Archive for: August, 2007

Kalis Ilustrisimo seminar in Maryland

Aug 29 2007 Published by under Synaptic Misfires

A few weekends ago I attended my second kalis Ilustrisimo seminar, sponsored by Guro John Jacobo of SWACOM. Master "Topher" Ricketts and his son Bruce led the seminar and it was one hell of a good time, despite being in a sweaty gym in Baltimore on a 95 degree day. (That kinda added to the atmosphere, though.) I had not had the pleasure of meeting Bruce before, but let me say that kid is already amazing and is going to be one incredible fighter someday. Actually he is already.

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Promising Effects of Statins on Alzheimer's Pathology

Finally we get some data on changes in AD pathology with statin use! Statins are taken for lowering cholesterol, but they have other beneficial effects such as modulating inflammatory responses. Thus, they could prove beneficial in the treatment of AD given the disease has a significant inflammatory component.
According to the press release

The two changes in the brain that are considered the most definitive hallmarks of Alzheimer's are brain "plaques" and "tangles." After controlling for variables including age at death, gender, and strokes in the brain, the researchers found significantly fewer tangles in the brains of people who had taken statins than in those who had not. "These results are exciting, novel, and have important implications for prevention strategies," said senior co-author Eric Larson, MD, MPH, the leader of the ACT study and executive director of Group Health Center for Health Studies. "But they need to be confirmed, because ACT is not a randomized controlled trial."

As the press release rightly points out

A randomized controlled trial of statin treatment and brain autopsy findings would be problematic for ethical and practical reasons, said Dr. Larson. But the ACT setting made the study more rigorous than previous observational epidemiological studies, because it uses reliable automated pharmacy records, is based in a community population, and includes autopsies in people both with and without dementia.

so don't expect any prospective comparisons anytime soon. Or, ever. However, this study appears promising as it backs up the epidemiological data. I'll have to see if I can get my hands on the actual paper and post about it.

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No Mr. PLoS, I expect you to DIE!!!!

Aug 27 2007 Published by under Academia

Anger abound in the blogosphere at the PRISM organization, or Partnership for Research Integrity in Science and Medicine. As one could guess from reading the braintrust of a guy who worked with ENRON jailbird Jeff Skilling, SPECTRE PRISM is long on rhetoric and completely lacking in data.
When I say lacking, I mean zero. Zip. Zilch. Maybe I missed something, but a perusal of the website failed to yield a single survey or statistic to support PRISM's grandiose claims that...

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Do PBDEs cause thyroid disorders in pets?

Aug 16 2007 Published by under Health Care/Medicine

I'm on a environmental tox kick lately. The latest foray into endocrine disruption in the news is polybrominated diphenyl ethers, or PBDEs. PBDEs are used as flame retardant compounds, and like my earlier ruminations on bisphenol A, they're in everything. Unfortunately, there's evidence that they don't just sit there, but rather, as the LA Times reports, they like to impersonate thyroid hormone and may lead to hyperthyroidism.

An epidemic of thyroid disease among pet cats could be caused by toxic flame retardants that are widely found in household dust and some pet food, government scientists reported Wednesday.
The often-lethal disease was rare in cats until the 1980s, when it began appearing widely, particularly in California cats. That was at the same time industry started using large volumes of brominated flame retardants in consumer products, including furniture cushions, electronics, mattresses and carpet padding.
Scientists from the Environmental Protection Agency noted a possible connection between hyperthyroidism and flame retardants. The chemicals -- known as polybrominated diphenyl ethers, or PBDEs -- mimic thyroid hormones, so experts have theorized that high exposure in cats could cause overactive thyroids.
Cats that remain indoors and eat fish-flavored canned food were found to be the most highly contaminated.

Looks like melamine ain't the only thing Toto's gotta watch out for, Dorothy.

"It is clear that house cats may be able to serve as sentinels for indoor exposure to PBDEs for humans who share their houses," said Birnbaum, one of the world's leading experts on hormone-altering chemicals.
Brominated flame retardants are ubiquitous outdoors and inside homes. The chemicals have been building up in people and wildlife over the last two decades, particularly in the United States, where human concentrations have doubled every few years.
People in the United States have the highest PBDE levels in humans worldwide, but U.S. cats are even more exposed -- some with levels 100 times greater, according to the study.
Twenty-three cats were tested in the EPA's study, including 11 with hyperthyroidism. The researchers found that the cats with hyperthyroidism had substantially higher levels of a PBDE compound. Symptoms of the disease, which is a leading cause of cat death, include weight loss, rapid heartbeat and irritability.

Ok so this study is small. But the idea of using cats as sentinels for high PBDE concentrations-- and thus indicators of areas where humans may be at risk-- is particularly noteworthy, especially since the US has such high accumulations of PBDEs in its environs. So far, though, my stupid cat seems fine. This might explain, however, my ex-wife's spooky cat...
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This is your cat on PBDEs. Ok not really.

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Statement regarding the use of bisphenol A

Aug 03 2007 Published by under Natural Sciences

The LA Times has an interesting story about a statement regarding the use of bisphenol A, a compound that has many uses in the plastics industry and also happens to have estrogenic effects.

The scientists -- including four from federal health agencies -- reviewed about 700 studies before concluding that people are exposed to levels of the chemical exceeding those that harm lab animals. Infants and fetuses are most vulnerable, they said.

This is an important point. Organisms in utero can be exquisitely sensitive to growth factors and hormones, sometimes hundreds or even thousands of times more sensitive than their adult counterparts. Our youngin's should be the first place we look for effects of bisphenol A exposure.

The statement, published online by the journal Reproductive Toxicology, was accompanied by a new study by researchers from the National Institutes of Health finding uterine damage in newborn animals exposed to BPA. That damage is a possible predictor of reproductive diseases in women, including fibroids, endometriosis, cystic ovaries and cancers. It is the first time BPA has been linked to female reproductive tract disorders, although earlier studies have found early-stage prostate and breast cancer and decreased sperm counts in animals exposed to low doses.

Note the cautionary nature of the statement, which is appropriate given that we don't have any human studies to back up these statements. It is important to note that....

The scientists' statement and new study -- along with five accompanying scientific reviews that summarize the 700 studies -- intensify a highly contentious debate over whether the plastic compound poses a public threat. So far no governmental agency here or abroad has restricted its use.

...but there is legitimate concern. Humans are likely to be exposed to more bisphenol A than are our rodent test subjects. This stuff is in literally just about every single plastic we use. And bisphenol A isn't the only estrogenic compound in use today, by a long shot. It's possible that bisphenol A might act synergistically with other compounds to mess us up developmentally, or contribute to various forms of cancer, who knows. I think this statement expresses a good balance of skepticism and plausibility.

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