Category Archives: Women’s Health

Good News Monday: Universal Transplants?

Universal blood type organs
Universal blood type organs (Credit: UHN)

Universal blood type organs created in groundbreaking procedure, making transplants available for all patients

TORONTO, Ontario — A revolutionary procedure could make donor organs available for more patients — regardless of their blood type. Researchers from the University Health Network in Toronto have proven that it’s possible to convert the blood type of an organ, creating a universal organ that would avoid rejection during transplants.

The procedure, conducted at the Latner Thoracic Surgery Research Laboratories and UHN’s Ajmera Transplant Centre, changed the lungs from a donor with type A blood into an organ with type O blood. Scientists consider type O the universal donor type. The breakthrough may significantly cut down on the disparity in organ transplant availability and shorten transplant waiting lists worldwide.

“With the current matching system, wait times can be considerably longer for patients who need a transplant depending on their blood type,” explains senior author Dr. Marcelo Cypel, Surgical Director of the Ajmera Transplant Centre, in a media release.

“Having universal organs means we could eliminate the blood-matching barrier and prioritize patients by medical urgency, saving more lives and wasting less organs,” adds Dr. Cypel, who is also a thoracic surgeon at UHN’s Sprott Department of Surgery.

Why is blood type so important?

A person’s blood type is dependent upon the antigens sitting on the surface of their red blood cells. People with type A blood have A antigens on their cells, while type B has B antigens and type AB has both. People with type O blood, however, have no antigens on the surface of their cells.

The reason this is important is because these antigens trigger an immune response if they’re foreign to a person’s body. This is also why patients needing a blood transfusion can only receive blood from donors with the same blood type — or from universal type O donors.

This problem also complicates organ donations. Researchers explain that antigens A and B are present on the surfaces of organs as well. Even people with type O blood have problems receiving transplants from type A or B donors. Since type O patients have anti-A and anti-B antibodies in their blood, receiving an organ from a type A donor will likely result in rejection.

For these reasons, doctors have to match up organs according to blood type as well as many other factors — leading to a wait for the perfect organ which can last several years. On average, type O patients actually have the longest wait for lung transplants — sometimes twice as long as type A patients. Kidney transplant patients can also end up waiting up to five years for a compatible donor.

“This translates into mortality. Patients who are type O and need a lung transplant have a 20 percent higher risk of dying while waiting for a matched organ to become available,” says explains study first author Dr. Aizhou Wang. “If you convert all organs to universal type O, you can eliminate that barrier completely.”

Universal blood type organs
Universal blood type organs (Credit: UHN)

How did scientists make a universal organ?

In the proof-of-concept study, Dr. Cypel’s team used the Ex Vivo Lung Perfusion (EVLP) System to pump nourishing fluids through human donor lungs from a type A patient. This process allowed the researchers to warm the lungs up to body temperature so the team could convert the organs for transplantation.

Before the procedure, the donor’s lungs were not considered suitable for an organ transplant. During the experiment, study authors treated one lung with a group of enzymes to flush out the A antigens, while leaving the other lung untreated.

From there, they tested the conversion by adding type O blood with large concentrations of anti-A antibodies to the EVLP circuit. This simulated the conditions of an ABO-incompatible transplant. Results show that the treated lung was well tolerated, meaning the lung would likely be safe from rejection if the team placed it in a human patient. Meanwhile, the untreated lung showed signs of rejection, meaning such a transplant in a human would likely fail.

Gut enzymes are key to universal organs

Dr. Stephen Withers, a biochemist at the University of British Columbia, found a group of gut enzymes in 2018 which became the first step in creating these universal organs. Researchers used the EVLP circuit to deliver these enzymes to the lungs during the new experiment.

“Enzymes are Mother Nature’s catalysts and they carry out particular reactions. This group of enzymes that we found in the human gut can cut sugars from the A and B antigens on red blood cells, converting them into universal type O cells,” Dr. Withers explains. “In this experiment, this opened a gateway to create universal blood-type organs.”

“This is a great partnership with UHN and I was amazed to learn about the ex vivo perfusion system and its impact [on] transplants. It is exciting to see our findings being translated to clinical research,” Dr. Withers adds.

The study authors are working on a proposal to begin a clinical trial on this new technique. They hope that the trial could begin within the next 12 to 18 months.

The study is published in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

Article by Chris Melore, Studyfinds.com

The Worst Foods For Your Brain

Not bacon, cream, or the usual suspects. I’m talking about a steady diet of negative influences that makes us feel lousy to the core. Such as:

  1. Fake news in all its mean, snarky iterations
  2. By extension, only getting news from one point of view. It’s important to hear what the other side is thinking, too — but not so much that we start hurling things at the TV
  3. Following the minutiae of celebrities’ pretend-perfect lives
  4. Inactivity
  5. Living in the past, whether you have good memories (those glory days as a high school athlete) or bad (your dysfunctional family)
  6. Envy
  7. Social media that makes us feel our lives aren’t as glamorous, exciting, happy, or satifying as other people we know
  8. Obsessing. Make a plan, take action, move on
  9. Seeing the glass half-empty
  10. Tunnel vision
  11. Influencer unboxings. Hey, many times they didn’t even PAY for the stuff!
  12. Holding on to anger
  13. Not cutting ourselves enough slack : our finances, weight, wrinkles, job, house, parenting skills etc.
  14. Forgetting that you are good enough just as you are
Photo by Andre Furtado on Pexels.com

Good News Monday: Preventing Wrinkles AND Cancer?

Here’s another reason to take care of our complexions: New research finds that increased collagen helps fight cancer. While topical creams may or may not make much difference (dermal penetration is minimal), treatments that build collagen such as Genesis and IPL (intense pulsed light) may do more than keep that youthful glow. Schedule that derm appointment STAT!

Photo by Ron Lach on Pexels.com

Anti-wrinkle cream ingredient collagen could hold the key to curing cancer

NEW YORK — A substance that the body creates naturally and is also an ingredient in anti-wrinkle creams could hold the key to stopping the spread of cancer. Researchers from The Tisch Cancer Institute at Mount Sinai say cancerous tumors secrete a form of the protein collagen that keeps them quiet for years, even as they spread to other parts of the body. Their findings reveal that these tumor cells only turn malignant once their supplies of collagen run out.

Experiments involving mice and humans found increasing levels of type III collagen — the form of the protein cancer cells produce and cover themselves in — stops diseased cells from spreading. The collagen that surrounds the cells forces them to remain in a dormant state, preventing recurrence and metastasis — where they migrate to other organs.

“Our findings have potential clinical implications and may lead to a novel biomarker to predict tumor recurrences, as well as a therapeutic intervention to reduce local and distant relapses,” says senior author Professor Jose Bravo-Cordero in a media release.

Using state-of-the-art scanning techniques, the team tracked breast, head, and neck cancer cells implanted in mice. This enabled them to visualize the supporting “scaffold” as they became dormant and how this covering changed as the cells awoke.

Covering tumor cells in collagen could keep cancer asleep

In samples from cancer patients, researchers found type III collagen predicted tumor recurrence and metastasis. In the mice, infusions of collagen around cancer cells blocked their progression, forcing them back into dormancy.

“This intervention aimed at preventing the awakening of dormant cells has been suggested as a therapeutic strategy to prevent metastatic outgrowth,” Prof Bravo-Cordero says.

“As the biology of tumor dormancy gets uncovered and new specific drugs are developed, a combination of dormancy-inducing treatments with therapies that specifically target dormant cells will ultimately prevent local recurrence and metastasis and pave the way to cancer remission.”

How cancer cells remain inert for long periods before awakening to wreak havoc throughout the body has baffled experts for decades. The study, published in the journal Nature Cancer, solves a major mystery and opens the door to therapies using collagen as a cancer treatment.

From cosmetics to cancer research

Most people likely know collagen for its use in helping people look younger. However, the protein is also a natural building block for the skin, bones, and connective tissues throughout the body. It provides strength and elasticity, but women experience a dramatic drop in production after menopause.

In cosmetic products, collagen injections can improve the contours of the skin. Fillers that contain collagen remove lines and wrinkles from the face. It can also improve the appearance of scars.

Study authors note that collagen is present in the extracellular matrix, an intricate network that determines the physical properties of tissues — including tumors. Most cancer deaths are due to these harmful cells spreading throughout the body, which can still happen several years after surgical removal of the original tumor.

Previous research has shown collagen dressings heal chronic wounds that do not respond to other treatments. Encasing a tumor in collagen may have similarly dramatic success, Prof. Bravo-Cordero explains.

The study author adds that wound treatment with collagen scaffolds has displayed promising results and is a therapeutic alternative for people with complex skin wounds.

“Our studies demonstrate the potential therapeutic use of type III collagen to prevent the reawakening of cancer cells by inducing and maintaining cancer cell dormancy in the primary site,” researchers conclude in a statement to SWNS.

South West News Service writer Mark Waghorn contributed to this report.

Good News Monday: Easy Weight Loss

Prunes: they’re not just for old folks anymore! I’m giving this a try ASAP.

Prunes

(© Dionisvera – stock.adobe.com)

[Reprinted from studyfinds.com]

Prunes may be the secret weapon to prevent holiday weight gain

LIVERPOOL, United Kingdom — Has Thanksgiving already sent your diet spiraling off a cliff? You’re probably not alone. With holiday weight gain a major issue for many, a new study has found the one snack that may keep your holiday appetite (and your waistline) in check — prunes.

Researchers from the University of Liverpool discovered that eating more prunes helped a group of dieters control their appetite better, consume fewer calories, and even lose slightly more weight than people choosing others snacks during a 12-week test.

“These studies demonstrate that dried fruit can both produce satiety and be incorporated into the diet during weight management,” says Professor Jason C. G. Halford, President of the European Association for the Study of Obesity (EASO), in a media release.

Researchers examined the impact of eating prunes in two phases. The first compared the reactions of participants who either ate prunes, raisins, or jelly bean-like candies during the experiment. The team found that people eating prunes generally consumed the fewest number of calories during their next meal. The prune snackers also reported feeling less hungry throughout the day, feeling fuller after eating, and feeling as though they couldn’t eat as much later on.

Prunes make it ‘easier’ to lose weight

In the second part, study authors examined the amount of weight each person lost after completing a 12-week weight loss program. They split the volunteers into two groups, one eating prunes as their daily snack and one who only received guidance on healthy snacking but could choose whatever snack they wanted.

Although researchers say the weight loss difference between the two groups was not significant in terms of total pounds lost, results show the prune group participants lost slightly more weight on average (4.4 pounds vs. 3.4 pounds). People eating prunes also told the team they felt it was easier to lose the weight than those eating other snacks.

“This study reveals that nutrient-dense prunes can provide an advantage over other snack choices due to their favorable effects on satiety and appetite control,” adds Andrea N. Giancoli, MPH, RD Nutrition Advisor for the California Prune Board.

“These are the first data to demonstrate both weight loss and no negative side effects when consuming prunes as part of a weight management diet,” Halford concludes.

A recent poll found that Americans expect to gain eight pounds during the holiday season. Although prunes have a reputation of being a snack people only choose to relieve constipation, researchers say putting out a bowl at your next holiday party may cure you of festive overeating.

The findings appear in the journal Nutrition Bulletin.

Good News Monday: The Upside of Bad Cholesterol

Not that this is license to eat vast quantities of Brie, but it’s reassuring to know that if you take medicine for cholesterol management one surprising benefit is that it also seems to reduce COVID severity.

In a new study, researchers found that patients taking statin medications had a 41% lower risk of in-hospital death from COVID-19. Confirming their earlier hypothesis, statins have anti-inflammatory effects and binding capabilities, which could explain how they stop progression of the virus.

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

Good News Monday: A New Way to Heal a Broken Heart

Another fascinating story from StudyFinds.com

broken heart woman
(Credit: RODNAE Productions from Pexels)

Researchers discover drug that can mend the physical damage of a broken heart

by Chris Melore

MELBOURNE, Australia — From someone experiencing chest pain after a breakup, to a married couple dying within minutes of each other, there are many real examples of what doctors call broken heart syndrome. While the emotional scars are a separate issue, there may finally be a way to prevent lasting physical injury. Researchers in Australia say, for the first time, scientists have uncovered a drug that can literally mend a broken heart.

A team from Monash University find Suberanilohydroxamic acid (SAHA) can significantly improve cardiac health due to this condition. In their study, researchers used SAHA to target genes affected by a “broken heart” — or Takotsubo cardiomyopathy.

Although many may think broken heart syndrome is just a saying, doctors know it to be a very real ailment. Patients suffer a weakening of the left ventricle, the heart’s main pumping chamber. Stressful emotional triggers, usually following a traumatic event like the death of a loved one, often cause this problem. Researchers add broken heart syndrome can mimic a heart attack, causing chest pain, shortness of breath, and an irregular heartbeat.

How does SAHA heal the heart?

Suberanilohydroxamic acid is currently serving as a cancer treatment, with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approving its use. The drug works on the heart by protecting certain genes and the acetylation/deacetylation (Ac/Dc) index in particular. This is a vitally important process which regulates gene expression in humans.

“We show for the first time a drug that shows preventative and therapeutic benefit is important to a healthy heart. The drug not only slows cardiac injury, but also reverses, the damage caused to the stressed heart,” says study leader Professor Sam El-Osta from Monash Central Clinical School in a university release.

Mostly women suffer from this mysterious condition

The study finds, in western nations, broken heart syndrome almost exclusively affects women, especially after menopause. In fact, researchers say up to eight percent of women believed to be having a heart attack may actually be dealing with Takotsubo cardiomyopathy.

While the symptoms are similar, the exact cause of the physical pain of a broken heart is still a mystery. Doctors believe a surge of stress hormones flood the heart during a traumatic event. This may cause changes in the heart muscles and blood vessels which prevent the left ventricle from working properly. The result is the heavy, achy feeling people get in the chest that can be mistaken for a heart attack.

The good news is most people recover from broken heart syndrome within two months. The bad news, unfortunately, is that some patients may suffer from heart failure due to their extreme trauma. Although death from a broken heart is rare, researchers say 20 percent of patients experience some degree of heart failure. Until now, there has been no standard treatment to alleviate this condition.

“This pre-clinical study describes a new standard in preventative and therapeutic potential using a cardioprotective drug that targets genes in the heart,” Professor El-Osta concludes.

“The team is committed to the research of women’s health recognizing the uneven sex prevalence of almost 9:1 (female to male). Based on these promising results we are focused on the continued development of compounds like SAHA to improve cardiac benefit and healthier life.”

The study appears in the journal Signal Transduction and Targeted Therapy.

The Sun and I: A Cautionary Tale of Unrequited Love

Ah, dear sun… you were so hot. In my misspent youth, how I burned for your touch. And oh, how I am paying for this as an adult!

Those of you who are blessed with darker complexions will never know the true agony of raw, red, sunburned skin. Or the “cute” freckles that eventually become age spots. Or the ever-present threat of skin cancer lurking below the surface, waiting to pounce years later.

But who thought about this while spending long, sunsoaked days at the beach with my friends during the endless summers of my teens and early twenties?

For decades since, I have been diligent about sunblock, avoiding the sun, and wearing a hat. But I have displeased the sun by my inattention, and now I am being punished. A biopsy here, a patch of squamous carcinoma there (on my wrist a few years ago), and lately a nasty little basal cell uprising on the tip of my nose. On my damn face, for heavens sake — you couldn’t wreak your revenge somewhere else?!?!

Last Monday I trekked to a specialist an hour away for Mohs surgery. The technique was developed in the 1940s by Dr. Frederick Mohs at the University of Wisconsin, and has subsequently been refined.

Unlike other forms of treatment, Mohs is generally reserved for cosmetic areas or types of skin cancer that are at risk of recurring. It permits immediate and complete microscopic examination of affected tissue to make sure all “roots” are removed. And it is said to leave the least noticable scar.

Well.

We arrived at a very nice office and the very nice doctor (both physician and surgeon) immediately told me I looked much younger than my age, so we were off to a good start.

A little numbing, a little scraping, a little cauterizing, and then a long wait to see if he’d gotten everything. Which he hadn’t, so then it was time for Round Two, which did.

I emerged three hours later feeling ok only because the numbing hadn’t worn off yet and my nose was covered with a pressure bandage.

Naturally, I did not know what I looked like, which was a good thing. Although the cancer was fairly superficial and about the size of a pencil eraser, I have a row of stitches all the way up the side of my nose. And OMG do they itch!

The bandage came off two days later and I could assess the full effect. Luckily, I’ve had to keep the area covered with petroleum jelly and regular bandages so nobody has to see it, including me. To add to the loveliness are several areas of bruising, which are now in the process of fading from bright red to purple to yellow.

I’ll see the derm again on Tuesday to get the outer stitches removed, but I have been “assured” that the dissolving stitches will render my nose a little lumpy for months until they dissolve. Not to mention the scar. Woo hoo.

So, dear readers, be warned: If you have fair skin that is prone to burning or freckling, and especially if you are young enough, it is time to end your love affair with the sun for once and for all.

Oh, and meanwhile, ask your dermatologist about nicotinamide and HelioCare, just to improve the odds.

Photo by Mathias P.R. Reding on Pexels.com

Save Your Skin

Today, I’m sharing a heads-up from The Enlightened Mind’s excellent blog.

[Reprinted from The Guardian]

Screen burn: why the glare from your computer could be ageing your skin

Researchers have suggested a week in front of a screen is the same as 25 minutes in the sun. So should you be slapping on the sunblock every morning before sitting down to work?

‘Blue light’ may cause premature ageing, although it is unclear what dose may be required.

‘Blue light’ may cause premature ageing, although it is unclear what dose may be required. Photograph: Westend61/Getty Images

Name: Screen burn.

Age: Me? I’m 17.

No, you never are, you liar! Seventy-one, more like. Look at your skin, all old and leathery like a turtle’s. Seriously, I’m 17.

Then you’ve been spending way too much time out in the midday sun without any factor 50 on. Nope. Spent the whole summer indoors looking into a phone or a laptop, like any normal well-behaved teenager in lockdown. It’s screen burn.

Screen burn! Seriously, is that a thing? Well, that’s what researchers at the consumer-goods multinational Unilever are saying: that a week in front of a digital screen can have the same effect on the skin as 25 minutes in the sun.

A week against 25 minutes … that’s quite a difference. It all adds up as we spend more and more time staring into screens. By “a week” they mean five working days in front of a digital device for more than six hours. It’s the artificial “blue light” these devices emit, apparently – it’s the highest-energy light on the visible spectrum. It does occur naturally, but people often get more from a screen.

And what does this “blue light” do? Penetrates deep into the skin, through the epidermis and dermis, to the subcutis layer, destroying collagen. It can cause premature ageing, although it’s still unclear what dose is required to do this or what the effects of long-term exposure are. There are also effects on melatonin levels and sleeping patterns.

Sounds as if more research is needed. Are you sure this is good science? Well, Samantha Tucker-Samaras said: “Long-term exposure to blue light has the potential to have significant negative impact on people’s wellbeing.”

And she is? Global vice-president, science and technology, beauty and personal care at Unilever. That’s science and technology.

What does ST-S suggest we do about it? “People should be looking for skincare products loaded with antioxidants, as well as niacinamide and zinc oxide.”

Such as those made by Unilever brands? Others are available.

Hang on, is this why Donald Trump has an orange face? Because he spends the majority of his waking hours staring at – shouting at – his phone? That could be it, yes.

But you don’t really look like that, do you, from spending a few hours at a laptop? No, I did it on a face-ageing app. Just hope I can figure out how to undo it.

Do say: “Time for a screen break. And to engage with three-dimensional living people for a while.”

Don’t say: “And I get a tan as well! My own little portable sunbed! Yay!”

Good News Monday: Writers, Think Pink!

Many of us remain isolated from friends and family during this pandemic. So imagine how difficult it would be to find yourself newly diagnosed with breast cancer — and with no support system to help you through the crisis.

An organization called Girls Love Mail has a novel way of boosting women’s spirits. Since 2011, it’s enlisted thousands of empathetic people to send words of encouragement to strangers; about 167,000 letters have been mailed to date.

Want to share a little hand-written optimism? Visit girlslovemail.com in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness month in October.

Photo by Abstrakt Xxcellence Studios on Pexels.com

Good News Monday: Mammo Mia!

There’s a fascinating article in October Vogue magazine about a new device that could change the way health care workers perform breast exams.

Imagine — something faster and more pleasant than squashing your boobs in a giant panini press!

iBreastExam is a handheld cancer screening tool about the size of a travel-sized clothing steamer.  Using Cloud technology rather than radiation, the padded electronic sensor can detect abnormal lumps as small as five millimeters. And it only takes a few minutes to assess multiple quadrants in each breast and then store the info.

Already in use across developing countries where access to radiology and conventional mammograms is limited at best, iBreast Exam is now becoming available to primary care physicians and gynecologists in the U.S.

Despite some limitations — e.g., it’s unable to detect tiny amounts of calcium that may indicate precancerous cells — the tool’s sensitivity is equivalent to a mammogram. For women showing early warning signs, the standard (and proven) mammo would likely be the next step.  But for women with healthy indicators, this might be all that’s needed.

Good news indeed for Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

awareness cancer design pink

Photo by Miguel Á. Padriñán on Pexels.com