Thursday, 24 May 2018

Memories might be transferred between generations through DNA

I know research on this matter is still early age, inconclusive and using models that can't be immediately related to humans (at least on the complex epigenetics bridge), but I have discussed this very same topic so many times with my wife. I always tell her - Rubbish DNA my as*, there's definitely a pool of acquired generational memories to unlock, tangled on what we stupidly call Rubbish DNA. Nature is way too sophisticated and tuned to waste energy on something irrelevant. There is always a better explanation for things when the human ego wants to excuse our ignorance on the universe out there and tag the object of our blatant lack of knowledge, of rubbish!!! Calling something we don't know about our genetics, of rubbish, is exactly like looking to the sky on a stormy day where thunder strikes the dry air and cry that the Gods are upset at us for not throwing them an adulation party :P

I still don't have the information to prove my point, but I believe others do share my view on this matter. But maybe this article by Houri-Ze'evi et al (2016) can start a very promising, interesting and much necessary debate. Times are exciting for science, especially for defining our human nature.

Don't mind 'too much' about the content of the video (I am sharing it as a starting point, an entry door to a discussion), I'm not the author but I do share his overall opinion on the matter. However, for the sake of scientific reliability, we all lack on solid proof for consubstantiation of our belief on this matter. But the debate has been triggered, What 'you think?

[1] Houri-Ze'evi, L., Korem, Y., Sheftel H et al (2016). "A tunable mechanism determines the duration of the transgenerationalsmall RNA inheritance in C. elegans". Cell, 165(1), pp. 88-99.

Post image kindly taken from Reset.Me [].

Wednesday, 23 May 2018

The real survival rates to cancer - Part 1 of 3

It is very difficult for anyone detached from the reality of clinical trials and the research developed by the biggest pharmaceutical companies to have access to secretive data pharmaceutical companies hold on their pipeline products (even when they become fully marketed ones).  We don't necessarily have to initiate or feed any kind of global conspiracy theory. There is huge investment in researching a pharmaceutical product destined to battle diseases as serious as cancer is. Such investment must be claimed back when the product reaches the market and becomes fully or partly available to hospitals, patients, for compassionate use, etc. Not always the different governments support pharmaceutical research to the same extent as governments claim taxation on these companies or impose price cuts/subsidiary support when the products are given market authorisation. 

It is not my job to analyse the soul of said companies as it is not my job to scrutinise the role of governments in the market authorisation and governmental participation process. But for such a global, relevant and recurrent disease that is ever so present in our day-to-day lives (every single one of us has to some extent come across a friend/relative/acquaintance affected by its ramifications) the BIG C is an obscure scenario. Whenever we are forced to bereave upon such frailty, our human side becomes a lot more mechanical, I suppose; a lot more statistical. The positive ones will hold onto the minimum numbers and foresee survival, the negative ones will probably see the opposite side of the mirror. I'm not here to judge, but I tend to be a positive one, and I would want everybody to be positive on their experience with such terrifying disease.

Hence, the idea of "celebrating" about 75 years of the first use of chemotherapy agents in a cancer patient [1] made perfect sense to me. A celebration based on survival, on the numbers that we are to increase but still attribute hope, regardless of how small they can be. 

We are then obliged to mention JD, as he was known back at the Yale Medical Center in 1941 when he was diagnosed with lymphosarcoma (a cancer of lymphocites). The expected treatment would be a combination of radiation and surgical resection. A fast-spreading disease branched through JD's body and the cervical tumours he had been screened for suddenly were unresponsive to radiation and spread to his armpit. His fate was about to be drawn if it wasn't for WWI's nitrogen mustard gas and its associated leukopenia (reduction of white blood cells - leukocytes - in the blood) inducing a low count on those exposed to it.

Well cancer, in very basic terms, isn't but a fast and abnormal multiplication of cells. Therefore, any substance that could attack those sub-systems prone to quick cellular production (hair, immune system, etc) could represent a potential pharmaceutical agent if shown to have reduced toxicity against humans. That wasn't the case for mustard gas, but at least the motto for what would become a very interesting research phase was given the go-ahead flag. And nowadays the common plebeian response to cancer is an immediate word -  chemotherapy. However, statistics are still quite hidden beneath the veil of frailty and business approach that both people (affected by their dramas) and pharmaceutical companies (profiting from the human drama) tend to either ignore, restrict, keep or cherry-pick.

I decided that for this post I'd refer only 1 article, the one by Panos Christakis (see below). The reason being the fact that it is a great article that can do wonders for your need for historical feed on how chemotherapy emerged from the shadows of Word War I. How life typically emerges from death and vice-versa, in a strange synergy of an uninterrupted circle. As if life and death weren't; and all we have is a continuum. The referred article deserves your uttermost attention as I believe it to be a great piece of work that instruct us on the chronological process of bringing a clinical and pharmacological product/procedure to life from the unexpected.

Before I leave you today with the premise to what is to be expected with the upcoming two additional posts - namely, the numbers on cancer survival rates (scientifically published), I'd like to share with you an additional motto for me to produce this trilogy of posts. It has to do with my past experience as an interpreter working in the NHS when I came across a cancer patient for the first time. No personal details will obviously be mentioned, but on the next post I will open with this extremely intense experience I lived and how it affected me tremendously... emotionally... and spiritually.

[1] Christakis, P. (2011). "The Birth of Chemotherapy at Yale". Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine, 84(2), pp. 169-172.

1st image kindly taken from The Irish Times [].

2nd image kindly taken from Haiku Deck [].

Tuesday, 15 May 2018

TheToxicologistToday considered 3rd in the Top 20 Toxicology Blogs on the web

Feedspot, a modern RSS content reader for netizens who want or need to stay up-to-date with the most reliable and interesting content online, have emailed me with special congratulations. It happens that these information minions kindly attributed The Toxicologist Today a third place at the Top 20 Toxicology Blogs (see here). My humble toxicology blog made the podium with a 'bronze medal' that touched my heart, not because of the resonance/repercussion that such might have on my readers' count (if anything that will make me work more seriously towards increasing quality and entice level of my articles), but mostly because someone cared enough to analyse what I have been doing for pure love since August 2010. My small and honest contribution to a world with free scientific information for all - for education and information empower the public. 

Actually, some of the blogs that also made the list are advertised as interesting reads on the side columns of The Toxicologist Today. Some even operate on the realm of Forensic Toxicology, exactly the same area I recently produced a serious game for with SciBoard Games (see here for a short example). This honourable mention, in conjunction with the publishing of my very first digital science serious game "Adna's Lab" (download HERE and read more about it HERE) and the book I am writing on Nosocomial Infections, couldn't be a better bouquet of happiness for me.

I am aware that Feedspot might eventually gain from the fact that all those that made the list will propagate their name to the very four corners of the world (of this worldwide circle squareness), but free information is not easy to maintain or even share. I am more than happy to give Feedspot a hand for their capacity to browse through so many candidates and find value exactly on my work... and with such fierce competition that I am in total awe.

I am humbled, emotional and to a certain degree proud because my scientific passion is surfacing as a valued piece of informational work. I had to read and read and read it over and over again to make sure it wasn't a prank!!!! I thank Feedspot and will do my very best to try and maintain this blog of yours as the reliable source of information on Toxicology that I have been thriving for since 2010. Now go look below for the first 17 names of all blogs that made the top list (I will definitely add all of these links to my 'Interesting Reading column' the moment my professional life allows it).

3. The Toxicologist Today

Friday, 4 May 2018

The Toxicologist Today just helped a person in need.

Would you care help maintain the chain of aid.

Help HERE.

Lidl offers locally grown cannabis to Swiss shoppers

"Supermarket takes advantage of law change to sell ‘relaxing’ tobacco alternative
Lidl’s cannabidiol products start £13.20 for a 1.5g box.
 Lidl’s cannabidiol products start £13.20 for a 1.5g box. Photograph: Lidl Schweiz

You may have heard about their cut-price stollen, and possibly their surprisingly flavoursome jam. But you probably won’t have sampled the latest range offered by the supermarket chain Lidl: locally grown cannabis. 
Two products derived from hemp flowers are being offered in Swiss stores as an alternative to rolling tobacco.
A 1.5g box, from plants grown indoors, costs 17.99 swiss francs (£13.20). A 3g bag is 19.99 Swiss francs, but is made from flowers grown in greenhouses.
The packs are on sale alongside cigarettes and cigars at the tills. The cost per cigarette is double that of tobacco roll-ups.
Switzerland changed the law in 2011 to permit people over 18 to purchase and use cannabis containing no more than 1% of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the plant’s principal psychoactive constituent.
Lidl’s products are designed to provide a relaxing and anti-inflammatory effect, but not to be intoxicating.
The German supermarket said its supplier – The Botanicals, based in Thurgau, north-east Switzerland – was growing the cannabis plants indoors and in semi-automated greenhouses

“The manufacturer relies on sustainable agriculture and refrains entirely from adding chemical, synthetic or genetically modified substances,” a statement said.
The product is said to be high on cannabidiol (CBD), an ingredient of the hemp plant. “The legally cultivable varieties contain only very small amounts of THC and a high proportion of CBD,” Lidl said.
Switzerland’s 2011 law change, designed to open up the availability of medicinal cannabis, has only recently been seized upon by commercial operators.
Switzerland’s customs agency, which collects taxes from cannabis product sales, recorded an increase in registered retailers from a “handful” in 2015 to more than 140 in the last year. In 2017 about £18m in tax was collected on sales of £73m.
The Swiss supermarket chain Coop - unrelated to the UK brand - was the first to sell cannabis cigarettes last year.
The charity Addiction Suisse has raised concern that CBD can modify the function of the placenta during pregnancy.
Lidl, one of the biggest supermarket brands in Europe, opened its 700th supermarket in the UK in February.

Since you’re here …

… we have a small favour to ask. More people are reading the Guardian than ever but advertising revenues across the media are falling fast. And unlike many news organisations, we haven’t put up a paywall – we want to keep our journalism as open as we can. So you can see why we need to ask for your help. The Guardian’s independent, investigative journalism takes a lot of time, money and hard work to produce. But we do it because we believe our perspective matters – because it might well be your perspective, too.
I appreciate there not being a paywall: it is more democratic for the media to be available for all and not a commodity to be purchased by a few. I’m happy to make a contribution so others with less means still have access to information.Thomasine, Sweden
If everyone who reads our reporting, who likes it, helps fund it, our future would be much more secure. For as little as £1, you can support the Guardian – and it only takes a minute. Thank you".

The Great Plastic Pick Up

I am organising a small event that you can replicate wherever you are, be it Britain or the States, Zimbabwe or North Korea. Well, maybe not so much in Zimbabwe and North Korea for the time being, but I'm sure one day it will also be possible for them to organise... environmental activities.

The event is as simple as it gets, a plastic/rubbish clean up of our county/national parks as a wonderful way of offering some environmental awareness to our children. With that we will also be helping with maintaining our parks clean and picnic-prone!

These are the details of the event I am organising after finding out about the The Great Plastic Pick Up Project through a Nottingham City Council newsletter and on the Daily Mail's. Why don't you join in and start your own movement towards getting rid of all unnecessary plastic in the vicinity of your neighborhood and from the depths of your favourite county park?!!!

Organiser name: The Toxicologist Today
Event name: The Meadows will clean Colwick Park
Date: 12/05/2018
Planning ahead is really important so before you start your clean-up download our Great Plastic Pick Up Guide.
Afterwards, we would love to hear how your event went, please tell us.
Thank you for getting involved in the Great Plastic Pick Up.
Good luck with your Pick Up!

Tuesday, 10 April 2018

On the health benefits of Pimenta racemosa

A reader (Lary Hirabedian) left me with a question as a comment "On the allergenic potential of bay leaf" about two months ago. I have been so busy with work and my children that it was almost impossible to dedicate any time whatsoever to researching properly and responding to Lary. He asked me if I could comment on Pimenta racemosa vs bay laurel, i.e., establishing a comparative efficacy, health benefits against, for example, cholesterol reduction, diabetes, pain reduction, antiviral and antibacterial effects, etc. He also suggested that Pimenta racemosa in the shape of oil or infusion can be more effective than bay laurel.

I'd like to reinforce that I am not a plant biotechnologist and I am not a plant physiologist, actually I am quite far from enjoying the study of plants per se. My interest lays on the different substances that exist in the world (plant, animal or inorganic) as a scientist interested in those that have a toxicological potential or health benefit to all of us. Having said that, I think I'd like to contribute with a few lines to help responding to this question without presenting a dispute between these two plants. I prefer to provide you with what is out there, literature-wise, concerning the different molecules present in Pimenta racemosa.

But to start with, let's try and understand exactly what plant are we talking about. Pimenta racemosa is the scientific name for the plant that is commonly known as Bay-rum tree, others call it malagueta, and I am sure other people worldwide call it different names for this plant is quite widespread through Asia and Africa. The plant belongs to the Myrtaceae family and is famous for its essential oil with 'alleged' curative properties. That is what we will try to unfold in the coming lines.

In the article by Contreras (2014) [1] one can find a long list of different research studies on the  putative pharmacological effects and biochemical agents of the different Pimenta species, like for example the capacity to repel insects and its mosquito larvicidal and nematicidal properties, the capacity to reduce/inhibit pain (for example pain associated to dysmenorrhea), anti-inflammatory effects (possibly due to flavonoids, tannins, polyphenols), the capacity to counteract fever (possibly due to quinones), antimicrobial properties (e.g., flavonoids, tannins, triterpenes, steroids), antioxidant properties (e.g., flavonoids, saponins, polyphenols), antimutagenic effects (e.g., flavonoids, tannins, saponins), as an antidote against cobra venom and so on and so forth to a very detailed biochemical level. It is just a matter of getting that article and read thought the other references for the specific effect one is trying to learn more about.

Another very composed article [2] identified 52 components (where 1,8-cineole was the major one) present in the flower itself of this plant, after gas chromatography assays.  But the most interesting observation I could personally identify in this article was the cytotoxic activity against a panoply of human cell lines and the antimicrobial activity against Geotrichum candidum and bacillus subtilis - part of the human microbiome, and where the identified minimum inhibitory concentration  [MIC] is exactly the same as for the common antibiotics applied against these bacteria, Ampicillin and Amphotericin B, respectively. Actually, this article is a great add-up to the Alitonou et al (2012) [3]  where essential oils compositions of Pimenta racemosa from two different sites in Benin were studied thus unveiling the same antimicrobial, antioxidant and even acaricide properties, but only this time no anti-inflammatory effects were recognised.

In fact, great literature is starting to emerge on this topic and it is just a matter of looking in the right articles for gaining the adequate knowledge. Finally, the food industry will definitely want to look into this essential oils for its antioxidant properties, as well as the phamaceutical industry into all the different pharmacological effects identified.

Image kindly taken from Plantogram, Leon Bay Rum Tree, [], last visited on the 10th of April 2018, last update unknown.

[1] Contreras, B. (2014). "Preliminary phytochemical screening of pimenta racemosa var. racemosa (Myrtaceae) from Tachira - Venezuela". Pharmacologyonline, 2, pp. 61-68.

[2] Al-Gendy, A. A., Moharram, F. A., Zarka, M. A. (2017). "Chemical composition, antioxidant, cytotoxic, and antimicrobial activities of Pimenta racemosa (Mill.) J. W. Moore flower essential oil". Journal of Pharmacognosy and Phytochemistry, 6(2), pp. 312-319. 

[3] Alitonou, G. A., Noudogbessi, J-P., Sessou, P. et al (2012). "Chemical composition and biological activities of essential oils of Pimenta racemosa (Mill.) J. W. Moore from Benin". International Journal of Biosciences, 2(9), pp. 1-12.