Dragon’s Blood Medicine

The discovery of antibiotics was one of the greatest advances in medical history. However, these life-saving drugs have been used so widely and for so long, that in more recent times some strains of bacteria have become resistant to their effects.  Health care providers are faced with the growing dilemma of not overprescribing them in an effort to curb the resistance.

A recent discovery by biochemists however, may provide hope in the search for a solution to this problem.

Unknown-3     In a new study, researchers from George Mason University, discovered compounds found in Komodo dragon blood, which may be a potential source for future antibiotics.  They isolated a substance that appeared to have powerful germ-killing abilities, and recreated it in their lab. Not surprisingly, they named it DRGN-1.

In lab tests performed on mice, the substance was found to have three properties: it punched holes in the outer membranes of both gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria, it dissolves the biofilms that glue bacteria together, and it sped up skin healing.

The researchers–who study crocodilian and lizard species–came up with the idea for this study based upon their knowledge of how this lizard survives severe injuries and lost limbs, despite filthy conditions.

The blood that was studied was taken from a zoo specimen, and researchers suspect that wild dragons may possess even more infection fighting compounds. Tracking down wild dragons is not really much of an option, though. They are an endangered species, and are considered divine in their native Indonesia.

The researchers are now seeking the help of the drug industry in developing these antibiotics, as finding new drugs has become an urgent matter. The World Health Organization has called for new tools against these resistant bacteria. Hopefully, this research can result in those new tools.


The Power of Animal Friendship

Dogs have long been man’s best friend, providing love and companionship.  New research however, reveals that the benefits of this friendship go way beyond that.

In a study at the University of Alberta, it was shown that babies from families who own pets–70 percent were dogs–had a lower risk of allergic disease, as well as obesity.

Unknown-2     The gut micro biome–the bacteria found in the human digestive tract–is believed to be the reason for this.  In the study, the two types of bacteria were found to be Ruminococcus and Oscillospira.  The abundance of these bacteria in the gut increased twofold when there was a pet in the house.

The latest findings build on twenty years of research showing that children who grow up with dogs have a lower risk of asthma. The theory is that exposure to dirt and bacteria early in life can create immunity. Although scientists aren’t sure of the exact mechanism.

Interestingly, pet exposure was also shown to affect the gut micro biome indirectly during pregnancy–from dog, to mother to unborn baby.  Even if the dog was given away before the baby was born, the exchange would still have taken place.

This exchange also works in cases which have been known to lower a child’s immunity such as C-section birth, lack of breastfeeding and antibiotic administration during birth.

Much like what has been done with probiotics in the health food industry, scientists are not ruling out the possibility of a future “dog in a pill” as a preventive measure.

Reviewing Cure

I finally finished reading Cure: A Journey into the Science of Mind Over Body by Jo Marchant, and I have to say what a great book it was!

The subject matter seemed somewhat unbelievable, but Marchant did a great job in putting any doubts to rest.  Not only did she provide actual cases, but irrefutable evidence in the form of research studies.

She traveled around the world to meet with scientists whose research was not exactly mainstream.  She writes about Parkinson’s research in Italy where patients display dramatic improvements after taking placebos.  Germany, where immune system training cuts down on medication doses.  The United States where a new field called psychoneuroimmunology was born after researchers found nerve fibers directly linking the brain with organs of the immune system.

These findings can one day change the way in which certain conditions are treated, and this can eventually transform the field of medicine forever.  Change in the medical field however, is not an easy task.  Modern-day conventional or Western medicine is evidence-based.  It utilizes physical methods such as tests to diagnose problems, and drugs or surgery to fix them.  The concepts presented by Marchant are psychology-based approaches that follow more along the lines of Eastern medicine.

This book provides valuable information for readers who are interested in alternative medicine and cutting-edge therapies.  Marchant includes case studies, as well as research which demonstrates and supports the concept of the mind being able to heal the body.  Overall, I thought the book was well written, very interesting, and easy to understand.  Cure: A Journey into the Science of Mind Over Body shows us that we may be on the threshold of transforming medicine as we know it.

Healing Powers of the Mind

For as long as I can remember, I’ve always been interested in how the human body works.  The brain is a complex, and in some ways, a mysterious organ, which is still not fully understood.   So when I came across a book called, CURE: A Journey into the Science of Mind Over Body, I knew I had to read it.

Can we heal ourselves?  That is the question this book, written by Jo Marchant , tries to answer.  It’s an interesting topic, the ideology of which is unconventional in the science world.  Ms. Marchant however, highlights personal stories, as well as solid research to provide evidence of this fascinating phenomenon.

Ms. Marchant is not only a science journalist, she is a scientist.  She has a PhD in genetics and medical microbiology from St. Bartholomew’s Hospital Medical College in London, and a degree in science communication from Imperial College, also in London.

One of the topics she explores in her book is placebos. Despite being a fake pill, people who take them experience the same, if not better results in many cases.  She also talks about hypnosis, meditation, and alternative medicine.  All of these methods have been found to have positive effects by many people, but are considered quackery by proponents of traditional western medicine.

The evidence presented in this book may change people’s views, and in turn may one day change how certain conditions are treated.  We are just beginning to understand how powerful the mind can be.

With all of the positive reviews, I’m sure this book will be a great read.  I’m really looking forward to seeing what Ms. Marchant has to say, and being the skeptic that I am, maybe even digging a little deeper to find out more!



Random Mutations and Cancer

We all know that eating a healthy diet, not smoking, and avoiding alcohol, among other things, is supposed to minimize your risk of developing cancer.  But what if you did everything right, and you still got it?

In a new study, scientists at Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center have found that random, unpredictable DNA copying mistakes account for nearly two-thirds of the mutations that cause cancer.

Their research is based on a new mathematical model, which uses DNA sequencing and epidemiological data from a round the world.

They say that about 40% of cancers can be prevented by avoiding unhealthy environments and lifestyles.  The ones that are caused by random mutations however, occur despite living a healthy life style and avoidance of known risk factors.

Age also seems to play a role.  As we age, there is more of a chance for a mistake to be made when DNA is being copied.  The more cells divide, the greater the chance for copying mistakes.

In a previous study, done by Tomisetti and Volgelstein, the researchers say that DNA copying errors could explain why cancers such as those of the colon, occur more commonly than other cancers such as those of the brain.

They also said that in order for a cell to become cancerous, 2 or more critical gene mutations must occur.  These can be due to random DNA copying errors, the environment, or inherited genes.

The researchers used pancreatic cancer to demonstrate their mathematical model.  When the critical mutations were added together, 77% are due to random copying errors, 18% are environmental factors, and 5% are hereditary .  Cancers such as those of the brain, bone, and prostate are due to random copying errors.  Lung cancer however, is different in that 65% of all mutations are due to environmental factors such as smoking, and 35% are because of random copying errors

Despite these findings, people are still encouraged to avoid the known risk factors.  We still have a long way to go in our understanding of cancer.  However, research findings such as this slowly add to our knowledge.  Hopefully one day we can cure this disease.


A Leader in Women’s Health

Due to a scheduling conflict, I unfortunately was not able to interview the person I had planned on.  The good news is that I found someone else, and this person is really making a mark in his field.

His name is Dr. Khashayar Shakiba, and he is the Director of Women’s Pelvic Surgery of North Jersey.  He is a surgeon, author, researcher, and inventor.  His work is important for women’s health which is essential for their overall well-being, and for the advancement of the field in treatment and diagnosis of various gynecological conditions.

Dr. Shakiba attended medical school in Tehran, Iran, he did his internship at the Yale school of Medicine, and residency at The Cleveland Clinic Foundation in Cleveland, Ohio.  He is Board Certified in Obstetric and Gynecology, as well as Female Pelvic Medicine and Reconstructive Surgery.

In addition to his role as Director of Women’s Pelvic Surgery of North Jersey, he is also the Division Director of Female Pelvic Medicine and Reconstructive Surgery for the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Hackensack University Hospital in Hackensack, New Jersey.  Here, he is actively involved in the teaching and training of fellows and residents.

Dr. Shakiba has done research in the past on a condition called endometriosis.  One of the most notable is a study that was a 7-year follow up on patients who had undergone surgery for this problem.  It was a comparative study which opened up a new understanding of this condition, and it is rated among the top ten articles in the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

Advanced technology is also a big part of Dr. Shakiba’s work.  He is a certified robotic surgeon, and he uses a robotic assistance system for some of his surgeries.  He also invented the E-POP Q system, which is the first of its kind to quantify the degree of pelvic organ prolapse.

With Dr. Shakiba’s continued interest, development, and use of cutting-edge technology in his practice, he is advancing the field of obstetrics and gynecology.  It will be interesting to find out more about him.


Omega-3 Oils Fight Air Pollution Damage

Air pollution is a world-wide problem affecting billions of people.  Rich and poor countries alike suffer the consequences of poor quality air.  Besides the direct impact on the environment, human health is also affected.  Scientist have known for a long time that certain diseases of the heart and lungs are linked to breathing in toxic air.  However, they are now seeing links to other diseases such as mental illness, diabetes, kidney disease, and premature births.

In a new study, researches have found that supplements of healthy fats such as Omega-3 fatty acids (OFAs), may provide protection from these harmful effects.  The study on mice, demonstrated that OFAs can both prevent and treat the inflammation and oxidative damage caused by polluted air.  It can reduce the harm to our bodies by 30-50%.

The research also reveals that we may not know the extent of the damage to our bodies that polluted air can inflict.  Toxic particles enter the lungs, and from there they can penetrate to other major organs such as the brain, liver, and kidneys.

The health benefits of consuming omega fatty acids are many, and have been known for a long time.  Incorporating these beneficial oils into the diet would be fairly easy.  Flax seed, hemp and fish are all rich sources, and supplements are an option as well.

The elimination of air pollution is a difficult process, and in some countries it is only getting worse.  A solution to this problem may not happen for many years.  We all need air to breathe, therefore avoiding toxic air may be next to impossible for many.  With this discovery, at least people can protect their bodies and prevent damage by simply including these beneficial oils in their diet.