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Old Health and Medicine Articles from 2007 and Before

Can we reverse aging by tweaking our biological machinery?

Humans have been looking for ways to cheat death for centuries. And while we’ve succeeded in extending our life span, many people suffer ill health in their later years. Now researchers have pivoted to study ways to improve our “health span” to allow us to enjoy our longevity. The cover story in Chemical & Engineering News (C&EN), the weekly newsmagazine of the American Chemical Society, explores whether this could finally unlock the secrets of youth.

Sarah Everts, a senior editor at C&EN, notes that at the crux of the search for longer life is the fundamental question: Why do we age at all? For most of human history, people died of violence, starvation and infectious diseases. Most researchers who study aging agree that our bodies were meant to be at their best long enough to reproduce — but that the traits which helped humans to stay alive long enough to procreate can pose problems decades later.

By American Chemical Society - Thursday, March 9, 2017 - Full Story

Moving toward faster, more accurate detection of food- and water-borne bacteria

Food poisoning is a scourge. Yet preventing it is far from foolproof. But in a new study in Analytical Chemistry, scientists report that they are closing in on a way to use a combination of color-changing paper and electrochemical analysis — on plastic transparency sheets or simple paper — to quickly, cheaply and more accurately detect bacterial contamination of fruits and vegetables in the field before they reach grocery stores, restaurants and household pantries.

Of all the contaminants found in food and water, bacteria cause the most hospitalizations and deaths in the United States. Nearly half of these incidents are attributed to spinach, cabbage, lettuce and other leafy greens, which are sometimes irrigated with unsafe water containing fecal material. Federal regulations require frequent testing of fruits and vegetable for bacterial contamination. But traditional lab cultures take up to 48 hours to produce results, and other techniques such as DNA amplification and immunoassays are costly and are prone to false results. Recently, Charles S. Henry and colleagues developed a paper-based method to detect Salmonella, Listeria and E. coli in food and water samples. In their latest study, Henry’s team wanted to see if it would be feasible to use this paper-based technique in conjunction with electrochemical analysis to produce more refined results.

By American Chemical Society - Thursday, March 9, 2017 - Full Story

How rare sugars might help control blood glucose

In an era when the label “natural” hits a sweet spot with consumers, some uncommon sugars emerging on the market could live up to the connotation. Preliminary animal studies have suggested that allulose and other low-calorie, natural rare sugars could help regulate glucose levels. Now, researchers are investigating how they might exert such effects. They report their findings in ACS’ Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

Sucrose is the natural sweetener most labels refer to when sugar is on the ingredient list. It’s abundant, and manufacturers figured out long ago how to extract it on a large scale from sugar cane and other sources. Allulose, which is 70 percent as sweet as sucrose, and other rare sugars also can be found in fruits and vegetables but in very small amounts. Recently, however, researchers discovered an industrial way to produce allulose in large quantities from high-fructose corn syrup, which contains about equal parts glucose and fructose. Some studies have suggested that allulose can help control weight gain and glucose levels, but no one knew why. Tomoya Shintani and colleagues wanted to confirm that allulose — and potentially other rare sugars — yield these results and to take a step toward understanding why.

To investigate, the team of scientists gave three groups of rats plain water, water with high-fructose corn syrup and water with rare-sugar syrup (RSS) containing glucose, fructose, allulose and other rare sugars for 10 weeks. The rats drinking RSS-infused water gained less weight, had less abdominal fat, and had lower blood glucose and insulin levels compared to the high-fructose corn syrup group. The study also showed that the liver cells’ nuclei in the RSS rats exported to the cytoplasm higher amounts of glucokinase, an enzyme that reduces blood-sugar levels by helping convert glucose to its stored form, glycogen. Although further testing is needed, the researchers say, the findings suggest that rare sugars could be a good alternative sweetener.

The authors acknowledge funding from the Matsutani Chemical Industry Co. and Meijo University.

More: “Rare Sugar Syrup Containing D-Allulose, but not High Fructose Corn Syrup, Maintains Glucose Tolerance and Insulin Sensitivity Partly via Hepatic Glucokinase Translocation in Wistar Rats”

By American Chemical Society - Wednesday, March 8, 2017 - Full Story

Pulling the curtain back on the high cost of drugs

Extreme price hikes for a handful of pharmaceuticals in recent years have severely soured public sentiment toward the industry. Drugmakers are pushing back with a public relations campaign to highlight the new treatments they bring to the table. But industry watchers say what they might need instead is more transparency and perspective, according to the cover story in Chemical & Engineering News (C&EN), the weekly newsmagazine of the American Chemical Society.

Rick Mullin, a senior editor at C&EN, notes that part of the industry’s reputation problem is one of oversimplification. High drug costs, regardless of the reasoning behind the price tags, are often perceived by the public as gouging. But while some hikes have been deemed indefensible, some industry experts say that in other cases, high prices are a company’s way to cover the costs of getting drugs to the market, reflect the complexity of the health care payment system or are calculated based on long-term value — for curing chronic diseases, for example.

The public’s tendency to lump high-cost drugs into one category, say industry watchers, shows that the drug industry needs to communicate its pricing rationale more clearly. And, experts say, pharmaceutical companies also need to understand that even if a therapy can save the health care system or patients thousands of dollars in the long run, if a person has to choose between buying food and buying essential medicine, something needs to change.

More: “Costly drugs

By American Chemical Society - Wednesday, March 8, 2017 - Full Story

Fidgeting, And Magic Underwear

“Stop tapping your pencil!” my teacher called out. I didn’t. And one day he walked to my desk, threw me to the front of the class, then tossed me out of the classroom. Now, a study at the University of Missouri, shows that fidgeting has health benefits!

And have you heard of “magic underwear”?

By Dr. Gifford Jones - Monday, March 6, 2017 - Full Story

Antimicrobial substances identified in Komodo dragon blood

In a land where survival is precarious, Komodo dragons thrive despite being exposed to scads of bacteria that would kill less hardy creatures. Now in a study published in the Journal of Proteome Research, scientists report that they have detected antimicrobial protein fragments in the lizard’s blood that appear to help them resist deadly infections. The discovery could lead to the development of new drugs capable of combating bacteria that have become resistant to antibiotics.

The world’s largest lizard, Komodo dragons live on five small islands in Indonesia. The saliva of these creatures contains at least 57 species of bacteria, which are believed to contribute to the demise of their prey. Yet, the Komodo dragon appears resistant to these bacteria, and serum from these animals has been shown to have antibacterial activity. Substances known as cationic antimicrobial peptides (CAMPs) are produced by nearly all living creatures and are an essential part of the innate immune system. So, Barney Bishop, Monique van Hoek and colleagues at the College of Science at George Mason University wondered whether they could isolate CAMPs from Komodo dragon blood, as they previously had done with alligator blood to expand the library of known CAMPs for therapeutic studies.

The team used an approach known as bioprospecting. They incubated Komodo dragon blood with negatively charged hydrogel particles that they developed to capture the peptides, which are positively charged. With this method, they identified and sequenced 48 potential CAMPs with mass spectrometry. All but one of these was derived from histone proteins, which are known to have antimicrobial activities. Eight were synthesized and tested against Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Staphylococcus aureus. Seven of the peptides showed significant potency against both bacteria. The eighth was only effective against P. aeruginosa. The researchers conclude that Komodo dragon blood plasma contains a host of potentially viable antimicrobial peptides that could help lead to new therapeutics.—Full Article...

By American Chemical Society - Wednesday, February 22, 2017 - Full Story

“Dying, I Don’t want to be There When it Happens”.

Woody Allen, when asked for his opinion about death, replied, “I don’t worry about dying, I just don’t want to be there when it happens!” Unfortunately, Allen will be there and so will the rest of us. This week, why I have a personal interest in the end of life. And what can we all do to provide the best of care to loved ones near death?

Years ago I conducted a five year battle to legalize heroin to ease the agony of dying cancer patients. Readers, at that time, sent me funds to help with costs. Finally, when heroin was legalized in 1998, $450,000 was left in the kitty which I donated to the University of Toronto, Faculty of Medicine, to establish the Gifford-Jones Professorship in Pain Control and Palliative Care. For an update of the current situation, I recently interviewed Dr. Jeff Myers, the current Professor of Palliative Care. 

By Dr. Gifford Jones - Monday, February 20, 2017 - Full Story

Ways to Decrease the Risk of Heart Attack

Every 37 seconds in North America someone dies of a heart attack. But there are several natural remedies to protect the health of our hearts. They’re all available in Health Food Stores and are not associated with the complications of cholesterol-lowering and other prescription drugs. Remember, the first rule of medicine is to do no harm.

One – Get hooked on fish
Researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health report the magic ingredient in fish is omega-3 fatty acids. Fatty acids, like Aspirin, add oil to the blood, making it less likely that platelets will stick together to form a fatal clot.

By Dr. Gifford Jones - Monday, February 13, 2017 - Full Story

Thank You for Being Our Voice

Last week, I wrote that unless we use Singapore’s solution to hang drug pushers, we will never defeat the opioid epidemic in North America. This week, a strong response from readers.

By Dr. Gifford Jones - Monday, February 6, 2017 - Full Story

Increased Activity = Greater Brain Power

What would get more people walking? This activity shows tons of health benefits. And today one person in three over the age of 85 develops Alzheimer’s disease. This statistic should get everyone out of his or her chair and walking because a report from Tufts University in Boston shows that the most active people have the largest volume of gray matter in parts of the brain typically affected by Alzheimer’s disease.

Dr. Tammy Scott, at Tufts’ Neuroscience and Aging Laboratory, says, “Physical activity has consistently shown to be beneficial to brain health.” She adds, “There is increasing evidence that regular exercise lowers the risk of dementia.”

By Dr. Gifford Jones - Monday, January 30, 2017 - Full Story