Monday
Feb162015

About to wash your hands? Read this first!

Researchers at University of Manchestar have linked excessive hand-washing in hospitals with increased risk of dermatitis. For those of you who don't know what dermatitis is, it is when your hands become too dry and start cracking up eventually leading to rashes or infection. It can be painful, burn on contact and make it difficult to use your hands.

People are too afraid of germs these days. I was just having this conversation with an esteemed microbiome expert. We are so afraid of germs that we are getting crazier and crazier. We are using bleach, anti-bacterial soaps, caustic soda, alcohol (hand sanitizers!) to make sure we can get rid of all the germs. 
There is a two-fold problem with these practices. One you are getting rid of the germs that are actually harmless, and might even help protect you. In absence of these healthy microbes there is nothing to stop more harmful microbes to take over your gut or hands in this case and create issues. 
Second problem is again two fold, use of chemicals is making your hands excessively dry by robbing you of all the natural oils from your skin and you are ingesting micro quantities of these harmful chemicals.
Baby wipes have more chemicals then something I might use in the lab. Now that, is pure alarming!
We ought to ask ourselves one simple question. These chemicals didn’t exist a hundred years ago. In some remote villages these are unheard of even now! People still manage to stay healthy. I personally believe water is a good for most purposes. Also, there are studies indicating that anti-bacterial soaps are not really anti-bacterial. So you are inviting dermatitis for no reason at all!
On a pure physiological level, our body will never waste its energy on what is not needed. When we wash our hands we are getting rid of the moisture, then we apply lotion on our hands. Doing so tells our skin that it does not need to need to produce natural oils. 
Next time you wash your hands, think! Do you really need to wash your hands? If you do, do you really need to use soap? As far as hand sanitizers are concerned, my recommendation is to use essential oil blends instead. These will help you stay sanitary and keep your skin happy as well.
I would just like to say, that instead of worrying about germs so much, work on having a healthy immune system, and trust me you will be much happier you did.

 

Tuesday
Feb102015

Milk.. the real story!

As a kid I hated milk! But then everyone said, don't you want to get strong? Don't you want to grow tall? Don't you want to be smart? Then, you must drink milk.


They might as well add to it, don't you want to double the risk of your death? WOW! How can that be? It is simple we think milk has calcium, calcium is good for bones. A equals B and B equals to C, therefore A must equal C. Well, not quiet! We forgot there is another player in the equation. Galactose! Galactose is a simple form of sugar that is easily broken down in our bodies. Problem is it causes undue oxidative stress while being broken down, and in return makes bones rather fragile and brittle, thus making them prone to fractures.OUCH!
The reason why this research fascinates me is that it throws light on something way bigger then this problem. You may choose to trust this research or not. You may choose to continue to drink those 3 glasses of milk or more, and you might add some cookies to your ritual as well. The point is, we are always looking at things in compartments. We have stopped looking at things as a whole. And that is where the problem lies. Milk has calcium therefore it must be good. But milk also has many other components what about those? Also looking at other simple facts such as, no other species on this planet drinks milk into their adulthood. Why would it be then that we promote milk consumption when there is no real logic behind it? There must be an industry that can gain something from it, Oh wait there is one! Dairy industry. That is a topic for another time.
For now, I do hope that we can start looking at things as a whole and stop coming to conclusions based on a fact or two. 
I am not sure when that will happen, until then perhaps moderation is the key. Because there is a saying,"Anything in excess is poison!" Then again I read somewhere that all white colored foods are poison, Milk, sugar, salt! Now this definitely is food for thought!

 

Wednesday
Feb042015

Unboil an egg! REALLY!!!

You pack your bag before travelling with neatly folded clothes and then there you are trying to repack your bag for your journey back home, and realize that suddenly, same number of clothes and stuff you brought won't fit in your bag!

It is all about how the clothes were folded and then refolded. It is about how much air got into them, how much dirt made its way in those creases. And other aspects that a clothing expert could tell you about. 

Now think about proteins in the same way. Just as there are more then one way to fold your clothes, there are many ways to fold the proteins.  Although you don't have control over how your proteins get folded, that is a discussion for another blog. 

There are many ways of folding your clothes but there is one way that is the most optimum, and so it is with the proteins! There is an optimal folding which will render it active and then there is non-optimal folding that will render it partially active or inactive.

In a lot of diseases all that goes wrong is this exact thing. And there is your problem! This then could manifest as a disease. If there was a way to unfold and refold this protein into the optimal fold, that could provide a simple answer to a complex problem, even one like cancer; amazing right!

So far that was just impossible to do. But now scientists at University of Irvine have successfully, unboiled an egg. Boiling an egg essentially makes the protein folding go CRAZY. By the simple law of physics, universe must move from a more orderly state to a less orderly state. And once you boil an egg that is probably the least orderly state for proteins there is! What these scientists did is almost like, putting the car in reverse gear. They took the boiled inactive proteins and refolded them into their active forms. WOW!! This is the one of the most amazing gift of science (right after internet of-course!) But the skeptic in me realizes we are way way way far from making this into something real.

Right now scientists have separated the boiled proteins from the egg white then used a complex machine(from Aussieland) to refold these proteins. The problem is you could not take all the cell matter out from human cells and separate them, refold them and put them back in. You would have to go to quarterbacks in the cells, RNA and perhaps even DNA to try and fix it. Let's face it! Right now we don't even have a true consensus on how many genes there are in human cells. Again topic for another blog!

I still think this is one of the coolest discoveries I have heard of. I do hope we are able to play God with these proteins and are able to work against the laws of physics. May be we can find answer to some of our complex diseases with the unboiling or we can just stop boiling our proteins. Ooh! That could be an idea. How do we stop getting diseases, I believe clean air, plenty of sunshine, less stress, more laughter, healthy food could be some ways of not boiling are little friends. 

I think it is true, universe is moving towards a state of maximal disorder. As humans we like to complicate things and then look for answers in even more complicated fashion. So we, being an integral part of the universe are doing the same. Moving towards maximal disorder. Only, we are still seeking order. I think it is this want for order that gives us a certain sense of accomplishment, a sense of being unique and special. 

Well for now I shall enjoy the new victory, of being able to reverse the boiling of an egg. I do think this is the discovery that is worthy of noble prize. If we can play God with proteins well that is something to be proud of now, isn't it?

Saturday
Jan242015

Best from Waste

 

I remember in school we had annual projects called “Best from waste”. We had to come up with something useful from well, basically what was considered waste. We made toy trains out of toothpaste boxes, dolls out of ice-cream sticks, you get the point! The reason I am talking about it is a group of scientists took this idea rather seriously. They went digging through the dirt to get life saving molecules.

Ever heard folklore’s of some spring or a river having magical healing properties? Those might not be just folklores! A research group at Rockefeller university or should I say my work neighbors, collected 185 samples from beaches, forests, deserts, hot springs, city parks and other natural environments. What they found was nothing short of miraculous. They found bacteria that secrete antibiotic like compounds or have genes that could produce antibiotic like compounds. These compounds have anti bacterial and even anti cancer properties.

I guess the story of Lord Hanuman finding medicine to revive Lakshmana from a mountaintop might not be a myth after all. Nature harbors all the answers, all it takes is looking. Maybe there are more benefits in taking vacations in nature’s abode then we give credit for.

That brings me to a bigger concern though! A terrible virus called greed infects humans; yes it seems worse then Ebola or HIV.

Now that there is something to gain from natural resources that were not tampered until now; these will get exploited for seeking answers to our well-being. What happens next could save us or be our doom. First, it will be scientists getting interested in these resources, rather soon pharmaceutical industry will get interested. Then there will be profits to be made and, higher the gain more the tampering of these natural environments. We will deplete these resources and destroy the delicate balance responsible for our answers before we know it.

Or we can get a wake up call and realize that nature holds answers to our worse problems and work towards conserving and expanding what little we have left. Today the rates of cancer related deaths, heart problems, obesity related issues, and myriad of other health problems are higher then ever before. Reason? Our life style, the air we breathe in, the pots we cook in, appliances we nuke our food in, I can go on! We are creating the next generation of bugs, poisons and diseases.

Would it not be smart to take a step back and reassess our choices? Perhaps we might not even need antibiotics stronger then Rifamycin to cure TB. Perhaps we might take a hard look at mistakes we have made, or are making and learn from them. Perhaps more of us would install solar panels, more of us would recycle, and more of us would work towards reducing our carbon footprint. Maybe we would plant more trees and use less plastic. Perhaps we might just see that our way to healthy and happy life is a much less traveled road, the one to the woods.  

Saturday
Jan172015

New Perspectives

A research team at University of Arizona found a star, half the size and mass of sun 150 light years away from us. And this star has three planets orbiting around it, that could have liquid water and similar rocky terrain as earth. WOW! I am so amazed by this and not just because it was my alma mater to discover it. 

So far we have lived like we are the only ones. Somehow special! Unique. We have made ourselves feel entitled even. We have grown up with a concept of aliens with movies, TV shows, comic books, magazines, mythical stories but for most part we have not really thought of them as REAL. They are a figment of imagination as far as most of us are concerned. Even if we believed they exist, I doubt any of us thought we would discover them in our lifetime. 

I am not saying we have discovered life but the possibility of it feels more and more real with each discovery of this nature. Maybe aliens have visited Canada! 

The point is it gives a new perspective to think from. I wonder if we would be any different did we know we share this universe with another life form. May be higher then us maybe not. Would we still be fighting over our religions, our faith, our beliefs, our opinions? Would we be more humble? Would we be more united and at peace with other nations if someone was out there?

Would we more careful or careless on how we use our resources on this planet? Would our art be inspired by a power unknown to us? Would there be poetry that would include aliens and life outside? 

I don't have any of these answers but I do wonder! And it is amazing to wonder, it does add a new layer to how I think, how I write and how I dream. 

And I do hope that discoveries like this would make us better human beings. Somehow bring peace and love. Teach us to be united. Inspire us to live more and stress less. Make us free. May be make us fall in love with ourselves. May be!!