Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Brookhaven National Laboratory -- Genetic Link to Alcohol Response

A year ago I attended an event with other science writers at the Brookhaven National Laboratory. Since then I have been getting emails about new discoveries and developments.  A few days ago I received one about how genetics affects reaction to alcohol. Specifically,
dopamine receptor deficiency leads to significant brain changes in response to drinking. Two genetic variants of mice were used to compare the brain's response to long-term alcohol drinking in two genetic variants of mice. One strain was genetically normal, and another lacked the gene for dopamine D2 receptor, the brain's "feel good" chemical, that produces feelings of pleasure and reward. In the dopamine-receptor-deficient mice (but not the genetically normal strain), long-term alcohol drinking resulted in significant biochemical changes in areas of the brain well know to be involved in alcoholism and addiction. The scientists were interested in the dopamine system research, which  suggests that deficiency in dopamine D2 receptors may make people (and animals) less able to experience ordinary pleasures and therefore more vulnerable to alcoholism, drug abuse, and gluttony. The scientists were able to breed mice deficient in the D2 gene. Each of the groups were divided in half: One-half had water, while the other half had a solution of 20% ethanol to simulate heavy drinking.

The scientists observed the levels of brain receptor cannabinoid type1 (CB1) after six months in the four groups of mice. These receptors are located near dopamine receptors and are known to influence dopamine receptors and alcohol consumption and addiction. The water-drinking mice without D2 receptors had increased levels of CB1 receptors in brain regions associated with addiction, compared with water-drinking normal control animals. Thanos explained that this may indicate that D2 receptors inhibit the growth of CB1 receptor gene. However, in the mice with D2 receptors which ingested ethanol, this possible effect was negated: These mice had about half the CB1 levels compared to the D2-deficient water drinkers.

In 2005, Houchi et al. had found that CB1 knockout mice had an overexpression of D2 receptor. This increase in humans may decrease their desire for alcohol. The study was published in Neuropsychopharmacology. Thanos said:  "This down-regulation of CB1 after alcohol intake in the D2-deficient animals could underlie the lower reinforcing effects of ethanol in these mice," he added. In other words, fewer CB1 receptors may eventually increase D2 receptors, which may steer humans away from desiring a lot of alcohol.

This was an example of an epigenetics sutdy. The alcohol is the environmental factor influencing existing genetics. The main researcher, Panayiotis Thanos Ph.D., will conduct future studies with female mice to see if gender changes results.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Cable Rack for Biceps

This is a variation for your biceps. Usually, the little rope extension is used to do triceps on the cable rack. Put the part of the machine where you attach weights at one of the lowest holes. Attach the little rope attachment. Stand with legs shoulder width apart. Use a weight that gives you a workout and is doable. Grab the end and perform a biceps curl. Exhale when you lift and inhale when you return to the starting position. Do not extend your elbow fully and lock it. Keep your elbows to your sides, under your ribs, for steadiness. Do four or five sets of ten repetitions, depending on the weight and your fitness level. Do not bop forward and backward. Keep your body steady, especially your back.

Disclaimer: None of the above information can be taken as a substitute for advice from a medical professional such as a physician.

My third book, Pocket Guide to Fitness, is available on www.louizapatsis.com, http://www.authorhouse.com, www.bn.com and http://www.amazon.com. If you look up my name on those Web sites, you will find my other books The Boy in a Wheelchair and Life, Work and Play: Poems and Short Stories.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

NYU Physician John Iofantis Finds Protein Link to Childhood Leukemia

New York University Langone Research Center physician John Iofantis found a link between t-cell acute lymhoblastic leukemia, and protein NF-κB. Several hundred children are affected annually by leukemia, which can be fatal within weeks. Dr. Iofantis says that the chemotherapy is not targeted and can come with serious side effects. The NYU team focused on genomic and animal studies, while a team at Institute Municipal d'Investigaciones Mediques tackled different facts of the disease.
The protein makes tumor cells live longer and become more resistant to treatment. When activation of the protein was targeted, tumor cells began to rapidly die. Dr. Iofantis is hopeful that new drugs to target the protein will be developed.

Harvard Public Health Review Article on Epigenetics

The article expressed the passionate interest of scientists to find out how genes interact with each other and the environment, thereby affecting genes and proteins expressed. For instance, redheads, even ones with olive skin, tend to have a higher-than-average predisposition to skin cancer. This may be in part due to how the gene or hair interacts with the environment, and the consequences of this interaction. Epigenetics refers to how the environment affects genes and causes traits that may be inherited. According to the article, this may be one perspective from which to look at the question of why about 80 to 90 percent of heavy smokers do not get lung cancer.
Usually epigenetics has referred to radiation or pollution changes. They are expanding it to mean other factors that cause changes: chemicals, diet, exercise, workplace hazards and more. For instance, manganese, found in welding fumes, some wells, fungicides and pesticides, is a neurotoxin that can lead to manganism, a Parkisonian-type disorder. Environmental factors often increase genetic risks. For example, a March 2010 article in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed the importance of the effect of environmental factors for those with a genetic predisposition to breast cancer. Therefore, it is important to maintain a healthy weight, eat a balanced, diet, and limit alcohol intake.
One researcher, James Mitchell, is studying in fasting in animals to see if this will protect them (and humans) before surgery or chemotherapy. He will study if deficiencies in amino acid tryptophan will confer resistance to malaria. Epidemiologists David Christiani found that a common gene variant made Shangai textile workers more vulnerable to lung disease.
More research will shape public health policy. A danger is that genetically-screened people are charge higher for or denied health insurance.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Are Diseases Manufactured?

Some fellow science writers from the American Medical Writers' Association started a series of posts on whether or not pharmaceutical companies manufacture diseases, such as the female sexual dysfunction? I wonder if children or other people had different diagnoses before autism or attention deficit disorder were coined. I am usually middle of the road in most topics. I think that disease if often a result of a schism in the spirit-mind-body connection and that some drugs are not tested or screened enough by companies, and the FDA, and may cause so many side effects, it is best not to take them. Medication, thoughts, exercise, kind friends and more may help in disease more than medication.many people who follow an oncologist's advice by the letter do not get better, and some hospitals integrate "Eastern practices". Other times, you need medication and or surgery. Many natural path followers end up using them.

this is an interesting discussion,though, and I'd love to hear your views. One writer wrote that pharmaceutical companies target mostly physicians, so they need to do their work in reading and discussing the latest studies so they don't get duped -- interesting! maybe they are too busy with insurance companies. Another writer recalled a book "Manufacturing Depression".

There is a book and blog on selling sickness: http://sellingsickness.blogspot.com.

There is also a film on selling sickness: http://icarusfilms.com/new2005/sell.html.

Here is the Web site for the Amsterdam 2010 Selling Sickness Conference

What are your thoughts?

Disclaimer: This is not a very scientific post. More information on this may follow. None of the above information can be taken as a substitute for advice from a medical professional, such as a physician.

My third book, Pocket Guide to Fitness, is available on www.louizapatsis.com, http://www.authorhouse.com, www.bn.com and http://www.amazon.com. If you look up my name on those Web sites, you will find my other books The Boy in a Wheelchair and Life, Work and Play: Poems and Short Stories.  The second edition of Pocket Guide to Fitness will be out soon!