Category Archives: Cutting Edge Trends

5 Mind-Blowing Medical Breakthroughs You Might’ve Missed During Covid

These days the media focus is on all things virus, catching a virus, and how to treat a virus. So you’d be forgiven if you missed some important news in science. But here’s five exciting breakthroughs that went under the radar:

ONE – No “Blood Boys” or Younger Donors Required for Healthy Aging

In the hit TV series HBO’s Silicon Valley, tech oligarch Gavin Belson receives blood transfusions from a young donor. “Blood boys” is both a biohack and social meme, a slightly creepy way to defy aging.

Back in 2005, a UC California, Berkeley research lab made conjoined twins by sewing together an old and a young mouse – each mouse shared blood and organs. The blood from the young mice seemed to rejuvenate tissues in the old mice.

The 2005 study sparked the idea of parabiosis that young blood might contain special proteins that could act as a “fountain of youth’. San Francisco based startup Ambrosia began offering an $8,000 procedure involving transfusion of blood plasma from a young donor.

Now according to lead researcher Irina Conboy, her lab has upended the idea that young blood slows aging. In a new experiment, simply diluting blood plasma in old mice reversed aging in the brain, liver, and muscle.

In this new experiment, the breakthrough came from testing out a new mini dollhouse-size plasma exchange device, specially built for the mice. Old mice had half of their plasma replaced with a saline and albumin mixture.

According to Conboy, the study suggests there’re proteins in old blood that are responsible for accelerating aging.

The plasma exchange lowers the concentrations of many pro-inflammatory proteins which increase with age while enabling a rebound in beneficial proteins which improve new blood vessel growth.

Today plasma exchange can be done by Therapeutic Plasma Exchange (TPE) a well-established medical procedure and FDA-approved.

TWO – Forget Light, Dark – Liver Clock Tied to Disease Risk Factors

There’s a circadian clock in your brain, regulated by light and dark cycles. But the body also has a circadian clock in the liver and when we eat may drive risk factors for cardiometabolic disease.

Time restricted eating in a ten hour window (7am to 7pm for example) in a pilot study, was found to be an effective adjuvant treatment to treat metabolic syndrome. In the clinical trial, patients were put on medication to treat hypertension or statins for cholesterol, but were still eating in a 14 hour window.

After switching to a ten hour eating window, patients’ metabolic markers and disease risk factors improved. Time restricted eating (TRE) is now being tested in the clinical setting as an “add-on” to pharmacological treatment for diseases like hypertension and diabetes.

THREE –  Cytokine Storms When Exercise-Induced, Improve Fitness

Interleukin 6 (IL-6) is used as a biomarker of inflammation and to guage disease progression in Covid patients. But sports science is now learning that IL-6 acts as a double-agent cytokine.

IL-6 had previously been classified as a proinflammatory cytokine. But now researchers are learning that in the context of exercise IL-6 can also serve an anti-inflammatory role through rapid activation of an anti-inflammatory cytokine know as IL-10.

Exercise turns on the body’s own anti-oxidant system. Our body’s anti-oxidant pathway is a hundred times more powerful than any antioxidant that you could take in a pill.

We’ve all been told to megadose antioxidants to boost our immune system. But some sports science researchers are shedding new light on this health hack. According to early pilot studies involving elite athletes, taking a pre-workout (especially Vitamin E) before a gym session may blunt some of the benefits of exercise such as increased production of mitochondria or possibly muscle remodeling.

According to some early human clinical trial data, timing matters in regards to taking megadose antioxidants; if taken too close a workout these trendy supplements, might do more harm than good.

FOUR – Fasting and Cancer Clinical Trials Expand from Mice to Humans

In a recent study, a fasting-mimicking diet (FMD) combined with chemotherapy resulted in a 300-400% increase in the chance of killing 90-100% of cancer cells in women with breast cancer. DNA damage in T-cells was less in patients who received the FMD with chemotherapy.

Fasting may impact the same genes that control cancer. Proto-oncogenes function as key negative regulators of the protective changes induced by fasting. Scientists’s hypothesis is that cells expressing oncogenes, and therefore the great majority of cancer cells, can’t respond to the protective signals generated by fasting.

Normal healthy cells can switch to maintenance pathways, and stop trying to grow during fasting. But some cancer cells may be addicted to consuming sugar. Cancer cells will continue trying to divide as much as possible, even when nutrients are scarce.

In the 1930s Otto Warburg proposed that damaged mitochondria and an altered metabolism are a hallmark of cancer. Human clinical trials are now hoping to find if for certain types of cancers, lowering sugars and proteins can make chemotherapy treatments less toxic and more targeted.

FIVE – Using Stem Cells To Transport Mitochondria

In the movie Replica a genetic scientist played by Keanu Reeves, uses embryonic stem cells to clone and re-grow his family in the garage.

But outside Hollywood not all stem cell research is aimed at regenerating tissue. With Covid19 a different type of stem cell is coming into focus, the mesenchymal stem cell.

Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) can secrete growth and repair factors. But it’s now been observed using electron microscopy, that an MSC can make cell-to-cell contact with a damaged lung cell, project a small microtubule out of its cell wall, and via this microscopic tube transport healthy mitochondria to rescue damaged lung cells via cell to cell contact and tiny nanotubes.

This isn’t the first time nanotubes have been observed transporting materials in between cells, in cell to cell contact. Science has known that natural killer Tcells dock on to cancer cells to use tiny tubes to insert killer toxins, and kill them. And now a nanotubule has been observed extending from a mesenchymal stem cell, and transporting stemy new mitochondria into a damaged lung cell.

MSC stem cells reside in the niche in bone marrow. Normally, these stem cells lie in a dormant state.  When the body has been injured, the mesenchymal stem cell “homes” to the site of injury and secrets growth factors to help injuries heal.

A study headed by Dr. Bhattacharya at Columbia University, observed MSCs injected into lungs attached directly to alveolar epithelium. Scientists observed a delivery of mitochondria from MSCs to the injured alveolar epithelium. The MSCs fix mitochondria and restore normal ATP levels, surfactant release, and fluid transport in the lungs.

In the clinic setting, MSCs are typically used to repair orthopedic injuries like a torn rotator cuff. Using MSCS to do cell-to-cell contact is fairly new.

A Phase 1/11 Trial of MSC for Severe ARDs, is currently underway to test the safety of giving Covid19 ARDS patients three different doses of mesenchymal stem cells, to repair lungs and mitochondria damage.

Taking Vitamin E Before Exercise, Could Blunt Benefits

The idea “free radicals bad, antioxidants good” is everywhere.

But according to the latest research in sports science, it’s not that simple.

According to Dr. Rhonda Patrick, a PhD in biomedical science: “Taking antioxidants pales in comparison to the power of the antioxidant system your body has on board to handle the effects of Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS).”

Your body has its own anti-oxidant pathway, floating around in your cells, blood, and in enzymes. This network of enzymes includes glutathione, CoQ10, and superoxide dismutase, and is triggered by exercise.

In 1956 the Free Radical Theory of Aging was proposed by Denham Harman and it proposed that aging is a progress of damaged cells and oxidative damage was bad.

Exercise is a major source of oxidative stress. But enzymes like superoxide dismutase and glutathione peroxidase scan the body for reactive oxygen species (ROS) and extinguish the pro-inflammatory sparks caused by exercise.

So if you exercise on a consistent basis, you are also giving yourself a dose of antioxidants. The more you train, the more your body adapts by ramping up its own internal antioxidant production. That’s according to Dr. Marc Bubbs, an expert in sports science and author of Peak: the New Science of Athletic Performance.

If you exercise on a consistent basis, you are also giving yourself a dose of antioxidants.

Dr. Marc bubbs

Studies demonstrate that antioxidant supplementation may interfere with exercise‐induced cell signaling in skeletal muscle fibers (Ristow & Zarse, 2010; Hawley et al . 2011). In turn, changes in cell signaling may potentially blunt or block adaptations to training (Peternelj & Coombes, 2011; Gliemann et al . 2013; Morales‐Alamo & Calbet, 2014).

“Reactive oxygen species (ROS) happens in all the cells of the body, and the body is equipped to handle it,” explains Scott K. Powers, Ph.D., a physiologist at the University of Florida who specializes in investigating the effects of muscular exercise.

Free radical damage, created by a workout will damage muscles. But after the damage, the body’s antioxidant system moves in and produces mitochondria in your muscles via mitochondria biogenesis.

Here’s a brief timeline of the free radical theory of aging to explain:

1956 – Free Radical Theory of Aging proposed by Denham Harman, proposing the early hypothesis that aging is a progress of oxidative damage.

1960s – Mitochondrial biogenesis, the process by which cells increase mitochondrial mass is discovered. It was first described by John Holloszy in the 1960s, when it was discovered that physical endurance training induced higher mitochondrial content levels, leading to greater glucose uptake by muscles.

1969 – Antioxidant enzymes are first discovered and science learns cells are designed to deal with radicals. Free radical damage in cells is a part of normal biology.

1978 – First evidence that exercise-inducted oxidative stress if supplemented with vitamin E, blunts mitochondrial biogenesis in muscle tissue.

1990 – Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS) is discovered.

1990s – Sports science discovers that radicals aren’t just damaging but important signaling molecules, in the context of exercise.

2014 – A randomized control study finds vitamin C and E supplements blunted increase in mitochondrial production and interfered with positive adaptations to exercise in humans. This controversial study says high dosages of Vitamins C and E should be used with caution by elite athletes.

2019 – Professor Gomez-Cabrera, an expert in physiology is invited to speak on a panel on exercise and oxidative stress and clinical trails involving athletes. Her presentation: “Antioxidants in Exercise. Worse Than Useless?”.

According to Gomez-Cabrera, both aerobic and anaerobic training causes an enhancement in the antioxidant enzyme activity in various tissues. This is an adaptation process that happens because the free radicals, produced during muscle contraction, act as signaling molecules. This stimulates the gene expression and, increases production of antioxidant enzymes and modulates other oxidative stress protection pathways, such as enhancing the activity of DNA repair enzymes in skeletal muscles.

Exercise strengthens the body’s antioxidant network system which, consequently, minimizes the oxidative stress process.

Antioxidant protection occurs not only in the muscles but vital organs like the liver and brain, also make beneficial adjustment.

The bottom line is that while YouTube videos everywhere talk up megadose antioxidants, scientists in the field aren’t so sure. Timing matters, and taking supplements close to a workout may do more harm than good.

Forget Light/Dark, There’s a Circadian Clock in Your Liver

Beyond social distancing, wearing masks, and hand washing a healthy circadian rhythm may increase your resilience to fight Covid-19, that’s according to Satchin Panda a scientist at the Salk Institute.

“The circadian rhythm and turning on and off of more than ten thousand genes is the largest regulatory network that we know that exists in humans,” according to Dr. Panda.

Many people will be familiar with the circadian clock in the brain. But scientists like Panda believe that other clocks play a role in immune system health.

“There is a [circadian] clock in the liver. Forget about light or dark,” says Panda. “What we have to be more careful about is when we eat and when we fast.”

As we age, there is a decline in circadian rhythms, coupled with declines in the overall metabolic tissues homeostasis and changes in the feeding behavior of aged organisms. This disruption of the relationship between the clock and the nutrient sensing networks might underlie age-related diseases.

According to Panda when the timing systems in the human body are desynchronized, essential organs are compromised, reducing the potency of the immune system.

When we start the liver clock appears to have effects on glucose, lipid and oxidative pathways and immune system rejuvenation and repair.

Panda’s research team used an app called “mycircadianclock”. In this pilot study, patients were asked to take photos of what they eat and when, and log in sleep and exercise metrics.

Panda’s team was then able to create “Feedometer” graphs using plot points.

“We wanted to see if a personalized circadian rhythm will keep us away from disease,” says Panda.

Most people told researchers that they ate in a 12 hour window. But according to the data collected, most people eat for over 15 hours.

A key finding of the pilot study was that the daily intake duration exceeded 14.75 h for half the cohort.

By reducing the meal timing from a 15 hour window to 10 or 12 hours, participants reduced important biomarkers such as for inflammation.

According to Panda his labs’ research suggests that erratic eating patterns highly influence not just body clocks, but immune system function.

Mayor Sees Tech in LA on an Upswing

July 7, 2016 – Speaking against a backdrop of downtown highrises, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti says he sees a diverse tech scene coming to downtown. From rocket builders like Space-X, to futuristic tube transportation startup Hyperloop, to biotech, and videogame and Hollywood content creators – LA has a unique mix of technology innovators.

Silicon Beach companies like Snapshat and Facebook are covered in the media as the most disruptive tech players. But the Mayor of LA sees a different story playing out.

Tech Innovation: with a “Let’s do Lunch” Culture
Speaking at the launch of new co-work space Cross Campus Downtown LA, the Mayor says he sees a different kind of technology surge happening in Los Angeles. The lack of VC funding aside, the unique mix of storytellers, social image conscious people who know how to network, and technological innovation – means a different kind of tech wave in Los Angeles.

The Mayor seems aware of the role that fast wi-fi, available commercial real estate, and transportation will play in revitalizing downtown LA. For the first time in 63 years, the expo train line train line now connects the beaches of Santa Monica (where many “Silicon Beach” startups are headquartered) – with downtown.

Los Angeles is known as a car culture. But the new Expo train line means a 45-50 minute train ride can connect a startup entrepreneur from “Silicon Beach” in Santa Monica to downtown, in one train ride. In San Francisco a Google van ride from San Francisco to Silicon Valley is about the same commute.

Is Los Angeles late to the game? Sure. But it is making strides in terms of a new mix of transportation, co-work space, and the ecosystem of venture capitalists to foster technology innovation.

Technology and computers increasingly being used in Hollywood has been fostering job creation for years now. Now the city seems poised to be a hub of tech innovation.

Mayor Eric Garcetti notes online dating site eHarmony will be moving its headquarters from Santa Monica, to Los Angele’s Westwood business district on July 20, 2016. Tax breaks for Internet companies that were just extended for another three years by the Mayor certainly played a role.

Mayor Garcetti sees the fundamentals, like available commercial real estate – all promising signs of a new hub of technology innovation coming to Los Angeles.