Thursday
Mar262015

5 easy ways to save the planet, nope to save humanity !!

5 easy ways to get greener right now. They are so simple that even a child could do them. 
 
1. Carry a handkerchief : 
I grew up in India where it was a common practice to carry a personal handkerchief. So when  you washed your hands you had your own little kerchief to wipe your hands. No need for a tissue. If everyone started this small practice, right there we would save a forest or two. There are other countries that have a similar practice. While I am writing this a Japanese friend actually gifted a handkerchief to me. Really!
 
2. Carry a  stainless steel bottle for water:
 Bottled water being safer is a myth. See any documentary and you will know the evil of bottled water industry. Start carrying your own bottle and fill it at local water fountains. Especially if you are in a city like NY, tap water is subject to tighter regulations then bottled water. Now your water can taste better, you can save a ton of money and feel less guilty for throwing away a ton of plastic water bottles in those landfills. Bonus points for carrying your own coffee cup/mug and not using the disposable paper or  Styrofoam cups.
 
3. Buy a trendy set of bamboo silverware :
 You can eat your take out with your own cool bamboo silverware. Every day tons of plastic forks, knives and spoons get thrown out. Imagine eating hot soup with a plastic spoon. It gives me chills thinking about the micro plastic particles that one would be eating every single meal.
  
4. Carry your own bag for groceries :
 Not only will you lower the plastic consumption you might also get a refund in some green stores. The plastic used for carry bags is the worse kind and can not be further recycled. These bags land up in ocean, get eaten by cattle, birds, fishes and ultimately land up in human food. Yikes! Not something you want to be a part of right?
 
5. Carry your own container for peanut butter to Whole Foods:
 Whole Foods allows you to take your own container. Pre weigh the container and then fill your favorite peanut butter or any other item that is in their dispensing section. What an easy way to use less plastic!
 
Your turn, share your own green tricks with us. We would love to add to this list so comment on and let us in your green secrets. 
Thursday
Mar192015

Animals in Drug discovery not so useful after all!

February, 2015 issue of Nature states the following, "Preclinical studies with conventional proliferating cell  lines and animals models of disease have usually proven unable to predict drug efficacy in human trials. In some cases for example sepsis, hundreds of compounds are effective in animals but none have proven efficacious in humans"
Didn't Einstein say, definition of insanity is to do the same thing over and over again, expecting a different result. I fail to understand how the Scientists who are the smartest people in the world are continuing to use the methods that have been proven to be ineffective.
Another article in the same issue of nature talks about what it takes to make a breakthrough drug and why the costs are so high. I will just use one of the examples they described. For Alzheimer disease(AD) alone for every drug that is approved 118 are not. These 118 compounds must have successful preclinical results in either the cell lines or animal models in order to be pushed to clinical trials.
A total 1120 compounds were analysed for AD alone and only 4 were approved, and these 4 drugs are only symptomatic drugs, meaning they do not cure the disease.
WOW ! 
These numbers are shocking. Drug discovery needs to go through a transformation. The other option is that we start looking at prevention. By prevention I do not mean creating vaccines for every disease. I am saying lets make changes in our lifestyle, our diet, our environment. What we wear, we breath, eat, put on our skin and inhale all relate directly to the diseases we battle with.
Let's stop pressing the SNOOZE button on the thousand alarms beeping around us. If not for ourselves, let's do this for our children. Let's work on drug discovery on one end but on the other end lets work on prevention. Perhaps we can then meet in the middle. 

 

Thursday
Mar122015

In the name of Science

I have worked in cancer research for a long time, mostly with human cancer cells derived from real patients. But animal use is rampant in countless labs for research and development. 

I wonder if it is justifiable to use thousands of animals to find a cure!

I have seen scientists treat animals with empathy, and I have seen other scientists use them like they were objects, means to an end! Not caring about them at all. I wonder if these scientists got numb to emotion after years of working with animals ! 

Ofcourse there are rules for ethical treatment of animals, but are they always followed? Unfortunately the answer is a blaring NO. And even when they are followed most of the times, it is a RULE being followed. How is it that there has to be a rule to treat animals with humanity? Should it not just be a part of who a scientist is? This animal is spending it's entire life locked up in a cage, being subjected to various torturous experiments and in the end die! Would it be too much to respect the poor animal who is dying for a cause we have no idea if we will fulfill?

Worse is when there are 10 animals bred but only one can be used, and the rest are euthaized to save money. Would it be too much to collaborate with other groups who could perhaps use these animals that are a complete waste for one lab? And even worse is when one gets a request to use these animals as feed for their reptile pets. Yes that happened!

The best pointers to keep in mind when one has to use animals according to this article are,

1) Replace the use of animals with alternative techniques or avoid the use of animals altogether when possible

 2) Reduce the number of animals used to a minimum and

3) Refine the way experiments are carried out in order to minimise suffering 

After all one of the famous quotes from Gandhi is, “the greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”

What is your opinion about animal use in research? 

Wednesday
Mar042015

Um I will have some Green Tea please!

Many of us enjoy drinking green tea, especially in this cold weather! Now there is yet another reason to cherish your green tea drinking habit.
Research shows that green tea is beneficial in oral cancer treatment. Apparently green tea has a compound that can kill oral cancer cells. 
I have worked in the cancer field for a very long time. And I can't stop myself from thinking what would happen if we did have a cure? Would we then recklessly abuse ourselves, given we would not be afraid of cancer? Would smoking and eating MSG or any other cancer causing chemicals increase? Will industries dump their toxic waste without regulations because cancer would not be fatal any more? 
I can't help but wonder. As a race we are rather stupid when it comes to our health. I know, I just called us stupid. But look at us! For instance eating sugar would lead to increased risk of diabetes. But sugar consumption in US is really high. Why? Because diabetes is not something we are afraid of.
Funny thing is Diabetes might not kill you directly but it will link to other diseases that will. And yet we continue to not be afraid of Diabetes because there is treatment. This is just one example, I am sure I could quote many more
I do hope that we can cure cancer in the near future. But with that hope I also pray that we act responsibly when it comes to our lifestyle choices.
 Do you think cancer cure would result in increased numbers of cancer patients as well? How do you see us progressing towards a balance? 

 

Tuesday
Feb242015

The younger the better!

I have always believed that to bring about a positive change we need to start with educating our young. May it be a social change, a political change or in this case environmental change.
As adults we become set in our habits and beliefs. And after crossing a certain age we take everything personally. I am not sure why that is! But it seems to be the case. My 6 year old niece is much more open minded than my 16 year old cousin, and my 16 year old cousin is way more open than my 26 year old friend, you get the point. 
If someone tells us "Can you please use less plastic?" most likely the response our mind comes up with is, "Mind your own business!" or "Wow as if you are very green" or something of that order. We don't think oh well maybe there is a point to this. Or we don't ask a candid question like a 6 year old would! My niece will first ask me "Why?" and follow up with "What will happen if I don't?" and then usually "Can I use something else instead of plastic?" and after I explain, she most likely will go tell her parents or friends how they should not use plastic either. 
The point I am making is that it is easier to have a lasting change with kids and, they have more power over changing habits in adults around them then we do. 
And that is exactly what Dr Bonny Hartley, Research Fellow at Plymouth University's School of Psychology, came up with. They started with 176 kids, in South West England and conducted an educational event at the National Marine Aquarium. 

These kids were shown marine litter and participated in a questionnaire before and after the event. They were also allowed to go on a shopping spree post educational event to see if what they had learnt informed their choices. And sure they did. They also talked to their parents about good practices. 

Starting with the young is the way to make sure we get old with hope; that there still will be human race on this planet in a hundred years. 

 

Image Credit: © SportEnvironment.com