Researchers at Mexico’s National Polytechnic Institute (IPN) are celebrating a major scientific achievement: a new treatment that they claim can completely cure the human papillomavirus (HPV), helping to curb a leading cause of deadly cancer among women.
Led by scientist Eva Ramon Gallegos, the team was able to eradicate HPV in 29 patients through a non-invasive technique known as photodynamic therapy, according to El Universal.
The treatment involves the use of a drug called a photosensitizer or photosensitizing agent, alongside a wavelength of light that is used to treat affected areas of the body.
Professor Gallegos and her team, consisting mostly of women scientists, had studied the therapeutic method for about two decades in hopes to find approaches to prevent or roll back precancerous abnormalities and tumors including melanoma and the early stages of breast cancer.
About 420 patients in the Mexican states of Oaxaca and Veracruz were treated with the therapy, along with 29 women in Mexico City.
“During the first stage of research, when it was used to treat women in Oaxaca and Veracruz, we had encouraging results. The treatment also showed hopeful signs in its applications in the capital [Mexico City], which opens the possibility of making the treatment more effective and tailored to the specific needs of patients.”
The team’s accomplishment is being hailed as a major breakthrough, especially because of the complete lack of any known side effects or damage to those who have undergone the therapy.
#InvestigaciónIPN Eliminan cien por ciento virus del papiloma humano. En el marco del Día Mundial Contra el Cáncer 2019, la científica Eva Ramón Gallegos, compartió los resultados del trabajo que ha realizado durante 20 años. https://t.co/XrrWvtZC44 pic.twitter.com/yHxQL8FOxo
— IPN (@IPN_MX) February 3, 2019
What’s remarkable about this research is that this therapy doesn’t have any collateral damage to the human body, meaning it has no side effects.
“Unlike other treatments, it only eliminates damaged cells and does not affect healthy structures. Therefore, it has great potential to decrease the death rate from cervical cancer,” Gallegos explained to Cuba’s Radio Guama.
Prior to the treatment, patients underwent a colposcopy, pap smear, hybrid capture test, polymerase chain reaction and a biopsy to diagnose any premalignant lesions or HPV infections.
Human papillomavirus is a sexually-transmitted disease (STD) that results from skin-to-skin contact between genitalia. Over 150 different types of HPV exist worldwide, and while most cases of the virus disappear shortly after up to several months following transmission, a small percentage of infections can lead to genital warts or cervical, anal, oral and other cancers.
On the global scale, cervical cancer is the fourth most common type of cancer among women, with 550,000 new cases diagnosed every year, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
In 2018, about 311,000 women died of cervical cancer, with 85 percent of deaths occurring in the developing and undeveloped world.
The discovery, made by a team led by Mexican woman Eva Ramon Gallegos, could save countless lives. pic.twitter.com/U5RSl3TpiI
— teleSUR English (@telesurenglish) February 8, 2019
Cervical cancer is one of the leading causes of death among Mexican women, claiming 32,439 lives last year, or the equivalent of 89 per day, according to Leticia Rocha Zavaleta of the Institute of Biomedical Research at the National Autonomous University of Mexico.
A dearth of sexual education and the prevalence of various stigmas and macho attitudes relating to sexual activity in Mexican society has seen unplanned pregnancies and STDs such as HPV proliferate among young women and adolescents, with girls as young as 12 contracting the disease, according to Sin Embargo.
Religious groups and conservative associations continue to combat the implementation of sexual education courses by the country’s Ministry of Public Education.
One of the 29 women who was cured, Lorena Guzman, 52, explained that she had long felt the stigma of carrying the virus, “as if the only cause was sexual promiscuity” and not the need for trust, hygiene, and self-discipline between both partners.
Following 12 months of treatment, Guzman was completely freed from HPV, which she described as a “dream come true.”
“Now that tranquility has returned, I can make long-term plans and enjoy every day of my life,” she explained.
Professor Gallegos, who feels happy that she has achieved her goal “to cure women,” warned that progress in the fight against diseases is complicated by bureaucratic stalling and state budget cuts that choke off resources for the scientific community.
“When there are budget cuts, the first affected are science and the arts – as if they are not necessary. I think the main problem is money and bureaucracy, these are a great burden because the process is so slow to ask for supplies and receive them. Actually, I think that (the government) should facilitate funds so that everything required for these studies arrives quickly, so we have more of a stimulus in terms of researchers and scientists.”
Worldwide, #CervicalCancer remains one of the gravest threats to women's lives.
— World Health Organization (WHO) (@WHO) February 4, 2019
New Study Suggests Binge Drinking Could Damage Brain And Cause Lasting Anxiety
(TMU) – A recent study suggests that binge drinking alcohol could seriously damage the brain in ways that increase the risk of cognitive-behavioral issues like anxiety.
The study, which was conducted by researchers at the University of Porto, found that just ten days of binge drinking cause immune cells in the brain to destroy connections between neurons, which leads to anxiety and other mental health issues.
It is important to note that these were not human studies, as the test subjects were mice, but these types of experiments typically give significant insight into how different substances affect the brains of humans.
Study co-author João Relvas, told Inverse that, “[We] don’t have any reason to believe that the same mechanisms will not be operating in the human brain. Even for a short period of time, excessive drinking is likely to affect the brain, increasing the level of anxiety, a relevant feature in alcohol abuse and addiction.”
“The dangers of alcohol drinking, especially amongst the younger population, have been widely underestimated and excessive alcohol drinking is socially relatively well tolerated. Increasing public awareness and education of the young can, together with other measures, change the way society looks at alcohol intake,” Relvas added.
In the study, the researchers broke the mice off into two groups. One group was given alcohol over a 10 day time period, while the other group was not. Half of the mice were given 1.5 grams per kilogram of ethyl alcohol each day, which is the equivalent of five drinks for an adult human that weighs 165 pounds.
After 10 days, the researchers looked at the mice’s brain tissue and found that the mice who consumed alcohol had significant damage to the area of the brain that controls complex cognition and decision making, which resulted in increased anxiety.
The researchers also determined the process that caused this damage in the brain. They believe that alcohol boosts the production of an inflammatory molecule called TNF.
In further experiments, they used a drug called pomalidomide to block TNF and found that it prevented anxiety and reduced the impact that the alcohol had on the brain.
The symptoms are “ultimately driven by increased secretion of TNF by microglia, as we show that reducing its production either pharmacologically or genetically can prevent synapse loss and anxiety,” Relvas says.
Relvas also said that this drug could potentially be used to treat alcohol addiction.
“This study suggests that regulating the levels of TNF might eventually be useful when treating alcohol addiction,” he said.
However, the team does not recommend that anyone use TNF inhibitors while binge drinking, because further studies need to be done to confirm the safety and efficacy of the drugs for the purpose.
Furthermore, TNF inhibitors would not prevent any of the other damage that alcohol can do to the rest of the body.
“Alcohol abuse is a leading cause of disease with a massive impact on human life and should be treated as so,” Relvas says.
His team’s findings were published earlier this month in the journal Science Signaling.
Otherwise healthy man suddenly dies from overdose of Black Licorice candy
(TMU) – In a tragic and unpredictable turn of events, a 54-year-old man in Massachusetts died after his heart stopped beating from eating too much black licorice candy. The man’s sudden death at a McDonald’s in 2019 had doctors clueless, and became the focus of a study by senior medical researchers.
We all have our guilty pleasures and vices: it could be that we like to butter our toast on both sides, drink a pot of coffee daily, snack on moonshine cherries, or the common problem of compulsive eating as we sit in front of the TV. And no doubt, these vices do carry a health cost – but the cost of this man’s black licorice habit turned out to be far beyond anything imaginable.
According to a study in the New England Journal of Medicine, the 54-year-old man didn’t have a history of heart problems. His doctors attested that he regularly took his dog out on walks and was fit enough to meet the physical demands of his job as a construction worker.
However, his relative fitness wasn’t enough to contend with his fatal habit of consuming one to two large bags of black licorice every day for three weeks – a problem which, without any warning, had a massively detrimental impact on his health.
According to the report, the habit resulted in a precipitous drop in his potassium levels, causing his sudden heart failure at the McDonald’s. After suffering cardiac arrest and collapsing, the man never regained consciousness and died 24 hours after arriving at Massachusetts General Hospital.
“We almost didn’t believe it when we figured it out,” Dr. Jacqueline B. Henson, who treated the man while she worked at the hospital, told New York Times. “We were all shocked and surprised.”
Doctors soon discovered that the man had a generally poor diet and consumed at least a pack of cigarettes a day, according to friends and family. Yet none of those factors could explain his death. As it turned out, his death could be traced to his sudden switch from red to black licorice three weeks prior to his death.
Officials of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration have announced that consuming two ounces of black licorice for 12 days can result in an irregular heart rhythm or arrhythmia for people aged 40 and over, as well as high blood pressure, edema (swelling), lethargy, and congestive heart failure.
Medical practitioners are generally taught that black licorice contains glycyrrhizic acid, a common plant extract used to sweeten candies and other foods that can dangerously reduce potassium levels when consumed in high doses.
The ingredient is also common in other foods and drinks that contain licorice root, such as jelly beans, licorice tea, certain types of chewing gum, popular anise liquors like ouzo, raki, arak, and anisette, and a number of Belgian beers. Sweet-flavored chewing tobaccos also commonly contain licorice.
However, overconsuming these products cause our potassium levels to plunge, throwing off the balance of sodium and potassium that’s necessary for a healthy functioning heart. When our potassium levels drop, sodium levels skyrocket – resulting in arrhythmia and boosting our blood pressure.
The Massachusetts case, however, is an extreme one and far from the norm, noted Dr. Henson, who said that the occasional licorice treat shouldn’t be confused with poison.
“It’s fine taken in sort of small amounts, infrequently,” Henson said. “But when taken on a regular basis, it can lead to these issues.”
Ann Arbor becomes latest city to decriminalize “magic” mushrooms and other natural psychedelics
(TMU) – The city of Ann Arbor, Michigan, has effectively decriminalized psilocybin or “magic” mushrooms along with other natural psychedelics in the latest sign that public opinion across the U.S. is continuing to turn against prohibitionist policies.
On Monday, the Ann Arbor City Council unanimously voted in favor of a resolution that would make it the city’s lowest-ranked law enforcement priority to the investigate or arrest anyone planting, cultivating, purchasing, transporting, distributing, using or possessing entheogenic plants or plant compounds.
The resolution applies to all psychedelics derived from plants and fungi, including psilocybin mushrooms, ayahuasca, ibogaine, mescaline, peyote and other substances with hallucinogenic properties deemed illegal under state and federal law.
The council also requires the Washtenaw County Prosecutor’s Office to halt the prosecution of those involved in the use of entheogenic plants and plant compounds.
Ann Arbor now joins a growing list of cities including Denver, Colorado, and the California cities of Santa Cruz and Oakland that have decriminalized all entheogenic plants. Other cities including Chicago and Austin are considering similar measures. A ballot measure that would legalize the use of psilocybin in therapeutic settings will also be voted on in the state of Oregon this November.
The move to de-prioritize law enforcement around psychedelics was spearheaded by the efforts of local grassroots advocacy group Decriminalize Nature Ann Arbor, or DNA2.
At the beginning of the year, councilmembers were skeptical about any move to decriminalize psychedelics. Since then, they’ve found themselves convinced by evidence of the therapeutic and spiritual benefits of psychedelics, including for mental health treatment and treating addiction, reports MLive.
Councilmember Zachary Ackerman cited the opening of a $17 million psychedelic and consciousness research center by Johns Hopkins Medicine as proof of “the tremendous potential of these future medicines.” The Center for Psychedelic and Consciousness at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore is currently conducting clinical trials to find out whether the drug is suitable as a prescription drug for the U.S. market.
Councilmember Jack Eaton described the council’s unanimous backing for the decriminalization resolution as carrying on the city’s legacy of backing the local decriminalization of m******** during the 1970s, when the plant was still illegal under state and federal law.
The resolution doesn’t allow for the commission of crimes or any significant violation of state or federal law, and any use of entheogenic substances that pose a threat to public health and safety could require intervention by law enforcement bodies.
In the resolution, entheogenic plants are defined as the full spectrum of plants and fungi that contain indole amines, tryptamines and phenethylamines “that can benefit psychological and physical wellness, support and enhance religious and spiritual practices, and can reestablish human’s inalienable and direct relationship to nature.”
The resolution also states that psychedelic substances can be used to address substance abuse problems, addiction, recidivism, trauma, post-traumatic stress, depression, anxiety, grief, cluster headaches and other debilitating conditions.
“The use of entheogenic plants, which can catalyze profound experiences of personal and spiritual growth, have been shown by scientific and clinical studies and traditional practices to be beneficial to the health and well-being of individuals and communities in addressing these conditions,” it states.
Psilocybin mushrooms are currently considered a Schedule 1 narcotic by the Drug Enforcement Agency.
However, psilocybin – the main chemical component of the mushrooms – was designated as a “breakthrough therapy” by the FDA in 2019 due to the positive results of psilocybin in treating depression, anxiety, addiction, and other mental health problems.
Studies have also shown how a microdose of psilocybin—far from the level needed for a full-blown trip—actually increases the creativity and empathy of participants.
Other researchers have also found that psilocybin has provided effective help to patients struggling to quit other addictive substances such as cigarettes.
The newfound recognition of psilocybin therapy as a valid treatment has eroded old stereotypes of psilocybin as some intoxicating and hallucination-inducing party drug that drives its users insane – a reputation that largely grew out of the hippie counterculture of the 1960s when they were widely known as “psychedelic” or “magic” mushrooms.
The resolution further notes that entheogenic plants have been the basis of spiritual practices by human cultures for thousands of years, yet those who seek them for the sake of improving their health and wellbeing must risk arrest and prosecution to obtain them.
“Decriminalization of naturally occurring medicines is necessary for progress,” councilmember Jeff Hayner said in a press release from DNA2 last week, reports Detroit Metro Times. “We can no longer turn a blind eye towards the wisdom of indigenous peoples, and the bounty the earth provides. I have been moved by the testimonies of those who have found profound relief from the use of entheogenic plants.”
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