Tuesday, 6 February 2018

Nine years helping change lives

Today at Kiva we celebrate YOU!
Nine years ago today, you joined Kiva to change lives around the world.
A cake to celebrate your Kiva anniversary
Your commitment to Kiva’s mission is a cause for celebration!

Wednesday, 31 January 2018

DNA manipulation at the tip of your fingers TOTALLY FREE

Adna's Lab can help students become more familiar with basic techniques, reagents, products and machinery that is used in a genetics lab.

The main goal in the game is to build up a 25 bases chain from 5' to 3' to win the race. Players enhance their own DNA chain, but can also destroy the opponent's DNA chain making use of different single cards or combinations of cards.


 10 total


I'm writing a book

Seriously! No joke. To be honest if you knew me personally you would understand that creative writing has been part of my life since ever. I remember writing comics from the age of 6 years old, untypical stuff, totally earthed, nothing involving super heroes or spaceships and the like. Actually my first comic was made during the Summer of '86 with three other colleagues of mine. Two of them had nothing better to do for the whole first month of Summer vacation. But I recall vividly the other third guy, a very clever, astute, curious, intelligent, bright young child that was terrible at school (he couldn't even spell maths!!!). However, this paradoxical breath of life was so urgent in him!!!!!!! I remember this kid so well, but for the sake of privacy I won't disclose his name. I used to look at him with some perplexity for he was always watching documentaries and was crazy addicted to the Jacques Cousteau's ones. His house had this moldy smell although he never allowed us to cross the front door to get inside, the baffle could be easily scented from afar. Their windows were always shut, the TV was always on (we could see it from the main door area) and he had very little money, used always the same clothes, a bunch of younger siblings jumping around and a dense atmosphere surrounded his existence. I'm not kidding, he was special in the sense that he was not at all fit to school and at the same time he was an incredibly intelligent individual with many qualities teachers could not really operate with. Traditional busy educational systems totally unfit for those who are off boundaries and do not represent the standards! What else to say...? I honestly hope he got to be a successful adult with loads of incredible interesting projects on his lap. I miss the times the two of us created that comic about a migrant who traveled abroad for some better opportunities and ended up dead, hung by some far-right extremists. Woooowwww, a bit edgy for some snotty kids, I know! Don't take me wrong, the subject topic was dark and far too real for some 6 year old kids, but at the same time represented the pre-grunge times with a desperate cry for help and attention in a neighborhood that could have used some proper state investment in regards to educational and cultural projects. By that age we were providing an 'exaggerated' x-ray of the society we could feel orbiting around us.

My writing then progressed to a bunch of grunge songs I wrote from the age of 12 to the age of 18. I also wrote two novels, one on depression that actually nearly made it to the first places of a national contest (I was 16). This other book called 'The Queen of Hearts' beat my "Grey Mosquitoes", but my real prize was the look of the people who judged it when I popped over to their premises to collect back my copies. The lady looked at me like she had seen either a miracle or a farce whilst asking me with a mouth hit by surprise - Did you write this book???

The other novel "Nayf", on a near-death experience when I didn't even know what a near-death experience or Raymond Moody and the IANDS were oblivion to me, was also written before the age of 20. And that was it for the long narratives. I then dedicated myself to blog posts until the age of 26, on politics, on animal welfare, on society. Then, during Spring time a friend of mine let me know that she forgot to tell me about a literature contest she prepared with the Student Society. I had two hours to write different texts for three different categories, namely short story, poem and essay.

In two hours I wrote a poem on the Portuguese revolution of April 1974, two short stories on something I can't remember (I filed them somewhere inside the many boxes in this house!!!) and an essay on psychology or something related to that. I got a third place and two 'honorable mentions' (is that the way to say it???).

Again I could see the astonished faces of the judges (a panel of very well dressed journalists and writers that all they did during the prizes' session was to basically humiliate everyone by saying we had to try harder, it wasn't good for a professional level, we needed a lot more quality - typical anal retentive judgmental presumptuous unnecessary crap). I really wanted to go to them and explain that when a person has nothing of valid to say to the next one, shouldn't say nothing at all. As I walked there on my Jesus sandals and white linen pants and shirt, the only African descendant in a room crowded with white people, once again I could see their faces in aw!

Please don't think I am so full of myself, you couldn't be farther from the truth. I sincerely and simply love writing. It's a passion, it's a pleasure.

I then moved to England in 2006 and my writing since then has been about Toxicology here in this blog. But 2018 started and with it a rejuvenated resolution. I want to write a science book. I want to write it in English (not my native language ergo a challenge). And I want it to be a fresh approach that can serve not only the typical science professional but also the mother at home worried about her health and her family's health, and the curious children. I already have the topic and I just need the planning and the proper time to fulfill it.

I'll write about the Toxicology of Nosocomial Infections, nosocomial as in a disease originating in a hospital. Then I will try to publish it independently on the web and I will dedicate it to that colleague of mine that at the age of 6 shared my love for biology.

Wish me luck, guys!

Tuesday, 30 January 2018

On the allergenic potential of Bay Leaf

It has been a long time since I had any time available at all to update the blog with my own text and ideas. The reason behind it is quite simple, and to a certain extent quite positive - I have been very busy with additional responsibilities related to my profession. From early November to this day my days have been consumed by work, and I am a bit of a workaholic, not so much in the obsession sense of the concept, but definitely on the pleasure I take from doing what I love the most - working in science.

However, I pride myself in always responding to my readers and I have had this stone stuck to my shoe with a pending question from Lee Scholl. This reader left a question in the bay leaf post concerning a change of regimen his girlfriend decided to perform, more specifically and I quote:

"My girlfriend is planning to start a regimen of ingesting bay Laurel oil for cardiovascular health. It sounds like this isn't an issue as long as she isn't allergic?"

Well, to start off it is also important to explain that no blog writer, regardless of how professionally accredited he/she is will ever be capable of determining if something isn't an issue for a certain person for there is always the need to know the health status of the individual. What I mean is medical advice can only be given by medical professionals that know the clinical records of said patient, the best person to offer a professional opinion on a health hazard to a determined person is therefore the healthcare professional familiar to said person's medical history.

I am not a medical doctor, I have a doctorate! I am a medical information specialist that happens to hold academic qualifications in Molecular Microbiology (PhD), Toxicology (MRes) and Biotechnology (BSc), and about 10 years of research experience. With this blog I only provide what can be taken as an informal second line search to articles and information available out there, and combine it to my knowledge on the different scientific areas I am proficient on. Ergo, I provide information for people to make their own decisions, I do not provide medical advice.

Now, jumping directly to the meat in bone that is requested here. What have I found that can help this couple decide whether this change of regimen or this dietary decision can represent danger, from the many free relevant articles that can be found online?

1) To start with I found this really nice book that might have incredible additional information on many aspects involving essential oils and their putative dangers to human health. The name is "Essential Oil Safety" [1]. Looks like a good easy read and from the index sounds like the authors did a great job! In this very same book on page 323 there is a summary of  the bay Laurel toxicity that tested for adverse skin reactions at a 1%, 2% and even 10% concentration in different animals and human volunteers with different outcome reactions (but overall nothing tremendously serious below the 10% threshold). However, there are indications of contact dermatitis, especially at a 10% concentration level. But the triggering molecule is not clear to be costunolide (the sesquiterpene lactone that can be obtained/isolated from Laurel).

2) I could come up with a million articles on the putative toxicity of Bay Laurel, but I have already written so much about it that it is just a matter of revisiting the previous articles here, here, here and  also here, here, herehere, here, and finally here. However, in regards to the benefits I would like to stress this article found on the Indian bay leaf (Cinnamomum tamala Nees.) where the authors explore that the leaves extract can prevent the increase of serum levels of total cholesterol, low- and very low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, prevent the formation of fat deposits in the arteries (known as the atherogenic effect) and increase the levels of the so called 'good cholesterol' (meaning high-density lipoprotein-cholesterol) [2].

Sorry for such a late post but it has been crazy over the past three months.

Have a nice read.

[1] Tisserand, R . and Young, R. (2014). "Essential Oil Safety". 2nd edition. Churchill Livingstone Elsevier.

[2] Dhulasavant, V., Shinde, S., Pawar, M., Naikwade, N. S. (2010). "Antihyperlipidemic activity of Cinnamomum tamala Nees. on High Cholesterol Diet Induced Hyperlipidemia". International Journal of PharmTech Research. 2(4), pp. 2517-2521.

Post image kindly taken from alibaba.com

Friday, 19 January 2018

Cancer blood test ‘enormously exciting’

Woman getting blood testImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES

Scientists have taken a step towards one of the biggest goals in medicine - a universal blood test for cancer.
A team at Johns Hopkins University has trialled a method that detects eight common forms of the disease.
Their vision is an annual test designed to catch cancer early and save lives. UK experts said it was "enormously exciting".
Tumours release tiny traces of their mutated DNA and proteins they make into the bloodstream.
The Cancer Seek test looks for mutations in 16 genes that regularly arise in cancer and eight proteins that are often released.
It was trialled on 1,005 patients with cancers in the ovary, liver, stomach, pancreas, oesophagus, colon, lung or breast that had not yet spread to other tissues.
Overall, the test found 70% of the cancers.
Dr Cristian Tomasetti, from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, told the BBC: "This field of early detection is critical, and the results are very exciting.
"I think this can have an enormous impact on cancer mortality."
The earlier a cancer is found, the greater the chance of being able to treat it.
Five of the eight cancers investigated have no screening programmes for early detection.
Pancreatic cancer has so few symptoms and is detected so late that four in five patients die in the year they are diagnosed.
Finding tumours when they could still be surgically removed would be "a night and day difference" for survival, said Dr Tomasetti.
Cancer Seek is now being trialled in people who have not been diagnosed with cancer.
This will be the real test of its usefulness.
The hope is it can complement other screening tools such as mammograms for breast cancer and colonoscopies for colorectal cancer.
Dr Tomasetti told the BBC: "We envision a blood test we could use once a year."

Universal test?

The Cancer Seek test, reported in the journal Science, is novel because it hunts for both the mutated DNA and the proteins.

breast cancer cellsImage copyrightSCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Image captionBreast cancer can be detected by the new test

Increasing the number of mutations and proteins being analysed would allow it to test for a wider range of cancers.
Dr Gert Attard, team leader in the Centre for Evolution and Cancer at the Institute of Cancer Research, London, and consultant medical oncologist at the Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust, told the BBC: "This is of massive potential.
"I'm enormously excited. This is the Holy Grail - a blood test to diagnose cancer without all the other procedures like scans or colonoscopy."
He said "we're very close" to using blood tests to screen for cancer as "we have the technology".
But he cautioned there was still uncertainty about what to do when a cancer was diagnosed.
In some cases, the treatment may be worse than living with a cancer that is not immediately life-threatening.
Men can already have slow growing prostate cancers closely monitored rather than treated.
"When we detect cancer in a different way, we can't take for granted that everyone will need treatment," Dr Attard said.
The cost of Cancer Seek is less than $500 (£360) per patient, which is around the same price as a colonoscopy.
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Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Iceland supermarket chain aims to be plastic free by 2023

"Supermarket chain Iceland has said it will eliminate or drastically reduce plastic packaging of all its own-label products by the end of 2023.
Iceland says the move will affect more than a thousand own-label products.
New ranges will be packaged using a paper-based tray, rather than plastic.
It follows recent outcries over the packaging of cauliflower "steaks" and coconuts, and Sir David Attenborough's Blue Planet programme, which showed vivid images of plastic pollution.
Prime Minister Theresa May has called plastic waste "one of the great environmental scourges of our time".
The UK uses 3.7 million tonnes of plastic a year, according to trade organisation Plastics Europe, and recent changes in China have made it more difficult to process.
Nigel Broadhurst, joint managing director of Iceland, explained the typical ready meal was packaged in particularly bad way: "Take a typical Iceland prepared meal, it is currently in a black plastic tray. That black plastic is the worst possible option in terms of toxins going into the ground and the ability to recycle that product."
He said there could be changes to other packaging in future: "Take oranges, they come in a net; apples come in a plastic bag. It doesn't take a lot of shift to expect that you could put an orange net round an apple."
The company says it is aiming to complete the change to its own-brand packaging within the next five years, removing plastics wherever feasible.
Iceland also said its research found that 80% of shoppers would endorse a supermarket's move to go plastic free.
The chain has also earlier supported the idea of a deposit return scheme for plastic bottles.
Mrs May has pledged to ban all avoidable plastic waste in the UK by 2042.
In an attempt to tackle the problem, the PM has called on supermarkets to introduce "plastic-free" aisles, and to consider taxes and charges on single-use plastic items such as food containers."
in BBC.co.uk on the 16th of January 2018 (original article here)