By now we are all aware that we are in the midst of a “global public health emergency” due to a novel coronavirus known as SARS-CoV-2, which causes the disease COVID-19. The “novelty” of this virus only refers to the fact that it is new; this is not a romantic title for a deadly virus. In all seriousness, the virus that arose late last year in Wuhan, China has now spread to over 25 other countries and has killed, on average, at least 2.3% of the > 90,000 people it has infected (fatality rate increases in older populations; 8 to 14.8 %). As a result scientists and doctors are racing to catch pace with the virus, not only to develop a vaccine, but to characterize how this coronavirus behaves in its victims.
Recently, the media has caught wind of some of the reports coming out of the laboratories and clinics, and in what appears to be a hast of misunderstanding have produce more fear and misinformation. The news media has reported that some people who had COVID-19 were re-infected with SARS-CoV-2 after recovering and being discharged from the hospital. Given that there is no precise treatment or approved vaccine, the idea that one could contract the virus again, after just having it, portends that SAR-CoV-2 is insidious; and has sent many people into a panic as its characterizes the virus as being monsterous and unstoppable. It would also mean that SARS-Cov-2 is operating beyond the conventions of virology and immunology.
However, that is not the case and here is why: Continue reading
A recent study published in 2018 showed that laundry detergent and detergent residue left behind after rinsing may be responsible for the increase in asthma and allergy in humans. Synthetic laundry detergents contain numerous ingredients that are irritants and sensitizers. Surfactants, the substance responsible for creating suds in the wash and bleaches can irritate the skin and respiratory airways leading to the lungs, while fragrances and enzymes can induce sensitization. Researchers found that anionic surfactants disrupt the lining of the airways (bronchial mucosal epithelial barrier) leading to the lungs. Continue reading
There is a common misconception that the popular energy drink RedBull contains urine or sperm from bulls, because it contains taurine. The myth stems from the fact that taurine was originally isolated from Ox bile (bulls and oxen are male cows) in the 1800’s. While initially identified in the bile (produced by the liver) of male cows, taurine is widely found in almost every organ in mammals. Taurine is chemically synthesized and used as an ingredient in infant formula, energy drinks, nutritional supplements, and pet food. Most recently it has been identified for its therapeutic value in the treatment of congestive heart failure and other cardiovascular diseases. It is currently being studied for its further use in the treatment of other diseases, in particular those relating to the nervous system, muscles, and mitochondrial disorders.
What is Taurine?
Three Masters of Science graduates were overheard talking about the impossible burger— if you haven’t heard about it, it is a vegan-meat substitute produced by Impossible Foods Inc. which palatably mimics an actual ground-beef burger. The one was telling the others, that the burger was not only delicious and filing, but that it smelled and tasted like real beef. When questioned as to what gave it the beef-like sensation, she answered heme, but was unsure of the source of the heme. This was puzzling because most people are familiar with heme being a component of animal blood, and the idea that heme could be vegan or synthetically produced from amino acids in a lab seemed dubious.
However, as it turns out, heme is ubiquitous to many living organisms, and can be found in bacteria, fungi, protozoa, higher plants, and animals. In fact, the heme used by Impossible Foods Inc. is derived from a plant heme known as leghemoglobin, that is sourced from soybeans. The leghemoglobin is not directly extracted from the soybean, as extracting leghemoglobin from plant roots is tedious and not cost effective due to low yield. Therefore, to increase productivity, the leghemoglobin is synthesized through genetic engineering. Continue reading
Alzheimer’s disease (AD), the most common cause of dementia, is a neuro-degenerative disease that causes cognitive decline affecting memory and executive function. While rarely due to genetic mutation, the cause of most cases of Alzheimer’s disease is not known. However, new research indicates that the virus that causes cold-sores (fever-blisters) may also cause or contribute to the development of Alzheimer’s disease. Continue reading
Lead (Pb) is a persistent environmental contaminant that is toxic to humans, primarily in the developmental stages of life. It is believed that environment and nutrition play a role in determining health. Most recently, it has been recognized by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences that the interaction between pathogens and toxic agents may contribute to disease development in humans. In fact, epidemiological studies suggest that there may be a correlation between lead exposure and obesity in children and that this effect may be long-lasting, resulting in adulthood obesity.
Perinatal lead exposure in mice
The microbiome has recently been recognized as contributing to health and disruptions in gut microbiota constitution as been associated with chronic illnesses. To investigate the phenomena of Pb-induced obesity, mice were exposed to lead during the perinatal period. Researchers studied how lead exposure around the time of birth impacted gut microbiota, and then watched to observe whether changes to the microbiome influenced bodyweight.
They found that exposure to lead early in development did alter the bacterial composition of the digestive tract. Pb affected the resilience and diversity of bacteria normally present in the gut; disrupting the balance between aerobic and anaerobic bacterium. Continue reading
Seedless grapes are in fact as natural and as healthy as grapes with seeds, and unlike popular conjecture, they are not genetically modified organisms. Seedless grapes are used in the production of raisins, jelly, jam, juice, and wine, and are preferred over seeded grapes for reason of edibility.
Grapes have been cultivated for thousands of years. Vitis Vinifera was domesticated from the wild grape, V. Vinifera Sylvestris, but still bears close morphological and genealogical characteristics. In fact wild grapes can interbreed with domesticated grapes when they encounter each other, however they flower at different times which reduces the likelihood of gene transfer through pollination. Wild grapes are sometimes reintroduced into commercial grape breeding programs, but mutations occur frequently in grape cultivars leading to a diverse genetic pool Seedlessness is the result of a natural mutation that occurred in some cultivated grapes. This natural phenomenon was exploited by vineyards to improve the desirability of grapes by making them easier to grow and consume. Most seedless grapes are bred from the Sultania (Thompson seedless) landrace (traditional isolated cultivars), but also the Black Monukka, Malta, Beauty Seedless, and others. Continue reading
Fat Is Alive
Most people think of fat as being inert, having no real purpose in the body than to keep you warm, and to prevent you from ever having the perfect summer body. The role of fat in the body is so under-appreciated, that when the doctor says, “you need to lose weight”, people often see it as an issue of “body shaming” rather than one of health. This is because fat is not seen as being alive, but as a by-product of too much sugar and starch. While the reality is that fat IS alive, in fact the fat in our bodies is made up of cells called adipocytes, and these cells comprise the functional unit of adipose tissue. Adipocytes and adipose tissue are a part of the endocrine and central nervous system.
Adiocytes – Living Fat
Adipocyte are specialized cells within adipose tissue that contain lipids in the form of multiple round droplets of triglycerides. Triglycerides are the building blocks of fats, as amino acids are the foundation of proteins. Adipocytes simply put are fat cells that transport and produce fat.
There are three types of fat cells: Continue reading
Influenza, colloquially known as “flu” is an infectious disease and public health issue. On a global level, the flu infects millions of people worldwide and circulates yearly. In the United States, “flu season” occurs predominantly in the winter, but can begin as early as October and extend through May. Many people confuse the flu with a common cold, and though both are caused by viruses, unlike a cold, the flu can kill! The 2017-2018 flu season has seen increased hospitalizations and deaths due to Influenza across the country. This year’s flu has been quite severe, particularly in children.
According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), 22 pediatric deaths from Influenza have been reported nationally, since the start of 2018 (it is now mid-February), bringing the current total of Influenza associated deaths in children to 84 for the 2017-2018 flu season. That number is likely to increase before the end of it all.
Influenza affects everyone, but the elderly and children, primarily infants under 6 months of age, are most susceptible and at risk for suffering severe illness or death. Children are also primarily responsible for the spread of Influenza throughout a community, since they shed the virus for a longer time period after infection, than adults. Continue reading
The banana’s we eat don’t have seeds, they are a result of a naturally occurring mutation that was subsequently exploited by human selection for breeding. Banana’s are a cultivar; they are a domesticated crop, reproduced in manner that selects for and maintains certain desired characteristic, such as, being seedless. Banana’s reproduce vegetatively through an asexually process known as parthenocarpy, in which no fertilization is required for their propagation. Parthenocarpy is a genetic trait or characteristic imparted by a gene, but this process has nothing to do with genetic modification, and banana’s are not genetically modified organisms (GMO) — at least not yet. Continue reading