Entries in Science (6)

Thursday
May072015

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.

Sunday
Apr192015

Butterfly child 

Here is a video that will move you beyond words.

And when I saw this video ofcourse I wanted to share it, but it also inspired me to write this blog. This video as you will see after watching touches your heart, and speaks volumes about JonathanPitre's spirit. He is a power house. He is generous and kind, compassionate and committed and most importantly full of life. More then many of us who have perfect health. 

I could not help but think how awesome would it be if the world fought for his condition. What could we accomplish if we used all our time, energy and resources to make this world a better place for him? Instead of spending our resources on wars, and proving one religion is better then the other, or fighting for more money, or land or oil, if we as a world chose to spend all our resources on finding cures for rare and not so rare diseases, what could we create?

If we gave away all the politics, and I mean the politics in science then I am positive we would find cure for Jonathan and other kids who are suffering from rare and painful diseases. 

 

Sometimes I wonder if there is a reason we focus on the wrong things? Things that don't matter! Wars, hate, pride, ego all the things that make us the worse versions of ourselves. Could we not be like Jonathan or be inspired by him? Videos like this and children like Jonathan can make us better human beings.

Perhaps we start by sharing his video and touching hearts. Perhaps we start by talking about him and his greatness over a dress on pinterest. Perhaps we start by dreaming of a world we want to live in and how we could create it. Now that is my dream...

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

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.

 

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?