Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Boron: The Least Glamorous Health Supplement?

Better known as a composite structural material in 1990s era high-end tennis racquets and phonograph cartridge cantilevers, is the element boron the least glamorous of all the health supplements?

By: Ringo Bones

Does anyone even remember when was the last time his or her general practitioner / doctor / or the online shopping health supplement promoter recommended hat he or she should be taking boron pills? To the not-so-well-informed, the name of the chemical element boron is derived from borax and carbon. The element was discovered back in 1808 by Joseph Louis Gay-Lussac and Louis Jacques Thénard. Chemical symbol B, boron is a semi-metallic chemical element and is a member of the aluminum family which also includes aluminum, gallium, indium and thallium. Even though it is exploited by 1950s era Madison Avenue “Mad Men” to make adverts for boron gasoline that is based on the “futuristic” jet fuel of the XB-70 Valkyrie. It seems that the general public’s perception of boron has faded into relative obscurity by the 21st Century.

From the high-school chemistry textbook’s perspective, boron is best known as a constituent in borax (sodium borate) and in boric acid – the one acid that is good for the eyes - though the benefits of regular use of boric acid eye-drops have yet to be exploited by health supplement manufacturers. About a million tons of boron is used in the U.S. industry each year. In agriculture, boron serves both as a plant food and weed killer.

It may be one of the least glamorous and most esoteric of the health supplements but boron could actually help reduce the risk of prostate cancer. In the first epidemiologic study of this trace element, researchers have recently found out that men who consume the most boron – a “mere” 1.8 micrograms a day – have a 62 percent lower chance of developing prostate cancer, compared with those who get half that amount. But which everyday foods are rich source of the chemical element boron? Recent studies have shown that nuts, wine and fruits and vegetables like grapes, prunes and avocado contain significant amounts of boron of high bioavailability.       

Are Rapid HIV-1 Antibody Tests Prone To Inaccuracies?

Even though over-the-counter kits had been available for sometime now, are rapid HIV-1 antibody tests still “prone to inaccuracy problems”?

By: Ringo Bones

Even before it’s over-the counter kit counterparts were granted approval, rapid HIV-1 antibody tests had been providing “point of care” results that made the need of laboratory facilities unnecessary, but researchers in Uganda have found out some time ago that such tests could result in “possible misrepresentation of results”. R.H. Gray and his team had noticed in practice of the limitations of rapid HIV-1 antibody tests during screening for trials in Uganda diagnostic test accuracy study that was published in the British Medical Journal back in 2007.   

A total of 1,517 males aged 15 to 49 years of age were screened for trials of circumcision to prevent HIV infection. They used an algorithm with three different rapid tests – i.e. first test negative – HIV-negative diagnosis; first and second test positive – HIV positive; first test positive, second test negative – diagnosis based on result of third test. These diagnoses were compared with diagnoses based on enzyme immunoassay and western blotting.

The sensitivity of the rapid tests for a diagnosis of HIV infections was 98-percent. The strength of any positive bands was coded for 639 samples. Among these samples, 125 tested positive and 37 of these were weak-positive. In this subgroup of 639 samples, the specificity was only 94-percent and the positive predictive value of 74-percent (26-percent false-positives). Among the 37 samples that were weakly positive, 86-percent were HIV-negative on laboratory testing and 8-percent gave indeterminate results on western blotting. When the 37 weak-positives were excluded, specificity was almost 100-percent, as in 99.6-percent, and the positive predictive value was 98-percent. Given the “convoluted statistics”, weak-positive bands on rapid tests should be confirmed by enzyme immunoassay and western blotting. Standard serological assays should be used for quality control in all programmes using rapid HIV-1 antibody tests.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Loose Baby Teeth: A Good Source of Stem Cells?

Maybe the “Tooth Fairy” has been to busy in telling medical researchers, but are loose baby teeth a good source of pluripotent stem cells?

By: Ringo Bones

It might spell good news to conservative right-wingers in America who are the most vocal critic of stem-cell research citing the moral implications of destroying human embryos for medical research after it was found out that loose baby teeth could be a good source of pluripotent stem cells. Should healthcare providers start offering to cryogenically store loose baby teeth in addition to umbilical cord blood for future medical use?

Songtai Shi – a dentist and a medical researcher at the National Institutes of Health – experimented with his then –year-old daughter Julia’s loose baby tooth 12 years ago after noticing a little piece of red pulp was still attached. This gave Shi the idea to try to culture the cells of the loose baby tooth’s pulp to check for potential to produce stem cells. Back at the lab, he extracted the pulp and found out that it contained a number of stem cells – those special progenitor cells that can be used to replenish various types of tissue.

Unlike stem cells found in human embryos, which can become anything from skin to nerves to muscles, the stem cells in baby teeth seem to transform themselves only to into bone, nerve and fat cells, limiting their usefulness. They do, however, grow more quickly than in stem cells found in full-grown adults. Given current research results, It may be too early yet to suggest that families should start saving their young children’s baby teeth in an organ bank for future stem cell therapeutic use but given that baby teeth sourced stem cells doesn’t involve the destruction of human embryos – future research and therapeutic use could use religious conservatives’ criticisms on stem cell research and therapy might be put a ease.