Researchers have found that combining neurologic and blood pressure drugs may reduce breast tumour development.
According to the study, published in the journal Scientific Reports, adding a medication used to treat epilepsy, bipolar disorder and migraines to a blood pressure medicine reversed some aspects of breast cancer in the offspring of mice at high risk of the disease because of the high fat diet fed to their mothers during pregnancy.
“We believe that our research is the first to show that we can reverse some aspects of increased breast cancer risk found in offspring of mouse mothers fed a high fat diet during pregnancy,” said study researcher Leena A Hilakivi-Clarke from the Georgetown University in the US.
“This finding may have important implications in people because exposures in the womb to certain chemicals, or a mother’s high fat diet, or being obese, can subsequently increase a daughter’s breast cancer risk,” Hilakivi-Clarke.
According to the researchers, the key drug in the study regimen was valproic acid which, among several targets, inhibits histone deacetylase (HDAC), an important epigenetic silencer of genes.
In contrast to mutations that permanently disrupt the normal functions of genes, epigenetic modifications are reversible. Valproic acid was combined with the blood pressure medication hydralazine that inhibits another critical epigenetic regulator, DNA methyltransferase (DNMT).
Early treatment studies in people have shown that these two drugs can work in tandem to disrupt tumour growth.
These research findings demonstrate how impactful an epigenetic methyl group addition or subtraction from DNA can be. Compounds that reduce methylation of tumour suppressor genes that are excessively methylated (hypermethylated) can be beneficial.
However, these drugs can have the opposite effect if tumour suppressor genes are not hypermethylated; they may remove methyl groups from cancer-causing genes, making these genes more active and potentially leading to more aggressive cancers.
The other key aspect of this finding involves the potential impact of diet on cancer risk. Many fruits and vegetables have compounds (such as flavones) that chemically react in the same ways as the HDAC- and DNMT-inhibiting drugs in this study.
Some compounds in these foods, especially folic acid, have opposite effects. This research suggests that exposure to a high fat diet or endocrine disrupting chemicals in the womb might be reversed by the consumption of foods high in DNMT and HDAC inhibitors, while those who have not had such exposures might also gain a cancer protective benefit from consuming foods high in folic acid.
The scientists noted, however, that their findings, particularly as they relate to diet, need to be studied in people.
“Our next step will be to try to identify biomarkers in humans that indicate an exposure in the womb to diets or endocrine disrupting chemicals that could increase breast cancer risk later in life,” said Hilakivi-Clarke. (IANS)
From historical times, human beings have been surviving, inspite of several types of diseases confronting them. In such conditions, medical science to safeguard human beings from diseases have been developed due to the compelling need for survival of humanity.
Traditional medicines :
In ancient India, there were reports of several medicinal practices and development of several types of drugs for treatment of different types of illness , which were mostly based on natural products and not developed by synthetic process. Traditionally, such Indian medical practices have been termed as Ayurveda, Siddha etc.
In other countries too, such traditional medical practices have prevailed under various names such as homeopathy , Unani etc.
In short, the world have been living with diseases from time immemorial and has been responding to the diseases by developing appropriate medical procedures from time to time.
Development of new diseases :
With the changing life style of people, development of synthetic production processes for cosmetics , chemicals, fertilisers, pesticides, etc. and environmental hazards created by industrial operations and transportation, promotion of new food items etc. newer diseases have also been steadily arising.
Efforts of medical researchers :
The medical researchers have not lagged behind and have been developing new drugs and vaccines to treat the new and emerging diseases.
Some of the synthetic drugs developed for treatment of diseases were also reported to have side effects , which cause more diseases and sickness .
Regulatory authorities have been from, time to time, imposing ban on some of these drugs, due to unacceptable side effects, though the damage due to such banned drugs would have already happened.
COVID 19 latest addition :
COVID 19 is the latest addition to rest of diseases in the world.
Huge international efforts have now been taken up to identify the root cause of COVID 19 and develop appropriate drug / vaccine to treat the disease.
Given the past success ratings of medical researchers in handling other diseases, one can be hopeful that before long, appropriate drug / vaccine would also be developed to treat COVID 19 patients.
Limitations of medical research :
While the medical research have developed phenomenally , the medical research have not been able to prevent the occurrence of the disease , except in a few cases. Of course, in the case of polio attack, vaccines given to the children at the right time have largely eliminated the polio disease in the world.
However, this cannot be said about several of diseases such as cancer, influenza etc. which continue to occur at very high level and are being treated.
Similar situation may prevail in future in the case of COVID 19 too, with medical researchers unable to prevent it but only treat it.
Alarm due to COVID 19 :
In the case of COVID 19, the world has reacted with huge alarm , as if the COVID 19 would wipe out the entire human race.
Several world governments have declared lockdown and brought the global economy nearly to a half , like of which it has never happened before in human history.
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While the panicked world is still viewing COVID 19 with great fear and medical researchers are striving hard to develop treatment procedures, certainly the day will come when the world would reconcile itself to the prevalence of COVID 19 , just as it has reconciled itself to the prevalence of diseases like cancer, flu etc. and would also be prepared to treat the disease with appropriate procedures.
Is there over reaction to COVID 19 crisis ?:
Possibly, after six months or so from now, when COVID 19 crisis would settle down, the world community would look back at the COVID 19 crisis and would wonder whether the world has over reacted to the COVID 19.
The world would calculate the number of people infected by COVID 19, recovered and died. Then, after reading this calculations, the world would inevitably come to the conclusion that it has not been as bad at all as it was feared at one time, as the world community would remain intact after COVID-19 crisis.
It is estimated that around 0.15 million people die in the world every day due to various reasons such as old age, cancer, heart attack, kidney failure, virus attack etc. It translates to around 54 million people die in the world every year.
Till date, around 0.25 million people have died due to COVID-19 over the last four or five months.
Probably, when the COVID-19 crisis would end one day , the number of deaths due to COVID-19 could be just less than 1 million, considering worst scenario.
In future, after the end of present COVID-19 crisis such scale of deaths due to COVID-19 are unlikely, in view of the development of appropriate drugs to treat it.
This projected death figure of just less than one million due to the on going COVID19 crisis, do not add much to the worldwide death of 54 million every year in normal times.
Lives vis a vis livelihood debate :
Of course, death is natural and inevitable. It occurs for people in various age groups and due to natural / disease factors and unnatural factors such as accidents, murders, war etc. Every individual has to reconcile oneself to the inevitable event of death that would happen one day for everybody.
In such circumstances, is it appropriate that the world economy should have been brought down to the level of stagnant or decelerating growth over several months in the year 2020, fearing COVID-19.
Due to such near global lockdown, billions of poor people have been put to hardships , large number of people have lost the jobs, many production centres are facing closure and appears that it would take some time for the world to recover from this losses due to lockdown , fearing COVID 19.
So, we have entered the third phase of nationwide lockdown to contain the COVID-19 pandemic. The initial turbulence has now settled down to a great extent in terms of peoples’ acceptance and willingness to follow this lockdown. Apart from a few stray incidences of rule violations, India has been doing much better than many other countries in the world, better than many first world countries.
The rate of increase in active cases is also not very high and we have been hopeful to see a flattening of the curve in the near future. There is a steady increase in the total number of positive cases and death albeit at a slow pace. The time for doubling of cases is 11 days, and it is expected to increase further. Some places are having active spread of the infection and containment zones have been created based on the number of positive cases in that area.
The lockdown has been extended for another two weeks, and it is likely that it may last till May end. The new guidelines have relaxed the activities allowed in three zones — red, orange and green. Let us discuss from a different perspective and share my views. What should be the “priority” in this lockdown 3.0!
1. Resuming Non-COVID healthcare for acute illness: Although every health facility is trying their level best to provide adequate emergency care, it may not be equal to pre-lockdown state. I am concerned about thousands of patients with stroke, heart attack, acute surgical conditions, acute metabolic illness and many other emergency health problems! It is a growing perception among the medical fraternity that non-Covid healthcare is not getting adequate priority at this moment.
2. Resuming Non-COVID healthcare for chronic disease: As a cancer specialist, I can see the difference of care being received by cancer patients across the country compared to pre-lockdown time. Cancer patients require different types of treatments including surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, immunotherapy etc. Also, the treatment should start and finish in a timely manner to provide adequate benefit of treatment. I fear to see many premature deaths in cancer patients in the coming days whose cancer will progress to advanced stage or end stage in the absence of a timely treatment.
The same is true for other life threatening chronic illnesses like renal failure where patients survive depending on regular dialysis! People with hypertension or diabetes also need proper care to avoid untimely death due to sudden heart attack or stroke or renal failure or metabolic complications in the absence of regular supervised treatment.
Worldwide, 5.5 million kids under five years of age die because of malnutrition. This number can increase to a great extent after this pandemic is over. They also need priority to have access to food not only after lifting the lockdown, but also during this phase.
These patients also have the right to survive and this is just the tip of the iceberg!
3. Resuming treatment and prevention of communicable disease:In 2018, more than 1,40,000 people died of measles; in 2017, 13 lakh people died from tuberculosis (data source WHO website). Measles is a preventable disease with vaccination. Among tuberculosis patients, many are MDR or XDR who require intense monitored treatment. Many other deadly infectious diseases are preventable by vaccination only. Routine immunization, including that of pulse polio, is heavily hit due to lockdown. It is now important to safeguard millions of newborn kids and other people by resuming vaccination, providing treatments (like DOTS in tuberculosis patients or anti-retroviral treatment in HIV/AIDS patients) at the right time in the right manner. Otherwise, there is always a fear of seeing thousands of deaths from such conditions (many will eventually go unnoticed as not all of these are so rigorously screened or monitored for as in COVID-19).
4. Resuming blood donation services: There is a crisis of blood and blood components. Enough number of blood donations is not possible during this lockdown due to fear of spread of infection. It will be important to resume such activities with priority. The demand for the same will be high after lifting the lockdown.
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5. Resuming industry connected with emergency care: Not only for money, industry and business need to run to serve people in many ways including manufacturing essential items, food, necessary machines for different sectors involved in emergency care and routine livelihood etc. There is already a staggered plan by the government. With time many more sectors will need to function. It is important to lay down the structure of such functions to avoid infection among these groups.
6. Restricted lifting of lockdown:Wuhan in China followed a restricted lifting of lockdown model to prevent further rise of cases. Public transports including rail, airlines should frame and implement physical distancing norms even after this lockdown is over. Meeting at public places, gatherings should be banned for even a longer time till the virus is under control. Necessary public awareness and preparedness campaigns should start beforehand to sensitize people.
7. Encouraging work from home: This lockdown has proven that at least in few cases, work from home is a reasonably valid option. That will not only reduce the risk of infection but also reduce the load of cars and transport on road and subsequent pollution. Studies show that pollution worsens coronavirus outbreak. Let the world breath.
The world will not look the same after this lockdown is over. It will look good in a few aspects; it will look terrible in others. Priorities should be based on the need of a particular geographic area, their people, their lifestyle etc. However, few things remain basic as always. They have access to food, a roof over their head, clothes for modesty and medical services to save life. And we have to keep our compassion intact. Rest can wait. (IANS)