Tag Archives: children

Moms: Could there be such a thing as “too clean”?

iStock_000016947232LargeIf you are a parent, you undoubtedly know that children are magnets for germs. Literally- magnets. I’m sure that there is scientific evidence of this somewhere. I haven’t found it yet, but when I do, trust me- there will be a blog post about it.

Despite the obvious- yet unsubstantiated- theory of child/dirt magnetism, we all have that mom friend who has undoubtedly been recruited by the government to eliminate germs. And she is awesome at it. Her child is mid-cough, and a container of hand sanitizer magically appears out of her back pocket. Milk spilled from a glass hasn’t even hit the floor before her third arm appears with a mop. YOUR child is about to sneeze, and as you pretend to search for the tissue in your pocket that you should probably have ready, Super Mom produces a travel pack of baby wipes out of nowhere and comes to the rescue. You walk into her house and marvel at the lack of crumbs/ dust/ dog hair/ Cheerios imbedded in the carpet, and think “My God, this woman is amazing!”

We all love our germ-defying mom friends. They are the epitome of “Super Moms,” and give us something to strive for. But now, science is here to make the rest of us feel a little bit better about the crumbs/ dust/ dog hair/ Cheerios imbedded in our OWN carpets. Scientific research suggests that “exceptionally clean living environments” may be linked to a weakened immune system and food allergies in children.

Research studies showed that mice living in sterile environments lacked a certain gut bacteria, called Clostridia, that can protect against food allergies. The solution? Provide them with this bacteria (think mouse probiotics), and the sensitization to food allergens can be reversed. While this was a study in mice, other research studies have suggested that the use of disinfecting products, anti-microbial soap, and antibiotics can change the composition of bacteria in our gastrointestinal tracts.

So, when you start to feel inadequate as Super Mom wields her secret-weapon-germ-cleaning-abilities, maybe you can feel a little better about your toddler picking his nose while playing in the dirt. After all, you’re just trying to help boost his immune system- right?


Allergies and antibiotics: learning from the link

iStock_000004448077SmallNew research suggests a link between the use of antibiotics in early childhood and the development of food allergies. But before you freak out, there’s good news- this research also shows that there may be a new way to treat these allergies!

Over a decade ago, researchers found links between antibiotic use and increased allergies and asthma. It was speculated that antibiotics kill normal gut microbes, prompting allergic responses. Those microbes help your immune system recognize the difference between harmless and hurtful molecules that make their way into your body. When this microbe balance is disturbed, it’s possible that the body can react to harmless molecules in such a way as to cause an allergic response. This was observed in laboratory mice, and new research shows that the mice provided helpful clues in understanding this problem in humans.

In recently published research, scientists documented this link in children. They also identified a particular gut bacteria, Clostridia, that is important in preventing people from developing food allergies. When young mice were given antibiotics, researchers found that they were more likely to develop allergies to peanuts. But when Clostridia was given to the mice after their antibiotic regimen, their peanut sensitivity went away.

This research is important because it helps further our understanding of the balance of microbia in the intestinal system and its relation to allergy development. Food allergies are becoming more and more common. It’s estimated approximately 1 in 13 children suffer from a food allergy. Could probiotic treatments help children overcome allergies? There’s still research to be done, but this is a promising development!

Dogs helping dogs AND kids with osteosarcoma!

Young girl and German shepherd dogAn opportunity for dogs to help people AND other dogs? It’s a win-win situation. It turns out that the biology of the most common kind of bone tumor in dogs (osteosarcoma) is that same as the biology of these tumors in children. By working with dogs with bone tumors, researchers can try different kinds of drugs in an attempt to increase the dog’s lifespan. While there’s no guarantee that a drug that works on these dogs will work in a human patient, researchers can get more information about the way the drug works on this particular cancer. This information will help them make a more educated guess as to whether or not it would work in a human. And while it would definitely be amazing if they could translate their results into humans, at the very least, they’re working hard to find an appropriate treatment for dogs with this disease!

In some research studies, animals are specifically bred for the particular study. In this study, their clinical trial involves pets that already have cancer. It’s estimated that only 5% of dogs with osteosarcoma will live past the age of 2. Awesome research- check it out!


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:


Fatherhood: The most important job you’ll ever love!

Man and young boy outdoors playing airplane smilingWhile there have been many studies showing the importance of maternal influence on children, new findings show that a father’s presence can make a big difference in the social development of offspring. Researchers have found that mice raised without a father were more aggressive than those raised with both parents, and abnormal social interactions were more common. This is consistent with human studies of kids raised without their fathers, where higher incidences of substance abuse and deviant behaviors are seen.

Why is this important? In 2012, it was estimated that 1 in 3 children in the United States- or about 15 million children- lived in a home without their fathers. Compare this to 1960, when only about 1 in 10 children grew up without their fathers. This research shows that both parents are very important to a child’s mental health development, and that parents should be aware of potential social and behavioral changes in children raised without a father’s presence.

Dads- are you hearing this? You are so important in your kids’ lives! Take advantage of the moments you spend with them. They depend on you!



Can fear be inherited?

Plenty of traits are passed down from one generation to the next. Eye color, hair color, height, body type- but did you know that offspring can also inherit a parent’s trauma?

Studies in the past have shown that women who have experienced trauma tend to have lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Children of these women also had lower cortisol levels. And it might be expected that if a mother has experienced trauma and is stressed, her kids would be stressed due to her own behavior.

But a new study shows that nature AND nurture both play a role in this- that traumatic experiences can be transferred to the offspring through sex cells! Male mice were trained to fear a particular odor. During the process, this learning changed neuronal organization in the mouse’s nose. Then, IVF was performed with sperm from these males. Both the first and second generation offspring had similar neuronal organization in their noses, and they feared the same odor that their fathers did!

This shows that information stored in the brain is somehow transferred to sperm cells. Researchers don’t know how yet… but they’re working on it!


Devastating pediatric disease may have a new treatment option

iStock_000006773546XSmallLeigh syndrome, a severe neurological disorder that occurs in approximately 1 in 40,000 children, usually affects kids in their first year of life. The disease causes progressive brain damage and muscle weakness, and cause of death is usually due to respiratory failure. Unfortunately, there is no treatment for Leigh disease, and children with this disease rarely live past their 6th or 7th birthdays.

Mouse models of human diseases give researchers a way to look at potential treatments or therapies. Rapamycin, a transplant anti-rejection drug, unexpectedly showed some promising results with mouse models of Leigh disease! The average lifespan of this mouse model is 50 days, but after daily rapamycin injections, these treated mice lived over twice as long as untreated mice! Coordination and breathing were substantially improved as well.

There are far fewer drugs available for pediatric diseases than there are for adult illnesses- and this could be a great breakthrough! After determining that this drug works to alleviate symptoms of the disease in mice, researchers can now focus on the mechanisms involved in order to develop a drug treatment regimen that would be appropriate for human patients. A benefit is that rapamycin is already approved for use in humans, so a treatment might not be too far off. Let’s hope that this works!


Trial malaria vaccine protects thousands of children

iStock_000001797617XSmallMalaria is a disease that is spread by mosquitos, and in Africa, it kills almost 600,000 people each year- mostly children. But a large-scale malaria vaccine clinical trial involving over 15,000 infants and children in Africa has shown some promising results! There was a 46% reduction in the number of malaria cases in children who were between 5 months and 17 months old at their first vaccination, and a 27% reduction in the number of cases in children who were 6-12 weeks old at first vaccination. Fewer cases of severe malaria as well as fewer hospitalizations for the disease were also reported.

While more information can still be gained from further follow-up visits, if everything falls into place, the World Health Organization could issue a recommendation for the vaccine in 2015. And that’s good news for everyone!


Children’s cancer needs big attention!

iStock_000006901657XSmallIn 2012, it was estimated that over 1.6 million people were diagnosed with cancer in the U.S. Only about 12,000 of those cases were children. While in many ways, it’s good that childhood cancer isn’t more prevalent, it’s not all good news, because children’s cancer is considered to be a rare disease and does not get the funding needed to develop the number of drugs and treatments that become available each year for adults.

Only about 4% of NIH’s funding is dedicated to children’s cancer research. So when you factor in sequestration and budget cuts, funding is cut to a critical point. 700 fewer research grants will be funded this year. The number of people who are able to participate in clinical trials is sliced in half at many institutions. Research projects will be outsourced overseas- to the lowest bidders- to countries where quality control may be compromised.

Take a few minutes to watch this beautiful video, dedicated to children who have lost their battles with cancer.


It hits hard, doesn’t it? Looking at these little angels who have lost this fight makes us sad- and angry- and it SHOULD make us want to DO something! So what can YOU do? Follow this link via the American Cancer Society to tell Congress to INCREASE funding for cancer research! http://www.acscan.org/research/ Let’s do everything we can to make sure that children suffering from cancer can blow out another set of birthday candles. Will you share this story? Will you make a difference?

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