New Study Suggests Shark Compound Could Be Used To Treat Parkinson’s

There are up to 1 million people in the United States living with Parkinson’s disease. About 60,000 people each year are diagnosed with the disease. Parkinson’s disease is a progressive condition characterized by movement problems, tremors, limb stiffness and problems with coordination and balance. It remains unclear what exactly causes Parkinson’s disease, but studies have shown that a buildup of the protein alpha-synuclein in the brain could contribute to its development. A new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences shows that a chemical compound found in dogfish sharks may be able to treat Parkinson’s disease.

The chemical compound is called squalamine, and it may be able to reduce the formation of toxic proteins associated with the development of Parkinson’s disease. The results of the study showed that in roundworm models of Parkinson’s disease and human neuronal cells, squalamine halted the toxicity and buildup of alpha-synuclein.

For the first step of the study, the researchers conducted several in vitro experiments to observe the way squalamine interacts with alpha-synuclein and lipid vesicles. According to previous studies, vesicles trigger the buildup of alpha-synuclein in neurons.The team found that by preventing the protein from binding to negatively charged lipid vesicles, squalamine was able to halt alpha-synuclein buildup. This is important because the negatively charged lipid vesicles are where alpha-synuclein aggregates usually form.

Then, the team applied squalamine to human neuronal cells, which had been exposed to pre-formed alpha-synuclein aggregates. They found that squalamine prevented alpha-synuclein aggregates from binding to the outer membrane of the cells, thus stopping the toxicity of the protein.

The next step of the experiment was testing squalamine on the roundworm Caenorhabditis elegans. This roundworm is an ideal experimental model for human disease because according to the first whole-genome sequencing study of Caenorhabditis elegans, these roundworms share at least 40 percent of their genes with humans. This makes them a useful experimental model for human disease. The researchers in this study genetically modified the Caenorhabditis elegans in order to overexpress alpha-synuclein in their muscle cells. This would lead them to become paralyzed as they developed. However, the researchers found that when they administered squalamine to the Caenorhabditis elegans orally, the compound stopped alpha-synuclein aggregates from forming.

This study may have a big impact on the way doctors treat Parkinson’s disease in the future. The researchers believe that this study suggests that the buildup of alpha-synuclein has the potential to be prevented using squalamine. The team is currently organizing a clinical trial to test the compound in people with Parkinson’s disease.

The team notes, however, that before squalamine can be considered a possible treatment for Parkinson’s disease, a number of questions should be addressed through future research. One unanswered question is whether squalamine can target areas of the brain that are susceptible to alpha-synuclein buildup when it is taken orally. However, researchers suggest that squalamine could offer benefits through the gut. Study co-author Professor Michele Vendruscolo says that targeting alpha-synuclein in the gut may be helpful in delaying the progress of other aspects of the disease, particularly for symptoms concerning the peripheral nervous system.

It will be interesting to see what future studies find. Hopefully, squalamine will one day be able to treat Parkinson’s disease, a disease that affects so many Americans.

Protecting Health Through Fidgeting

SittingIn this day and age, we do a lot of sitting. If you are one of the millions of Americans with an office job, you are sitting for several hours throughout the day. However, office jobs are not the only culprit. Those who travel for extended periods of time are forced to remain seated on airplanes. Those who enjoy watching television may find themselves starting a Netflix show then, hours later, being riveted in the same position. A couple years back, evidence was uncovered concerning the harmful effects of sitting. Remaining seated was found to increase risk of heart disease and diabetes. This new information brought on a standing desk craze, however, it has been found that overusing standing desks is also not good for health. So, what is good for your health? A recently published study found that fidgeting while seated may be your best bet.

One of the immediate dangers of sitting for extended periods of time concern the arteries in the leg. Sitting restricts the amount of blood flowing to the legs, which heightens risk of cardiovascular disease. Researchers at the University of Missouri wanted to know if there was a way to offset those negative effects when standing is not an option. Their reasoning was that fidgeting would encourage increased blood flow in the leg. They did not expect it to completely solve the arterial problem, but they hoped it would at least help.

The researchers tested the leg vascular function of 11 men and women. The subjects were made to sit for three hours. Each participant kept one leg still throughout the entire study, and tapped the other one at specified intervals. The subjects averaged about 250 foot movements per minute. At the conclusion of three hours, researchers measured the amount of blood flow in each leg of each subject.

Sure enough, this fidgeting increased blood flow in the legs significantly, to a point where it could help stave off cardiovascular disease. Toe tapping was indeed enough to increase vascular health. This is groundbreaking information in a society in which, a lot of the time, people do not have the option to take breaks to stand up continuously during a long period of sitting.

The researchers want to make it clear, however, that fidgeting should not be used as a substitute for standing and walking around when breaks can be taken. Walking or standing has more overall cardiovascular benefits, and is therefore better for you in the long run. However, fidgeting is a good alternative in situations in which standing is not permitted. As they say, any sort of movement is better than none at all.  

Unnecessary Antibiotics

Antibiotics Antibiotics have developed the reputation of being a ‘cure-all’ in today’s society. Whenever a patient is feeling ill for more than a couple of days, his or her first request is to be put on antibiotics. This makes sense, of course. In today’s fast-paced world, people do not have the time to be sick for more than one or two days at a time. Feeling ill for a period any longer than that could result in missing work for more time than allowed, or simply not being able to complete daily responsibilities. Unfortunately, putting antibiotics up on a pedestal has had consequences. A new federal study was recently released that stated nearly 1 in 3 antibiotic prescriptions are unnecessarily given to patients.

Antibiotics, since they have reached such an unreasonably high status, are being prescribed for many conditions that do not require any medication at all. These conditions mostly consist of respiratory issues that only last a short amount of time. For example, a patient with the common cold can request antibiotics if he or she is still experiencing symptoms a few days after its onset. Also, bronchitis is being treated more and more with antibiotics, as are ear and sinus infections.

This overuse of antibiotics can have detrimental effects on patients in the long run. It allows bacteria resistant to antibiotics to grow and flourish. Such bacteria is responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of Americans every year.

Those who investigated the misuse of antibiotics in the newly released study found that, out of their sample size, hundreds of unnecessary antibiotic prescriptions were administered for every 1,000 people when respiratory conditions were present. With all other conditions, the number of unnecessary prescriptions was even higher.

Why is it that doctors are giving out antibiotics to those who do not need them? It is speculated that this is because the patients are asking for them. If a patient enters a doctor’s office and asks for antibiotics to feel better, doctors will prescribe them in order to satisfy the patient’s desires. However, doctors must take everything patient’s say with a grain of salt. Usually, when a patient is asking for antibiotics, he or she just wants something to alleviate the symptoms. There are ways to accomplish this besides antibiotics. More communication is necessary between doctors and patients to determine what is actually necessary.

Therefore, it is useful for doctors and patients alike to know what conditions require antibiotics, and which ones will get better without. For example, antibiotics are not useful in the treatment of the common cold, bronchitis, and viral infections.

Cancer Screening Controversy

Anyone who is keeping up with the medical world has heard of the newly arisen doubt surrounding cancer screenings. More specifically, their effectiveness at preventing cancer has come into question. Of course, there are several moving parts involved in cancer screenings that must be separately examined to come to any real conclusion.

There is a difference between disease-specific mortality and overall mortality, as The BMJ described in their study about why cancer screenings need to change. Disease-specific mortality is looking at a person’s living in terms of one specific disease, such as cancer. Overall mortality, however, refers to a broader picture. The evidence claiming that cancer screenings lower mortality rates are only valid for people with tumors. Apparently, overall mortality can be affected by situations that stem from getting screened for cancer.

Cancer screenings are not perfect. There is a fairly large percentage of cancer screenings that result in a false positive. There has also been a rise in the the misdiagnosis of cancers that are not harmful. These blips in the system lead to cancer treatment for individuals who may not need it. For example, treatment for prostate cancer involves hormonal therapy. This hormonal therapy significantly raises the risk of heart attacks in men.

Basically, the screenings cannot distinguish between lesions that need to be removed and those that do not, and can lead to unnecessary procedures for people who may not need them.

So, what can be done about these screenings? Cancer experts agree that the entire way we go about screening for cancer needs to change. The real issue here is that there is not enough evidence to prove that screening for cancer is beneficial to an individual’s overall mortality. Therefore, the medical industry must increase the number of people that get screened on a yearly basis, and run a number of trials. This would, however, cost billions of dollars.

Until that money is available for such screenings and tests, cancer experts must be more truthful about both the benefits and risks of cancer screenings. Currently, the medical industry admits only the upside of cancer screenings to the public, but this much change in order to allow individuals to make informed decisions about whether or not to get screened.

As a medical professional, I am dedicated to the health and quality of life of patients. I believe that everything having to do with an individual’s health should be explained in its entirety, without bias or the hiding of information. Honesty leads to informed health decisions by patients. I would suggest cancer experts adopt this mentality as well, in order to prevent cancer screenings from becoming a thing of the past.

Human Science

Knowledge is power. The proliferation of the internet has shown that people naturally want to educate themselves in subjects they care about. Never before has so much knowledge been this readily available before. As the phenomenon known as crowdsourced knowledge continue to grow, aided by Wikipedia and its complex network of contributors, another form of science was born. Dubbed “citizen science,” this new type of learning emerged from the data maelstrom of the internet with one goal: to teach as many as possible through shared experiences.

Like tapping into a mental collective, citizen science asks only that its practitioners observe and document the world around them. By taking in nature, culture, experience and information, you add a perspective to a vast ocean of input. Millions of ideas coalesce to form a comprehensive view of our world, filtered through the perception of hundreds.

Organizations across the globe have begun utilizing citizen science as a means to gather data. The U.S. Geological Survey reached out to hundreds of bird watchers, nature aficionados, and observant citizens to document their local findings. Whether measuring the blooming cycles of flowers or migratory patterns of our nation’s birds, the undeniable advantage of utilizing one of the most abundant resources on the planet, humans, is as brilliant as it is time-saving.

Other industries of repute have joined the citizen science mission alongside the U.S.G.S. NASA, the FCC (Federal Communication Commission), and the National Archives have begun using the public to better catalog data. In a country where there are 6 million registered scientists compared to a staggering 300 million “citizen scientists,” it’s shocking to think of not using such an abundant resource.

Derek ALgerHowever, citizen science is not without its difficulties. The process of scientific discovery is free from bias, belief or manipulation. If you expand the realm of contributors to one piece of data, you naturally increase the opportunity for “incorrect” observations to be made. The managing of citizen science has become a science unto itself. A necessary process when thousands of perspectives are colliding. Can so many varying opinions, viewpoints, and perspectives remove the bias in research by making one scientist into many, or can too much data dilute the information?