Some Surprising Things That Won’t Kill You

Okay, Grim Reaper, you can take me now.
Okay, Grim Reaper, you can take me now.

Before I get to today’s topic I’d like to address some things that can kill you. Stuff that you see in your email every fucking day that will do way more harm than good. Pomegranate juice has been touted as a cure for everything from skin cancer to depression. While it is a fine source of anti-oxidants and has been shown to slow one type of cancer, prostrate in men, it is not a cure for anything. People who avoid medical treatment to just use this as a cure, and they are legion, tend to die in short order. Faith healers. Sorry, I don’t care which god you endorse, if this shit worked these asshats would be in hospitals and not on TV begging for your money. African Mango Diet Pills, Garcinia Cambogia Extract, Wholemega Diet Pills, or Green Coffee Bean Extract, or the Raspberry Ketone Diet. Usually attributed to “a scientific study done by Men’s Health” these things can do everything from nothing at all to causing severe gastrointestinal problems. Bonus? Well, you get two here; (1) Men’s Health doesn’t endorse any diet aids, and; (2) the only weight you’ll lose will come from being hospitalized with all sorts of bizarre aliments. Marijuana cures cancer. No, it doesn’t. Processed Canabanoids, an ingredient of marijuana, have shown promise in that regard and can be very effective at controlling seizures, but most modern pot, a/k/a Cheech and Chong Therapies, are low in that regard and high in THC. In other words, you’ll feel great for a few hours but you’re still going to die.

There are more but allow me to give you a helpful hint to avoid being conned. If you read anything that contains the phrase “Big Pharma doesn’t make cures, they make customers” or anything similar, it’s full of shit.

Just FYI, if you ever are full of shit two, non-menthol, cigarettes a day will clear that right up. That is true. Downside? Well, you’ll start smoking and increase your chances of catching cancer and dying.

Okay, back to Big Pharma. First off there is no such thing. There are several large pharmaceutical companies, true, but they compete against each other for profits and killing people is bad for business. Also, there are these little things called facts and history. When cures have become available, such as the polio vaccine, they have been pushed to market to help as many people as quickly as possible.

Are drug prices in America too high? That’s a common complaint and one that bears looking into. Yes, American’s pay more for prescription drugs than any other nation. But, and this is important, other nations subsidize medicine and the U.S. doesn’t. This is done to “prevent the spread of socialism” but, in reality, just causes people to die needlessly or go hopelessly into debt.

Ask any licensed medical professional and they’ll tell you that this country should be strengthening the Affordable Care Act, not gutting it. Go ahead, do that. I’ll wait.

Cool. Welcome back.

Now, let’s get you healthy.

To start, just for fun, I’m going to inject you with lethal wasp venom.

NO! WAIT! COME BACK! It’s fine. As Caroline Reid, over at IFL Science, reports, Brazilian wasp venom kills cancer cells.

Wasps get their fair share of bad press.

They have painful stingers, and they’re not as useful to us (or as cute) as bees. Their time to step in the spotlight, however, may be just around the corner: Their venom has been shown to attack cancer cells while leaving healthy cells alone.

The cancer-targeting toxin in the wasp is called MP1 (Polybia-MP1), and until now, how it selectively eliminates cancer cells was unknown.

According to new research, it exploits the atypical arrangement of fats, or lipids, in cancer-cell membranes. Their abnormal distribution creates weak points where the toxin can interact with the lipids, which ultimately pokes gaping holes in the membrane.

These are sufficiently large for essential molecules to start leaking out, including proteins, which the cell cannot function without.

The wasp responsible for producing this toxin is the Polybia paulista. The toxin has so far been tested on model membranes and examined using a broad range of imaging techniques.

You can see the team’s research results in the Biophysical Journal.

Aren’t you glad you kept reading? Okay, how about if I told you I was going to take cells from Alzheimer’s’ patients and inject them into your brain?

You’re trying to run away again, aren’t you?

Well, as Justine Alford rightly points out, you shouldn’t. This could be the best way to save your brain should the need arise.

While an extremely useful technique, its potential therapeutic applications have been limited by the fact that it often necessitates the introduction of transgenes, which carries a cancer risk should they end up in an off-target location and switch on genes that can cause cell replication to go awry. Using small chemical molecules to achieve the same outcome, however, attempts to overcome this issue and offers numerous advantages.

Namely, avoiding genetic manipulation and the need to pass through a stem cell phase reduces some safety concerns, and because the molecules can slide through the cell’s membranes to reach the DNA, they don’t require the use of viruses for delivery. Furthermore, they’re cheaper, easy to synthesize and produce reversible effects.

The first of the two studies to probe the potential of these molecules involved adding a chemical cocktail to skin cells derived from healthy patients and individuals with Alzheimer’s. By adding them in two different stages, the researchers were able to dampen skin cell-specific genes and then drive expression of native neuronal transcription factors. In just a few weeks, the cells assumed a new neuronal identity, looking and behaving like neurons produced using the transgenic approach.

In the second, researchers achieved the same feat with mouse skin cells, but using a different combination of small molecules. Impressively, in just 16 days, 90% of the initial cell population was positive for a neuron-specific protein called TUJ1. Furthermore, the cells could generate action potentials that are critical to neuronal firing, and they formed functional junctions with one another across which information can be transmitted.

While the researchers need to fine-tune the processes, the proof-of-concept work is certainly encouraging. If researchers are able to generate personalized batches of cells, it may be possible to graft them into patients as a means of disease treatment. Furthermore, using patients who already suffer neurological diseases, such as Alzheimer’s, researchers may be able to learn more about these conditions by studying their cells in the lab.

See? That wasn’t so bad.

Back on July 8th I wrote about how a teenager, Jack Andraka, had found a way to detect pancreatic cancer in its early stages. That’s important because pancreatic cancer rarely has symptoms until you have six months or less to live.

Now, according to Josh Davis science has found the perfect way to turn that death induced frown upside down; science can make pancreatic cells revert to healthy cells if they find them.

A new study has, however, shown that pancreatic adenocarcinoma cells can be coaxed to revert back to normal cells — a discovery that could possibly lead to new treatment therapies. The research was carried out in a collaborative effort between Sanford-Burnham, UC San Diego, and Purdue University, and published last week in the journal Pancreas.

“For the first time, we have shown that overexpression of a single gene can reduce the tumor-promoting potential of pancreatic adenocarcinoma cells and reprogram them toward their original cell type,” said Pamela Itkin-Ansari, an adjunct professor at Sanford-Burnham and author of the study. “Thus, pancreatic cancer cells retain a ‘genetic memory’ which we hope to exploit.”

The team started off by growing human pancreatic cancer cells in the lab, and then inducing them to produce more of a protein called E47. This protein binds to a specific sequence of DNA that controls the genes involved in growth and differentiation. As a result, the cells stalled in their growth phase and began to revert back to non-cancerous cells. They were then able to take the reprogrammed cancer cells and introduce them into mice, where their ability to form tumors was greatly reduced.

Okay, so we’re curing cancer like a bunch of sciencey motherfuckers here today, and that’s a good thing, so let’s tackle one more health nightmare.

Full disclosure here. Back in 1967 my aunt Ginger, an Elizabeth Montgomery look-alike, came down with Multiple Sclerosis. Within a year she was dead. So, let’s just say, this next article held my interest.

Your athlete’s foot and itchy skin may help cure MS.

Our pal Caroline Reid says I’m not crazy.

The team, who published the study in Nature, wanted to find a drug that would encourage stem cells in the brain and spinal cord to become the type of cell that produces myelin, which are called oligodendrocytes. With more myelinating cells on board, the damage to nerve cells should slow down, and hopefully further damage will also be prevented. Ideally, the candidate drug would even start to reverse paralysis in multiple sclerosis sufferers.

The two drugs used in the trial were miconazole, which is found in over-the-counter antifungal treatments such as athlete’s foot, and clobetasol, which is used to treat skin conditions such as eczema. These might seem like unlikely candidates to coax stem cells to become the important myelin cells in the brain but, of course, there is method behind the madness. The team tested the effects of different drugs (727 to be precise), which all had a history of use in patients, on laboratory-grown stem cells called ‘oligodendrocyte progenitor cells,’ or OPCs for short. Out of all the drugs investigated, the two drugs selected—miconazole and clobetasol—were best at stimulating the conversion of these blank stem cells into myelinating cells.

The effect of these versatile drugs on restoring myelin in the brains of mice with multiple sclerosis-like disease was remarkable. As Robert Miller, a neuroscientist at Case Western Reserve, said: “It was a striking reversal of disease severity in the mice.”

Whilst this was very promising with mice, it will be more difficult to evaluate in humans. It is extremely difficult to assess the reversal of brain damage and restoration of myelin reliably in living humans. Another hindrance in the evaluation of recovery is that progress takes a long time. It could take years, not months, to see the effects of myelin restoration, which means that trial studies will take a while and results won’t be quick. However, the team is enthusiastic that they can develop optimized versions of these drugs in the future.

The public are advised not to take the current versions of these drugs to alleviate the symptoms of multiple sclerosis. The forms of drugs being tested have not been refined for the purpose of remylenation yet.

The additional emphasis is mine. Promising is not the same as cured. But for all those who have suffered, or will in the future, here’s hoping they figure it out.

In case you’re new here you’ll note that every claim made has been, or is being, backed up with research and that research has been, or is being, vetted by disinterested professionals. This is how science works. The fact that something helped your Aunt Gertie back in 1987 is not science. It could be luck, a combination of facts that Gertie forgot, or any number of things. Whatever it is it ain’t science.

That’s why many of these alleged cures are dangerous. No one really knows what they can or cannot do.

Night Nurse from Cascada on Vimeo.

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