Archives for the month of: October, 2012

Foreword (ix – x):

“Curiously, the other common form of diabetes, type 1, also appears to be related to the stresses of the modern world, through a complex process, less well understood, by which the immune system mistakenly identifies as foreign the single hormonal apparatus responsible for lowering glucose levels, the beta-cell of the islet of Langerhans of the pancreas, which consequent disastrous outcome for the person involved. Is this caused by too little exposure to common ingestions of childhood, or too much exposure to processed food (or perhaps even cow’s milk), or to environmental pollutants, or abnormalities of vitamins or minerals, or to genetic imbalances, or to some complex of all of these.”

Prologue (xix):

“So it was from north to south, east to west: the same alarms were being rung, and the same questions being asked, by parents, school nurses, and people with diabetes. Were these clusters of type 1 just statistical flukes, or were they real? If real, was in increase happening in just a handful of unlucky towns, or in many towns and cities, and in every state? What dark force could be behind the rise of such a dreaded, lifelong, life-shortening disease? And what, if anything, could be done to reverse it?”

Prologue (xx):

“Type 1, it’s true, used to be rare. Today, however, it’s about twice as common among children as it was in the 1980’s, about five times more common than in the years following World War II, and perhaps ten times more common than 100 years ago, if early statistics are to be believed. Genes have not changed; lifestyles and environmental risk factors have. Part 2 of this book will explore what those risk factors are. Suffice it to say for now, that while Weston might have“` unique local factors pushing its recent outbreak, it is also emblematic in many ways of the new normal across the United States, and indeed around the world: how we live and play and work, and why that ha made us so curiously susceptible to type 1 diabetes.

Type 2 is also rising, of course, but far faster than the rate of obesity. In fact, the rate of new type 2 cases has doubled in the past decade, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Shockingly, the CDC now projects that 33 percent of all boys and 39 percent of all girls born in the year of 2000 will develop type 2 in their lifetimes.  That’s more than one in three overall. For blacks and Hispanics, the projections are even worse, tipping to over half-53 percent- of all Hispanic women, meaning that more of them will eventually have diabetes than do not.”

Prologue (xxii):

“Now take one final step back and ask yourself: 88 years after the discovery of insulin, with all the dozens of pills available for type 2, all the high-tech treatment of available for type-1, and the estimated $116 billion per year spent on the medical treatment of diabetes in the United States alone, why the heck do more people get diabetes, and more people die of it, each year?”

Prologue (xxii):

“I am happy to report, after spending over a year interviewing hundreds of physicians, researchers, and patients in the United States and abroad, and even participating in a clinical trial, that there is a better way. Flying under the radar of most observers, a number of revolutionary approaches are making quiet, dramatic gains towards preventing, curing, or significantly improving the treatment of diabetes. As we shall see in Part 3 of this boo, none of them involves lecturing people about the need to eat less and exercise more. None of them requires diabetics to test their blood sugars more often. And none of them places the blame for the disease and its dire consequences in the laps of diabetics. Instead, an astonishing body of evidence has built up in support of an interlocking group of theories, provocative as they are disturbing, as to why both type 1 and type 2 diabetes are rising in lockstep and how we can, for the first time in history, prevent or cure both of them.”

Prologue (xxiii):

“To appreciate just how bizarrely unnatural the current mushrooming of the disease has become, it is useful to go back to a time when doctors could go their entire careers without seeing more than a handful of cases, or any at all. Part 1 of this book will narrate the biography of a disease called diabetes: how it started small and grew into a moster.”

From BrandeisNow (an article about Upstream Contributors Ana Soto and Carlos Sonnenschein):

This year’s Jacob Heskel Gabbay Award goes to three researchers, Drs. Patricia Hunt, Ana Soto and Carlos Sonnenschein, who have dedicated decades to researching and identifying the effects of BPA in plastics on mamalian cells. The honoree will give their prize talks tomorrow, Oct. 22, in Rapaporte Treasure Hall, Goldfarb Library.

The potential dangers of BPA — bisphenol A — now cannot be disputed. More and more research shows effects of the estrogen-mimicking chemical that is frequently used in such items as plastic bottles, aluminum can linings, heat-activated register receipts and even some dental sealants.

In 2008, in an FDA report on BPA, the National Toxicology Program expressed “concern for effects on the brain, behavior, and prostate gland in fetuses, infants, and children at current human exposures to bisphenol A.” In July of this year the FDA announced that baby bottles and children’s drinking cups will no longer be allowed to contain BPA.

According to a New York Times report, a study of over 2,000 people found that more than 90 percent of them had BPA in their urine. Traces have also been found in breast milk, the blood of pregnant women and umbilical cord blood.

The Gabbay Award in Biotechnology and Medicine is given to scientists in academia, medicine, or industry whose work had outstanding scientific content and significant practical consequences in the biomedical sciences. The award consists of a $15,000 cash prize (to be shared in the case of multiple winners) and a medallion. Recipients travel to Brandeis University in the fall of each year to present a lecture on their work. It is followed by a dinner at which the formal presentation takes place.

The winners are:

  • Dr. Patricia Hunt, an internationally renowned geneticist, and a professor in the School of Molecular Biosciences at Washington State University. Her talk is titled:  “Making a Perfect Egg: How Age and the Environment Affect Our Reproductive Health”
  • Dr. Ana Soto, a professor of anatomy and cell biology at Tufts University School of Medicine. Her talk is titled: “BPA exposure, Development and Cancer”
  • Dr. Carlos Sonnenschein, a professor of anatomy and cell biology at Tufts University School of Medicine.  His talk is titled: “Social Impact of Scientific Discoveries: The Case of Endocrine Disruptors”

The Gabbay Awards were established in 1998, when the trustees of the Jacob and Louise Gabbay Foundation decided to create a new award in basic and applied biomedical sciences.

Nominations are solicited from selected scientists in industry and academia. A panel of distinguished researchers representing the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries, as well as universities and schools of medicine, are assembled to consider nominations.

Because of their long association with Brandeis University, the trustees asked the Rosenstiel Basic Medical Sciences Research Center at Brandeis to administer the award.

Visit Ana Soto and Carlos Sonnenschein’s main Upstream page.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

The Disappearing Male – CBC Documentary, posted with vodpod

Dr. James Swain is using brain imaging techniques to study the effects of poverty on stress level and, in turn, brain development. Here are a few excerpts from an article  in the Toronto Globe and Mail by Anne McIlroy.

* * *

Over the past four decades, researchers have established how poverty shapes lives, that low socioeconomic status is associated with poor academic performance, poor mental and physical health and other negative outcomes. Swain is part of a new generation of neuroscientists investigating how poverty shapes the brain.

The University of Michigan researcher will use imaging technologies to compare the structure and function of brains of young adults from families with low socioeconomic status to those who are middle-class.

* * *

He and other neuroscientists are building on preliminary evidence that suggests the chronic stress of living in an impoverished household, among other factors, can have an impact on the developing brain.

Studies suggest low socioeconomic status may affect several areas of the brain, including the circuitry involved in language, memory and in executive functions, a set of skills that help us focus on a problem and solve it.

You can read the entire article here.

An Northeastern University article about Upstream Contributor Phil Brown:

Many con­t­a­m­i­nants are easy for the public to spot, like emis­sions from the tailpipe of a car or the sludge from a mas­sive oil spill washing up on the ocean’s shores.

But Phil Brown, who joined Northeastern’s fac­ulty this fall, says many others are far less easy to iden­tify — including those found in beauty prod­ucts like deodorant and cologne or in flame retar­dants, which he has studied extensively.

“It’s the things we don’t think about being toxic that are in our everyday lives,” said Brown, Uni­ver­sity Dis­tin­guished Pro­fessor of Soci­ology and Health Sci­ences with joint appoint­ments in the Col­lege of Social Sci­ences and Human­i­ties and the Bouvé Col­lege of Health Sci­ences.

For Brown, a renowned scholar whose inter­dis­ci­pli­nary research com­bines social sci­ence and envi­ron­mental health, issues like these are con­stantly in his crosshairs. Over the last 13 years at Brown Uni­ver­sity, he led a research group on envi­ron­mental health sci­ence that was sup­ported by a range of grants from sev­eral fed­eral agen­cies, including the National Insti­tutes of Health, the National Sci­ence Foun­da­tion and the Envi­ron­mental Pro­tec­tion Agency.

His research included focusing on bio­mon­i­toring, which mea­sures the level of con­t­a­m­i­nants in the human body, and on house­hold expo­sure mon­i­toring, which mea­sures tox­i­cants found in the air and dust inside our homes and the air in our driveways.

Now at North­eastern, Brown is the director of the new Social Sci­ence Envi­ron­mental Health Research Insti­tute. The institute’s mis­sion is to bring together an inter­dis­ci­pli­nary team of researchers to con­duct socialscience research, teaching, com­mu­nity engage­ment and policy work in the field.

Brown said envi­ron­mental health researchers should be nimble and attuned to the world’s emerging envi­ron­mental health issues. Brown, for his part, nav­i­gated to the field of envi­ron­mental health sci­ence in the 1980s while working in mental health policy. At the time, a col­league was serving as an expert wit­ness in a high-​​profile groundwater-​​contamination case in Woburn, Mass., in which civil suits were brought against two com­pa­nies fol­lowing com­mu­nity con­cerns over rising levels of child­hood leukemia and other illnesses.

The Woburn case cap­tured Brown’s atten­tion imme­di­ately, com­pelling him to investigate.

“I spent a lot of time with the fam­i­lies who had been affected, whose chil­dren died or became sick, and that really changed my life,” said Brown, who wrote a book on the topic called “No Safe Place: Toxic Waste, Leukemia, and Com­mu­nity Action.”

Brown soon real­ized that many other com­mu­ni­ties grapple with sim­ilar envi­ron­mental health issues, which led him to engage in the larger debate about envi­ron­mental causes of ill­nesses. Over the years, he has also exam­ined health-​​focused social move­ments in America dating back to the begin­ning of Medicare and Medicaid.

“You never know where the work will take you next,” said Brown, who earned his Ph.D. in soci­ology from Bran­deis Uni­ver­sity. “I’m always looking for inter­esting new things that are impor­tant, that con­cern people and that have an effect on many people’s lives.”

Many envi­ron­mental health issues are local by nature, but Brown said they also serve as cat­a­lysts for world­wide envi­ron­mental change. He praised inno­va­tors before him who paved the way for this type of thinking — including Barry Com­moner, one of the founders of modern ecology, who passed away last week, and Rachel Carson, whose 1962 book “Silent Spring” exposed the dan­gers of the pes­ti­cide DDT. Both thought leaders, he said, brought envi­ron­mental dan­gers to the public eye and helped spark the global envi­ron­mental movement.

“We need to have those big visions and not be afraid to say, ‘This is how the world can be better many years down the road,’” Brown said.

Visit Phil Brown’s main Upstream page.

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