Entries in Cancer (5)


A new horizon.. a new hope for cancer patients!

We have been talking about fighting cancer for so many years and I remember listening to my mentor tell me that while 2015 is unrealistic for cancer cure, 2025 is probably going to see great leap in the field of cancer cure.

As I read more and more about immunotherapy and novel drug delivery modules I am beginning to think this might be a reality sooner then 2025.

 G. Szeto, Adelaide Tovar, Jeff Wyckoff/MIT, Wellcome Images (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)

This amazing image is a testament to one such drug delivery module. MIT based team of scientists have designed a polymer capsule that can be used for targeted therapy. I know as soon as you hear the word polymer you think well but a polymer could have its own gamete of problems, scientists are ahead of the game, the polymer is bio-degradable and dissolves quickly to release the drug.

While this testing currently is only in animal models and it needs to be refined to get access to deeper tissues, it is a step towards the goal, I might even say a leap towards the goal.

When I see an image like this, I don't just see science, I see Art, I see hope and the peak of human ability.

And then I wish why can't we use the same will to fight for peace, what if we eliminate all war and work towards creating a world free of diseases. What if we fought for not just us but for other species to have harmonious life.

And then I wish for my wish to come true.


Sunscreen 101: A beginners guide to choosing a suncreen

Spring is here and will soon turn into summer, and swim suits will come out of hibernation. This then, is a good time to educate ourselves in sunscreens. Lets get right into it. There are two kinds of sunscreens, chemical and physical. Chemical sunscreens are absorbed by the skin and chemicals then absorb UV rays to protect your skin.
Physical sunscreens form a protective barrier on your skin and usually deflect or block the UV rays.
So far so good. Seems that both types are giving you benefits of UV protection. Let's dig deeper!
Physical sunscreens can be made of Titanium dioxide (TiO2) or Zinc oxide (ZnO). Chemical sunscreens can be made of Avobenzone, Oxybenzone, Octisalate and the list goes on! Most common chemicals I have seen being used in sunscreens are the above three.
Why am I talking about these ingredients you might ask! Here is why. The problem with chemical sunscreens is they get absorbed in your skin and can interact with your DNA. Yes! You read correctly your DNA. They can metabolite to produce free radicals and behave as carcinogens themselves. Same is true for Vitamin A, also known as Retinyl palmitate found in sunscreens. It can also harm your DNA. And you know how protective I am of the DNA ;)
More then half of the chemical sunscreen can cause hormonal issues and imbalance.
That's not all, chemical sunscreens find their way into your blood, urine and even breast milk if you are breastfeeding, AND can hang out in your body for up to 2 days after a single application. OUCH!
Preventing cancer from UV, but causing cancer by damaging DNA or at the very least, aging your skin faster and/or irritating your skin, not good news then is it?
y rule of thumb is to avoid chemical sunscreens. At first I used to just think of SPF factor, the higher the SPF the better.  But, I found out that an SPF between 30 and 45 is all you need anything higher is just a marketing ploy.
Physical sunscreens are the way to go, but the white tint is a big no-no for fashion forward people like me ;) So I went on a search for a perfect sunscreen.
My search brought me to MyChelle, it is a physical sunscreen that does not leave a white tint on your face and it has moisturizing components as well.
There are other sunscreens that might work for your skin as well, the best thing to do is look for Titanium dioxide and Zinc oxide as active ingredients and absence of Vitamin A or any other harmful chemicals like dimethicone. More on that another time.
If you have any questions on how to choose a good sunscreen write them in the comments section and I will try my best to answer them for you.
Enjoy the sun and be SAFE.

Lung damage a side effect of education!

An alarming studyshowed 44 Lakh students in Delhi are growing up to be adults with possible irreversible lung damage. That is 4.4 million kids. Why are they prone to irreversible lung damage you might ask?
They are breathing poisonous air on their way to and back from schools! I am just speechless to read this report. And I am all the more shocked at the blind eye that authorities are turning to the concerns.
Scientists from Kolkata-based Chittaranjan National Cancer Institute (CNCI), did studies and found the following :
  • In lung tests conducted on 5,718 students, 43.5% suffered from “poor or restrictive lungs”.
  • About 15% of the children surveyed complained of frequent eye irritation, 27.4% of frequent headache, 11.2% of nausea, 7.2% of palpitation and 12.9% of fatigue.
  • Delhi’s numbers were far higher than that among the ‘control group’ of 4,536 students selected from 17 schools spread across the “much less polluted” rural areas of Uttaranchal and West Bengal. 
If that does not shock you this will.
Scientists have made recommendations to move schools away from the arterial roads that are heavily polluted in Delhi and also made recommendations around the time of the day that students should not be out and about amongst other things.
If you are still not shocked here is a fun fact that will drop your jaw, the above study was done in 2002, more then a decade ago.
The recommendations that scientists made were never shared with the schools.
So after all these years the pollution is worse and kids are suffering even more. And no one is listening.
Here are my two cents. People are not only asleep when it comes to serious issues like this, they are in a freaking coma!
Why recommend moving schools away from polluted roads, when we should be actually working to reduce pollution. Always treating the symptom, never looking at the cause! Isn't that the irony of the world we live in.
How about we deal with the problem? Delhi does not have a good public transport system, would that not be a good place to start? Or car pooling! Or using hybrid car! Or planting more trees!
I think solutions can be found, if our government stops turning a blind eye to every problem. Until then God save these children.

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?


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.