Breathtaking research

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Breathing is one of those many aspects of life that we all take completely for granted for the vast majority of our time on planet Earth.

It represents not only a magnificent means of providing our bodies with oxygen, but also disposing of waste.

Recently researchers have attempted to see if there are any components in the waste part of our exhaled breath that could be useful in terms of diagnosing, stratifying and monitoring Parkinson’s.

In today’s post, we will discuss what breath is made up of, what this new research found, and explore what the potential implications of the findings are.

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Source: Wired

Breath is the finest gift of nature. Be grateful for this wonderful gift.
― Amit Ray

On any given day, the average person takes 17,000 breaths (the normal rate for an adult at rest is 12 to 20 breaths per minute).

When we breath in, the inhaled air – made up of approximately 16% oxygen, 4% carbon dioxide, and 79% nitrogen – is taken down to a pair of organs we know of as the lungs. Most of us have two lungs, but they are not exactly alike. The lung on the left side of your body is divided into two lobes, while the lung on your right side is divided into three. And the left lung is also slightly smaller, making room for your heart.

Combined, your lungs contain approximately 2,400 kilometres (1,500 miles) of airways and 300 to 500 million air sacs (called alveoli – Source). Through the thin walls of the alveoli, oxygen from the inhaled air passes into your blood in the surrounding capillaries. At the same time that this is occurring, carbon dioxide moves from your blood and out into the air sacs.

When you breathe out (exhale), your diaphragm and rib muscles relax, reducing the space in your chest. As the chest cavity gets smaller, your deflating lungs push the carbon dioxide-rich air up your windpipe and then out of your nose or mouth.

Exhaled air consists of 78% nitrogen, 16% oxygen, and 4% carbon dioxide. In addition to this, there are also trace amounts of “other stuff”.

And it’s that “other stuff”, where our post starts today.

Ok, I’ll bite: What do you mean by “other stuff”?

Continue reading “Breathtaking research”

The Joy of discovery: On the smell of Parkinson’s

 

Today saw the publication of one of my favourite stories of Parkinson’s research.

It is a tale of courage, serendipity, hard work, and (most importantly) an idea for a research project that came from the Parkinson’s community, but has now opened new doors for researchers and could have important implications for everyone.

In 2012, former nurse Joy Milne was attending a Parkinson’s support group meeting in Edinburgh (Scotland) when she bravely asked the scientist presenting research that day, “Do people with Parkinson’s smell different?

What happened next is likely to become that stuff of legend.

In today’s post, we will discuss the back story, review a new research report investigating the smell of Parkinson’s, and consider what the results could mean for the Parkinson’s community.

 


Erasto Mpemba & Denis Osborne. Source: Rekordata

In 1963, Dr. Denis G. Osborne – from the University College in Dar es Salaam – was invited to give a lecture on physics to the students at Magamba Secondary School (Tanganyika, Tanzania). At the end of his lecture, a 13 year old student, named Erasto Mpemba, stood up and asked Dr Osbrone:

If you take two similar containers with equal volumes of water, one at 35 °C (95 °F) and the other at 100 °C (212 °F), and put them into a freezer, the one that started at 100 °C (212 °F) freezes first. Why?”

The question was met by ridicule from his fellow classmates.

But to his credit, Dr Osborne went back to his lab and conducted some experiments based on the question, confirming Mpemba’s observation. Together they published the results in 1969, and the phenomenon (the process in which hot water can freeze faster than cold water) is now referred to as the Mpemba effect.

Mpemba effect. Source: Wikipedia

The point is: All scientific discoveries start with an observation, followed by an experiment.

And scientists do not have a monopoly on this.

There have been many cases of ‘laypeople’ – like Erasto Mpemba – making important observations. And recently the Parkinson’s world had a perfect example of this. It’s very own Erasto Mpemba moment.

What are you talking about?

Continue reading “The Joy of discovery: On the smell of Parkinson’s”

QUATS going on?!?

BE WARNED: THIS POST MIGHT UPSET SOME READERS

A recently published research report has caused a bit of a fuss in the media, and I have been contacted by a lot of concerned readers regarding this particular study.

It deals with some chemicals – which can be found in everyday products – that may be having a negative effect on biological processes that are related to Parkinson’s disease – specifically, the normal functioning of the mitochondria (the power stations of each cell).

In today’s post we will discuss the new research, what the chemicals do, and whether the Parkinson’s community should be concerned.


Source: Sacramentodentistry

Toothpaste.

It is something that most of us take completely for granted in the modern world. A product that sits in our bathroom, by the sink or on a shelf, and 2-3 times per day we stick some of it in our mouth and brush it around a bit. Given the well ingrained habit of repetitively ingesting of the stuff, we have little trouble with the idea of switching brands or trying new variations (“Oooh look, this one will make your teeth whiter. Let’s try it”).

I mean, come on – it’s just toothpaste. It’s safe, right?

It probably won’t surprise many of you to learn that the composition of toothpaste has changed quite a bit over the years, but what might amaze you is just how many years are involved with that statement: 

Egyptian toothbrush. Source: Nathanpaarth

The Egyptians recognised the importance of looking after one’s teeth at a very early stage. Apparently they had a lot of trouble with their teeth because their bread had grit in it which wore away their enamel. As far back as 5000BC, they had a form of toothpaste that they used to clean their teeth. It was a mix of powdered ashes of ox hooves, myrrh, powdered and burnt eggshells, and pumice (Source: Wikipedia). The Greeks, followed by the Romans, improved on the recipes (by adding abrasive ingredients such as crushed bones and oyster shells – delightful, huh?), but it wasn’t until after World War I that the modern day pre-mixed toothpastes became popular.

The cavity fighting chemical, Fluoride, was first added to toothpastes in the 1890s, and in 1908 Newell Sill Jenkins (an American dentist) invented the first toothpaste that contained disinfectants. It was called Kolynos (from the Greek words Kolyo nosos (κωλύω νόσος), meaning “disease prevention”). 

Source: Flickr

Following the advent of Kolynos, most toothpaste companies added antiseptic and disinfectant agents to improve the quality and effectiveness of their product. Being offered a tooth cleaning product with magical antibiotic properties seemed to reassure consumers that they were buying something that might actually work. And this led to more and more chemicals being added to toothpaste. Such additions included chemical like triclosan, cetylpyridinium chloride and benzalkonium chloride.

These chemicals are safe though…right?

Continue reading “QUATS going on?!?”