T. T. Trinh
Real-life scientists, whose work has overtones of Indiana Jones as they search for plants in remote areas of the world that could become the source of life-saving new medicines, are currently trying to figure out how a new international agreement on biodiversity will affect their work. That’s the topic of an article in Chemical & Engineering News (C&EN), ACS’s weekly newsmagazine.
C&EN Associate Editor Carmen Drahl explains that environment ministers from 200 countries hammered out the agreement late last year. Called the Nagoya protocol, it extends a 1993 United Nations treaty declaring that nations have sovereign rights to the biological materials within their territory. Those materials — which include plants, microbes, and other living things — have been a rich source of so-called “natural products.” Almost 70 percent of today’s medicines are either natural products or are derived from natural products.
The new treaty clarifies what agencies scientists who collect plant and other materials should approach for official clearance. It also requires countries that ratify the agreement to establish a “national focal point,” such as a university, government agency, or other contracting institution, for making such decisions. In addition, biodiversity-rich nations would receive compensation for medicines and other items commercialized from natural products discovered in their country. Many natural product hunters are grateful for the clarity the treaty provides. But some worry that it could also trigger new regulations that could delay or stifle their searches.
- Will loss of plant diversity compromise Earth’s life-support systems? (scienceblog.com)
These days, there are countless resources to turn to for medical information and advice. By means of the Internet, magazines, television and more, almost anyone can publicize their remedy for any ailment with little to no regulation. So, when seeking out health and safety recommendations, it is important to be able to identify the credible sources and disregard popular myths. Weíve listed some of the most common first aid mistakes below, along with the correct response methods. Take a look to find out if you have your first aid facts straight! And, donít forget to enroll in a first aid class to learn how to respond correctly in an emergency situation.
Myth: Soothe a burn by applying butter.
Reality: If you apply butter or an oily substance to a serious burn, you could make it difficult for a doctor to treat the burn later and increase risk of infection.
The right approach: Treat a burn with cool water. If a burn is severe and starts to blister, make sure to see a doctor. Keep the affected area clean and loosely covered with a dry, sterile dressing.
Myth: If a child swallows a poisonous substance, induce vomiting with syrup of ipecac.
Reality: Inducing vomiting is not recommended for certain poisonous substances and may be harmful.
The right approach: Never give anything to eat or drink unless directed to by the Poison Control Center or a medical professional. If an accidental poisoning occurs, immediately call the Poison Control Center at (800) 222-1222) or your doctor for advice.
Myth: The best way to treat a bleeding extremity is by applying a tourniquet.
Reality: Tourniquets stop the flow of blood, which could cause permanent damage to a limb. They should be used only as a last resort in the case of severe bleeding.
The right approach: Pad the wound with layers of sterile gauze or cloth, apply direct pressure and wrap the wound securely. Seek medical help if the bleeding doesn’t stop or if the wound is gaping, dirty or caused by an animal bite.
Myth: Apply heat to a sprain, strain or fracture.
Reality: Heat actually increases swelling and can keep the injury from healing as quickly as it could.
The right approach: Apply ice to reduce swelling for about 20 minutes. Place a thin barrier between the ice and the bare skin.
Myth: You should move someone injured in a car accident away from the scene.
Reality: A person with a spinal-cord injury won’t necessarily appear badly injured, but any movement could lead to paralysis or death.
The right approach: Move an injured victim only if
The scene becomes unsafe (the vehicle is threatened by fire or another serious hazard)
You have to reach another victim who may have a more serious injury or illness.
You need to provide proper care (CPR needs to be performed on a firm, flat surface.
Otherwise, it’s best to stabilize the victim, and leave the person in place until paramedics arrive.
Myth: Rub your eye when you get a foreign substance in it. Tears will wash the substance out.
Reality: Rubbing could cause a serious scratch or abrasion to the eye.
The right approach: Rinse the eye with tap water.
Myth: Use hot water to thaw a cold extremity.
Reality: Avoid any extreme temperature change- hot water can cause further damage.
The right approach: Gradually warm the extremity by soaking it in lukewarm water.
Myth: To reduce a fever, sponge rubbing alcohol on the skin.
Reality: Alcohol can be absorbed by the skin, which can cause alcohol poisoning, especially in young children.
The right approach: Lower a fever by taking ibuprofen. If a high fever continues for several days, see a physician or go to a hospital emergency room for treatment.
Myth: Allergic reactions to bee stings can be treated at home.
Reality: Delaying professional treatment to a respiratory allergic reaction to a bee sting could be fatal.
The right approach: For symptoms such as breathing problems, tight throat or swollen tongue, call an ambulance immediately.
Myth: If you get a cut or scrape, apply first-aid ointment, cover it with a bandage, and leave it untended to heal for a few days.
Reality: Exposure to fresh air is the quickest way to allow wounds to heal, and thus it is generally best not to apply creams or ointments, since they keep the wound moist. Bandages should also be changed to keep the wound clean.
The right approach: The first and best thing to do with a wound is wash it with soap and cool water. All dressings should be changed twice a day. At bedtime, the bandage should be replaced with a looser dressing so air can circulate around the wound. Upon waking, a slightly tighter bandage should be applied, but not so tight that it cuts off circulation. Bandages should be changed even if it means pulling off a part of a scab that’s forming, experts say. Also, try to keep the wounded area dry.
EAST LANSING, Mich. — Maps are great for showing where things are. They’re also good for showing where things aren’t.
Two Michigan State University professors have developed interactive maps that offer a visual perspective of urban food deserts. By using GIS (geographic information systems) technology, they are showing, rather than simply telling, how urban residents are losing access to fresh produce and balanced nutrition.
Phil Howard, assistant professor of community, agriculture, recreation and resource studies, and Kirk Goldsberry, assistant professor of geography, conducted their research in Lansing. They found that many supermarkets have closed their stores that serve urban areas and have moved to the suburbs. They also showed that Michigan’s state capital is a model for what’s happening to food environments around the country.
“The change in food environments is recurring all over the nation,” said Howard, whose research is supported by MSU’s AgBioResearch. “The best selection of produce and the lowest prices have moved to the suburbs. So if you want lettuce in Lansing, or in most U.S. cities, you’re going to have to drive to get it.”
One aspect on which the study focused was store locations. It showed that less than 4 percent of the population lived within a 10-minute walk of a supermarket. The researchers also looked at the cost in reaching those stores as well as the availability of produce at each retail location. They took into account everything from urban party stores, which may offer lemons and limes, to suburban box stores, which offer nearly 250 different produce items.
By taking actual food inventories and pairing that data with geospatial inputs, the team was able to precisely measure geographic access to produce sections. What was revealed was a tale of two food environments. First, people with cars can overcome many geographical obstacles to obtain fresh produce while pedestrians’ ability to obtain fresh produce is becoming increasingly challenging, Goldsberry said.
“I like to think of it as a nutritional CAT scan at the urban scale,” Goldsberry said. “The Lansing food model definitely favors drivers because the stores with the best selection of produce are furthest from the densest population areas.”
The maps give residents, city officials and community organizations an outreach tool to visualize their food environment. Having a highly detailed method to examine each city’s food environment provides a graphic illustration of areas where produce is abundant and where it’s lacking, Howard said.
“When people see a map, people gravitate to their neighborhood and make a decision about how it stacks up to others,” he said. “They see a high-resolution image of their food environment that literally allows them to point out disparities and geographical challenges in their communities.”
- Food Deserts: Another Way the Deck Is Stacked Against Car-Free Americans (dc.streetsblog.org)
- Emanuel’s plan to green Chicago’s food deserts (holykaw.alltop.com)
- Walgreens to Bring Fresh Food to ‘Food Deserts’ (walletpop.com)
- Food Deserts (urbanplanningblog.com)
- Food Deserts: Time to Create an Oasis (livingstonbuzz.com)
- An End to Food Deserts? The Healthy Food Initiative Tries to Make it So (health.change.org)
Solving a traditional Chinese medicine mystery
Discovery of molecular mechanism reveals antitumor possibilities
esearchers at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine have discovered that a natural product isolated from a traditional Chinese medicinal plant commonly known as thunder god vine, or lei gong teng, and used for hundreds of years to treat many conditions including rheumatoid arthritis works by blocking gene control machinery in the cell. The report, published as a cover story of the March issue of Nature Chemical Biology,*** suggests that the natural product could be a starting point for developing new anticancer drugs.
“Extracts of this medicinal plant have been used to treat a whole host of conditions and have been highly lauded for anti-inflammatory, immunosuppressive, contraceptive and antitumor activities,” says Jun O. Liu, Ph.D., a professor of pharmacology and molecular sciences at Johns Hopkins. “We’ve known about the active compound, triptolide, and that it stops cell growth, since 1972, but only now have we figured out what it does.”
Triptolide, the active ingredient purified from the plant Tripterygium wilfordii Hook F, has been shown in animal models to be effective against cancer, arthritis and skin graft rejection. In fact, says Liu, triptolide has been shown to block the growth of all 60 U.S. National Cancer Institute cell lines at very low doses, and even causes some of those cell lines to die. Other experiments have suggested that triptolide interferes with proteins known to activate genes, which gives Liu and colleagues an entry point into their research….
- Subject Brief – Traditional Chinese Medicine (dougnewmanpro.wordpress.com)
- The Fundamentals of Traditional Chinese Medicine Meridians (brighthub.com)
Doctors lax in monitoring potentially addicting drugs
Study: Missed opportunity to reduce opioid-related abuse, addiction and overdose
March 3, 2011 — (BRONX, NY) — Few primary care physicians pay adequate attention to patients taking prescription opioid drugs — despite the potential for abuse, addiction and overdose, according to a new study by researchers at Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University.
The study, published in the March 2 online edition of the Journal of General Internal Medicine,*** found lax monitoring even of patients at high risk for opioid misuse, such as those with a history of drug abuse or dependence. The findings are especially concerning considering that prescription drug abuse now ranks second (after marijuana) among illicitly used drugs, with approximately 2.2 million Americans using pain relievers nonmedically for the first time in 2009, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).
“Our study highlights a missed opportunity for identifying and reducing misuse of prescribed opioids in primary care settings,” said lead author Joanna Starrels, M.D., M.S. , assistant professor ofmedicine at Einstein. “The finding that physicians did not increase precautions for patients at highest risk for opioid misuse should be a call for a standardized approach to monitoring.”…
- Prescription drug deaths soar in Georgia (ajc.com)
- Combating Misuse and Abuse of Prescription Drugs: Q&A (everydayhealth.com)
- Study of Retired Football Players Reveals Higher Rates of Painkiller Misuse (psychweekly.wordpress.com)
- Teen Drug Addiction: Is Your Teen Misusing Meds? (aolhealth.com)
- Narcotic Pain Relief Drug Overdose Deaths a National Epidemic (addictionts.com)
ScienceDaily (Mar. 3, 2011) — How well our brain functions is largely based on our family’s genetic makeup, according to a University of Melbourne led study. The study published in The Journal of Neuroscience provides the first evidence of a genetic effect on how ‘cost-efficient’ our brain network wiring is, shedding light on some of the brain’s make up.
Lead author Dr Alex Fornito from the Melbourne Neuropsychiatry Centre at the University of Melbourne said the findings have important implications for understanding why some people are better able to perform certain tasks than others and the genetic basis of mental illnesses and some neurological diseases….
…”We found that people differed greatly in terms of how cost-efficient the functioning of their brain networks were, and that over half of these differences could be explained by genes,” said Dr Fornito.
Across the entire brain, more than half (60%) of the differences between people could be explained by genes. Some of the strongest effects were observed for regions of the prefrontal cortex which play a vital role in planning, strategic thinking, decision-making and memory.
Previous work has shown that people with more efficient brain connections score higher on tests of intelligence, and that brain network cost-efficiency is reduced in people with schizophrenia, particularly in the prefrontal cortex.
“This exciting discovery opens up a whole new area of research focus for scientists around the world,” he said.
- Parts of Brain Can Switch Functions: In People Born Blind, Brain Regions That Usually Process Vision Can Tackle Language (jflahiff.wordpress.com)
- Study points to liver, not brain, as origin of Alzheimer’s plaques (physorg.com)
New Findings Challenge View of Key Part of Immune Defense
ScienceDaily (Mar. 3, 2011) — The natural killer cells of our immune defense are activated for an extended period after the acute infection, which challenges the prevailing view that the elevation and activation of cells quickly pass. This is shown in a study regarding vole fever that was recently published by researchers at Umeå University, Sweden in Journal of Experimental Medicine.**
Many older patients, who take an average of seven medicines a day, are so confused by the vague instructions on prescription bottles they don’t realize they can combine their medications to take them more efficiently. A new study shows patients thought they had to take seven medicines at least seven and up to 14 separate times a day. Researchers recommend a standardized universal medication drug schedule at morning, noon, evening and bedtime.
A complex and confusing regimen means people are less likely to take their drugs properly, and that means they are not getting the full benefits of their medicine,” said Michael Wolf, associate professor of medicine and of learning sciences at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. He is lead author of the study, funded by the National Institute on Aging, that will be published February 28 in Archives of Internal Medicine.***
ScienceDaily (Mar. 3, 2011) — Scientific societies representing 40,000 researchers and clinicians are asking that federal regulators tap a broader range of expertise when evaluating the risks of chemicals to which Americans are being increasingly exposed.
Writing in a letter in the journalScience***, eight societies from the fields of genetics, reproductive medicine, endocrinology, developmental biology and others note that some 12,000 new substances are being registered with the American Chemical Society daily. Few make it into the environment, but the top federal regulators, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency, often lack information about the hazards of chemicals produced in high volumes….
Patricia Hunt, a professor in the Washington State University School of Molecular Biosciences and corresponding author of the letter, said the FDA and EPA need to look beyond the toxicology of substances to the other ways chemicals can affect us.
“One of the problems they have is they look at some of the science and don’t know how to interpret it because it’s not done using the traditional toxicology testing paradigm,” she said. “We need geneticists, we need developmental and reproductive biologists and we need the clinical people on board to actually help interpret and evaluate some of the science.”
“As things stand now,” she added, “things get rapidly into the marketplace and the testing of them is tending to lag behind.”
Hunt said the letter was driven in particular by growing concerns about chemicals like the plasticizer bisphenol A, or BPA, subject of more than 300 studies finding adverse health effects in animals. Because such chemicals look like hormones to our body, they’re like strangers getting behind the wheels of our cars, Hunt said.
“Hormones control everything — our basic metabolism, our reproduction,” she said. “We call them endocrine disruptors. They’re like endocrine bombs to a certain extent because they can disrupt all these normal functions.”
Hunt’s testimony last year helped make Washington the fifth state to outlaw BPA in children’s food containers and drinking cups.