Monthly Archives: February 2014

BPA and cancer: a direct link discovered

Composition with plastic bottles of mineral waterBisphenol A, or BPA, is a chemical that’s found in many of the products we use every day. It’s an endocrine disruptor, so it can interfere with the hormones in your body. It’s used to make many plastics and resins, and you’ll find it in food cans, water bottles, dental fillings, DVDs and CDs, cash register tape, and much more. Previous research has shown that BPA can- and does- leach into food products, but until now, there hasn’t been a direct link established between BPA and cancer. BPA has been linked to plenty of other health issues, though.

Now, new research from the University of Michigan shows a direct link between BPA exposure and liver cancer. Pregnant mice were fed a diet containing human-relevant amounts of BPA during their pregnancy and while they were nursing their pups. And the babies of these mice were much more likely to develop liver tumors than control mice- it seems that the developing pups weren’t able to rid their systems of the chemical as efficiently as adults.

What does this mean for you? Pay attention to food labels! Look for BPA-free products, limit the amount of food you eat from cans and plastic containers that contain BPA, and be especially careful when you’re pregnant and when you have children in the home. Diet and health fads may come and go, but as we learn more about BPA, the news only gets worse. Read about the study here:

http://www.ns.umich.edu/new/multimedia/videos/21951-liver-tumors-found-in-mice-exposed-to-bpa

Third-hand smoke just as dangerous as actually smoking?

Smoking killsFirst-hand smoke exposure is the smoke inhaled by the actual smoker, and second-hand smoke exposure is when others inhale the exhaled smoke. But according to new research, third-hand smoke exposure could be just as dangerous as first- and second-hand smoke.

Third-hand smoke exposure is exposure to surfaces that have been contaminated with second-hand smoke. When a smoker moves out of a house, surfaces and dust can remain contaminated. As time goes on, nicotine is re-emitted from the contamination, and nicotine exposure can approach the levels of first-hand smoking.

Mice exposed to third-hand smoke were hyperactive, experienced significant lung and liver damage, and their wound healing abilities were reduced. In addition to these findings, it was found that third-hand smoke exposure can lead to type II diabetes!

What does this mean for you? Well, it might be more important than you think to choose a hotel that prohibits smoking and pay more attention to the smoking habits of previous owners of your new homes and automobiles. While a lingering odor of smoke might dissipate over time, the lasting effects may not. If you’re still smoking, here’s another great reason to consider the effects you may be having on your kids, your friends’ kids, and those who will be here long after you are.

http://ucrtoday.ucr.edu/20236

Sleep your way to a cancer-fighting immune system

Little girl and puppy sleepingA good night’s sleep may be more important than you think! New research suggests that interrupted sleep can affect the immune system’s ability to fight off early stage cancers. Tumors in mice that experienced poor quality and intermittent sleep grew faster and invaded surrounding tissues more aggressively than tumors in control mice.

But don’t worry- it’s not all bad news. Although the results of this study weren’t exactly encouraging for the 70 million Americans suffering from sleep problems, researchers were able to identify specific cells in the immune system that drive tumor growth- and this could ultimately help a lot of people.

This is a case where animal studies were really important. Tumor growth can be affected by many different factors, so in controlled research environments, extra precautions can be taken to make sure that only specific variables are introduced. And in this situation, when the only variable in the study was sleep, the results of the study are especially relevant.

Could treatments for cancer patients have a higher success rate if the patients are well-rested? Are patients suffering from insomnia due to chronic pain at a higher risk for developing cancer? Can sleeping with a TV or radio on disrupt your sleep enough to cause health problems? Until we know… try to catch some extra zzz’s tonight, it can’t hurt!

http://www.uchospitals.edu/news/2014/20140127-fragmented-sleep.html

A father, a rare disease, and a second chance

iStock_000014156140SmallHave you ever heard of Pompe disease? It’s a rare degenerative disorder that affects approximately 1 in 40,000 people, and it causes progressive muscle weakness. And children with the disease usually died of heart failure within a few years- that is, until one father did something about it.

John Crowley is a proud father of three, and two of his children have Pompe disease. After his children were diagnosed at extremely young ages and he found out that there was no cure for the disease, he quit his job as a drug company executive and started his own biotech firm- and developed a successful treatment that would keep his childrens’ hearts from failing.

While his children- now 16 and 17 years old- are still facing challenges from this disease, they are most definitely a shining example of hope and determination. A modern-day “Superman” of a father stopped everything to give his kids a chance. And that’s what we need- superheroes on a mission to raise awareness and show the ingenuity and passion required to develop new treatments and cures for rare diseases.

YOU can help. Speak up, raise awareness for these diseases and the children fighting them, and advocate for basic science and advancements made possible through research. Pass this on- share it with your friends and family, and let one father be an example of what we can do with the right amount of determination!

http://m.us.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052702304854804579236133090050044?mobile=y

Have researchers discovered the Philosopher’s Stone of medicine?

iStock_000027186605SmallThe Philosopher’s Stone is a legendary substance that is believed to turn ordinary metals into gold. And in a way, researchers may have found it- a way to turn ordinary cells into extremely valuable new cells that could change the face of medicine.

Believe it or not, plants were the inspiration for this discovery. When exposed to environmental stressors, plant cells can change into immature cells that can develop into completely new plants. So scientists listened to the plants, and decided to see if they could create a similar response when ‘stressing’ mouse cells. And it worked! After trying several different tactics, they found that soaking cells in an acidic solution (think mildly acidic like vinegar, not sulfuric or hydrochloric acid) actually caused them to reprogram.

This breakthrough has enabled researchers to actually create cells that act like stem cells. Stem cells are important because they are flexible enough to be able to develop into any kind of cell (unlike skin cells, muscle cells, liver cells, etc. which already have defined purposes) with the right instructions. The use of stem cells isolated from embryos has been controversial, so this development has really been creating a buzz in the medical community!

Could ‘stressing’ cells help human patients? Is it possible that patients with limb amputations, nerve injuries, or degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s could benefit from this research? While it’s too early to tell, this is one amazing discovery that’s definitely worth keeping tabs on!

http://news.sciencemag.org/biology/2014/01/acid-treatment-could-provide-breakthrough-stem-cell-technique