the mere “fatigue” of carrying another developing human life, does an Australian research finally proves that it is a real and measurable?

By: Ringo Bones 

“Baby brain” – the so-called mental fog many women say they experience during pregnancy, is a genuine, measurable phenomenon, a recent Australian study has just found. Researchers at Deakin University undertook a mental analysis of 20 studies involving more than 1,200 women. They found out that overall cognitive functioning was poorer in pregnant women than in non-pregnant women. “General cognitive functioning, memory and executive functioning were significantly reduced during the third trimester of pregnancy, but not during the first two trimesters,” the authors wrote. Executive function covers attention to detail, planning and problem solving. 

The study published in the Medical Journal of Australia found changes to cognitive functioning and memory occurred early in pregnancy, but did not become apparent until the third trimester. “The declines start to happen between the first and second trimester and then look like they stabilize but are most obvious in the third trimester,” senior author Associate Professor Linda Byrne said. Lapses were more likely to be minor – such as forgetting or failing to book medical appointments, rather than impaired performance at work, or an inability to navigate complex tasks. “Baby brain is most likely to be noticed by mothers-to-be and those closest to them, with women remaining within normal ranges of memory and cognitive function.” 

Professor Byrne said the results were consistent with recent findings of long-term reductions in brain gray matter volume during pregnancy. “It looks like the reason pregnant women have gray matter reduction is because they’re probably recruiting those areas to more important areas associated with the business of child rearing – so things like bonding and social condition.” She said.