Archive for the ‘Health’ Category

In the near future it may be possible to kill cancer cells without using any cancer drugs. Instead, a nanoparticle will get cells to destroy themselves after first acting as a Trojan horse. A process that won’t harm healthy neighboring cells at all.

Science Alert explains:

“One of the latest methods pioneered by scientists to treat cancer uses a Trojan horse sneak attack to prompt cancer cells to self-destruct – all without using any drugs.

Key to the technique is the use of a nanoparticle coated in a specific amino acid called L-phenylalanine, one of several such acids that cancer cells rely on to grow. L-phenylalanine isn’t made by the body, but absorbed from meat and dairy products.

In tests on mice, the nanoparticle – called Nano-pPAAM or Nanoscopic phenylalanine Porous Amino Acid Mimic – killed cancer cells specifically and effectively, posing as a friendly amino acid before causing the cells to destroy themselves.

The self-destruction mode is triggered as the nanoparticle puts production of certain chemicals known as reactive oxygen species (ROS) into overdrive. It’s enough to bring down the cancer cells while leaving neighbouring, healthy cells intact.

‘Against conventional wisdom, our approach involved using the nanomaterial as a drug instead [of] as a drug-carrier,’ says material scientist Dalton Tay from Nanyang Technological University in Singapore.

‘Here, the cancer-selective and killing properties of Nano-pPAAM are intrinsic and do not need to be activated by any external stimuli. The amino acid L-phenylalanine acts as a Trojan horse – a cloak to mask the nanotherapeutic on the inside.’

Nano-pPAAM was shown to kill around 80 percent of breast, skin, and gastric cancer cells in mice, about on a par with current chemotherapy drugs (but without all the side effects of course). While dangerous to cancer cells, it’s based on a silica nanoparticle classed as safe to humans by US food regulators.”

Hopefully, this research continues to develop and winds up becoming a viable treatment option. Considering how bad 2020 has been we sure could use a win right about now and a cure for cancer would most definitely fit the bill.

Trojan horse - color by jacktzekov on deviantART | Trojan horse, Ancient  greece, Trojan war
Is a Trojan horse cancer treatment the Greatest Idea Ever?

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Back in March, when the coronavirus global pandemic was first getting underway I wrote about some tracking apps that would, in theory, let you know if it was safe to visit any given area. However, these apps needed a certain amount of users to be effective, and not everyone was going to be using them. However, there is now another way to track the proficiency of COVID-19 in any given area. An app that everyone already uses: Google Maps.

The Verge explains what will be happening:

“Google Maps will soon include information on COVID-19 spread in states, counties, and some cities. Toggling on the ‘COVID’ layer in the app will show the seven-day average number of confirmed cases in each area per 100,000 people. Areas of the map will be color-coded based on case rate, and a label shows if cases are going up or down. The feature will roll out on Android and iOS this week.

The layer is designed to help people ‘make more informed decisions about where to go and what to do,’ wrote Sujoy Banerjee, a Google Maps project manager, in a blog post. Public health experts and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend that people keep track of the amount of COVID-19 spread in their area to figure out the risk of certain activities. Transmission rates in local communities is important for parents to consider when deciding if they should send their kids to school and for families to monitor in advance of any holiday plans.

This is one of many pandemic-related features introduced in Google Maps over the past few months — the app also includes alerts about face-covering mandates on public transportation, information about takeout options at restaurants, and warnings to call ahead to a doctor’s office if you think you have COVID-19.”

Such information is a welcome addition to an app that most of us already use. Hopefully, it will help us feel comfortable going outside once again. Something that I have been hesitant to do thus far, partially because there was no way to know where to go, or what to do. Now there is.

Google Maps coronavirus layer: How to get data on COVID-19 outbreaks in  your area | Express.co.uk
You can now use Google Maps to track COVID-19 in your area.

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A few ideas that I’ve written about stand out among all the others. Transcendent ideas that form the foundation of the future. Most of these headline grabbing ideas you are probably already intimately familiar with: Artificial Intelligence, 3-D Printing, Genetic Editing, Virtual Reality, Driverless Cars, the Blockchain, the Internet of Things, etc. But there’s another idea that could wind up being even more important in the long run: Synthetic Biology; the practice of re-engineering living organisms and imbuing them with new abilities.

Such technology could let us “grow” chairs instead of building them or give us the ability to create food packaging that changes color based on freshness. It could also let us create a vaccine for COVID-19. A living vaccine.

MIT Technology Review explains:

“Now, researchers say, synthetic biology has led to a way to create a weakened form of the pandemic coronavirus that causes covid-19. Although the idea remains a long-shot in the vaccine race, an attenuated coronavirus could be formulated into inexpensive nose drops for use around the world.

The startup company behind the new version of SARS-CoV-2, called Codagenix, is working with Serum Institute of India, based in Pune, which bills itself as the world’s largest vaccine maker. Plans are for the first volunteers to sniff up the synthetically designed virus starting in November, in initial human safety tests in the UK.

The most advanced covid vaccine candidates, including those from AstraZeneca and Moderna Pharmaceuticals, expose a person to only one part of the virus, the crown-shaped ‘spike’ that gives it its name, in order to generate antibodies.

The potential advantage of a vaccine using an attenuated live strain is that the body will encounter—and be able to react to—the entire virus. People will ‘catch’ it through their nose, and it will even grow inside them. In theory, that could prompt the formation of not just antibodies but also T cells and specialized forms of immunity in the nasal passage, leading to broader protection.

It might seem scary to imagine getting infected by the coronavirus on purpose, but attenuated-virus vaccines are common. The kids’ flu vaccine FluMist has a weakened influenza virus in it. And Serum Institute sells 750,000 doses a year of vaccines using live measles. The only disease ever successfully eradicated from the globe, smallpox, was wiped out with shots of a live virus…”

The article further explains how the process works:

“Viruses, which hijack cells to copy their proteins, have, predictably, evolved a taste for the same codons that human cells prefer. But evolution’s choices can be reversed in the laboratory, in a process Codagenix calls ‘deoptimization.’ Coleman says the company has made versions of the coronavirus whose genes are peppered with 240 mutations that endow it with some of the worst-performing codons.

The result: the engineered virus looks exactly the same on the outside but has a ‘virtual brake pedal’ inside, causing it to replicate much less quickly. The coronavirus can usually make 100 million copies of itself inside a cell in about a day, but Coleman says the deoptimized version will copy itself half as well in the lab. Inside a person, it could be less efficient by a factor of up to 1,000, giving the immune system time to respond.”

Essentially, all of this means that we can use synthetic biology to engineer vaccines that are just as effective, if not more so, than traditional vaccines and in just a fraction of the time. This could not only lead to a vaccine for COVID-19 but a pathway towards following similar processes to cure other illnesses and diseases. The Dawn of a New Era of healthcare is upon us. The Era of Synthetic Biology. Buckle up.

Synthetic Biology
Is using Synthetic Biology to engineer a Live Vaccine the Greatest Idea Ever?

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I haven’t been feeling good lately. Do I have cancer? Am I coming down with COVID? Or experiencing something else entirely? I’m not sure. And to be honest there might not be anything wrong with me at all. I could just be anxious or stressed out. The problem is I don’t really know how healthy I am at any given moment. Which, ironically, could be what’s contributing to my anxiety and making me feel even worse!

But perhaps in the near future I’ll be able to know exactly what’s going with me. Thanks to a newly developed gut based “credit score”, capable of monitoring your health or at least indicating if you’re heading in the right direction or not.

New Atlas explains:

“Researchers at the Mayo Clinic have developed a test that can predict a person’s general health status by measuring the levels of 50 gut microbial species. Called the Gut Microbiome Health Index (GMHI), the formula does not diagnose specific diseases at this stage, but instead offers a general indication of one’s health.”

But how exactly does it work?

The article adds that:

“So a higher number is going to tell you: ‘Oh, you look very healthy. Your microbiome resembles that of a healthy population,’ says [Jaeyun] Sung. ‘But a low number reveals: ‘Oh, we can’t tell yet exactly which disease you may have, but we can tell that something looks off. Your microbiome resembles very close to what a microbiome would be in a disease population.’ And that’s what we call the Gut Microbiome Health Index. You can view it as a ‘credit score for your gut.’

At this stage the GMHI is still in preliminary stages of development. The researchers suggest there are several factors that need to be incorporated into the GMHI to enhance its accuracy. Including more disease phenotypes, focusing on microbial strains more specifically rather than species, and including a greater spread of ethnic and geographical populations, are all factors that should be incorporated into the system.

Sung suggests this kind of generalized microbiome analysis could be incorporated into routine health check-ups in the future. With further refinement the GMHI could offer a consistent way to predict one’s general heath, as well as a way to monitor the effect of certain medical treatments on the microbiome.”

Sounds good to me. Just so long as these gut credit scores don’t wind up coming back to haunt us later on in life like a real credit score.

A credit score for your gut? Scientists develop index to distinguish  between healthy and diseased microbiomes
Is a credit score for your gut the Greatest Idea Ever?

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Back in June, I wrote about Euphoric Beverages, non-alcoholic drinks that are capable of altering your mood to ensure that you can still have a good time when you’re out and about. Now, there’s another new drink on the market, Pepsi’s Driftwell, that is capable of pulling off the opposite effect: making you drowsy so that you can fall asleep easily.

The invention of Driftwell points to a growing trend. One in which our food and beverages do more than just keep us fed and hydrated. Instead, they provide added health and wellness benefits as well.

Fast Company explains:

“Driftwell falls into the broader category of so-called functional food and drinks, which aren’t new. People have come to expect what they consume to do more for them—from Activia yogurt’s digestive boost to the calmness of CBD gummies. It’s a trend that Darren Seifer, food and beverage analyst at the research firm NPD Group, expects to continue, especially with everything going on now.

‘You can have function in the foods and beverages you’re consuming,’ he says. ‘It’s not just about thirst. It’s not just about sustenance. It’s about helping you feel good.’

He adds that functional beverages ‘are able to provide the taste consumers like in a format that’s convenient,’ which may give them an edge in the marketplace. ‘For the time being, health is more about getting through the day and staying focused on what your basic needs are and providing stress relief,’ Seifer says.

Other sleep-related foods include Nightfood ice cream, Dream Water, and Celestial Seasonings’ Sleepytime tea.”

Ice cream that helps you fall asleep?! Now we’re talking! I usually eat ice cream before I go to bed anyway and would prefer not to drink something so that I won’t have to keep waking up to go to the bathroom. Nightfood ice cream could be a real game-changer for me! Which begs the question: what other functional foods are out there currently or in development?! What else could we be eating or drinking to help improve our lives?!

Pepsico's Newest Beverage Is Supposed To Help You Sleep Better
Is Driftwell the Greatest Idea Ever?

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Bill Gates announces plan to pursue the development of a vaccine for COVID-19 and people freak out, thinking that because he forecasted the pandemic, he must have been behind creating it; the parallel between computer viruses and this new coronavirus too big a coincidence to ignore; vaccination shots a likely cover for inserting computerized trackers into our bodies.

Meanwhile, Elon Musk announces plan to implant the Neuralink, an actual computer, into our brains and everyone celebrates it. Genius! Super cool! Can’t wait!

The hypocrisy is unreal. The double-standard comical. Its Idiocracy come to life. Proof that we are doomed. And what’s really funny is the fact that we might wind up with trackers inside of us anyway. Not implanted during a vaccination. But years ahead of time. Well before we ever get sick. So that we can monitor our bodies and find out in advanced what’s going on. A preventative approach that could save lives and prevent the next pandemic from getting as out of control as this one has.

Defense One explains:

“Why are pandemics so hard to stop? Often it’s because the disease moves faster than people can be tested for it. The Defense Department is helping to fund a new study to determine whether an under-the-skin biosensor can help trackers keep up — by detecting flu-like infections even before their symptoms begin to show. Its maker, Profusa, says the sensor is on track to try for FDA approval by early next year.

The sensor has two parts. One is a 3mm string of hydrogel, a material whose network of polymer chains is used in some contact lenses and other implants. Inserted under the skin with a syringe, the string includes a specially engineered molecule that sends a fluorescent signal outside of the body when the body begins to fight an infection. The other part is an electronic component attached to the skin. It sends light through the skin, detects the fluorescent signal and generates another signal that the wearer can send to a doctor, website, etc. It’s like a blood lab on the skin that can pick up the body’s response to illness before the presence of other symptoms, like coughing.”

Conspiracy theorists aren’t going to like this news at all. This is a worse case scenario for them. But everyone else might. Especially if such an implant can keep us healthy and safe. And if that’s the case then I’ll be the first one to sign up.

The Profusa Lumee sensor system consists of a special hyrogel and an emitting device. Together the two can detect and transmit data on subtle changes in the body, including, potentially, infection from diseases and viruses like coronovirus.
Is an implantable biosensor to detect COVID-19 the Greatest Idea Ever?

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#1,954 – Wear Glasses!

Wearing glasses isn’t always cool or sexy. They get in the way when you’re playing sports, people just assume that you’re a nerd, and bullies have a tendency to pick on you. But it may turn out that wearing glasses can actually save your life. At least as it relates to COVID-19. Since the likelihood that you’ll get infected through your eyes may decrease if you’re wearing glasses.

As Slash Gear puts it:

“Though the mouth and nose get the most attention, the SARS-CoV-2 virus can also be transmitted to someone through the eyes, making it important to wash one’s hands before touching one’s eyes. However, touch isn’t the only route of delivery, with droplets also having the potential to travel through the air to uninfected people. A new study that focused on COVID-19 patients in China found a link between wearing eyeglasses every day and much lower levels of infection compared to patients who didn’t wear glasses.

The study, which was recently published in JAMA Opthalmology, involved data on COVID-19 patients who were in the Suizhou Zengdu Hospital in China. In the case of this particular study, the researchers considered the daily wearing of eyeglasses as being any instance in which someone wears glasses for at least eight hours every single day.

The number of infected patients in the data who met these criteria was small, coming in at less than that of the general population in that region. A total of 276 patients were included in the study, of which a little more than half were male, and only 16 wore glasses for more than 8 hours daily.

The researchers found that whereas 31.5-percent of the local population in that region of China wore glasses, only 5.8-percent of the nearly 300 patients fell into that group, highlighting a drastic difference in infection rates between those who wore glasses and those who didn’t. This is the first study to evaluate the potential link between wearing glasses and reduced infection risk.”

Suddenly, being called four eyes doesn’t sound so bad.

Collage of People Wearing Glasses - Nova Vision Care
Can wearing glasses protect your from COVID-19?!

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#1,953 – Stop Exercising!

When quarantine first started I was motivated to work out more often. Twice a day even. For starters, it would help pass the time and make me feel like I was being productive. But I actually had an ulterior motive as well: to get into fighting shape in case I needed to go into survival mode during an imminent zombie apocalypse. The end result: I fell off my bike, broke my arm and haven’t been able to work out at all for two months.

But this is actually good news! Because my inability to work out may have actually saved my life.

As Wired puts it:

“From the images of cloudy chest scans and gasping patients hooked up to ventilators, we’ve been conditioned to think of Covid-19 as a respiratory disease. But it’s not just about the lungs. Even from the early days of the pandemic, doctors were finding that a novel coronavirus infection could ravage other parts of the body, including the brain, blood vessels, and heart. Data from initial outbreaks in China, New York City, and Washington state suggested that 20 to 30 percent of patients hospitalized with Covid-19 showed signs of cardiac injury.

That these patients tended to get sicker and died more often than patients without cardiac complications didn’t set off immediate alarm bells. These were, after all, people with serious cases of Covid-19—serious enough to wind up in the hospital. Most people who contract the virus experience a spectrum of less-severe symptoms. As many as one in three never feel sick. But now, evidence is emerging that the virus can cause heart damage even in people who’ve had mild symptoms or none at all, especially if those people exercise while they’re infected.

Last month, when league commissioners from the Big Ten and Pac-12 college conferences announced they would be postponing the 2020 fall sports season, one of the major factors they cited were concerns over something called myocarditis. That’s cardiologist-speak for what happens when the muscular walls of the heart become inflamed, weakening the organ and making it more difficult for it to pump blood. It’s not a newly discovered condition, and it turns up pretty rarely, but when it does, it’s most often triggered by an infection. Viruses, bacteria, even invading amoebas, yeasts, and worms have all been shown to cause it.

What they have in common is that they jolt the body’s immune system into attack mode, leading to inflammation. If a person rests while they are ill and during recovery, most of the time the inflammation recedes and the heart muscle heals on its own. But strenuous activity while the heart is weakened can cause swelling in the legs, dizziness, shortness of breath, and—in serious cases—irregular heartbeat, cardiac arrest, and sudden death.”

So, just to recap…COVID-19 can cause heart damage in people, even if they have mild or no symptoms, and they are at even more risk if they exercise, which they’re more likely to do if they don’t think they are that sick or sick at all. This is insane!

This is exactly why I am strictly quarantining and taking this virus so seriously. It’s not just about my ability to recover from flu like symptoms. If I’m at risk of getting heart damage then I don’t want to ever get the virus at all. And it’s also why I might never work out again! Because what if I have COVID and don’t know it and wind up hurting myself even more by working out?! Of course, if I don’t work out I’ll get fat and out of shape and probably wind up with heart issues of my own via diabetes. Talk about damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

So, what recourse do we have? Vigilance for starters. Just be smart about it. And keep in mind that if you do get COVID, even if you are asymptomatic, to not work out right away. Being lazy could very well save your life.

Be careful when working out if you’ve had COVID!

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Other than the idea that COVID-19 may have originated in outer space there’s another way that the current global pandemic is tied to the final frontier: as a means of preparing us for first contact.

As Astronomy.com puts it:

“Imagine the following scenario: A remote radio telescope detects a repeating signal from a Sun-like star a few tens of light years from Earth. In the next few days, other radio telescopes repeat and confirm the observation.

The signal has a high information content that cannot be produced by any known natural process. With much excitement and cautious wringing of hands, scientists conclude that the signal is evidence of an intelligence elsewhere in the universe.

Amid the global exhilaration, confusion and concern, key questions emerge about the role of scientists and politicians, the nature of the advice they give and who should be involved in deciding how to reply.

There is little in the way of precedent to guide humanity. But today, Peter Hatfield and Leah Trueblood from the University of Oxford say that our experience with the COVID-19 pandemic is preparing us, at least in some ways, for First Contact.

The researchers point out that the pandemic has many similarities to a First Contact event, particularly with regard to the involvement of scientists, the scrutiny they undergo and their interaction with politicians. Of course, there are many differences too, but the researchers say this unexpected opportunity can help to develop plans for handling a First Contact in future.”

It makes sense. It’s also a very troubling conclusion. Considering that most people don’t wear masks, listen to scientists, or willingly collaborate with others we are likely screwed if we ever do make contact with another civilization. Especially if we were ever going to get visited in person by someone.

Perhaps we can use the pandemic as a wake up call then. An opportunity to come to the realization that we are woefully unprepared. Either for a First Contact event or even for another pandemic. The time to embrace science and get our shit together has arrived. Let’s make sure we take advantage of that opportunity before the aliens arrive too.

How COVID-19 is preparing humanity for first contact | Astronomy.com
Has Covid-19 prepared us for First Contact with aliens?!

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#1,924 – COVID-19 Memorial

Never Forget. And we haven’t. When it comes to honoring the victims of 9/11 we always rise to the occasion as we did earlier this week. However, when it comes to honoring the victims of COVID-19 we are no where to be found. We haven’t even had so much as a collective moment of silence yet despite the fact that nearly 200,000 people have died in America so far, the equivalent of 9/11 happening 38 times over.

Thankfully my brethren in Uruguay are picking up the slack, creating the world’s first COVID-19 memorial to honor the victims of this and all other pandemics, while also reminding mankind of the need for establishing a relationship with nature. After all, it may very well be mankind’s destructive habits and the onset of Climate Change that caused this pandemic in the first place.

Fast Company explains:

“As of early September, more than 900,000 people have died around the world because of COVID-19. Designers are already working on how to remember them: A plan for a massive new monument would honor the victims, along with everyone else who has been affected by other pandemics throughout history.

Sitting on the coastline of Montevideo, Uruguay, the memorial will lead visitors down a long pedestrian path to a spot where the sounds and sights of urban life fade away. In the middle of a circular steel platform, 40 meters in diameter, there’s an open space where it will be possible to look down at the open ocean below.

The monument, called the World Memorial to the Pandemic, is not solely about COVID-19 and other pandemics, but about the larger idea of the human relationship with nature. ‘For us, it is very important that visitors understand their relationship with nature,’ says Martín Gómez Platero, director and lead architect of Gómez Platero, the Montevideo-based firm that created the designs for the memorial. ‘That is why the center of the memorial is not a human being, but a great void where nature emerges so that we never forget that the center of our ecosystem is nature and that we are subordinate to it.’

As many as 300 visitors will be able to stand on the platform—while staying six feet apart—and think about those they’ve lost and nature itself. ‘The circular geometry of the memorial summarizes the concept of unity and community and gives us a scale of measurement of the force of the sea, a place of shelter, and exposure to the wind,’ Gómez Platero says. ‘The form is only interrupted by the crack that gives entry to the place, a break or rupture that reminds us of a singular, global event.'”

As great as this idea is, we shouldn’t wait for its completion to start contemplating the magnitude of what is happening or for understanding how important it is to honor nature. Both of those things should go without saying. But sadly, that has yet to happen. We would be wise to remember to do both. Instead of never forgetting, let’s start remembering. All that we’ve lost and all that we stand to lose.

Is a memorial to pandemics and man’s relationship to nature the Greatest Idea Ever?

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