Friday, August 17, 2012

A step in the right direction, if you ask me

Saw this little article floating in my AAPA news-watch this morning. I bet all you ladies are hoping this gets taken to the next level:

Study in mice raises hopes for birth control pill for men

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CHICAGO | Thu Aug 16, 2012 1:17pm EDT
(Reuters) - U.S. researchers have stumbled on a compound that may finally lead to a birth control pill for men.
In lab experiments, male mice given the pill were rendered completely infertile during treatment as they produced fewer and less mobile sperm. The drug, originally tested as part of a broader cancer research project, does not affect the hormone system or sex drive, the team said on Thursday.
"There is no effect on the mouse's mojo. The animals exhibit the normal sexual behaviors and frequency of copulation," said Dr. James Bradner of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, whose study appears in the journal Cell.
What's more, the effect is completely reversible. Once doctors stopped giving the drug to mice, they were able to sire healthy litters, with no apparent side effects, Bradner said.
Scientists say the research is exciting because it applies a unique approach to the problem of male contraception, which is now largely comprised of less reliable methods like condom use, or more permanent procedures like vasectomies.
Bradner's lab focuses on developing new drugs to undermine the molecular memory of cancer cells that tell them to divide. Those memory markers are distributed throughout the genome, the DNA that makes up a person's genetic code, and Bradner likens them to post-it notes that give cells instructions.
The team was experimenting with a compound developed in Bradner's lab called JQ1, which was originally synthesized at Dana-Farber to block BRD4, a cancer-causing gene.
They discovered that it appears to target a protein specific to the testes called BRDT that instructs sperm to mature. Bradner said the compound does not appear to do damage to sperm-making cells, but they forget how to create mature sperm while under the influence of the drug.
Bradner reached out to reproductive health expert Martin Matzuk of Baylor College of Medicine, another author of the report, and his team tested the compound in mice.
What they found is that the animals began producing fewer sperm, and the ones they did produce were poor swimmers.
"When the drug is removed, these instructions return," Bradner said.
The finding was surprising because few drugs are able to cross a protective firewall known as the blood-testes barrier that protects the testicles from substances floating around in the blood stream.
William Bremner from the University of Washington in Seattle, who was not involved in the research, said in a commentary the finding was "a breakthrough new approach," noting that there has not been a new reversible contraceptive for men since the development of the condom centuries ago.
"It's exciting basic science that provides a new approach to think about how a contraceptive for men might be designed," Bremner said in a telephone interview. "At the same time, it's a long ways from being in clinical trials in men, let alone being on pharmacy shelves."
Other teams have developed hormonal pills that are effective, but they disrupt hormone balance in men, and drug companies so far have not picked up on this approach, Bremner said.
Professor Moira O'Bryan, head of the Male Infertility and Germ Cell Biology Laboratory at Monash University in Australia, said the study was "an exciting report that could have major scientific and social impacts."
O'Bryan said the strong similarity between sperm production in mice and humans suggest that a variation of the drug may ultimately result in a human contraception for men.
Bradner said his team is working to refine the drug so that it only acts on cells in the testes, and not on cancer cells.
And while there are many more tests ahead before it can be a drug, the researchers believe the new approach can be "completely translated to men, providing a novel and efficacious strategy for a male contraceptive."
(Reporting by Julie Steenhuysen; Editing by Michele Gershberg and Vicki Allen)

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Secret of Life: A Reflection

Here's another repost for your enjoyment taken from another blog I like to follow, A Country Doctor Writes. This is a big time of change for me, so I felt this piece appropriate for the times to remind us all to keep moving forward:

The Secret Of Life

The secret of life is enjoying the passage of time”
                    James Taylor
One of my wife’s mentors has a 104-year-old aunt, who on her 100th birthday was asked to reveal the secret of her longevity.
“I always have something to look forward to” was her answer.
Wisdom, happiness and longevity aren’t confined to people in cathedrals or ivory towers. They can be found in seemingly ordinary people in the most ordinary places. James Taylor, in his song “Secret O’ Life”, goes on to say, “any fool can do it”. Similarly, the Bible tells us to be more child-like (Matthew 18:4).
That doesn’t mean you have to be childish or think like a fool to enjoy life. It does mean that finding happiness is not complicated, and we sometimes get so wrapped up in our own thinking that we fail to see the simplicity in some of the universal truths about life as well as the beauty of life itself.
Observing which of my patients live well and handle age, illness and adversity the best, I see the power of this every day.
Jungian therapist Robert A. Johnson describes in his book, “Transformation: Understanding the three levels of masculine consciousness”, how the male psyche evolves from simple man (exemplified by Don Quixote), who asks “What’s for dinner?” to complicated man (Hamlet), who asks “What does it all mean?” to enlightened man (Faust), who asks “What’s for dinner?”
Too many of us dwell on the past – what we lost, what we never had, what we should or shouldn’t have done. Too many of us spin our wheels over-analyzing the present. Too many of us fritter away our days and our lives imagining or pining for distant futures at the expense of the present moment.
There is nothing wrong with thinking about the past, but we must each find our own way of making peace with it. There is nothing wrong with trying to understand our present circumstances, but not all of it will make sense to us now. Sometimes it takes years or a lifetime to understand the things we go through in life. There is nothing wrong with having dreams and goals, but we must somehow find joy in the journey towards those goals without feeling that we are wasting our time in our present life, since for some of us, that is all we’ll ever have.
Wisdom, like happiness, can’t be bought or taught. It is only occasionally learned in formal education settings through rigorous study and practice. More often it is earned through hardship and experience. It is gained when we look deep inside ourselves and acknowledge what we see. In the words of C. G. Jung, One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious”.
In medicine, wisdom is partly gained by being wrong, or at least humbled by facing the limitations of our knowledge. But clinical wisdom must be paired with human wisdom as well as some of that simple joy of life James Taylor sang about, so that we can truly be of help to our patients. Nietzsche, in words that could have been written for practicing physicians, said:
“There is one thing one has to have: either a soul that is cheerful by nature, or a soul made cheerful by work, love, art, and knowledge.”
That is the hope I carry, that my love of medicine, of my wife, my family, and of the arts and the beauty around me will help me be joyful in my daily living. I hope that love will sustain me as the alarm continues to ring at 05:10 on bright summer mornings as well as dark, howling winter ones, this year and for many more years to come.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Ice Cream vs. Frozen Yogurt

I apologize for the hiatus, however, my posts will be fewer for at least another week or two for a multitude of reasons. With that said, here is a little treat to tie you over:

Frozen Yogurt Vs. Ice Cream

The debate on frozen yogurt vs. ice cream is catching on like wildfire! So which is better? This article dwells on the difference between frozen yogurt and ice cream. Read on...
How many ice cream lovers have shifted their loyalties to frozen yogurt, simply because they got weight conscious? Most people believe that frozen yogurt is a healthier choice as compared to ice cream. Today, frozen yogurt is being considered to be something like ice cream and is served in several flavors, with different toppings, etc. According to the USDA, 62.4% of US production was regular ice cream in 2007, with low-fat and non-fat ice cream at 25% and frozen yogurt at 4.4%. However, what's the truth? Which is better?

Ice cream

Ice creams are frozen desserts prepared from dairy products, such as milk, cream, fruits, flavors and other ingredients. Most ice cream varieties are made from sugar, however, there are some made with other sweeteners. Sometimes, instead of natural ingredients, artificial flavorings and colorings are also used. People with lactose intolerance symptoms have ice creams made from soy milk and rice milk as well.

Ice cream comprises milk fat (10-16 %), milk solids (9-12 %), sweeteners (12-16%), stabilizers and emulsifiers (0.2-0.5%), water (55-65 %), which comes from milk or other ingredients. All the ingredients are mixed and stirred slowly while cooling, thereby preventing formation of large crystals and conducing to smoothly textured ice cream. Today, ice creams are available in all parts of the globe and are sold in large cartons in grocery stores and supermarkets.

Frozen Yogurt

Frozen yogurt is a frozen dessert prepared from yogurt, rather than cream. In the 1970s, this dessert was introduced as a healthier alternative to ice cream, however, its yogurt like consistency and tart taste lead to complaining customers. In response to these complaints, manufacturers spearheaded the production of a frozen yogurt recipe that would pacify the palettes of the consumers. In 1980s, frozen yogurt made a comeback and reached sales of $25 million in 1986. By the early 1990s, frozen yogurt had captured 10% of the dessert market. In frozen yogurt, the cream of the ice cream is replaced by the yogurt, however, the other ingredients are more or less the same.

Frozen yogurt comprises yogurt culture, milk fat (comprises about 0.5-6% of yogurt), milk solids (form 8-14% of yogurt's volume), gelatin, sweetener, coloring, corn syrup and flavoring. The milk fat accounts for the yogurt's richness and the milk solids provide proteins for smoothness, increased resistance to melting and lactose for sweetness. Frozen yogurt can be prepared in an ice cream machine, however, major companies often use assembly lines, specifically designed for yogurt production. 
Ice Cream Vs. Frozen Yogurt
Today, frozen yogurt is available in several flavors and styles, just like ice cream. Both ice cream and frozen yogurt are known to be nutritious with large amounts of high quality protein, calcium, riboflavin and some other essential vitamins and minerals. While ice creams contain 10-18% of fat content by weight, frozen yogurt usually has lesser amounts of fat content. Fat-free yogurt also exist, however, they often have even more added sugar, as compared to other varieties.

While considering the difference between frozen yogurt and ice cream, people often tend to halt at the fat and sugar content present in them. It's true that frozen yogurt contain less fat content than ice creams and that certain organic frozen yogurt are low-calorie and non-fat, however, one cannot just stop here and draw conclusions. The major health benefit of frozen yogurt goes beyond the horizons of fat and sugar content and stretches to its probiotic content.

Yogurt is actually fermented food, which is made by adding live bacterial cultures to milk. These bacteria spearhead fermentation in the milk and release lactic acid. The acid thickens the milk proteins and causes them to form a thick substance. Consumption of yogurt causes these live bacteria to enter the body and assist various beneficial bacteria in the body. These live bacterial cultures present in frozen yogurt promote better digestion. Probiotic content means good bacterial content, which helps boost the body's immune system, enhances digestion and is also believed to lower cholesterol levels.

Moreover, the amount of lactose present in frozen yogurt is more digestible, as compared to the lactose present in ice creams. This is because frozen yogurt contains enzymes which assist in breaking down dairy products, thereby enabling people with lactose intolerance to ingest frozen yogurt with minimal or no ill effects.

Frozen yogurt, with its additional benefits over ice cream, of greater digestibility, low-fat content and presence of probiotic cultures has caused it to be favored over regular ice creams. However, it is important to note that a great amount of sugar is added in frozen yogurt, which does not make it as healthy as regular yogurt. It is best to view frozen yogurt (health wise), midway between plain yogurt and ice cream. It is best to maintain a balanced consumption ratio. Each is known for its own benefits, so enjoy them proportionately. Hope this article was informative and helpful!
Last Updated: 11/2/2011

*Taken from, original article linked in the title