Tuesday

A Bacterial Revolution: Evolutionary Challenges in Modern Medicine

The story is familiar: you realize something isn’t quite right and start to feel ill. As days pass, your symptoms get worse and worse. Finally you decide to go to the doctor; as it turns out, you have a bacterial infection, and you receive a prescription for an antibiotic. The concept is to take the antibiotics over the allotted time period and they do their work, wiping out the foreign attacker and thus restoring your body to a normal state of health. But does this really work out? According to a recent study from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, the answer to this question is not at all. In fact, it’s possible that taking antibiotics for ailments could one day become a thing of the past.
Drug resistant bacteria and viruses are a well known fact, having been battled by scientists and doctors for decades now. The reason for this drug resistance is that viruses and bacteria both have the remarkable ability to constantly adapt and evolve new mutations that break down threats in their environment, often rendering even the newest drugs ineffective. This results in a constant cat and mouse game, as scientists fight to leap ahead and develop new, more effective antibiotic drugs before the living organisms they’re attempting to squash can catch up. Unfortunately for scientists, bacteria now have a brand new evolutionary trick, called the “biological timer”. In this new study, scientists exposed bacteria to repeated cycles of antibiotics, which were administered over a period of 3, 5 or 8 hours. They saw that, regardless of the time frame, the drugs had no effect on the bacteria at all. What happened? The bacteria had developed a way to go into a dormant state while antibiotics were being administered and then resume activity afterwards without any problems. Scientists are saying that this could be the reason for failures of prolonged antibiotic treatments in patients. I myself have experienced the failures of antibiotics first hand, as many people in my family who have taken antibiotics for things like strep throat or sinus infections complained that their symptoms weren't much improved, or they would wind up having to take large doses of the drugs in order to start feeling normal again.
So, then, is there a better way to battle these constantly mutating and evolving organisms? Definitely. In other branches of medicine, such as homeopathy and naturopathic medicine, there are many antibiotic-free approaches to eradicating harmful bacteria in the body. The logic is simple: antibiotics attempt to wipe out all bacteria, both good and bad, which often makes things worse in the long run. Alternatives such as herbal treatments, vitamins and supplements, pump up your immune system and give your body a chance to fend off bacteria and infections, without relying on any expensive medications. As nature’s evolutionary processes and drug resistant bacteria continue to threaten modern medicine, the real cure for infection is becoming more and more obvious: Let your body fight its own battles, and don’t let antibiotics get in the way.


Citations:

The Hebrew University of Jerusalem. "A first: Scientists show bacteria can evolve biological timer to survive antibiotics." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 30 June 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/06/140630103140.htm>.
Image: Salmonella bacteria. Image. Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. Sysbio.30 June 2014.

Saturday

Real Milk: A Trip to Mauthe Farms


  "We have never been on a vacation all together at the same time." Jamie Mauthe, of Mauthe Farms, told us in our recent interview.  This quote illustrates one of the many sacrifices small dairy farms must make in order to provide our community with their home grown products.  Set on 40 acres amid the quiet, woodsy town of Progress, MS, Mauthe Farms is one of few dairy farms of its kind left in the Southern area. An abundance of happy cows, who are mainly grass fed, supply the Mauthe family with the essential substance necessary for them to earn their living: milk.
  The Mauthe family has a long history in the milk business that stretches back to the 1930s in New Orleans when raw milk was delivered by truck in the lower 9th ward.  Nowadays, their products appear in markets such as The Crescent City Farmer's Market and Holly Grove.  However, despite their decades of hard work, farmer's markets in the New Orleans area are dying.  And unlike industrialized dairy farms that mass produce milk, family owned farms receive no health insurance or retirement fund.  They are truly on their own when it comes to funding and additional support.
  Our visit to Mauthe Farms was like stepping back in time to when quality food was a necessity in America.  The farm takes care of their cows and breeds them for longevity, with their average cow living to be around 11 years old, contrary to the current industry standard.  Industrialized cows live for a maximum of 4 years and spend their days chained to milking machines. This method of raising cows comes from a perspective based purely on profits and capital gains.  As Sarah said, "It's all about the dollar".  
  Another aspect of the current industry standard for milk involves the ultra pasteurization of milk which removes the enzymes necessary for digestion.  This renders many people lactose-intolerant.  As Mauthe farms uses a low heat pasteurization process, many lactose-intolerant people are able to digest their milk without any problems.  Jamie told us, "a man who had gone 50 years without drinking milk due to his lactose intolerance tried our milk and now buys several half-gallons from us a week".  This just goes to show how loving care, dedication and hard work form the true roots of dairy farming.
  To the Mauthe family, working on the farm is not a job, it is a way of life.  Our trip to their farm was an eye-opening experience and we believe every consumer should form the same connection to their local farms.  We, as a society, have lost our way when it comes to knowing and appreciating where our food comes from.  To know the Mauthe family and to see their farm is to know what real milk is.
  Consumers have every right to know where their food comes from and how it is produced.  We must take advantage of the information and wisdom that family owned farms provide.  Thank you so much to Mauthe Farms for providing our community with a healthy and safe source for REAL milk.  Don't just take our word for it, take a trip to Mauthe Farms or to one of the local markets and see for yourself.

Thursday

Air, The Silent Killer! Examining Air Quality and Pollution

Is it safe to breathe the air?!  It all depends on where you live.  First, we need to find out what dangers lurk in our air.  Here are the following culprits of air pollution:
Global PM2.5 levels and coal consumption

  • Particle Pollution - Fine liquid and/or solid emissions such as tobacco smoke, dust, smog and factory fumes.  Particles such as these cause enough harm all on their own, but they also act as little magnets for chemicals and bacteria.

  • Ozone Pollution - A naturally produced colorless gas that does damage to the lungs and throat when inhaled.  Ozone normally exists in the upper layer of our atmosphere and helps protect us from the sun; however, when ozone is found in the lower level of the sky zone, it is known as a harmful smog.

  • Currently, China suffers from the worst air quality.  Due to their excessive coal burning, their country has the deadliest PM2.5 particle pollution in the world.  In 2009, China burnt nearly half of the world's coal.  They are the largest consumer of coal in the world.  To put this in perspective, China derives 68% of their electricity from coal, while the US uses 49%.  What makes their air quality so deadly is the PM2.5 particle pollution from factory emissions.
  • PM2.5 is a particle that is sized at less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter and can lodge themselves deeply within the lungs.  Vehicles, coal/wood burning and power plants emit these particles.  This particle also works as a vesicle for other harmful chemicals.  When this particle is inhaled, all of the chemicals that have hitched a ride on it are then introduced to our internal organs.  The inhalation of this particle has been linked to fetal demise, cancer and stroke.  Every one of all ages can be harmed by inhaling these particles in the air.

  • Both O3 and PM2.5 effect the regional and hemispheric climate.

  • The biggest threats to air quality are coal-burning power plants, exhaust and tobacco smoke  Exposure to these particulate pollutants is being attributed to more and more deaths all over the world.  
Deaths linked to particle pollution

  • According to NASA AQAST research, air quality in the US has improved.  Over recent years, ozone pollution and particulate matter have decreased by 20%.  But, due to lingering ozone pollution, average surface temperatures over the continental
United States are projected to increase by 1–3°C by the mid-21st century.



 

Online resources:
http://www.who.int/en/
http://aqicn.org/
http://www.epa.gov/airtrends/where.html  



Sunday

The Presence of and Leaching Processes Concerning Heavy Metal Contamination in Our Environment

       In our day to day lives, we are often exposed to heavy metals, such as mercury (Hg), cadmium (Cd), lead (Pb), arsenic (As) and copper, without even knowing it. Cadmium is present in rechargeable household batteries. Mercury lies within the dental amalgam of your teeth, as well as the fish that you eat. Lead can be found in many building materials, paints and household pipes. If you're a research scientist in a lab, involved in a mining project, work in a hazardous waste facility or are working for a chemical company, you yourself probably interact with these elements frequently. But what does their presence mean for us, both environmentally and health wise as a society? Several studies, including a review by the WHO, have found that when these heavy metals leach into the ground, for example via run off or leaks during storage and transportation, they can contaminate groundwater supplies and pose serious risks to human health.
environmental-heavy-metal-contamination.
Illustration 1: Example of how heavy metals can leach
 into our water and soil.
Often, once these heavy metals have become trapped in the soil, it becomes very difficult and expensive to remove them. These removal processes involve chemical and biochemical leaching, also known as “extraction”. Traditionally, acid treatments were an important component in leaching. Now, however, there are many modern techniques that are used in removing heavy metals from the soil and groundwater supplies. For example, in a 2001 study concerning the remediation of heavy metals in the environment, around 300 gallons (20 g/minute) of calcium polysulfide (CaSn2) was dispensed into a groundwater location through 114 injection ports, at a depth of up to 20 feet. Researchers saw that, after this had been done, the chromium concentration in the groundwater almost instantly declined. Other effective techniques include electro-kinetic leaching, which utilizes electric currents, and chemical leaching, which involves organic and inorganic acids.
     In chemical leaching, substances such as sulfuric and hydrochloric acid are added to contaminated areas in order to solubilize the heavy metals and further extract them from the soil. It was noted also in a study that iron chloride (FeCl3) was a cost effective and efficient compound to use for chemical leaching. It was also noted by a researcher in the same study that as, after 18 hours of leaching, they were able to extract about 78% of copper (Cu) using inorganic acids such as nitric (HNO3) acid.
figure2b.gif
Illustration 2: Example of heavy metal contamination in Australia.
The electro-kinetic leaching process is especially useful in diluting high concentrations of heavy metals, particularly lead, in substances. In a sample that was used in one study, there was an over 70% decrease in Pb concentrations. In electro-kinetic leaching, there is a two step method: first, there is water washing of the contaminated soil in order to remove soluble salts (such as KCl, NaCl, SiCl4, and CaClOH). Second, an electric current is used in order to balance the pH and stabilize the heavy metals into less reactive complexes.
Overall, there is a large amount of controversy surrounding heavy metals. They are utilized in almost every aspect of our modern lives, in one way or another, and yet they can be extremely dangerous if not handled properly. One way to handle this issue would be to ensure that people are very well aware of the dangerous nature of these metals, and know how to properly store and transport them. Another important aspect of this issue is to make sure that people involved in the chemical industry, whether they are scientists in the lab or working out in toxic waste landfills, are aware of safe and effective methods such as chemical and electro-kinetic leaching that can be used to properly detoxify and stabilize potentially life threatening heavy metals that are leaching into our soil.



References:
Jarup, Lars. "Hazards of Heavy Metal Contamination." Hazards of Heavy Metal Contamination. British Medical Bulletin, 2003. Web. 13 Feb. 2014.
Ukiwe, Lugard, Allinor J.I, Ejele A.E, Anyadiegwu C.I.C, & Ibeneme S.I. "Chemical and Biological Leaching Methods to Remove Heavy Metals from Sewage Sludge: A Review."JOURNAL OF ADVANCES IN CHEMISTRY. 4.3 (4): 509-517. Web. 13 Feb. 2014
Wing-Ping Liao1, Renbo Yang, Zheng-Xian Zhou1, ZJui-Yuan Huang. “Electrokinetic stabilization of heavy metals in MSWI fly ash after water washing.” Wiley Online Library, 9 Jan 2014. Web. 13 Feb. 2014.
Thomasser, R. and Rouse, J.V., 2001. “In-Situ Remediation of Chromium Contamination of Soil and
Groundwater”. United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), 1981, US EPA Chart Comparing Sulfide and Hydroxide Solubilities; EPA publication, EPA-600/2-82-OIIC.

Tuesday

50 Billion Dollars: Put Things in Perspective

50 billion dollars


  The alleged total cost of the Sochi Olympics is 50 billion dollars.  What could the world have done with 50 billion dollars instead? 

  The Sochi Olympics could have paid the 4-year tuition of 965,909,090 students to get their bachelors degrees at the University of California.


  The Sochi Olympics could have paid for the utilities of 36,258,158,085 Russians for a year.


  The Sochi Olympics could have paid for the launch of approximately 2,500 satellites. 


  The Sochi Olympics could have erected 227,272 wind turbines.  In the United States, there are currently about 3,500 wind turbines.


  The Sochi Olympics could have funded a full house solar panel installation for 1,250,000,000 homes.


  The Sochi Olympics could have paid for 50,000 heart transplants.

    



 sources:
http://www.windustry.org/resources/how-much-do-wind-turbines-cost
http://www.nrdc.org/energy/renewables/wind.asp
http://science.howstuffworks.com/satellite10.htm

http://www.transplants.org/faq/how-much-does-transplant-cost

Focus, Now: Doing A Little Thinking About Male and Female Brains


“The female mind is certainly a devious one, my lord." 
Vetinari looked at his secretary in surprise. "Well, of course it is. It has to deal with the male one.” 
― Terry PratchettUnseen Academicals


Whether you compare it to yin and yang, apples and oranges, or cats and dogs, after this long, it's become quite clear: there are some pretty striking differences between males and females. Although we've all known this for a while, it's now become a lot concrete just exactly what those differences are. In several recent studies, including a study from Cambridge University that came out yesterday, researchers reviewed over a decade's worth of brain imaging data, which showed surprising differences in both the volume and the concentrations of volume in specific regions of male and female brains.

In several recent studies, including the aforementioned study from Cambridge, it has been shown that there is an increased size in male brains which is mainly focused in two regions. These are the left amygdala, which in most species is correlated with aggression, fear and pleasure responses, and the insular cortex, which controls factors such as perception, motor control and self awareness. Interestingly, they found that in females there is also a high density of brain volume, but in regions of the left and right frontal pole. It has been said that this area of the brain is one of the least well understood in science, but has been involved throughout much of human evolution as a main component in many complex behaviors, including multitasking and cognitive functioning.

 In a different study from the University of Pennsylvania, data was collected from male and female brains of all ages using diffusion tensor imaging (DTI). This water based imaging technique traces and highlights the fiber pathways that connect different regions of the brain; these pathways are a vital part of the entire structural network of the brain. It was shown that females had more pathways within the cerebrum, the largest part of the brain, while males had less concentrated pathways connecting to each hemisphere of the brain. Overall it was noted that females outperformed males in regards to attention, social cognition, and word/face memory, while males did well on spatial processing and sensorimotor speed. Interestingly, these differences in performance were most pronounced in the 12-14 age range, while younger participants had little to no differences and participants over the age of 18 had slightly less. 

In conclusion, it's safe to say that male and female brains are both amazing machines, although they can function in very different ways. I hope that in the future we continue to learn even more about the differences and intricacies between the male and female brains and use those differences in order to better understand and coexist with one another, both in interpersonal relationships and as a species overall.

Citations:
Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. "Brain connectivity study reveals striking differences between men and women." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 2 December 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/12/131202161935.htm>.
University of Cambridge. "Males and females differ in specific brain structures." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 11 February 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/02/140211094201.htm>.

Organic Pesticide for Organic Farming! AMAZING Recipe!!!


OH MY GOD
Was my reaction to the AMAZING potency of an all natural pesticide I made over the weekend.  


  I have to check my garden constantly for pests, as I refuse to use pesticides!  In the past, caterpillars have come in the night and literally destroyed my garden or whatever I have growing.  I have felt so defeated and so discouraged!  But a few days ago, when I was tending to my most recent little organic garden, I spotted an evil caterpillar crawling straight for my raised bed of greens!  I immediately ran indoors and got a spray bottle that had 4 liquid ingredients mixed inside.
  I ran back outside to the caterpillar and sprayed it.  It was instantly immobilized and died shortly after.  I jumped and shouted for joy!  Have I finally found the magical mixture to stop these feasting beasts?  I have!!!!


  The mixture that was in the spray bottle contained 4 ingredients:
•Water

•Organic White Distilled Vinegar




You should be able to find all of these ingredients at your local health food store.  If not, you can purchase them online at websites like amazon.com





•Tea Tree Oil









•Neem Oil










•The Recipe•
  This mixture is all natural and all organic.  
1.  Mix equal parts vinegar, tea tree oil and neem oil with half a cup of water within a spray bottle and spray this around your yard.  
DO NOT SPRAY DIRECTLY ON YOUR PLANTS.
2.  If you have raised beds or potted plants, spray the mixture onto the wood or pot.  Do this once a day and your garden will be pest free!!!  You can use it to kill pests on site and to also keep them at bay.
  This mixture WORKS so well.  It's also a good human repellent as well (as it STINKS to high heaven!) but the odor is not as potent to humans as it is to pests and your produce will not smell or taste like the mixture.
  Try this amazing mixture on your pests and let me know if it works just as well for you!








Gross, She Doesn't Shave: an exploration of female body hair throughout history





Ashamed, disgusted and ugly: it’s how a female from the ages of puberty to death should feel if they do not shave their body hair.  How could this be?  How could a natural occurrence within our bodies be viewed as something unnatural and taboo? 
  When I was 10 years old, I felt the pressure to shave.  I would see hairless women in TV, on magazines.  My dolls had perfect smooth skin.  My mother shaved, my grandmother shaved, my aunt shaved.  All of the women around me shaved and so I, too, felt that pressure to shave.  I remember feeling strange when I would look down at my hairy legs, or whenever I would lift up my arm.  I felt different and odd for something that was so very natural.  And so, at 10 years old, I began shaving. 
  

  Here in the United States, shaved women heavily outnumber unshaved women.  Is it vanity, our culture, the media?  What is it that makes a woman continuously shave?  And why do we feel grossed out when we see a woman’s body hair? 
  Female body hair removal dates back to Medieval Europe!  A male author of a feminine “recipe” book from the 1500s instructs women to rub boiling arsenic water on their hairy areas.  He then instructs the ladies to follow up with cold water so that “the flesh doesn’t come off.”  Lovely. 
  Body hair on women, but not men, evokes disgust and the removal of such hair has become the everyday norm.  World history, documented by art, shows the absence of hair on the female body.  It is not clear if shaved women posed for these portraits or if man simply objectified the female form and painted what he imagined.  But when we observe art throughout the ages, nude men proudly displayed their body hair, while women had none at all.  Male body hair looks to be celebrated within certain portraits. 
  The only artist that I can recall from history who addressed female body hair within his paintings is Gustav Courbet.  He has multiple paintings of females proudly displaying their body hair, so much so that their body hair almost becomes the focal point of the entire piece.  Gustav Courbet led the realist movement within the art scene of 1800s France.  Gustav’s “erotic” paintings that portrayed real and natural women were exiled and would not be seen by the public until the 80s!  The body hair that was displayed in his paintings elicited disgust from viewers.  The paintings were viewed as crude, sexual and dirty.  Courbet established a group for himself and other artists that promoted the expansion of free and uncensored art. 

  If we go even further back in time, to 3000 B.C., societies in Egypt and India were developing copper razors and exfoliating crèmes for the hair removal of both sexes.  What could have possibly been the motivating factor behind this movement? 
  It is said that ancient Egyptian priests (much like our media today) thought that body hair was shameful and unclean.  These priests thought that their sophisticated society needed to be separated from the animals and barbarians in the world.  They equated their own body hair to the hair of wild animals and beasts.  They also believed that one would be more susceptible to diseased if they were hairy.  To be hairy in ancient Egypt meant that you were dirty, neglected your hygiene and were no better than an animal.  Sound familiar?

  Female body hair seems to be viewed as dirty/disgusting throughout history to modern day.  But it is more normal and far more acceptable to see a man with a wild and untamed beard than it is to see a woman with body hair.  Why?
  If you are a woman and you shave, I want you to think about why it is that you shave.  Is it a personal preference?  Does hair make you feel uncomfortable?  Is it to appease your significant other?  Do you feel pressured to shave?
  If you are a woman and you shave, I want you to try to go without shaving for as long as you can.  Record your thoughts, how you feel about growing out natural hair.  Would you feel dirty?  Would you feel free?  Would you feel uncomfortable?  I believe we owe it to ourselves as women to experience our bodies how they naturally are and to not feel ashamed.  If you shave for whatever reason, that is your decision.  But when you let yourself feel ashamed of your au naturel, that is when you inhibit your own happiness. 





Monday

From Dairy Farms to Nurseries: Taking A Closer Look at Breast Milk Production


Consuming countless vitamins, nutrients, and up to 10 billion live immune cells a day, there's no denying it: breastfed babies, of any mammalian species, get some of the most incredible nutrition around. But could it be that gender of your infant determines how much milk they're getting? In a recent study, published on PLOS One, on female lactating cows by Katie Hinde and several of her associates, it's been shown that the sex of the fetus, as well as other factors in utero, plays a large part in how much milk the mother produces for her young, as well as how much milk the mother will produce for any future pregnancies.

After studying over 2.39 million lactation records from 1.49 million dairy cows, it's been shown that heifers who, during their first pregnancy, gave birth to a daughter produced 1.6 percent more milk than they would have for a son. Interestingly enough, this bump up in production from the first female pregnancy was maintained for any future pregnancies, but the heifers who first gave birth to a son did not receive as high of a raise in milk production. Because on the dairy farms the female calves are taken away from their mothers soon after birth, it was noted that the overall boost in milk production must have come while the calf was in utero.
Other studies have shown that human mothers, in a similar sense, also produce more milk for their first born daughters than their sons. One reason for this could be the hormone estrogen, which is more abundant in the female fetus as well as the mother and could correlate to the boost in milk production. There are also many other physiological and hormonal factors that are involved in the production and nutrient content of breast milk, including the mother's gut bacteria and environmental exposure to pollution or toxins. Studies have shown that milk produced for a week old female newborn can be much different, in terms of nutrient and bacterial content as well as hormonal levels, than the breast milk produced for a ten month old male baby. It all depends on the individual needs and demands of the child in question.

Overall, the more time passes the more we realize that the differences between other species and ourselves, especially concerning our young, really aren't as glaring as we once thought. Being one of the most universal forms of nutrition, breast feeding has proven itself again and again to be incredibly adaptive and specific to the mother and child, whether they are human or not. The amazing specifications of breast milk will continue to be explored and studied as scientists yearn to understand the subtle physiological intricacies and factors that are involved in producing the most ancient life giving substance there is.