Healthy Diet: Milk Bioactives Protect Against Disease

A consequence of the obesity epidemic, which began in the United States during the 1980s, is the targeting of milk as a possible contributing factor for weight gain, metabolic syndrome, and cardiovascular disease, due to its high fat content. As a result, in the mid 1990’s, the U.S. Department of Agriculture recommended switching to reduced-fat milk, and the consumption of whole milk fell drastically. As this was happening, the growth of soy and soy “milk” paved the way for other milk-alternative beverages, such as, almond, coconut, and cashew “milk”, and consumers began to question whether it was healthy or natural for human to consume animal milk at all. In addition to fears that milk milkcontributed to obesity, and the metabolic disorders that go along with excessive weight gain, milk allergy, and anecdotal reports of milk worsening rhinitis, and triggering asthma began to surface.

However, in the past decade, several studies have reported beneficial health effects of cow’s milk in the prevention of the development of asthma and allergy in children, as well as, protection against cancer, obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease in adults.

Further investigation into the composition of milk, and its components haves revealed that it may be time to reconsider the health benefits of milk again. In addition to its nutritional value, the ingredients in milk possess bioactive functionality. The protein, lipid, and saccharide components of milk contain molecules that are anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, and immunogenic (capable of modulating the immune system), in addition to improving the body’s response to insulin and regulation of fat. Continue reading


Healthy Diet: What Really Causes Cardiovascular Disease

Americans are increasingly concerned with eating healthy. Over the past two decades, there has been a myriad of changes in the public’s perception of what is and isn’t healthy. Initially, it was generally agreed upon and understood that a diet consisting mainly of greasy food and too much sweets was unhealthy. However, the consensus on what foods are to be considered healthy versus harmful has become complex and the subject of much debate. For instance, it was once considered unhealthy to eat eggs, though the medical consensus has changed— it turns out that eggs are not as high in cholesterol as once thought—many people still maintain that the yolks should be removed, and that egg whites are healthier.

Much of the focus on health has revolved around a single nutrient, food, or food group. For example, whole wheat  became preferred over bleached flour, then eventually, eating any wheat at all became controversial and wheat-free diets were promoted. The same happened with rice: white rice gave way to brown rice, which then gave way to quinoa. Super foods like soy, kale, and chia seeds became popular, along with fad diets, like the Atkins diet which emphasized low carbohydrate intake, and the Southbeach diet. Most recently,  health gurus promoted health concepts which lead to the  alkaline diet, out of which came alkaline water. Now, sensationalized documentaries are leading people to abandon meat and dairy all together.

As a result, many are unfortunately left confounded when it comes to what they should or should not eat. There is much fear surrounding food safety and health, due impart to a lack of understanding of nutritional requirements and technological advancements in food production, leaving many weary that meat and dairy, in particular, can lead to the development of Cardiovascular disease and Type 2 Diabetes. However, focusing on the beneficial effects of a single nutrient, food, or food group does not comprise a healthy diet. What is more important is dietary pattern; the amounts, frequency, and variety of nutrients and foods that are consumed habitually, coupled with other lifestyle factors, are the greatest determinants in the association of diet and health, as Cardiovascular Disease and Diabetes are consequences of leading a sedentary lifestyle while being overweight or obese.

Cardiovascular Disease

Cardiovascular Disease is the leading cause of death for both men and woman in the United States. Many people still do not fully know or understand the etymology of Cardiovascular Disease. There are specific factors involved in the development of cardiovascular disease; though they may seem to be a list of variables, each factor ultimately causes damage to the lining of blood vessels and the heart.

The most common type of Cardiovascular Disease is Coronary Artery Disease, more commonly known as Atherosclerosis. It is a condition in which plaque builds up inside of the arteries that supply oxygenated blood to the heart, making it incapable of pumping enough blood throughout the body.  Plaque buildup narrows the artery and can either restrict or occlude the passage of blood through the vessel, increasing the risk of blood clots and subsequently, strokes.  Coronary  artery disease puts the heart under strain, causing angina , arrhythmias, and heart attack. Ultimately, heart failure occurs due to weakening of the heart muscle.

Cardiovascular disease is initiated by damage to the blood vessels. The major causes of injury to blood vessels are cigarette smoke, high amounts of certain fats, cholesterol, and sugar in the blood, as well as having high blood pressure. Making, smoking, obesity or being overweight, and Diabetes, the major risk factors for developing Cardiovascular disease. Lifestyle also plays a significant role; lack of exercise, increasing age, family history, and genetics contribute to the etymology of Cardiovascular disease. Other factors that may put you at risk for cardiovascular disease are Sleep Apnea, stress, and frequent alcohol consumption.


Smoking is one of the greatest risk factors for developing cardiovascular disease. In fact smoking carries a 2 to 3 fold increased risk of dying as a result of developing Cardiovascular disease. Smoking can cause heart attack, stroke, peripheral artery disease, and abdominal aortic aneurysm.

Smoking damages the endothelial cells that line the inside of blood vessels, which not only weakens the vessel, but primes it for atherosclerotic plaque development. The effects of cigarette smoke are mediated through the action of nicotine, carbon dioxide, and oxidant gases:


Nicotine causes myocardial ischemia, a condition in which not enough blood gets to the heart. Inadequate perfusion of the heart also means that there is also a lack of oxygen. Nicotine does this by binding to cholinergic receptors in the brain which stimulates the release of catecholamines that increase heart rate, blood pressure, and heart contractility. This increases the demand for oxygen by the heart. However, nicotine also causes vasoconstriction which reduces blood flow and thus decreases the supply of oxygen to the heart.

Carbon Monoxide

Carbon Monoxide also causes myocardial ischemia. Carbon monoxide binds more strongly to hemoglobin than oxygen, thereby preventing the oxygenation of blood. This causes hypercoagualtion as the blood thicken due to an increase in the amount of red blood cells, in an attempt to compensate for the low blood oxygen.

Oxidant Gases

Free radicals such as Nitrogen oxides and reactive oxygen species cause oxidative stress which leads to platelet activation and an increase in prothrombotic factors. Additionally free radicals play a role in the development of insulin resistance by causing inflammation. This means that smoking also increases the risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes, another risk factor for the development of cardiovascular disease.


The rate of obesity has drastically increased since the 1980s. Obesity is an independent risk factor, as well as a contributor for other risk factors that are associated with the development of Cardiovascular Disease.

Inflammation and Insulin resistance

Excess intake of dietary fats can produce an inflammatory state within the body that is associated with insulin resistance and other deleterious effects on the cardiovascular system. Dietary fatty acids are stored in adipose tissue. When too many calories are consumed on a continuous basis, the adipose tissue becomes saturated and lipids begin to accumulate in other parts of the body that don’t normal carry a lot of fat, such as, in muscle tissue, under the skin, and  worst of all in the viscera. Visceral fat is abnormal fat, located within the main cavity of the body in which the vital organs and intestines reside. Unlike normal fat tissue, this accumulated adipose tissue begins to functions as an endocrine organ, and releases inflammatory cytokines that promote coronary artery disease (atherosclerosis).

In addition, excess adipose tissue requires more blood supply, but as body fat increases perfusion of blood into the tissue goes down. Decreased perfusion means decreased levels of oxygen within adipose tissue, and cellular hypoxia, oxidative stress, and necrosis of fat cells. As a result, there is an influx of phagocytic immune cells, such as macrophages, to clear the necrotic debris. Unfortunately, these macrophage also release inflammatory cytokines. Normally, resident macrophages are protective, and produce anti-inflammatory factors. However when there is excess adipose there is a shift in the metabolic dynamics, in which anti-inflammatory macrophage become outnumbered by inflammatory macrophages, leading again to an inflammatory state.  This chronic inflammation is what triggers insulin resistance.

Insulin resistance is when the presence of insulin no longer stimulates glucose uptake. As weight goes up, the sensitivity of muscle tissue to respond to insulin decreases. This is likely due to the increase in free fatty acids and their metabolites, which interfere with insulin signal transmission. As a result more insulin is secreted in an attempt to maintain normal glucose levels. Excessive insulin may in turn cause an increase in triglyceride levels and blood pressure. Insulin resistance is a precursor of Type 2 Diabetes

Structural & Functional Abnormalities

Obesity also causes structural and functional changes to the body, as elements of the cardiovascular system try to adapt to the burden of excess adipose tissue. Cardiac output and blood volume increase, which puts a burden on the cardiovascular system and causes enlargement of the ventricular chambers of the heart. The amount of fat on the surface of the heart closest to the aortic artery increases, so does the amount of fat within and between the muscle cells in the heart. Accumulation of fat between muscle fibers causes them degenerate. When this happens, the ability of the heart to contract is compromised.


Fat distribution matters

Having too much body fat is associated with metabolic dysfunction. Body mass index is used to measure body fat based on weight and height. A BMI over 24.9 indicates being overweight and a BMI of 30 or more indicates obesity, but not all overweight or obese persons have Insulin resistance or Cardiovascular disease. How excess fat is distributed and where it is stored in the body, play a significant role in the risk  for developing these conditions. Having a large circumference, particularly when the waist-to-hip ratio is high signifies the greatest risk. Excess fat within the abdominal cavity, or visceral fat, is a more accurate indicator for the development of Insulin Resistance and Cardiovascular disease than body mass index (BMI) alone.

Type 2 Diabetes – Glucotoxicity & Heart Disease

Diabetes is another major risk factor for Cardiovascular disease. Over 80 percent of deaths in people with Diabetes are due to Cardiovascular disease. Diabetes impairs cardiac function by disrupting the balance between pro-oxidants and antioxidants at the cellular level. This is primarily a result of hyperglycemia—glucotoxicity caused by having chronically high levels of sugar in the blood. In fact, hyperglycemia individuals suffer more severe coronary artery disease than their non-diabetic counterparts.

In a similar manner to the free fatty acids in obesity, excess circulating glucose triggers inflammation via oxidative stress. Antioxidant/pro-oxidant imbalance generates reactive oxygen species (ROS) which injure cells critical to the proper function of the heart. Oxidative damage to heart muscle cells, fibroblasts, and endothelial cells lining vessel walls cause abnormal changes to the cardiovascular system which increase the risk for hypertension and atherosclerosis. Even when there is no coronary artery disease, Diabetes can cause cardiac muscle dysfunction. Continuous generation of ROS leads to chronic inflammation, as ROS act as signal transduction molecules which stimulate the release of inflammatory cytokines and pro-coagulant factors from immune cells recruited to the site of injury.

Condiitons-associated-with-IRType 2 Diabetes is also called noninsulin-dependent diabetes, because there is a resistance to insulin. Therefore, it cannot be treated with insulin, and diet and exercise are required for its management. Type 2 Diabetes is a consequence obesity and  Metabolic Syndrome, which includes insulin resistance.

Conclusion- a balanced diet is essential.

Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in adults in developed countries, and is increasing in prevalence alongside obesity. The best way to prevent cardiovascular disease is to not smoke, increase physical activity, lose weight if overweight or obese, manage high blood pressure, and control or prevent Type-2 Diabetes.

Eating a “heart healthy diet” helps to protect the cardiovascular system from oxidative stress caused by the production of reactive oxygen species generated from excess free fatty acids and glucose.  As such red meat, sugary beverages, and refined carbohydrates should be limited. While it is important to decrease intake of cholesterol, trans fats, and saturated fats, some fats are healthy.  For example, Omega-3 fatty acids, which are found in fish, are recommended as part of a “heart healthy” diet. Omeg-3 fatty acids help prevent blood clots and reduce the risk of heart attacks. To avoid the unhealthy fats, protein should be obtained from lean meats, nuts, and reduced-fat or fat-free milk.

Fruits and vegetables are essential as they are a good source of fiber. Fiber in the diet should be increased, as it hinders the absorption of cholesterol. In addition to fruits and vegetables, fiber can be found in whole grains and legumes. There are also compounds in fruits and vegetables known as Stanols that mimic the action of fiber in reducing the uptake of cholesterol by the body. It should also be noted that dairy products, particularly fermented ones, are cardio-protective.

A healthy diet, that is protective of the heart, includes physical activity and weight management. While diet contributes to disease in humans, it should be understood that the body requires energy to function properly. Food is the source of that energy, and it is only when caloric intake outweighs the amount of calories burned that fat accumulates and weight is gained. Excess body fat or weight is directly linked to metabolic syndrome, which includes insulin resistance, a precursor of Diabetes. Portion size and total caloric intake is more important than the individual foods that are eaten or not eaten. It is also important to note that salt and alcohol consumption should be limited.


Natural Food Contaminant: Aflatoxin

textgram_1503617864Aflatoxins are potential health hazard for human and animals, as it is a common natural contaminant of food and feed. Its prevalence is greatest in parts of the world where the climate is hot and humid. The Aspergillus fungi which produce the mycotoxins survive best in heat and humidity. As a result, although the prevalence of Aflatoxin is greatest in the developing world, climate change and global warming may lead to an increase in the occurrence of both the fungi and its toxic metabolites in parts of the world with temperate climates, like Europe and the United States.

Aflatoxin Toxicity

There are thousands of metabolites produced by filamentous fungi within the Aspergillus family, some of which are beneficial. However, approximately 400 of these metabolites have been deemed mycotoxins and are hazardous. There are four major types of Aflatoxin: B1, B2, G1, and G2; according to their fluorescent color under ultraviolet light (blue or green). Aspergillus parasiticus produces all four, while Asperigillus Flavus  produces strains B1 and B2. They are mutagenic, carcinogenic, and teratogenic; causing cancer and reproductive and development toxicity.Bio-Shield-Total-1

Commonly Contaminated Crops

Major sources of Aflatoxin in the food supply are peanuts, pistachios, Brazil nuts, cottonseed and maize. Aflatoxin is also a common contaminant of cereals (oats, rice, wheat, corn, and rye), dried fruit, coffee and cocoa beans, and cassava. Spices and herbs are often contaminated but to a lesser extent, and the toxin can be found in fermented beverages such as beer, wine, and fruit juices. Aflatoxin can enter the meat and dairy food supply through contaminated animal feed.

Aflatoxin B1

Of the major four, Aflatoxin B1 is of principal concern to human health. It is classified as a Group 1 carcinogen, meaning it definitely causes cancer in humans.
Specifically, Aflatoxin B1 causes Hepatic (liver) cancer. When ingested by ruminant animals like cows, Aflatoxin B1 is metabolized in the liver to Aflatoxin M1, which may be excreted into the milk. Aflatoxin M1, is a Group 2B carcinogen, in that it is possibly carcinogenic to humans. There are set limits on the amount of Aflatoxin B1 that is allowed in the foods to which they normally contaminate, since it is not possible to completely remove them. In the case of milk and other dairy products no amount of Aflatoxin B1 should be present, trace amounts of its metabolite Aflatoxin M1 however are permissible.

Aflatoxin Mechanism of Action


The toxic mechanism of action for all aflatoxin involve oxidative stress, lipid peroxidation, mitochondrial damage, and cell death as a result of apoptosis (versus necrosis).

Toxic exposure may be an acute single exposure at high levels, or a chronic with low but  persistent levels—chronic exposure is most common. In addition to causing liver cancer, Aflatoxin may also have adverse affects on the immune system. It is also known that when Aflatoxin and infection with Hepatitis B are present at the same time, they cooperate to induce Hepatocellular carcinoma. Hepatitis B is the leading cause of Hepatocellular carcinoma, which is the fifth greatest malignancy worldwide, and is most prevalent in developing countries. As such the presence of Aflatoxin in the food supply, primarily in developing regions of the world, make it a significant pubic health concern.


Various treatment methods have been devised for the removal of Aflatoxin from contaminated food and feed. The amount of aflatoxin can be greatly reduced, but it does not appear that it can be completed removed. Physical methods of reduction include milling, microwave heating, and irradiation (ultra-violet or gamma). Chemical treatments involve using binders and sequestering agents or ozonation. However, ozonation is a rather expensive chemical process. Lastly, biodegradation can be used to decontaminate crops. Biodegradation is a biological method involving the use bacteria to detoxify aflatoxins. Flavobacterium aurentiacum as well as Mycobacterium are capable of this. However, lactobacillus does not metabolize aflatoxins, it only binds the toxin.


Aflatoxin are a family of toxic metabolites which contaminate crops used for food and feed, in humans and animals respectively.  Aflatoxin contamination and the fungi that produce the toxin are most common in developing nations and regions of the world where the climate is hot and humid. However, food supplies are regularly and increasing imported due to globalization. Likewise, global warming and climate change, may make it so that the environment here in the United States or parts of Europe favor the growth of aspergillus fungi, increasing the burden of their toxic metabolites in the environment, and food supply. Therefore, the public should have an awareness and an understanding of the presence of this natural toxin in the foods supply chain, especially with the increase in organic, vegetarian, and vegan dietary patterns.






Birth Control Pill for Men

To date the only options men have for contraception are condoms or vasectomy. Studies have shown that many men would theoretically take a birth control  pill if it were available to them. However, research into male reproduction has traditionally been geared towards treatment to reverse infertility not to induce it. Comparatively little effort has been spent on developing a male contraceptive analogous to the female birth control pill. Of the work that has been done, most of it has been on researching and developing hormonal methods of male contraception. Similar to the “pill”, which uses hormones to block ovulation in women, hormonal male contraceptives block the development of spermatozoa by inhibiting spermatogenesis; inducing a state of azoospermia.

Azoopermia is the absence of spermatozoa in the semen of adult males. Hormonal male contraception focuses mainly around modulating testosterone levels to produce the desired effect of diminished fertility in men. However, like their female counterpart, the use of hormonal methods have undesirable side effects that can negatively impact ones health. As a result, non-hormonal methods have been investigated, to develop safer and more practical contraceptives for men. Non-hormonal contraceptives are designed to directly impact either the development, motility, or capacity of spermatozoa.

One promising non-hormonal strategy that has been investigated is, immunocontraception, which is the use of immunization to temporarily and reversibly inhibit male fertility. Early studies into male fertility found that infertile men often had anti-sperm antibodies. Antibodies are proteins produces by immune cells in the body against pathogens like bacteria and viruses. This lead researches to postulate that sperm specific proteins found in the testis could be used for the development of a contraceptive for men. One protein, in particular, known as Eppin, has be shown to be a promising target for the development of a non-hormonal male contraceptive.



Eppin or Epididymal Protease Inhibitor, is a protein specific to the male reproductive system. Expressed in the testis and epididymis,  it is found on the surface of sperm and is essential for male fertility.  It forms a complex with another protein, known as Semenogelin, which is secreted by the seminal vesicles as the major component of seminal plasma coagulum.. Together they are essential for the proper function of ejaculated spermatozoa.

Eppin Targeted for the Development of Male Contraceptive

To study whether Eppin could successfully be used as an immunocontraceptive, scientist at the Indian Institute of Science conducted research to determine the effect of the immune response elicited by immunization with Eppin on spermatozoa. They tested whether antibodies to Eppin would cause infertility.

Adult male M. Radiate monkeys were immunized with human recombinant Eppin. Then  their ability to impregnate several female monkeys was tested. Monkeys with a high antibody tither were unable to impregnate any  females, and were therefore deemed infertile. Monkey’s that were not able to obtain a high antibody tither were excluded from the study. Over a year after immunization, 71% of the monkeys regained fertility. This showed that Eppin is essential to male fertility in humans and primates. In addition, immunization did not interfere with spermatogenesis (as is the case with hormonal methods). Neither testosterone levels nor sperm count were altered. Although safe and efficacious, anti-Eppin immunization was problematic mainly because infertility was not reversible in all subjects. In addition to irreversible infertility in some subjects receiving anti-Eppin, the antibody may elicit an adverse autoimmune responses, causing inflammation and infection, culminating in permanent infertility`. Antibodies are also degraded in the stomach, which would require that the method be delivered via injection.

At the time, the mechanism of action of many spermatozoa surface proteins like Eppin were just being studied, and the interplay of Eppin with Semenogelin and their role in sperm motility was not yet fully understood.  It  was determined that Eppins association with Semenogelin inhibited sperm motility. However, researchers observed that the infertile immunized monkeys lacked semen coagulum.  The antibodies against Eppin, blocked Semenogelin from binding to Eppin on the surface of spermatozoa. Instead the anti-Eppin antibodies would bind Eppin in place of Semenogelin, thereby also  retarding sperm motility. This showed that Semenogelin was also essential to male fertility.

The inhibition of sperm motility by the Eppin-Semenogelin complex differ from that of an Anti-Eppin-Eppin complex. One being necessary for fertility and the other inducing infertility. Figuring out the role that the Eppin-Semenogelin complex played in male fertility would be key to figuring out how induce infertility for the purpose of contraception.

Eppin Physiological Function

It was later understood that Eppin functions as a protective shield, guarding spermatozoa against bacterial and proteolytic attack while in the female reproductive tract. Prior to ejaculation spermatozoa travel through the ducts of the male reproductive system where they are mixed with secretions from the seminal vesicles and prostate gland. During this process Eppin binds other proteins at the surface of sperm, such as Semenogelin.  Semenogelin stops sperm from swimming, and is responsible for the gelatinous nature of the initial ejaculate. By the binding of Eppin and Semenogelen. sperm are kept in an immotile state which prevents their hyperactivation (before reaching their target).

In order for sperm to be capacitated, the seminal coagulum needs to undergo liquefaction. This process takes from five to 30 minutes, and involves the cleavage of Semenogelin by a protease called, Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA), from the Eppin-Semenogelin complex.  Eppin inhibits the displacement of Semenogelin by PSA, and since Eppin itself is not hydrolyzed by PSA, it modulates the gradual removal of Senemogelin from the surface of spermatozoa, enabling the progressive release of motile sperm. The removal of the Eppin-Semenogelin complex is necessary for fertility, failure to remove this complex results in impaired spermatozoa. Essentially the complex incapacitates spermatozoa, and its removal allows for gradual hyperactivation of the cell, allowing it to migrate up through the female reproductive tract. Without its formation sperm expend their energy immaturely.

Eppin: Immunocontraceptive to Small Molecule Drugs

In 2016, researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC) submitted a patent application for a non-hormonal male contraceptive. The premise for their application, that small molecules that mimic Eppin can be used to inhibit male fertility, is based on the previous immunocontraceptive study in monkeys from 2004.

To overcome the shortcomings of immunocontraception, UNC researchers developed a series of small organic molecules that act like anti-Eppin antibodies, and prevent sperm motility. Because these compounds occupy the same sites,  they block  Anti-Eppin antibodies and Semenegelin from binding to Eppin. Binding to Eppin by either of these substances triggers a drop in pH level within spermatozoa, which subsequently decreases intracellular calcium levels, through the prevention of extracellular calcium uptake. This prevents the formation of contractile force energy needed for motion. For normal physiological function the pH level within sperm needs to increase in order to facilitate hyperactivation, which takes place after ejaculation with the gradual enzymatic removal of Semenogelin by PSA from the Semenogelin-Eppin complex.  Unlike with semenogelin and PSA, there is no gradual enzymatic removal of Anti-Eppin Antibodies or these small molecules from Eppin binding sites after ejaculation.

Since there is no semenogelin binding, there is no seminal coagulum formed. Therefore, sperm motility is inhibited not by the physical encapsulation of sperm within coagulum, but by the reaction that takes place when Eppin binding sites are occupied.

Using small molecule drugs to impair male fertility is advantageous to current male contraceptive options, as their action is safe, efficacious, and reversible. Condoms may fail due to user error, hormonal contraceptives and immunocontraceptives vary in efficacy by the individual and may produce unwanted side effects, and like vasectomies, they are not readily reversible.

Small molecule targeting Eppin represent a new class of therapeutic agents that specifically target spermatozoa without disrupting spermatogenesis or altering hormone levels. They can be used administered orally to inhibit sperm motility prior to ejaculation, or applied topically after ejaculation, to directly inhibit motility on contact with spermatozoa. Therefore, these  compounds can be used as a sole means of contraception or when applied topically, in conjunction with condoms, diaphragms, and spermicidal jellies.


  1. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Applies for Patent on Small Molecules for Inhibiting Male Fertility. (2017, Mar 04). Global IP News.Pharmaceutical .
  2. John K Amory, 2016. Male Contraception. Fertility and Sterility Vol 106:6 p 1303-1309.
  3. O’Rand Michael G., Silva Erick J.R., Hamil G. Katherine, 2016. Non-hormonal male contraception: A review and development of an Eppin based contraceptive. Pharmacology & Therapeutics Vol 157 p105-111.

  4. Silva, Erick J.R., Hamil Katherine G., O’Rand Michael G., 2013. Interacting Proteins on Human Spermatozoa: Adaptive Evolution of the Binding of Semenogelin I to EPPIN. PLoS One 8:12 e82014.

  5. O’Rand, ,M.G., Widgren, E. E., Sivashanmugam, P., Richardson, R. T., & al, e. (2004). Reversible immunocontraception in male monkeys immunized with eppin. Science, 306(5699), 1189-90.


Cocaine Enhanced HIV/AIDS

Drug use is the second leading cause of acquiring HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus). It is well-known, that using illicit drugs such as marijuana, opiates, amphetamines, and cocaine, increases susceptibility to becoming infected with HIV due to high risk behavior associated with drug use, such as, unprotected sex, particularly in exchange for drugs or money, and non compliance to anti-retroviral treatment. However, the likelihood of acquiring HIV/AIDS is increased by cocaine use in both heterosexual and homosexual women and men, regardless of intravenous (IV) drug use. Even when compared to IV drug users of other drugs, such as opiates, the incidence of HIV is greater in cocaine addicts. This indicates that increased susceptibility to HIV can’t be explained by this factor alone. Additionally, there is an association between cocaine abuse and rapid conversion of HIV infections to AIDS.

Cofactor in HIV pathogenesis

Chimera mice were used to investigate the effect of cocaine on HIV pathogenicity. Specially breed mice, humanized to express a functional human immune system, were infected with HIV in the presence or absence of cocaine. Cocaine co-exposure led to the acceleration of HIV infection, a decrease in CD4+ cells, and a significant spike in circulating viral load. (Hybrid human-mouse model was used because normal mouse cells do not become infected with HIV, and exposing human test subjects to HIV and cocaine would be unethical and illegal). Continue reading

Macrophage, Liposomes, & Tattoo Removal

Many people get tattoos that for one reason or the other, they no longer desire to have. The only current option to erase permanent tattoos is laser tattoo removal. The process of removing tattoos by laser therapy is long, painful, expensive, and in about 5% of cases complications can arise.  However,  a faster, easier, and cheaper method of tattoo removal may soon be on the market.  Most recently, a scientist by the name of Alec Falkenham came up with the idea for an investigational tattoo removal cream, when he was a pathology PhD student at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. As of 2016, the cream is being developed by Cipher Pharmaceuticals Inc. for commercial use.

Tattoo Removal Cream

Bisphosphonate Liposomal Tattoo Removal is a topical cream intended to remove or reduce the appearance of tattoos. It is designed to be used alone or as an adjuvant to hasten the process of laser tattoo removal.  It is proposed that the cream would require once a week application, and remove the tattoo in as little as a couple of months. Continue reading

Cellular Agriculture: Vegans Dream or Meat-eaters Nightmare?

The day is coming when there will be a more efficient supply chain for the production of meat and meat by-products. A new field of science known as Cellular Agriculture is using bioengineering technology to produce meat, poultry, eggs, dairy, and leather, in a laboratory instead of on a farm. You could drink cow’s milk, and eat eggs, meat, and poultry without the unwanted saturated fats, cholesterol, hormones, and antibiotics. Tissue engineering is even being employed in biofabrication of leather and fur, negating moral issues of raising animals for clothing and luxury. All of this without the use or slaughter of  animals.

What is Cellular Agriculture? 

Cellular agriculture is a new way to cultivate foods normally produced through traditional agriculture. Instead of raising livestock for meat, dairy, and other meat by-products, these items are produced in a lab, without the slaughter and continuous use of animals. Foods like eggs, milk, and beef can be bioengineered ex-vivo – using cell culture methods. Cellular agriculture can produce both cellular and acellular products. Cellular products, like beef, chicken, and turkey, are made by culturing cells derived from the original animal. Acellular products on the other hand do not contain any mammalian cells, and are derived from bioengineered microbes. Continue reading

“On The Spot” with Lani – Ph.D. Grad Student.

Graduate school can be tough, but being a graduate student in the STEM can be exceptionally challenging. The challenges are not just academic, but social, and personal. In my experience being a graduate student is somewhat of a mystery to many people. To illustrate what its like to pursue a Ph.D in science, I’ve interviewed another Doctoral Candidate, from Auburn University, Alabama. She responded in pink font, and I felt it was so indicative of her personality, that I kept it. I enjoyed reading about her journey. Keep reading to find out how a one time aspiring model becomes a scientist.

Continue reading

Allergic to Penicillin? Maybe Not.

Most people can recall being asked by the doctor whether they have an allergy to penicillin or not. In fact, 10 percent of the general population is estimated to have Penicillin Allergy. However, in the past few years, the prevalence of Penicillin Allergy has decreased.

Studies have found that when tested, the vast majority of people who reported having Penicillin Allergy, are not allergic to the drug. Clinicians found, that many people who were told they were allergic to penicillin, never had their allergy confirmed with testing. Interestingly, others who were positively diagnosed in the past, were no longer allergic to penicillin.  Continue reading

Ebola Vaccine

Read More…

I recently wrote another article for about an Ebola Vaccine. Before you read it, first learn about Ebola by reading this article that I published last year What Ever Happened to Ebola?!

“Ebola is a virus in the family of Filoviridae along with Marbug virus, that causes Hemorrhagic Fever. The virus leads to hemorrhaging by causing the body to lose the ability for your blood to clot, through multiorgan damage and drop in blood pressure. There are actually several Ebola viruses: Sudan Ebola, Zaire Ebola, Cote D’Ivoire Ebola, and Bundibugyo Ebola. They are all distinct species of Ebolavirus. The virus got it’s name from a small river in northwestern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). – Stacia Nicholson, What Ever Happened to Ebola?!

Then read about the candidate drug that may be the first vaccine to prevent Ebola in humans.