Researchers Develop Novel Compound From Fart Gas Which May Provide Real Health Benefits

large_2742657654A few years back, Kelly Clarkson, the first winner of television’s biggest talent show, American Idol, reminded us of the adage “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” in her 2011 hit single ‘Stronger’. The unfortunate failure in that logic is that sometimes what you come up against will actually kill you. Today, we learn about researchers from the University of Exeter Medical School who have studied a potentially lethal substance for the remarkable health benefits it can provide.

Hydrogen sulfide, perhaps infamously known for its trademark odor of rotten eggs or a particularly foul brand of flatulence, is a heavier-than-air gas that, in the right concentrations, can asphyxiate those unlucky enough to find themselves in its noxious presence. To be certain, being trapped on an elevator with Earl from accounting while he wages an intestinal battle with last night’s pepperoni pizza will not be pleasant, but neither will it be a fatal ascendancy into the hereafter.

Twenty-five years ago this month, however, a dairy farming family tragically learned of the lethality of hydrogen sulfide when, at approximately 9am, five male members were overtaken by and succumbed to the oxygen robbing chemical compound. The incident occurred in the farm’s manure pit, an enclosed structure just off the cattle barn that had cattle feces electrically conveyed into it.

The tragedy began when the farmer’s 28-year-old son entered the pit to replace the shear pin on the agitator shaft. Accompanying him was his 15-year-old nephew who, upon seeing his uncle overcome, yelled to his younger brother outside the pit to go and get help. When help returned, the 15-year-old had also become unresponsive in the pit. While emergency services were en route, the farmer, his other son and the farmer’s nephew all entered the pit to attempt an extraction. In less than 20 minutes, the farmer, his two sons, his grandson and his nephew all lay motionless inside the putrid environment.

Why then would researchers look at this highly-toxic compound with the offensive odor for some form of health benefit? It may be because, as discussed above, what doesn’t kill you can make you stronger. The team found that hydrogen sulfide, in just the right tiny dosage, can help to fend off life-altering conditions, from diabetes to stroke, heart attacks and dementia. They believe the right dosage, which they designed and produced in a novel compound, could be instrumental in developing future therapies.

Early work with their new compound has shown that it actively protects the powerhouse of the cell – mitochondria. Mitochondria – which regulate inflammation and determine whether a cell lives or dies – drive energy production in blood vessel cells. If the compound can prevent or even reverse mitochondrial damage in these cells, the team believes their creation will be sought as a primary treatment for patients suffering from heart failure, stroke and diabetes, as well as for those diagnosed with arthritis and dementia. Dysfunctional mitochondria have already been linked as a factor in the severity of diseases.

“When cells becomes stressed by disease,” noted professor Matt Whiteman of the University of Exeter Medical School, “they draw in enzymes to generate minute quantities of hydrogen sulfide. This keeps the mitochondria ticking over and allows cells to live.” Continuing he stated, “If this doesn’t happen, the cells die and lose the ability to regulate survival and control inflammation. We have exploited this natural process by making a compound, called AP39, which slowly delivers very small amounts of this gas specifically to the mitochondria. Our results indicate that if stressed cells are treated with AP39, mitochondria are protected and cells stay alive.”

Echoing Whiteman’s sentiment, Dr. Mark Wood of Biosciences at the university stated, “Although hydrogen sulfide is well known as a pungent, foul-smelling gas in rotten eggs and flatulence, it is naturally produced in the body and could, in fact, be a healthcare hero with significant implications for future therapies for a variety of diseases.”

While the research has yet to progress to human trials, professors Whiteman and Wood are hopeful their early results will hasten that process. So far, after looking at several models of disease, the pre-clinical results are promising. Their work with regard to cardiovascular disease shows that greater than 80 percent of the mitochondrial cells are able to survive in otherwise hostile and highly destructive conditions when the AP39 compound is administered.

Additionally, small-scale studies presented last month at the 3rd International Conference on Hydrogen Sulfide in Biology and Medicine in Kyoto, Japan showed benefits of the compound in treating high blood pressure. AP39 was able to reverse blood vessel stiffening which aided in lowering blood pressure. Also, post-heart attack, the compound has been effective at helping to slow the contractions of the heart, improving its efficiency.

The University of Exeter study appears in the journal Medicinal Chemistry Communications. Researchers from the University of Texas Medical Branch have published their own work with the Exeter compound which shows AP39 selectively protects mitochondrial DNA in mitochondria. Protecting that DNA is crucial because, once damaged, it is unable to be repaired and thus leaves the individual far more vulnerable to disease symptoms. The University of Texas research follow-up study was published in The Nitric Oxide Journal.

Hydrogen sulfide, which has previously proven its unpleasant and even lethal qualities could, in fact, be one of the more important cure-alls to come along in some time. The broad applications in cardiovascular health and for the regulation of inflammation along with the clinical success already enjoyed by the AP39 compound will quite possibly improve the health outcomes for those afflicted with anything from high blood pressure to dementia. So, it would appear, in this one instance at least, Ms. Clarkson certainly knew of what she sang.

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(Originally published at redOrbit.com)

Making Medical Data Better Data

large_2956265250In just over a week, the team here at SiliconANGLE will be setting off for Cambridge, Massachusetts for the 7th Annual MIT Chief Data Officer and Information Quality Symposium held on the MIT campus. The theme this year is ‘Big Data Demands Good Data’. In preparation for the event, we will be presenting a synopsis of some of the important topics scheduled to be covered in conjunction with other academic and real-world applications that apply.

One of the first sessions, to be presented by Dr. David Levine, Vice President of Informatics/Medical Director of Comparative Data and Informatics for United Healthcare, will address the need for improving risk models based on predictive analytics.  According to the abstract of Dr. Levine’s presentation, he will discuss how the advent of and improvements in data collection can be utilized to drive improved performance in health administration and patient care.

Writing recently for FierceHealthIT, Dan Bowman discussed how a recent survey of hospital CIOs found big data in the medical field was severely lacking in its efficacy. Bowman cites a healthsystemCIO.comsurvey in which 76 percent of respondents claimed their vendors were too often over-promising and under-delivering with their big data solutions.

In the same survey, it was found a full 52 percent of respondents admitting to not using their big data applications at anything approaching any level of sophistication. This figure is supported by the fact two-thirds of those who took the survey claimed their organization had neither the manpower nor the skill to take advantage of analytical tools at a high level. Each of these factor into one CIO stating the big data market, as it pertains to healthcare, isn’t likely to reach maturity for at least a few more years.

The challenge, it appears, is for the healthcare field to better understand the mountains of data they collect and learn how to better pore over it to help in establishing better predictive models for patient care and hospital administration. According to Chris Belmont, CIO at New Orleans’ Ochsner Health System, “We have the data points. We just have to do a better job of getting our hands around the data and understanding it better.”

What is the real-world benefit of achieving an optimal understanding and usage of data in the medical field though? Jeff Kelly of Wikibon.org discussed the necessity of improving the collection and analysis of big data for those fields represented in the Industrial Internet in a posting entitled ‘The Industrial Internet and Big Data Analytics: Opportunities and Challenges’. Shockingly, he stated as much as 43 percent of an estimated $2.75 trillion in healthcare spending (for 2012 alone) was applied to unnecessary procedures and administrative waste. That abhorrent figure will be significantly reduced as the Industrial Internet is increasingly utilized by hospital CIOs to target administrative inefficiencies, eliminate waste and improve patient outcomes.

Dr. Levine’s presentation seems to aim at addressing the better utilization of data for improved patient outcomes. His work with United Healthcare, in tandem with their membership organizations, is striving to make predictive models more meaningful and actionable with the aim toward driving improved performance.

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(Originally published at SiliconANGLE.com)

The Bacon Craze: Enough Already

origin_4076711470Bacon is a delightful breakfast meat that has easily and commandingly slipped into every other meal that one might consume. And it doesn’t stop at lunch and dinner, either. Would you like bacon coffee? They make it. Maybe a refreshing bacon soda is more your style? It exists. Want to gnaw on some bacon jerky or bacon brittle? They’ll deliver it to your house.

But seriously, this has to stop.

For all male bacon lovers, a study out of Harvard University, released two weeks before Halloween, must have been truly terrifying. This succulent fried meat, it seems, could be responsible for sapping your essence.

Researchers in that study observed a cohort of 156 men who were struggling to conceive with their partner. While looking at the diets of the participants, the researchers found those men who consumed more than half a portion of processed meats every day had fewer “normal” sperm compared directly with those men in the study whose diets included less than a half portion daily.

In an interview with the New York Daily News, Dr. Jorge Chavarro said, “What brought up our concern is how meat is produced in the United States. Many beef producers give cattle natural or synthetic hormones to stimulate growth a few days or weeks before the animals are killed.” Chavarro continued, “We wanted to examine how these hormones might affect people who consume them.”

But barring bacon from your breakfast or burger is, to some, a fate worse than death. Perhaps this is why the fine folks at Consumer Reports released a definitive rating of the best and worst bacon brands available on the market.

If you are a Costco aficionado and devotee, it should come as no surprise their Kirkland Signature was the only product that received an excellent rating. As Consumer Reports notes, “It crisped up nicely and consistently; had balanced fat and meat flavors complemented by wood smoke and a hint of sweetness.” But have your deep freeze at the ready because with a single-quantity purchase equaling 4 1-pound packages, you actually will be bringing home the bacon.

Other contenders came in a close second place. Consumer Reports tested Niman Ranch, Trader Joe’s, Wright and two pre-cooked bacons, as well as two Hormel Black Labels which they found a tad sour. They caution not to confuse price with quality. Oscar Mayer’s fully-cooked bacon has the highest average price while ranking below many of the tested brands.

If you are a true bacon lover, it will come as no surprise the rating team was none too pleased with the turkey bacon offerings.

I started this article off by calling for an end to this literally morbid fascination with bacon, and I now present to you the seventh sign of the Bacon-ocalypse: Seattle-based J&D Foods Power Bacon deodorant.

This opportunistic and zeitgeist exploitative company is the same group behind earlier offerings like bacon-flavored lip balm and bacon-scented shaving cream. J&D Foods slogan for this new entry into the personal grooming category is “For When You Sweat Like a Pig.” The company promises you will smell like a pig, albeit cooked, for 24 hours if you apply “liberally to underarms or private areas.” Private areas? Eh, no thanks.

J&D Foods also pioneered the art of adding bacon flavoring to food products that should never receive bacon flavoring. You may have seen Baconnaise or Bacon Salt as you’ve cruised down your grocery aisle. They also produce BaconPOP and Cheddar BaconPOP (bacon-flavored popcorns).

If you still aren’t convinced the bacon wave has gone too far, you can have your very own Power Bacon deodorant for the exorbitant price of $9.99 per 2.5 ounce stick. Just don’t feign shock or surprise when your co-workers suggest you take a mental health day or, worse yet, when you are being chased through the streets by a frenzied pack of hungry hounds.

photo credit: ✠ drakegoodman ✠ via photopin cc
(Originally published at redOrbit.com)