In what passes for a social life these days, my most frequent interactions outside of conversations with my husband reside in the beauty world, aka mani/pedis, haircuts, brow shaping, etc.
I’m not sure if men have comparable experiences, but the intimacy of beauty rituals with people we see regularly invites a certain amount of sharing. Mostly, we discuss benign frustrations, updates, and recommendations (will our home renovation EVER be finished; when can we visit with our kids who don’t live nearby; someone’s annoying neighbor or relative; where can we find the best sushi, etc.) but sometimes I overhear a startling story.
This week, the woman getting her nails done next to me told the manicurist a peculiarly personal and grisly tale. She was in the salon with her four-year-old niece and mentioned that she is unlikely to have children herself, as she is a widow approaching her 38th birthday. She went on to recount the following: her husband’s ashes are in an urn in her home and apparently the contents also include a necklace. It seems the lid somehow became loose and the niece has recently been using it as a storage container, removing some of the ashes to make space to add her own treasures.
I couldn’t help wondering what body parts have been replaced with a four-year-old’s special possessions. And maybe it’s me, but this seemed beyond the pale of what one discusses with one’s manicurist!
Desperate No-Vaxxers Paying COVID-Positive People $150 for Dinner and COVID Infection
PARTY LIKE IT’S 2019
A new vaccination mandate in Italy requires everyone over 50 to be vaccinated or pay a hefty fine. Some are opting to pay to get infected with COVID instead.
ROME—The messages started popping up on Telegram a few days after Italy announced a new vaccine mandate requiring everyone over age 50 to be vaccinated against COVID-19 or risk hefty fines and even termination from their jobs.
Here in the first epicenter of the pandemic outside of China, Italy has paid a hefty price with lockdowns that have crippled the economy and the deaths of more than 140,000 people. Vaccine mandates have become the primary strategy in moving forward, yet a small number of people continue to resist.
The only alternative to getting vaccinated is having recovered from the infection, which must be registered on a person’s national health card. “I am urgently looking for a positive and I am willing to pay,” one desperate anti-vaxxer wrote, according to Italian police who are cracking down on the clandestine COVID meetups and other scams ahead of the Feb. 1 deadline for the over-50 vaccine mandate.
Soon after the announcement of the new law, enterprising opportunists started offering COVID parties where people who tested positive for the disease mix and mingle with those who want to catch it—one racket in Tuscany even includes a truffle dinner with Barolo wine, along with a positive-testing infection for around $150.
Other scams have also emerged. Two people were arrested in Rome after one man who was COVID positive used the health card of someone who wanted to skirt the vaccines to get tested at a pharmacy. When the COVID-positive man opted to pay with his own credit card—which obviously did not match the health card of the man who wanted a positive COVID diagnosis attached to his—the pharmacy conducting the test reported them both.
Infectious-disease specialist Pier Luigi Lopalco said on Italian television that the COVID parties and other scams are against the law and people involved should be hunted down and arrested. “This uses the same logic as playing Russian roulette. For a person who has never had COVID, who has not been vaccinated, encountering this virus can mean a mild form of the disease, but it can also mean ending up in intensive care,” he said on Italian television. “The discriminating factor between these two occurrences, probably, lies in genetics. And there is nothing that can be done to know in advance.”
He added, “Nobody can know before getting infected if they belong to the lucky group that will not have serious consequences or to that less fortunate group that can end up being intubated.”
The trend is not so terribly different from anti-vax parents who held measles parties for their kids when vaccinations became mandatory in Italy—which led to legislation that made such practices illegal.
After an anti-vax nurse was arrested for hosting a COVID party in Milan last week, virologist Roberto Burioni tweeted his disgust. “I would pay any amount to get me (and my loved ones) the vaccine, instead there are people who pay not to have it,” he wrote. “It’s like paying to have airbags removed from your car.”
Although I’ve been an avid reader all my life — and exchanged book recommendations with friends for years — I was never in a book club until today.
Of course, “thanks” to Covid, it wasn’t what I’ve always imagined: a cozy gathering in someone’s living room, drinking wine, snacking, and veering off-topic.
Well, that last part kind of happened.
This was a Zoom gathering of a dozen women including many who knew each other and a couple of newbies. What I soon realized is that a book club provides permission to gossip shamelessly and unreservedly about people we’ve never met: “I can’t believe he said that!” “I can’t believe she DID that!” “What on earth were they thinking?” “His parents never really understood him.” “She was just trapped.” “How could he have been so callous?”
And, of course, we all wondered what the future holds and whether there will be a sequel.
Happy New Year, dear readers! As we shake off our hangovers and make resolutions, I suggest we virtually hold hands and pray that 2022 isn’t a repeat of 2020 and 2021.
A century ago, the Roaring Twenties ushered in an era of economic prosperity, cultural milestones including jazz and Art Deco, the end of corsets along with acknowledgment of a woman’s right to vote, innovations such as automobiles, radio and telephones, electrical appliances, and moving pictures.
So far, the 2020s have little to boast about: a deadly pandemic; social isolation; increased pushback against the basic human dignities of controlling our own bodies, loving whom we choose, existing without fear because of the color of our skin; the ever-increasing consequences of climate change, etc.
It’s enough to make any sensate being take to our beds with a bottle of booze and wait until humanity comes to its collective senses.
But hey, it’s a new year, and optimism springs eternal. We’ve still got a chance to turn this century into the Soaring 20s. It’s just gonna take a little effort.
ST. LOUIS — Dogs are the light of many pet owners’ lives and now a new study finds they’re also lighting the way out of depression for many Americans. Researchers found that dogs are boosting their owners’ mental health during the coronavirus pandemic.
Study authors say pets have also increased amounts of social support by fueling friendships. The findings come from a review of more than 1,500 people in the U.S. — half of whom own dogs.
“Dog owners reported having significantly more social support available to them compared to potential dog owners, and their depression scores were also lower, compared to potential dog owners,” the study’s corresponding author Dr. Francois Martin of Nestle Purina Research writes in the journal PLOS One.
“There were no differences in anxiety and happiness scores between the two groups. Dog owners had a significantly more positive attitude towards and commitment to pets. Taken together, our results suggest that dog ownership may have provided people with a stronger sense of social support, which in turn may have helped buffer some of the negative psychological impacts caused by the COVID-19 pandemic,” the researchers report.
Dog walking can be a stress reliever
Researchers defined potential dog owners as individuals interested in owning a dog in the future. Both groups answered an online survey during the study. Results show the dog owners also had a significantly more positive attitude towards and commitment to their pets. However, the team did not find any differences in anxiety and happiness scores between these groups.
“Dog walking during confinements may have alleviated stressors and motivated self-care,” Dr. Martin’s team writes.
Other recent studies suggest pet ownership improves mood, leads to less loneliness, greater social support, and less stress by increasing exercise. Owners also said their dogs helped them cope with emotional stressors (91%) and maintain physical activity (96%) during lockdown.
“However, recent studies have also reported that pet ownership during the COVID-19 pandemic may have negatively affected people because of limited availability to resources,” the researchers write, noting that these resources include veterinary care and pet supplies.
“The present study aimed to understand if pet dogs offered their owners social support and contributed to better wellbeing during the COVID-19 pandemic,” they continue. “It was hypothesized that pet dog ownership would act as a buffer against negative impacts caused by the pandemic.”
Each group answered validated “psychometric” questionnaires on depression, anxiety, and happiness.
“Other types of pets are also likely to provide social support to humans. However, it is unclear if this support is equivalent and if the psychological mechanisms involved are the same as human-dog relationships,” Dr. Martin writes.
Furry friends help during difficult times
In the context of the pandemic, there is emerging evidence the relationship and attitude of people towards their pets may vary according to the species. Therefore, the team only included dog and potential dog owners in the investigation. All the participants were over 18 years of age.
Study authors excluded people owning other types of pets or those who failed to complete the entire survey. Those who owned more than one dog were asked to answer for the pet they felt closest to. The final sample comprised 1,535 volunteers, including 768 and 767 dog and potential dog owners, respectively.
“Our results show that pet dog owners were significantly less depressed than non-pet owners during the COVID-19 pandemic. They are attached and committed to their dogs and they reported more social support available to them. Our work adds to the corpus of scientific literature demonstrating that pet dogs may positively contribute to the wellbeing of owners during difficult times.”
Study authors are calling for more work to better understand the relationship between pet ownership and well-being. Future research, the team says, would focus on people with low and moderate social support and include owners with diverse dog attachment level.
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!
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.
Is anyone else watching the middle-aged adventures of 55-year-old Carrie et. al. in And Just Like That? I’m enjoying it (after the shock of the first episode) but I have to wonder:
Does the world need a new definition for the no-longer-young but not-yet-old?
To my mind, “middle-aged” is ’40s-’50s, and “elderly” is ’80’s-90’s. (Although from where I sit, 40 still seems relatively young.) So where do the ’60s-’70s fit in?
If you’re 60+, you’re not in the middle since we’re unlikely to live to 120. But is it “elderly”? Most sexagenarians I know are healthy, energetic, and reasonably current with contemporary culture thanks to technology. “Elderly” sounds frail rather than older and (hopefully) wiser.
I suggest that those of us in our ’60’s and 70’s deserve a designation besides Baby Boomers. “Post-ers” because we’re post-middle-age? “Pre-elderly”? Any proposals from the floor?
Back to the show. Some of Carrie’s outfits seem a little silly (“mutton dressed as lamb”) and I wish they’d let her look a bit more age-appropriate without being staid. But I applaud a world in which a show about older women (and their sex lives) still generates cross-generational interest. Maybe that’s all the progress we need.
Whoops, almost missed Monday this week. That’s what I get for spending hours attempting to delete all the cyber-hysteria emails that pop up like whack-a-mole: Delete twenty and another thirty-five pop up, seemingly instantaneously.
DUBLIN, Ireland — Blood contains all sorts of life-giving components, from red blood cells that carry oxygen to white blood cells that fight off infections. However, our blood also works hard to repair wounds. Thanks to platelet-rich plasma (PRP), blood clots around scraps and scratches, allowing our bodies to heal and limit scarring. Now, researchers in Ireland have discovered an innovative way of improving the healing process even further — 3D printing!
A team from RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences say replicating more blood plasma through 3D printing technology can help scientists create a PRP implant that speeds up healing. Platelet-rich plasma is the body’s natural healing substance and it makes up about half of a person’s blood.
The new study explored the possibility of extracting PRP from a patient with severe skin wounds and creating more of this substance in a 3D printer. Scientists would then use these platelets to form an implant doctors can place on difficult-to-heal skin wounds — like a scaffold — during surgery.
No more scars for serious wounds?
Tests by the RCSI team found that applying a PRP implant speeds up the healing process by triggering the development of new blood vessels (vascularization). The implant also inhibits scarring and the thickening of tissue around wounds (fibrosis). Researchers say both of these benefits are key for wounds to heal effectively.
“Existing literature suggests that while the PRP already present in our blood helps to heal wounds, scarring can still occur. By 3D-printing PRP into a biomaterial scaffold, we can increase the formation of blood vessels while also avoiding the formation of scars, leading to more successful wound healing,” says RCSI professor of bioengineering and regenerative medicine, Fergal O’Brien, in a university release.
“As well as promising results for skin wound healing, this technology can potentially be used to regenerate different tissues, therefore dramatically influencing the ever-growing regenerative medicine, 3D printing and personalized medicine markets.”
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.
All week, I’ve been trying to “find” time to write a post. And remaining unsuccessful, whether due to lack of inspiration or lack of dedication, who can say. All I know is, sometimes the things we want or need to do feel too much like homework. And, boy, do I hate that little voice in my head telling me what I’m “supposed” to be doing.
I’ve decided to consider this more as “postponement”; doesn’t that sound much more positive?! After all, all the ways I’ve been distracted have been productive, just not exactly in the same way as the task I failed to do.
I’ve paid bills. Taken lots of walks. Made blinis, to go with the smoked salmon I’m finally taking out of the fridge. I’m currently making another batch of sourdough — a great all-day postponement activity if ever there was one. I’ve happily done the laundry and other housework. Ordered holiday gifts. Answered e-mails. Called my 99-year-old cousin. Cleaned the car — or will, as soon as I finish typing.
“Writer’s block” sounds so unforgiving. Let’s call it “writer’s break” instead, shall we?