Archive for the ‘Health’ Category


from Marginal Revolution

Yuck markets in everything

There is a market in baby foreskins:

Because of this, they’re not tossed out with the rest of the medical waste after a birth. Instead, hospitals sell them to companies and institutions for a wide variety of uses. Companies will pay thousands of dollars for a single foreskin.

Some of the strangest purposes they’re put to:

  • Cosmetics: Foreskins are used to make high-end skin creams. The skin products contain fibroblasts grown on the foreskin and harvested from it. One foreskin can be used for decades to produce fancy face cream like the SkinMedica products hawked on Oprah.
  • Skin grafts: In addition to making products for skin, a baby’s foreskin can be turned into a skin graft for a burn victim. Because the cells are extremely flexible, they’re less likely to be rejected. Currently, this technology can be lifesaving in providing a real skin “band aid” to cover an open wound while a burn victim heals. Researchers at Harvard and Tufts are working on advanced skin replacements that use human foreskins.
  • Cosmetic testing: All those cruelty-free cosmetics you buy? Some of them are tested on foreskins. This yields better results, since they’re human skin. And it saves the lives of the rodents your shampoo would otherwise be tested on.

Does this make the hospital ever-so-slightly more interested in continuing the practice?



Found: Fountain of Youth?

This comes from The Daily Beast Too bad this didn’t come to light just a few years earlier. I didn’t mind looking middle-aged, so I’d have been happy to stay there longer. Ah, well. Here’s a few outtakes. Go to the story for some tips we can use now, while waiting for blood tests to become routine.

Over the past few decades, research into telomeres has become a “white-hot area of science,” says Singer. Last year, University of California-San Francisco cell biologist Elizabeth Blackburn (a major character inStress Less) and two other scientists won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for their groundbreaking work in discovering the enzyme that lengthens telomeres, called telomerase. And increasingly, researchers are discovering that telomeres serve as markers for our overall health.

But it’s only now that the medical community is closing in on telomere testing for the average patient. “Sooner than you think,” says Singer, doctors will likely start ordering a simple blood test to determine the length of your telomeres at your yearly physical. The technology exists in research labs; it’s simply a matter of implementing it on a larger scale. In fact, in the next two weeks, Blackburn and renowned researcher Calvin Harley will be launching Telome Health Inc., a private telomere testing service “to assess health status, disease, and mortality risk, and responses to specific therapies.”

Thankfully, like cholesterol, we have the tools to control our telomeres, to preserve them, and even lengthen them once they’ve been worn down. It all comes down to stress—or, more accurately, how we perceive and cope with stress…

…Not surprisingly, the supplement and pharmaceutical worlds are taking note: A New York-based company called T.A. Sciences recently released the first supplement to restore telomeres. Made from a Chinese root, TA-65 helps to activate telomerase, which rebuilds the strands. And a Reno, Nevada-based biomedical research company called Sierra Sciences is actively working to create a drug that founder and molecular biologist Bill Andrews says could be the mythical Fountain of Youth that mankind has long sought. “I think this will be the biggest thing that ever hit the planet,” he said.

Fountain of Youth Panorama

Image by museseeker via Flickr

Processed Foods

This is an excellent article, which actually comes from a much longer one.  Go there for the link if you are up to that much reading.

How Ultra-Processed Foods Are Killing Us

NOV 4 2010, 9:08 AM ET11


In the current issue of the online Journal of the World Public Health Nutrition Association (of which I am a charter member), Carlos Monteiro, a professor at the University of São Paulo writes, “The big issue is ultra-processing.” Because his commentary is so lengthy, I am taking the liberty of extracting pieces from it, not always in the order presented.

The most important factor now, when considering food, nutrition and public health, is not nutrients, and is not foods, so much as what is done to foodstuffs and the nutrients originally contained in them, before they are purchased and consumed. That is to say, the big issue is food processing—or, to be more precise, the nature, extent and purpose of processing, and what happens to food and to us as a result of processing.

Cure For Common Cold

Modified version of Image:IgM.png

Image via Wikipedia

Researchers at Cambridge have found that we can fight viruses inside cells as well as outside. They’ve known we could fight them outside cells but that we can fight them inside is a new and great discovery. When the virus infects a cell, it hides in there and is safe from anti-viral drugs. But if we can send antibodies into the cell on the backs of the virus, the virus will be immediately recognized as something foreign to the cell and be destroyed. In this way, it is hoped the common cold can be eliminated. And while that would be a very good thing, it’s nothing compared to saving the millions of lives that will otherwise die from a viral infection. Viruses kill twice the number of people as cancer does. So this is a really huge breakthrough in researcher’s understanding.

Animal testing of the findings will begin soon and it is hoped testing on humans can begin within two years. I don’t think I’d like to volunteer to have a virus injected into me in the hope antibodies will attach themselves before the virus makes it safely into a cell.

There’s more at BBC News Health.