Thursday, November 29, 2012

Brown Fat Cells: The Secret To Combating Obesity?

Even though it is still a largely esoteric part of the human anatomy, does brown fat cells now hold the key in our battle against obesity?

By: Ringo Bones

Just look at every survey and study made since the mid-1990s about the incidence of obesity, chances are figures show that up to 33 percent of Americans are now obese. Worse still, her “poorer” neighbor south-of-the-border had shown an increasing rise in childhood obesity cases since the mid 1990s. Given that a proper diet and exercise alone seems powerless to halt the slowly - but so even perceptively – increasing cases of obesity, can another much healthier tactic be used to end this scourge of civilized mankind?

Since their scrutiny by medical researchers, brown fat cells had been found out to be active in infants as a way to keep them warm, but brown fat cells later turn off metabolically in adulthood. During the 1980s, MRI imaging technicians used to mistake dormant brown fat cells of adult patients being examined as cancer cells for their cancer-like imaging result in a typical MRI scanning session. Further studies in the 1990s had also shown that brown fat cells had kept our Stone-Age ancestors warm but our largely indoor lifestyle could have metabolically atrophied the main function of our brown fat cells – which is burning food sourced calories to keep us warm.

Dr. Norbert Stefan, an endocrinologist at Tubingen State University, specializes in the treatment of morbidly obese persons and persons with thyroid deficiency that made them morbidly obese. As latest medical research have shown that brown fat cells are packed with mitochondria and are a regional main hub for capillaries that controls our body’s core temperature, Dr. Stefan’s pioneering new method of curing obesity centers around increasing the metabolic rate of largely dormant brown fat cells in adults to make them burn more calories even when living out our present-day largely sedentary lifestyle.

A hormone treatment that’s used to be given to people with thyroid disorders had recently been trialed to activate the dormant brown fat cells in adults stricken with obesity, though the. Preliminary results have shown that more than 90 percent of the trial participants had their overall weight reduced down to much more healthier levels than before – especially those patients who also added dieting and exercise to the treatment. Could revitalizing our atrophied brown fat cells be the key to ending the scourge of obesity in out increasingly sedentary 21st Century lifestyle? 

Monday, October 29, 2012

Arsenic Cancer Therapy

More famous as the poison of choice in murder mysteries due to its not so obvious symptoms, does arsenic has the potential for a more useful role in cancer therapy?

By: Ringo Bones

Since ancient times and until Victorian period murder mysteries, writers and murderers have often resorted to arsenic largely because its symptoms resemble that cholera. It wasn’t until the advances of analytic chemistry in the 19th Century that law-enforcement forensic teams have amassed enough knowledge to tell whether arsenic was used to poison someone. And given its role as a cure for venereal diseases before the advent of antibiotics and its recently reprised role as a cure for antibiotic-resistant venereal diseases does arsenic – or more accurately arsenical compounds – now have a role in cancer therapy?

In a pilot study during the late 1990s, it was shown that certain medical arsenic compounds is given in low doses to patients with a rare form of leukemia known as APL or acute promyelocytic leukemia, nearly all patients go into remission.  The treatment – using all-trans retinoic acid (ATRA), a derivative of vitamin A,  is mixed with arsenic trioxide – has back then been found to have fewer side effects than conventional chemotherapy previously used on APL using only ATRA.

APL or acute promyelocytic leukemia is a subtype of acute myelogenous leukemia or AML, a cancer of the blood and bone marrow – and it is also known as acute progranulocytic leukemia. Acute promyelocytic leukemia was first identified in 1957 and from then until the elucidation of its developmental mechanism by medical researchers during the 1970s, APL had a 100 per cent mortality rate as there was still no effective treatment. After years of further study, it was later found out that APL is unique among myeloid types of leukemia due to its sensitivity to all-trans retinoic acid or ATRA. But it wasn’t until the chemotherapy regimen consisting of ATRA and arsenic trioxide that was developed during the late 1990s that APL leukemia was no longer the death sentence it previously was. 

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Broccoli Based Cancer Therapy, Anyone?

It may be more infamous as one of the most despised vegetables by kids during mealtime, but does broccoli have something to contribute to humanity’s “war on cancer”?

By: Ringo Bones

 Imagine if you or someone close to you have just found out that they have cancer and the doctor recommends broccoli cancer therapy. Would they think that the cure is worse than the disease? Almost all of us at one time or another probably hate it as kids when we were quite almost literally forced feed it during mealtime and it is still an acquired taste for us when it is sautéed in some irresistible secret sauce in a typical Chinese haute cuisine, but did you know that broccoli might have something in it that can be used as a potential cure for cancer?

Dr. Ingrid Herr of Heidelberg University Hospital and her research team had just found out in a recent medical study that a chemical found in broccoli makes conventional chemotherapy more effective in treating ordinary cancer cells and even the more aggressive stem cell cancer cells. The chemical is called sulforaphane – an organosulfur compound that exhibits anti-cancer and antimicrobial properties. Even though sulforaphane was found to be effective in previous anti-cancer experimental models, the recent study by Dr. Herr was one of the first of its kind to be tried in a real-world scenario in conjunction with existing chemotherapy.

Sulforaphanes are not only found in broccoli but also in other cruciferous vegetables such as Brussels sprouts and cabbages. It is produced, or “synthesized”, when the enzyme myrosinase transforms glucoraphanin – a glucosinolate – into sulforaphane upon damage to the vegetable’s cellular structure via chewing. Young sprouts of broccoli and cauliflower are particularly rich in glucoraphanin. In previous studies, consumption of broccoli sprouts had also been shown to be potentially effective at inhibiting the growth of Helicobacter pylori in our stomachs. Sadly, this is a further proof that most foods that are genuinely good for our health are the one’s we don’t particularly like. 

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Immunotherapy: Newfangled Cancer Therapy?

Medical science had been trumpeting for ages that the complete understanding of our bodies’ immune system will be the “Magic Bullet” when it comes to curing all known diseases. Can it be used to cure all forms of cancer, too?

By: Ringo Bones

Ever since the advent of advanced microscopy, medical researchers had been fascinated by the phenomena of Killer T-Cells attacking cancer cells and during the latter half of the 1990s, sophisticated medical scanning equipment had even observed – in real time – cancer cells being attacked by Killer T-Cells in a living subject as soon as they are formed. Given the fascinating capabilities thus observed so far about using the human body’s own immune system to cure cancer, how come is it still not a widely-used medical procedure?

In a BBC interview back in July 2012, Paul Werman – head of the Institute of Cancer Research – says that the lack of research funding is the biggest hurdle faced by immunotherapy researchers around the world from progressing beyond the experimental treatment phase. One common proven application of immunotherapy method is by growing the patient’s own Killer T-Cells in the lab. This method had been showing good results in cancer patients who are not responding well to current conventional chemotherapy regimens.

As commonly observed via advanced microscopy methods, Killer T-Cells usually surround near cancer cell clusters as soon as they form, but the Killer T-Cells only attack the cancer cells in fits and stops. Killer T-Cells only attack cancer cell clusters continuously only if enough of them surrounds a cancer cell cluster. But if improved on further, immunotherapy could prove very useful in treating inoperable tumors – i.e. tumors located in hard-to-reach parts of the human body and for use in patients who might not survive conventional aggressive chemotherapy and/or radiation treatment. And immunotherapy might not only be useful in cancer therapy, it can also be used to treat fast-mutating viral diseases like AIDS, avian influenza – and even the common cold.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Lutetium-177: Latest Radioisotope For Cancer Therapy?

Though production of radioactive isotopes or radioisotopes for medical use date back to the World War II era Manhattan Project, does lutetium-177 represent the latest advances in radioisotope cancer treatment?

By: Ringo Bones

The radioisotopes – which more than 150 are now have current medical use are perhaps the most notable byproduct of humanity’s atomic energy program that dates back to the latter years of World War II. Many isotopes discovered afterwards had been tested and used to apply radiation for cancer treatment both externally and internally. The great concentrated of the radioactivity emitted by these substances is evident by the fact that their ability to penetrate body tissue is approximately the same as that of the radiation from a 2-million-volt X-ray machine. But is there anything new that can still be discovered from the somewhat esoteric field of radioisotope cancer therapy?

Thanks to small research nuclear reactors that are found in most Ivy League college’s nuclear physics labs that can be operated for around 200 US dollars an hour, many previously unknown radioactive isotopes can now be economically produced to be studied for their potential cancer therapy use. The latest of which is lutetium-177, which after extensive testing was found out to only target tumors while ignoring healthy cells – especially neuro-endocrine tumors which can be almost impossible to remove by conventional surgery alone.

Like previous radioactive isotopes used for cancer treatment, lutetium-177 is usually delivered intravenously to the body via saline solution from its shielded container. Still the lutetium-177 infusion dose is still a relatively rare medical procedure and there are still doctors and hospitals out there that are still unfamiliar with using lutetium-177 as a radioisotope for cancer treatment. Lutetium-177 is also notable for its ability to penetrate a typical cancer cell’s defenses and its side effects are less extreme in comparison to more aggressive forms of chemotherapy. And lutetium-177 is even better than radioisotope phosphorous-32 in differentiating brain tumors from normal brain tissue, thus sparking its interest as the latest procedure in radioisotope cancer therapy.     

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Is Smoking Marijuana Bad For Your I.Q.?

As a long-term study on marijuana smoking was published a week ago, does marijuana use – even for legitimate medicinal purposes – bad for one’s I.Q. scores? 

By: Ringo Bones 

The 20-year long study was originally conducted in New Zealand where it drew 1,000 people observing the long-term effects of marijuana use. A significant number of the participants even started smoking marijuana when they were as young as 13- years of age. According to the results of the study, long-term cannabis use by adolescents whose brains have not yet fully developed show signs of memory loss and up to an 8-point drop in their I.Q. scores. And the worst cases of memory loss and I.Q. score reductions occur in study participants who use marijuana before their 18th birthday at more than 4 times a week. Given the sobering study results, will this be used by some conservative right-wing politicians against the legalization of marijuana for legitimate medical use? 

Given the supposed “neutrality” of the study from the basis of where it gets its funding and where it was conducted, medical marijuana special interest groups will look at the results with suspicion – given the long shadow cast by the Ronald Reagan era sham research on marijuana use exaggerating its supposed dangers. In some jurisdictions in the United States, the legalized medical marijuana industry is now so entrenched culturally, socially and economically that further restricting its use using this study as a justification will be seen nothing more than Reagan Administration era demagoguery – as opposed to a peer-reviewed scientifically informed argument against it.  

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Unhealthy Products Sponsoring The London 2012 Olympics: A Public Health Catastrophe?

 Given that the Olympic motto is: “Faster, Higher, Stronger”, are companies that sell unhealthy products sponsoring the London 2012 Olympics making the average spectator “fatter, drunker and sicker?” 

By: Ringo Bones 

Probably the only high-level scandal plaguing the 2012 Olympiad beside the security contractor G4S failing some of its obligations, the issue of companies peddling unhealthy products being allowed to sponsor every Summer Olympic event since the 1984 L.A. Olympics has been finally given the focus it desperately deserves. Many are now questioning the wisdom of Mc Donald’s, Heiniken and Coca Cola – just to name a few – being allowed by the International Olympic Committee to sponsor every Olympic event since, given that these products have the propensity of making the average Olympic enthusiasts chronic health problems like obesity, heart disease, cirrhosis of the liver, type-2 diabetes and other “diseases of civilization”. Given that the Olympic motto is the hendiatris Citius, Altius, Fortius – or in English: “Faster, Higher, Stronger”, should companies peddling unhealthy products be prevented from sponsoring any Summer Olympic events in the future? 

In a BBC interview back in July 14, 2012, former International Olympic Committee marketing director Michael Payne is also concerned of the growing number of companies who sell unhealthy food and drinks being allowed to sponsor the Summer Olympic Games. But he also stresses that if these companies were banned from sponsoring the games, the IOC would be left with a financial black hole that can’t be easily filled with other sponsors who sell much healthier products. Isn’t the Olympic Games primarily a celebration of health and fitness whether you are an Olympic hopeful or just a mere spectator? 

Given that the UK government’s budget for spreading awareness about healthier diet is way, way smaller than these multi-national corporations who spend millions every year advertising their alcoholic and sugar-saturated drinks and junk food – most ordinary folks tend to opt for a dubious eating and drinking lifestyle choice because its what they frequently see on the telly anyway. A recent public health study in Britain shows that if this current trend of an unhealthy lifestyle choice continues by the year 2050, 90% of the UK population could be overweight. This means the already burdened UK’s NHS could be strained even further with obesity and diet-related chronic health problems. At present, over-indulgent dietary related diseases kill 35-million around the world every year – 5 times more than that of tobacco related deaths. And at present, junk food and alcoholic beverage sponsors of the London 2012 Olympics still can’t be held accountable – let alone responsible – of the way their products ruin the health of the UK public.