Sponging up toxins

Drs. Norbert Herzog & David Niesel

Drs. Norbert Herzog & David Niesel

Medical Discovery News

People reach for sponges for soaking up messes, washing the dishes, and cleaning appliances. But sponges can also clean up toxins — inside the body, no less.

For years, scientists have worked to develop methods to remove toxins that destroy cells and tissues. This has been a challenge due the variety of infectious agents and poisons that produce toxins.

Recently, a significant advance using nanosponges could lead to the removal of many life-threatening toxins from the bloodstream.

Nanosponges, developed by bioengineers at the University of California-San Diego, work much like their name implies — they are designed to absorb specific substances. These nanoparticles can remove toxins produced by bacteria such as the common skin infection Staphylococcus aureus, even the antibiotic-resistant MRSA strain. Continue reading

Your health’s best friend

Dr. Tristi Muir

Dr. Tristi Muir

Last year, David was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. This neurodegenerative disease not only made David’s movements rigid and tremulous, it has robbed him of his independence and his freedom.

He had been a very independent man for 83 years when suddenly, he found himself living with his physician daughter Robyn and her busy family (including David’s 1-year old grandson).

Recognizing that this must be a very traumatic change of life for her father, Robyn asked, “Dad, is there anything we can do for you?” David immediately answered, “Get me a dog!”

Together, they saw every dog at the Galveston Island Humane Society. After spending time with David, one of the humane society workers knew that the Chihuahua in the back of the facility would be the perfect dog for David. It was love at first sight. Continue reading

Uncovering the mystery of children’s immunizations

Drs. Sally Robinson & Keith Bly

Drs. Sally Robinson & Keith Bly

Keeping Kids Healthy

With the start of school fast approaching, there’s frequently a feeling of a need to get organized.

Living in a family is complicated with schedules and many conflicting needs. Children come with their own entire subset of things to keep up with — their school work, their activities, their chores. And then, there’s that one thing about your children that you have to keep up with that’s sort of mystical: Their immunizations.

You know you have to keep up with their shots, and you know it’s ultimately good for them, their health and safety, and that of the rest of your family. Thankfully, we’re moving away from a long era of immunization misinformation based on faulty and fabricated research. That makes the fearful part much easier for parents, but keeping them in order can be a little confusing and overwhelming at times.

Does MMR come before the hepatitis B? Or does the rotavirus vaccine come before the influenza shot? And, what the heck is MMR, anyway? Here are some answers and resources we think will help. Continue reading

Taking an antacid trip

Dr. Victor Sierpina

Dr. Victor Sierpina

If I were to talk to the average person about a proton pump, images of Buck Rogers or Star Trek might come to mind. It is some kind of ray gun or starship drive?

The fact is that each of us has a proton pump in our stomach. It is a cellular mechanism that creates the very high acidity needed for digestion and absorption.

To show how powerful this pump is, the acid-base balance of the bloodstream and other tissues is about 7.4, while that in the stomach is a pH of around 2, many thousands of times more acidic.

The other cells in the body would die at that level of acid, yet the proton pump and stomach lining keeps it all up to facilitate our good health and digestion.

Proton pump inhibitor drugs (PPIs), such as omeprazole (Prilosec), pantoprazole (Nexium), lansoprazole (Prevacid) and others, are widely used antacids that shut down this important physiological process. Continue reading

Shadowy side of patent medicines

Drs. Norbert Herzog & David Niesel

Drs. Norbert Herzog & David Niesel

Medical Discovery News

It’s hard to believe that people used to drink snake oil as a “universal remedy,” or rely on a patent medicine called Mugwumps to prevent sexually transmitted diseases.

Yet, from colonial times to the 1900s, people would unquestionably turn to such “cures.” Patent medicines were sold directly to a patient from the manufacturer without a prescription through mail order, in shops and in traveling medicine shows. They were trademarked (which is not the same as today’s patenting) by the seller, yet untested and unregulated, and as such, rarely worked as advertised. Eventually, people even used the term “snake oil salesman” as a synonym for a fraudster.

Among the early patent medicines to arrive in America were Daffy’s Elixir Salutis for “colic and griping,” Dr. Bateman’s Pectoral Drops and John Hooper’s Female Pills. These and many other remedies were available for just about any ailment and often made outlandish claims for their effectiveness. Continue reading

Properly store pumped breast milk to protect infants

Drs. Sally Robinson & Keith Bly

Drs. Sally Robinson & Keith Bly

Keeping Kids Healthy

Breast-feeding offers infants the healthiest nutritional start. Sometimes in today’s busy life, mothers have to spend time away from their infants, so pumping and storing breast milk becomes necessary.

Mothers pumping — or expressing — milk for an infant have a number of choices for storing and preserving it.

The guidelines that follow are based upon information supplied by Anne Merewood, director of lactation services at the Breastfeeding Center of Boston Medical Center, and were published in Contemporary Pediatrics.

The guidelines concern only healthy babies. If your infant has special problems, consult your pediatrician. Continue reading

The golden triangle

Dr. Victor Sierpina

Dr. Victor Sierpina

No, I am not talking geometry here. When I refer to the golden triangle, it relates to the three essential components of well-being. These are: nutrition, activity and mind/body/spirit balance.

The media is recently filled with discussions of Obamacare and other big government programs to remedy health care problems in our country. Such problems are many, a fact I do not deny.

However, the libertarian streak in me is deeply suspicious of centralized, governmental involvement in something as personal as our health care.

The frequent tales of abuse, fraud, waste, perverse incentives and unintended consequences in such programs and government agencies are legion.

In fact, such proposed programs aren’t truly health care but are sickness care. They primarily are financial rather than health- or wellness-directed. Continue reading

Unintentional injuries top death list for children

Drs. Sally Robinson & Keith Bly

Drs. Sally Robinson & Keith Bly

Keeping Kids Healthy

Unintentional injuries are the leading cause of death in children.

About 90 percent of all unintentional injuries in children can be avoided.

The five leading causes of injury death in children 15 and younger are motor vehicle injuries, fires and burns, drowning, firearms, poisoning and suffocation.

Practice the following safety tips to protect your child against accidents: Continue reading

Medical Discovery News: See the chemistry of opera

Drs. Norbert Herzog & David Niesel

Drs. Norbert Herzog & David Niesel

Medical Discovery News

The chemistry of an opera can fill an entire theater with its own type of sizzling electricity — the illicit desires of Richard Wagner’s star-crossed lovers “Tristan and Isolde,” the passionate seductions of Georges Bizet’s fiery “Carmen,” and the unrequited yearnings of Giacomo Puccini’s doomed “Madame Butterfly.” However, those feelings aren’t the only type of chemistry at play.

The storylines of many operas involve poisons, love potions and even pharmacists. For Joao Paulo André, who saw his first opera during his third year of college and now works in the chemistry department of the University of Minho in Portugal, the science within such scenes was obvious. In a recent article for the “Journal of Chemical Education,” André divided operas into four categories: apothecary operas, operas of poisonous natural products, operas of the great poisoners of history and arsenic operas.

The apothecary operas are those that involve the work of chemists or pharmacists. In 1768, Joseph Haydn composed a comic opera entitled “Der Apotheker.” The story involves a pharmacy apprentice named Mengino who is in love with an apothecary’s ward, Grilletta. In one aria, he sings about the virtues of rhubarb and manna, plant-based treatments for constipation and diarrhea — not subjects most audiences would expect to be sung about! Continue reading

Proactive education can help reduce teen pregnancies

Drs. Tristi Muir and Catherine Hansen

Drs. Tristi Muir and Catherine Hansen

Our Bodies, Our Lives 

Our Bodies, Our Lives focuses on issues surrounding women’s sexual, gynecological and emotional health.

Unintended teenage pregnancy is still a significant problem in the United States. When an unwed teen becomes pregnant, her future options can become very limited. If she has not yet completed school, gained employment skills or even had much opportunity to experience adult life, she is likely to face some challenges.

In 2010, approximately 368,000 U.S. teenagers 15-19 gave birth. Sixty percent of sexually experienced teens reported using a highly effective birth control like an IUD or hormonal method.

Given that so many teenage girls with unintended pregnancies were not using contraception when they became pregnant, it seems that proactive sexual health education might be a good way to reduce this burden. Even if abstinence is the program of choice, we feel that we are obliged to protect the younger generation by equipping them with information and education about their sexual health. Continue reading