“The entire world is currently looking for effective solutions to disinfect the Coronavirus. The problem is that in order to disinfect a bus, train, sports hall, or plane by chemical spraying, you need physical manpower, and in order for the spraying to be effective, you have to give the chemical time to act on the surface,” according to the lead researcher of the Tel Aviv U team who worked on the research, Professor Hadas Mamane. “Disinfection systems based on LED bulbs, however, can be installed in the ventilation system and air conditioner, for example, and sterilize the air sucked in and then emitted into the room.”
That light kills viruses has long been understood and it is already used for this purpose. The team’s work showed, however, the optimal type of LED light to specifically inactivate Conoavirus. Notably, they found that cheaper, more common 285nm LED bulbs are almost as efficient as 265u bulbs. The cheaper bulbs kill 99.9% of the virus in under half a minute, the team showed. The research is expected to have commercial applications.
“We discovered that it is quite simple to kill the Coronavirus using LED bulbs that radiate ultraviolet light,” explained Mamane. “We killed the viruses using cheaper and more readily available LED bulbs, which consume little energy and do not contain mercury like regular bulbs. Our research has commercial and societal implications, given the possibility of using such LED bulbs in all areas of our lives, safely and quickly.”
It’s important to note that regular people shouldn’t just try to use LED light to disinfect things without understanding the dangers involved. LED, light other types of light, can be harmful to people when not handled safely.
A study has now shown that residents of the Mid-Ohio River Valley had higher than normal levels of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), based on blood samples collected over a 22-year span (1991-2013).
The exposure source was likely drinking water contaminated by industrial discharges upriver.
The researchers identified three known industrial sources who discharge PFOA into the Ohio River: DuPont’s Fort Washington Works and on-site landfill, Dry Run Landfill in Washington, WV, and Letart Landfill in Letart, WV.
The issue is increasingly common. It has been reported that every person now has around 4 or 5 parts per billion in their blood, which is around 10x the EPA provisional limit.
And, while PFOA is being phased out, it’s only one chemical in a large class of fluorine-derived substances called fluoropolymers (PFAs), so all the industry has to do is simply switch to different ones that aren’t registered by the EPA, and have not been studied to the same extent.
The recourse taken by those affected tends to be lawsuits. A lawyer recently made headlines for suing DuPont for PFOA after a farmer called him to complain his cattle were getting sick and dying left and right and a soapy froth of chemical buildup in his creek.
A 25% improvement in the black death rate since 1999 was reported by the CDC this week.
They analyzed for age-specific trends among 4 age groups: 18 to 34, 35 to 49, 50 to 64 and 65 and older.
Whites, who live 4 years longer than blacks on average, have seen worse death rates since 1999, as was reported in headline news earlier this year. The trend in white deaths is referred to as “deaths of despair” and are often related to drugs, alcohol and suicide, and they are widespread — crossing the county and all its socioeconomic brackets, but are particularly prevalent in low-education whites (high school or less).
Globally, mortality rates are getting better for almost everyone. In the U.S., minorities are seeing longer lives, but in other developed countries, which are often compared with America, white lives are increasing.
According to scientists, the number of Americans drinking PFAS-contaminated water may be much higher than the 6 million figure initially reported.
A recent Harvard Harvard study found that almost across 30 states tested, 194 of 4864 water supplies contained PFASs (perfluoroalkyl substances) — a chemical that has been around for 60 years and which is used for nonstick cooking utensils, as well as food packaging and firefighting foams.
The chemicals break down slowly and remain in our environment for a long time, including in drinking water.
PFASs have been linked to cancer and other health problrms.
The water supplies in a few states accounted for most of the contaminated sources: California, New Jersey, North Carolina, Alabama, Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio, New York, Georgia, Minnesota, Arizona, Massachusetts, and Illinois, in order of contamination levels.
“For many years, chemicals with unknown toxicities, such as PFASs, were allowed to be used and released to the environment, and we now have to face the severe consequences,” lead author Xindi Hu, a doctoral student in the Department of Environmental Health at Harvard Chan School and Environmental Science and Engineering at SEAS, said in a statement.
She said the number of water supplies contaminated with PFASs may be much higher than the 6 million initially reported, however.
“The actual number of people exposed may be even higher than our study found, because government data for levels of these compounds in drinking water are lacking for almost a third of the US population — about 100 million people,” she said.
Use of PFASs by large companies has led to many lawsuits. For example, DuPont is currently facing 3500 personal injury lawsuits for illegal dumping of PFOA byproducts (perflurooctanoic acid) into the Ohio Rive, leading to kidney and testicular cancer and other ailments, according to the plaintiffs.
So far four Americans have been found to have contracted the virus by mosquitoes in the Miami area.
Health officials have said they do not expect infection to be as widespread as it has been in other countries because of better sanitation, mosquito control and use of window screens.
The biggest health concerns are for pregnant women.
“If I were a pregnant woman right now, I would go on the assumption that there’s mosquito transmission all over the Miami area,” warned Dr. Peter Hotez, a tropical medicine expert at the Baylor College of Medicine in Texas.
In addition to four confirmed cases, medical authorities have said they expect there are many others already infected — and not just in Florida.
“This is not just a Florida issue. It’s a national issue – we just happen to be at the forefront,” said Governor Rick Scott.
A team of researchers has succeeded in creating mini insulin-producing organs that can be implanted into a diabetic animal to maintain glucose levels, progress towards what they consider the future of regenerative medicine.
The cells the researchers found are best at producing insulin when reprogrammed are pylotic cells — cells from the lower region of the stomach, called the “pylorus region.”
They think that these cells work best because they are naturally very similar to the pancreatic beta cells that normally carry out this function. What they do better than other cells is respond to high glucose levels by producing insulin to normalize blood sugar levels.
What the researchers first did with their mouse test subjects and what they think could be done for people are two different things.
With mice, the researchers initially reprogrammed cells in their stomachs with conversion genes to become beta cells, and then they destroyed the mice’s pancreatic beta cells, forcing their bodies to rely solely on the artificially created ones. While control mice died within eight weeks, mice possessing the reprogrammed cells lived as long as they were tracked (up to six months).
The researchers also found that pyloric cells had the advantage of naturally renewing themselves — when the researchers destroyed the cells they had created, new ones grew and produced insulin.
This transgenic experiment would not be used as treatment for diabetes in people, however. Instead, the researchers set about to try something new: they grew tiny stomachs to produce insulin.
They took pyloric tissue out of mice, reprogrammed it to express beta-cell functions, grew the cells in the form of a tiny ball of insulin-producing “stomach,” and put the ball back into the mice. When they destroyed these mice’s pancreatic cells, the engineered organ implants compensated, maintaining normal levels of glucose in five of 22 test animals.
Senior author Dr. Qiao Zhou of the Harvard University Department of Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology explained how they will bridge the gap from the current study to an application for people.
“We are working on two approaches to move this forward toward therapeutics,” Zhou told The Speaker. “One approach is to create engineered human stomach mini-organs from human iPS cells (induced pluripotent stem cells made from the fibroblasts of individual patients) that can produce insulin in culture, followed by transplantation. The other approach is to culture human stomach stem cells from patient biopsy samples, reprogram them into beta-cells in culture, and then transplant them back to the same person. We are making progress on both fronts.”
He also noted the promise offered by engineered therapeutic organs in general.
“The regenerative medicine field has been moving towards a very exciting future of making and engineering entire organs with a complex assembly of different cell types. It is still early but with enormous potential. These organs could replace or supplement the normal function of organs in our body that are failing due to disease or aging. Genetic and bioengineering could be further applied to endow the organs with new function. I believe this is very much the future of regenerative medicine.”
The researchers said they were excited about their success. Replacing insulin-producing pancreatic cells is something science has been trying to do for decades.
“The most surprising part of the study for me is that there are cells residing in your stomach that share surprising features with pancreatic beta-cells,” said Dr. Zhou. “They do not naturally make insulin, but I believe therapeutic methods can be found to “tickle” them to do so. If successfully, it will provide an new approach to treat diabetes.”
Images: The report
Report: Ariyachet et al.: “Reprogrammed stomach tissue as a renewable source of functional beta-cells for blood glucose regulation,” published in Cell. Link to report
In China last year, approximately 2.8 million people died of cancer, and 4.3 million new cases of cancer were diagnosed, according to a new study by researchers at the National Cancer Center in Beijing.
The new figures are based on newly available information: several population registries have been made available through China’s National Central Cancer Registry.
Seventy-two such cancer registries were analyzed in the new report. The data represented 6.5 perent of the Chinese population between 2009 and 2011.
The figures showed that every day in China almost 12,000 new cases of invasive cancer are diagnosed.
Approximately 7,500 Chinese die of cancer per day within the country. Lung cancer is the most common type of cancer leading to death. Among men, lung, stomach, esophagus, liver and colorectal cancer accounted for most cancers. Among women, breast, lung, bronchus, stomach, colorectal and esophagus accounted for most cases.
The researchers found the leading contributor to cancer deaths that could be avoided is chronic infection. This resulted in 30 percent of cancer deaths, notably from stomach, liver and cervical cancer. Tobacco smoking — which is currently on the rise in the country — accounted for approximately 25 percent of cancer deaths.
The report also cited China’s notorious air pollution — outdoor and indoor through coal heating and cooking — as well as pollution-contaminated soil and drinking water — as contributing causes of China’s ill health.
The Zika virus, which has caused a surge in infant birth defects in Latin America and the Caribbean in recent years, and which has now spread to the U.S., is carried by a type of mosquito common in the Southern states, according to Dr. Albert Icksang Ko, an epidemiologist at Yale.
“The mosquito vector for Zika is genus Aedes mosquitos, of which Aedes aegypti as well as Aedes albopictus is found to infest regions of North America, such as Mexico and southern U.S,” Ko, Professor of Epidemiology and Medicine at Yale, told The Speaker.
Ko, whose work focuses on the health problems which have emerged as a consequence of rapid urbanization and social inequity, commented on the possible future of the virus:
“This is a potentially serious public health threat since it can be transmitted rapidly to regions where the mosquito vector is in sufficient abundance and because of the risk it poses to causing birth defects in newborns whose mothers were infected during pregnancy.”
The as-yet untreatable virus has been found in a half-dozen cases in the U.S. over the past two weeks. In all cases the mother had recently travelled to a Latin American or Caribbean country.
A U.S. travel warning is currently in effect advising pregnant women to avoid travel from 22 countries in which the Zika virus is common.
Ko told us that human biological responses to the virus — such as immunity in already-affected areas — are not yet understood. “We presume that after an immunocompetent individual is infected with zika virus they will develop lifelong immunity shortly after infection as with other flavirus infectionsm but we don’t have direct evidence at this point.”
The Zika virus has been known since 1947 when it was identified in Uganda. The virus was initially found in a rhesus monkey during yellow fever research. Seven years later, in 1954, the virus was discovered in a human in Nigeria. Cases were rare until 2007 when larger outbreaks began in several Pacific Island nations.
“Virgin soil” hypothesis of African tuberculosis burden now challenged by new “European wave” hypothesis
Ethiopia is a hotspot for tuberculosis infection, ranking third among African countries and eighth in the world for TB burden according to the World Health Organization. But, say researchers who have analyzed the genomes of 66 TB strains and reported their findings in the Cell Press journal Current Biology Thursday, that’s most likely not because TB was absent in the country before Europeans made contact–the so-called “virgin soil hypothesis”–as had been proposed ever since colonial times. Rather, they suggest, Europeans may have introduced a new wave of disease spread by more virulent TB strains, which spread during the 20th century as countries of Sub-Saharan Africa grew increasingly urbanized.
The new genomic analysis finds a surprising amount of diversity amongst TB strains in Ethiopia. It also adds to evidence that Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the bacterium responsible for TB, originated in Africa.
“The diversity of M. tuberculosis in Ethiopia is considerably higher than is recorded in most other countries; the number of genotypes present in the population is large, and some of them have clear links with other global genotypes while others are specific to East Africa,” says Stefan Berg of the Animal and Plant Health Agency in Surrey, United Kingdom. “Before this project was initiated, this high diversity was not expected.”
“The diversity of M. tuberculosis complex in Ethiopia confirms the African origin of the disease and contradicts early notions that TB was not present in Africa before main European contact,” adds Iñaki Comas of FISABIO Public Health in Valencia, Spain. “However, it remains to be explained why high rates of infection among native people were observed after the contact.”
The findings are part of a larger effort by Comas and Berg along with colleagues in Europe and Ethiopia to understand the high rates of TB and specifically extra-pulmonary TB–a less common form of the infection affecting areas of the body outside of the lungs–seen in Ethiopia.
In the new study, the researchers analyzed a broad sample of M. tuberculosis strains collected from infected people in Ethiopia. Their analysis shows that all of the strains collected trace back to a single common ancestor with a proposed origin in East Africa. The analysis also revealed a pattern of serial introductions of TB strains into Ethiopia in association with human migration and trade.
Although more work remains, the researchers “propose that increased TB mortality in Africa was driven by the introduction of European strains of M. tuberculosis alongside expansion of selected indigenous strains having biological characteristics that carry a fitness benefit in the urbanized settings of post-colonial Africa.”
The new evolutionary analyses shed light on past epidemics of TB. They might also help to understand global trends in TB infection and perhaps even better predict the future. “Understanding factors that may have influenced the current population structure of M. tuberculosis in Africa and worldwide can potential help predicting future trends in the disease epidemiology,” Berg says.
Comas says they would now like to sequence the bacteria along with their human hosts to further investigate the biological factors underlying high rates of extrapulmonary TB in Ethiopia, which may lead to new strategies for combatting this form of disease globally. They’d also like to explore whether certain human populations are more susceptible to certain bacterial strains.
The report, “Population Genomics of Mycobacterium tuberculosis in Ethiopia Contradicts the Virgin Soil Hypothesis for Human Tuberculosis in Sub-Saharan Africa” was published in the journal Current Biology.
By Joseph Caputo
With images from the report and WHO (WHO/P. Virot)
Health products expected to be of the highest quality — those sold in America’s top drugstore and retail giants — are actually often worthless and sometimes harmful, according to a cease and desist letter sent to GNC, Target, Walgreens and WalMart by the New York State attorney general’s office after authorities tested the stores herbal supplements.
Responding to an article about widespread labeling fraud published by the New York Times two years ago, the attorney general’s office began an investigation, using data partially from the University of Guelph in Canada, and found that up to one-third of the herbal supplements on the most trusted stores’ shelves contained only cheap fillers — rice, common vegetables and houseplants — instead of ginkgo biloba, St. John’s wort, and valerian root.
Some medicines which were specifically labelled as not containing wheat had significant proportions of wheat in addition to having none of the advertised herbal medicines. Others contained unlisted legumes, posing a possible risk to those allergic to peanuts and soybeans.
Overall, four out of five tested products did not contain any of the herbal ingredients on their labels.
The cease and desist letter sent to the four retailers also demanded information on how the stores verify the ingredients in their supplements.
The state’s investigation into top stores is thought to have dispelled long-held arguments that mislabeling problems were caused by only a small percentage of companies on the fringe of the herbal supplement industry.
“If this data is accurate, then it is an unbelievably devastating indictment of the industry,” commented Dr. Pieter Cohen, an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School and an expert on supplement safety. “We’re talking about products at mainstream retailers like Walmart and Walgreens that are expected to be the absolute highest quality.”
Weight loss surgery curbs the sweet tooth by acting on the brain’s reward system, according to a study published November 19 in Cell Metabolism. The researchers found that gastrointestinal bypass surgery, which is used to treat morbid obesity and diabetes, reduced sugar-seeking behavior in mice by reducing the release of a reward chemical called dopamine in the brain. The findings suggest that positive outcomes are more likely if sugary foods seem less rewarding after surgery.
“The problem of how and why bariatric surgery works has been perplexing scientists for years,” says senior study author Ivan de Araujo of Yale University School of Medicine. “By shedding light on how bariatric surgeries affect brain function, our study could pave the way for the development of novel, less-invasive interventions, such as drugs that reduce sugar cravings by preventing sugar absorption or metabolism upon arrival in the gastrointestinal tract.”
Patients, anecdotally, have reported a change in the type of food they preferred after weight-loss surgery. Although the four different operations commonly offered in the United States are effective at reversing obesity and diabetes, it is not entirely clear how these surgeries work. It is likely that there are a number of different mechanisms at play. Bariatric surgeries are more likely to succeed when patients substantially reduce their caloric intake, and reducing sugary foods is an important part of these behavioral changes.
Building on past studies that showed that the brain dopamine reward system regulates caloric intake as well as findings from his team that nutrient sensing in the gastrointestinal tract stimulates dopamine release in the dorsal striatum, de Araujo set out to test whether bariatric surgery relies on the same brain circuitry to curb sugary food preference. They performed surgery in mice to bypass the first part of the small intestine, directly connecting the stomach to a lower section of the gastrointestinal tract. The same procedure is performed in humans, and it mimics the bypass component of the commonly used Roux-en-Y intervention, but no gastric pouch was constructed to limit food intake.
The gastrointestinal rerouting procedure performed in mice suppressed their sweet tooth by reducing sugar-induced dopamine release in the dorsal striatum, essentially diminishing the rewarding effects of sugar. Due to the addictive properties of sweets, infusions of sugar into the stomach would typically cause mice to persistently lick a spout that released a sugary liquid, despite the sensation of fullness. But bypass surgery inhibited the sweet-seeking impulse, almost as if it prevented the sugar addiction from taking hold.
Moreover, using optogenetics, an advanced neuroscience technique, to directly activate the dopamine neural circuit in free-living animals, the researchers saw a striking increase in sugar consumption, overturning the effects of bypass surgery. Mice that underwent this procedure consumed virtually no sweetener following sugar infusions into the stomach, but optical stimulation of the dorsal striatum caused the mice to plant themselves in front of the sugar spout.
“Our findings provide the first evidence for a causal link between striatal dopamine signaling and the outcomes of bariatric interventions,” de Araujo says. “However, we certainly do not want to give the impression that we have an answer for how and why bariatric surgery works. Much more research is needed in this field.”
For his own part, de Araujo plans to directly compare the impact on the brain’s dopamine cells produced by different types of bariatric surgeries. “We hope our work will provide new insights into how different bariatric interventions may lead to a diverse repertoire of behavioral modifications,” de Araujo says. “However, ultimately we would like to help patients lose weight and reverse their diabetes without going under the knife.”