by ilene - February 23rd, 2011 2:44 am
While this study doesn’t prove a positive link, it supports my worry that one may eventually be found between cell phone usage and brain cancer. – Ilene
HENRIK SORENSEN/GETTY IMAGES
Do cell phones cause cancer? We’d all like to know, but unfortunately there’s no clear answer — yet. Now an intriguing new study takes a first step toward a possible answer, suggesting that holding your cell phone to your ear does have a measurable effect on the brain, even during cell-phone sessions of less than an hour.
Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (part of the National Institutes of Health), reports Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) that a cell phone’s electromagnetic field can cause changes in brain activity. Specifically, she and her team found that the regions nearest to the antenna of closely held mobile devices showed higher rates of energy (or glucose) consumption.
Before you start to panic that all your cell-phone confessionals have set you up for some kind of brain tumor, remember this: higher rates of glucose metabolism in the brain can mean a number of things. Yes, tumor cells may gobble up more glucose to fuel their relentless growth, but healthy brain cells need constant replenishment too, to keep up the intricate network of messages and connections that help us think, eat, move and stay alive. Depending on what you’re doing, different areas of your brain will require more glucose — if you’re playing Scrabble, your language centers might demand more attention, while deep emotions such as grief or euphoria will cause neurons involved in the mood-regulating limbic system to consume more energy.
Researchers found that the brain regions closest to the active phone’s antenna showed the highest rates of glucose activity, and Volkow says the next step is to understand what that means. “Is this a temporary change that recovers every single time, or do chronic, long periods of exposure potentially have long-lasting effects? We need to know that,” she says.
The study is the first to look at glucose metabolism as a marker for the effect of a magnetic
by ilene - September 6th, 2010 2:30 am
Spend a few minutes soaking up some rays and your body will start to pump out more vitamin D. Many health officials believe Americans are D-deficient, but in the age of sunblock and self-tanners, how many vitamin-D pills should we be popping? New guidelines for the optimal dietary dose are expected in the fall, and definitive studies on vitamin D’s effects on cancer, heart disease and cognition are ongoing. In the meantime, here’s where the science stands.
Vitamin D may prevent cancer by suppressing the cell growth and blood-vessel formation that feed tumors. At least that’s the idea, based on animal studies and analyses of human cells. But trials in which patients take vitamin D have not shown a consistent lowering of cancer risk.
One four-year trial of 1,200 postmenopausal women found a 77% lower risk of all cancers among those taking calcium and 1,000 IU of vitamin D a day than among those taking a placebo. A larger study, however, in which subjects took 400 IU of vitamin D — in the absence of an official daily recommended intake, that’s the "adequate" intake for adults ages 51 to 70 — did not show lower breast-cancer risk.
The data are strongest for colorectal cancer: subjects with higher blood levels of vitamin D were half as likely as those with lower levels to develop the disease.
Studies on animals and human-cell cultures indicate that vitamin D has a protective effect on the heart, controlling the release of stress hormones that lead to high blood pressure and inflammation.
Studies on human subjects confirm this link. In one trial, men whose blood work showed D levels below 30 nanograms per milliliter — the amount the Institute of Medicine says adults should aim for — were twice as likely to have a heart…
by ilene - May 13th, 2010 2:03 am
I’m not likely to ruin my life and take this test, but can see the value. For example, small amounts of alcohol, particularly red wine, may lower the risk of heart disease while simultaneously increasing the risk for certain cancers. If a genetic test revealed a higher than normal risk for heart disease, but not cancer, maybe a glass of wine would be more enjoyable than if the test revealed the opposite results. Knowing one’s risk areas might be of use in financial planning as well.
Benefit or not, I hope the package includes a lot of disclaimers such as "we are not responsible for the effects of any food or drinking binges in celebration of your low risk test results." - Ilene
Courtesy of Richard Metzger of Dangerous Minds
Attention hypochondriacs! If you are feeling the need to seriously freak yourself out, look no further than your local Walgreens store! Yup, starting Friday you can purchase an at-home test kit that allows people who, well, worry about these things (obsessively) to see if their DNA makes them more likely to develop one (or more!) of dozens of different health conditions. Breast cancer? Check. Heart disease? Check! Alzheimer’s disease? Can do! Just swab your cheek, pop it in the mail and within a week or so, your life will be completely ruined!
From The Chicago Tribune:
The product’s introduction raises immediate concerns among scientists, bio-ethicists and genetic counselors. They worry that consumers will misuse or misunderstand the results of a test so open to interpretation it is potentially meaningless, or frightening, especially without a full medical assessment.
On Tuesday, the Food and Drug Administration told the Tribune it is investigating the medical claims the product’s manufacturer, California-based Pathway Genomics, is making in marketing its genetic test, which hasn’t been approved by U.S. regulators.
Pathway officials say the company’s home genetic test meets federal regulations and doesn’t require FDA approval. “The tests conducted are not an in-vitro medical device and are not intended for use in diagnosis, treatment, mitigation or cure of disease. It does provide information that allows a person to learn about their health to make healthier lifestyle choices,” said Ed MacBean, Pathway’s vice president of product management. “If the FDA contacts us, we will discuss it and address any concerns they
by ilene - May 8th, 2010 2:54 pm
Courtesy of New Scientist
IN CERTAIN social circles, it’s not what you know, but who you know that counts. The same seems to be true of the gene switches that turn on cancer cells.
One way cells turn genes on and off is via small RNA molecules. In cancer, the usual pattern of microRNA production is disrupted…
Carlo Croce,… created a diagram of interacting miRNAs for normal body cells by connecting them according to which genes they target and the function of those genes, in a way similar to analyses of human social networks. Most miRNAs have limited effects, but it turns out that a few extend their influence in many directions – just as a few people in a social network seem to "know everybody".
When the researchers compared these networks for ordinary cells and for cells from 51 forms of cancer, they found that all the miRNAs of ordinary cells were connected in a single network…
What’s more, the highly connected "hub" miRNAs were often different for cancer cells (Genome Research, DOI: 10.1101/gr.098046.109). These unique hubs might represent key points of attack in cancer therapies, says Croce.
Social network analogy: The Guys from Government Sachs and pic credit, NY Times
by ilene - May 4th, 2010 7:19 pm
This is interesting, and important if you’re taking lots of supplements thinking that the more antioxidants you take, the longer you’ll live. Research is providing plenty of evidence that it doesn’t work so simply, while supplements fail to act according to the logical prevailing theory. Here’s another piece. – Ilene
High doses of antioxidant supplements induce stem cell genetic abnormalities
High doses of antioxidant nutritional supplements, such as vitamins C and E, can increase genetic abnormalities in cells, which may predispose supplement-takers to developing cancer, according to a new study from the Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute.
The study, led by Eduardo Marbán, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute, was published online today in the medical journal Stem Cells. The study also will appear in the journal’s July printed edition.
Marbán and his team accidentally discovered the danger of excessive antioxidant doses while seeking a way to reduce the genetic abnormalities that occurred naturally when the scientists sought to multiply human cardiac stem cells.
Marbán stressed that the study’s finding applies only to excessive nutritional supplements and not to foods that are rich in antioxidants, such as milk, oranges, blueberries and peanuts. In recent years, multiple studies have touted the benefits of foods rich in antioxidants.
“Taking one multivitamin daily is fine, but a lot of people take way too much because they think if a little is good, a lot must be better,” said Marbán, who is also the Mark Siegel Family Professor at Cedars-Sinai. “That is just not the case. If you are taking 10 or 100 times the amount in a daily multivitamin, you may be predisposing your cells to developing cancer, therefore doing yourself more harm than good.”
In laboratories, stem cells are often grown in a Petri dish culture than is composed of 20 percent oxygen, whereas cells growing inside human tissue are exposed to just 3 to 5 percent oxygen. But Marbán’s team of researchers became frustrated because the higher concentration of oxygen in lab-grown stem cells resulted in 9 percent of the cells being rejected because of genetic abnormalities.
by ilene - March 31st, 2010 2:22 am
Not having read the 152 page decision, I’m still happy with the outcome--if DNA is not patentable, then the argument that the "process of isolating genes makes them patentable" makes no sense. – Ilene
In a decision that could have broad ramifications for future genetic research and medical practice, United States District Court Judge Robert W. Sweet ruled Monday that patents on two genes linked to ovarian and breast cancer, BRCA-1 and BRCA-2, were invalid. The case brought by a group including the American Civil Liberties Union, the Public Patent Foundation at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law in New York and several medical institutions and individual patients, argued that, because genes are products of nature, they cannot be patented, The New York Times reports. Sweet ultimately agreed with this argument, dismissing claims from Myriad Genetics, which holds the contested gene patents, that the process of isolating genes makes them patentable. (Drawing on a 1980 Supreme Court decision in favor of patents on living organisms, many expected the federal judge to rule in favor of the patent holder, the New York Times reports.) Yet, ultimately, Sweet found the patents to be in violation of a "law of nature," and openly condemned the argument that gene isolation should influence patentability, calling it "“a ‘lawyer’s trick’ that circumvents the prohibition on the direct patenting of the DNA in our bodies but which, in practice, reaches the same result.”
The ruling from the U.S. Court for the Southern District of New York state, has two major implications. First, if it withstands appeal, "it should greatly widen access to BRCA testing in the US, where Myriad’s patent has inflated the cost," according to the Times of London. Currently, women have to pay Myriad Genetics some $3,000 in order to get tested for BRCA-1 or BRCA-2, NPR reports. In Europe, where patents on the two genes are either limited or shared with cancer research organizations, there is already wider access to the tests, according…
by ilene - January 28th, 2010 12:47 pm
While drilling techniques for natural gas from American shale formations continue to appear safe overall, many are questioning the reliability and objectivity of current environmental assessments.
Statements such as the following only cause confusion and distrust:
Dallas News: Nearly one-fourth of the sites monitored in North Texas’ Barnett Shale natural-gas region had levels of cancer-causing benzene in the air that could raise health concerns, state regulators said Wednesday.
They emphasized, however, that gas companies have fixed the worst emission problems and are working on less-serious sites where the state still wants benzene levels to come down.
"We don’t have a widespread air-quality issue, at least according to the data," said John Sadlier, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality’s deputy director for compliance and enforcement.
Mayor Calvin Tillman of the tiny Denton County town of Dish criticized the study for not including enough tests in residential areas or enough long-term sampling. The town commissioned its own monitoring last year that found extremely high benzene levels.
"I don’t think they want to find anything in a populated area, and I think their sampling reflects that," Tillman said.
The shale gas drilling (and frakking) safety tests of today will have huge ramifications for tomorrow, given that current drilling only scratches the surface of the U.S.’s potential shale-derived natural gas reserves.
Still, given the major commitments in American shale gas made by Exxon (via its recent XTO acquisition) and France’s Total (via its Chesapeake tie-up), it seems highly likely that shale’s environmental concerns will eventually be managed. In the end there’s likely a way to extract the gas safely without too much added cost, if it already isn’t safe enough. Note Total just closed its $2.25 billion Chesapeake joint-venture deal. Regardless, Chesapeake shares are falling.
The author owns shares in Chesapeake Energy (CHK).
by ilene - January 27th, 2010 10:38 am
Orphan Drugs Are Good! BioMarin Pharmaceuticals
Courtesy of Pharmboy
A rare disease, sometimes known as an orphan disease, is any disease that is not common. Typically, a rare disease has such a low prevalence in a population that a physician in a busy general practice would not expect to see more than one case a year. Most rare diseases are genetic--present throughout the person’s entire life, even if symptoms do not appear immediately. However, many rare diseases appear early in life, and about 30% of children with rare diseases die before reaching their fifth birthdays.
No single cutoff number has been agreed upon for which a disease is considered rare. A disease may be considered rare in one part of the world, or in a particular group of people, but still be common in another. In the United States of America, the Rare Disease Act of 2002 defines rare disease strictly according to prevalence, as any disease or condition that affects less than 200,000 persons in the United States, or about 1 in 1,500 people.
BioMarin’s (BMRN) core business and research is in enzyme replacement therapies for orphan diseases. They are the first company to provide therapeutics for mucopolysaccharidosis type I (MPS I), by manufacturing Aldurazyme (commercialized by Genzyme Corporation). BioMarin is also the first company to provide therapeutics for Phenylketonuria (PKU)
As of 2005, BioMarin commercialized arylsulfatase B (Naglazyme) as an enzyme replacement therapy for the treatment of mucopolysaccharidosis VI (MPS VI), and in 2007 a drug version of tetrahydrobiopterin (Kuvan), the first medication-based intervention to treat phenylketonuria.
On 11/30/09, BioMarin announced that the FDA has granted orphan drug designation for 3,4-diaminopyridine (3,4-DAP), amifampridine phosphate, for the rare autoimmune disease Lambert Eaton Myasthenic Syndrome (LEMS). 3,4-DAP has previously received orphan drug designation in the E.U. Also, in October 2009, the Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use of the European Medicines Evaluations Agency adopted a positive opinion recommending approval of amifampridine phosphate for LEMS. If approved by the European Commission, amifampridine phosphate will be the first approved treatment for LEMS, thereby conferring orphan drug protection and providing ten years of market exclusivity in Europe. BMRN expects to meet with the FDA in early 2010 to determine the necessary regulatory path for…