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NASA Discovered Disease-Causing Bacteria In The ISS; Possibly Harm Astronauts

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NASA Discovered Disease-Causing Bacteria In The ISS; Possibly Harm Astronauts

NASA shared its latest discovery, and this time it does not talk about human exploration on Mars, Lunar landing, and possible life on another planet. Instead, its recent finding scares Astronauts, as it claims that the ISS is infested with bacteria that could harm space travelers.

A team of NASA researches, including an Indian-origin scientist has discovered that the surface inside the International Space Station (ISS) is littered with microbes, just like an ordinary public place on earth which threatens astronauts’ health at orbiting the laboratory. According to the study conducted, the knowledge on the microbial and fungal communities on the ISS can be used to develop safety precautions for future missions.

NASA confessed in the open access journal Microbiome, that specific microbes in indoor spaces on Earth have been shown to have negative implications on human health. This is also the same with what they have found in ISS surfaces, which can also create significant impact and will weaken the health status of spacemen on their long term space travel.

NASA added that the said microbes would help the space organization to develop and create ways, as well as, preventions on how to stop these bacteria from infecting every astronaut. Dr. Kasthuri Venkateswaran, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and a corresponding author said that the discovery is necessary for the astronauts during spaceflight, as they have altered immunity and do not have access to the sophisticated medical interventions available on Earth.

Today, it is widely reported to understand the possible real danger spacemen will be facing throughout their journey outside earth; if the bacteria has not been identified earlier. The researchers, whose primary goal is to keep these explorers away from any potential harm including microbial invasion, used several techniques to analyze the surface of ISS.

They mainly used traditional culture techniques and gene sequencing methods to analyze surface samples collected in eight locations on the ISS, which includes the viewing window, toilet, exercise platform, dining table and sleeping quarters, during three flights across 14 months. This allowed researchers to examine if and how the microbial and fungal populations differed between locations and over time.

Significant results were delivered after the examination and made available to interpretation by the NASA people. The authors indicated that fungal communities were stable, meaning to say they remain unchanged throughout the entire duration of the test. On the other hand, microbial communities were similar across locations but changed over time.

Looking at the microbes, the researchers explained that these bacteria on ISS were mostly human-associated. The most noticeable bacteria were Staphylococcus, Pantoea, and Bacillus. Staphylococcus is a bacterium that typically occurs in clusters resembling grapes, inhabits the skin and mucous membranes usually, and may cause disease.

These bacteria commonly infect the skin, eyes, and urinary tract, and some produce toxins responsible for septicemia (known as blood poisoning), and food poisoning. They included organisms as well that are considered opportunistic pathogens on Earth, such as Staphylococcus aureus which is common in the nasal passage, and Enterobacter that is associated with the human gastrointestinal tract.

What is odd about the findings is that the microbes found are predominant on earth’s public places like gyms, offices, and hospitals which suggest that the ISS is similar to other built environments where the microbiome is shaped by human occupation, according to the study.

However, the researchers do not have a concrete idea whether these opportunistic bacteria could cause diseases in astronauts on the ISS – since it would depend on many factors including the health status of each and how these organisms function while in the space environment. So far, there are six astronauts on board the International Space Station, and their health conditions are reportedly in a good state.

The study provides the first comprehensive understanding of the bacteria and fungi found on surfaces in enclosed space systems. This is a great help and assistance for NASA to improve its safety measures to meet the requirement needed to survive in the thickest part of space on human exploration. Also, the detection of possible disease-causing organisms highlights the importance of further studies to examine how these ISS microbes function in the area.

The results also have a significant impact on human understanding of other confined built environments on earth such as clean rooms used in the pharmaceutical and medical industries. Since the microbes on NASA’s ISS are no different than what we have on Earth, humans will have a deeper comprehension of bacteria found in ordinary public places.

Photo: NIAID

I've been contributing news since 2010, both online and print. Aside from Z6Mag, I manage independent news blogs that provide awareness on a diverse list of topics to every reader.

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Recent Study Discovered CBD Helps Fight Against Heroin Addiction

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CBD Oil. | Photo From: Medical News Today

The legalization of cannabis across some states promises to bring medicinal properties that can help alleviate ailments such as anxiety, depression, and popularly, some cases of Parkinson’s disease.

However, a part of making it legal also enable people to make subjective ailments such as depression and anxiety a reason to purchase the drug and get ‘high.’

Popularly, cannabis has been told to be a gateway drug that allows a person to test the waters before proceeding to something stronger. Ironically, a new study shows that cannabis has the possibility of reversing the effects of addiction.

Researchers from the Mount Sinai Hospital in New York announced that CBD oil helps limit particular cravings and help reduce anxiety for heroin users.

The cannabidiol or CBD is a compound extracted from Cannabis plant that has shown significant potential as a form of medication. Moreover, CBD does not interact with any receptors that causes a person to get high.

“To address the critical need for new treatment options for the millions of people and families who are being devastated by this epidemic, we initiated a study to assess the potential of a nonintoxicating cannabinoid on craving and anxiety in heroin-addicted individuals,” said lead study author Yasmin Hurd, director of the Addiction Institute at Mount Sinai in a statement.

Particularly, Hurd indicates the American opioid epidemic that took the lives of 300,00 people and will continue to do so unless people find ways to address the problem. Hurd tells NBC, “We’re too slow to address addiction in our society. When the flu comes up and the measles comes up, we have so many people trying to help. But we don’t have the same kind of urgency with addiction.”

Primarily, drug addiction is a very tricky and challenging area to study due to every individual’s varying attitudes and behaviors towards drug use. It’s even harder when they’re trying to perform the study on a hundred people through the course of a number of weeks.

Moreover, there is the risk of exposing the participants in a possible case of a relapse. It is known that the hardest part of getting off heroin addiction isn’t the physical longing for the drug. Particularly, medications like methadone and buprenorphine are available to help target the same pathways opioids take to relieve the physical longing.

Sometimes the most challenging part with addiction is avoiding the risk of a relapse. Working around relapse-tense situations is like walking on thin ice. They can be triggered by emotions, sounds, and anything that addicts could associate with their drug use and cause them to suddenly and instinctively crave the drug to alleviate the anxiety. This is where the study shows to have great promise.

Researchers found out that participants who received CBD administration significantly showed reductions in drug cravings. Further, the same participants showed lesser symptoms of anxiety when images of people taking drugs were shown. Moreover, they’ve discovered that CBD had a lasting effect on reducing drug cravings and anxiety, and extending well over when the CBD was supposedly flushed out of the system.

The study could potentially aim at addressing the anxiety factor in drug addiction therapy, which is currently lacking in the industry.

The research consisted of a small group of 42 drug-abstinent men and women aged from 21 to 65 years old who had a history with heroin disorder. They gave half of the participants 400mg or 800mg of CBD oil once daily and the other half with a placebo. The study then experimented on three separate occasions: immediately following administration, 24 hours after CBD or placebo administration, and seven days after the third and final daily CBD or placebo administration.

However, the study is still at its early stages of development, and further investigation is required to fully claim that CBD has anything to do with the results shown. It still is a possibility that other factors may have contributed to the positive findings of the study or, even an entirely different set of external factors.

On the positive side, this is a great breakthrough study that could potentially open the door for more research on alleviating anxiety related to drug abuse, and potentially close the doors on risks of future relapse scenarios.

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Four Women Makes Revolutionary Breast Cancer Diagnostic Tool

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Breast Cancer
Pink Ribbon for Breast Cancer Awareness. Photo From: Amazon

Breast cancer is a global problem that takes people’s lives as swiftly as they come. More particularly, the disease attacks women the most. In 2018, the disease killed over 500,000 women from over 2 million diagnosed cases.

The key idea with these kinds of ailments will always fall under the lines of “prevention is always better than cure.” However, despite major advances in technology that allows us to detect such diseases like in genetics and modern imaging throughout the years, the disease still comes as a surprise and for some, it comes too late.

Unfortunately, a late diagnosis would require more aggressive treatment that’s usually weighed by more medical expenses, all the while dangling on the hope for uncertain outcomes.

Breast cancer is known as the disease of the developed countries where the United States ranks 22nd after countries like Belgium, France, the United Kingdom, and Australia–all from the top 10. However, people from developed countries aren’t the most vulnerable to the disease.

Specifically, countries in less developed countries have a higher chance of death. In 2018, the WHO noted that 50% of the declared cases come from developing countries and 58% of which died from the disease. In other words, receiving news about breast cancer in poorer countries could easily be a death sentence.

Breast cancer survival rates range from 80% or over in North America, Sweden, and Japan to around 60% in middle-income countries, and below 40% in low-income countries, the WHO states.

Moreover, the WHO said that “the low survival rates in less developed countries can be explained mainly by the lack of early detection programs, resulting in a high proportion of women presenting with late-stage disease, as well as by the lack of adequate diagnosis and treatment facilities.”

This is what motivated four women from John Hopkins University to find a solution that could potentially mitigate the mortality rate in developing countries due to breast cancer, as TechCrunch reports. Namely by the biomedical engineering undergrads Laura Hinson, Madeline Lee, Sophia Triantis, and Valerie Zawicki.

Laura Hinson, Madeline Lee, Valerie Zawicki and Sophia Triantis
Photo From: TechCrunch

They identified that women from developing countries experience trouble with treating late-stage breast cancer because a check-up is more of leisure rather than a necessity. With that in mind, cutting costs on detecting medical paraphernalia could dramatically change the outcome for these women.

What these women did was create a new device based on the idea of a core-needled biopsy tool. The tool has a lower risk of contamination than the reusable devices that are currently on the market. Moreover, being reusable, it poises itself from a cheaper vantage point compared to the disposable needles that are the only available alternative as of the moment.

“We’ve designed a novel, disposable portion that attaches to the reusable device and the disposable portion has an ability to trap contaminants that would come back through the needle into the device,” says co-founder, Triantis. “What we’ve created is a way to trap that and have that full portion be disposable and making the device as easy to clean as possible… with a bleach wipe.”

The new, low-cost, disposable core needle biopsy tool can beneficially impact physicians and nurses, through reducing costs and waste, and would decide on having more screening technologies on-hand.

Ithemba’s low-cost reusable core-needle biopsy device
Photo From: TechCrunch

Though, poised as a revolutionary device in breast cancer technology, it would still need to go under medical trials and won’t be available in the market until a couple of years. “Once we get that process solidified and finalize our design we will wrap up our benchtop testing so we can move toward clinical trials by next summer, in 2020,” Zawicki says.

The four women are currently on the process of filing patent rights and developing the final design of the product under the startup they’re calling Ithemba, which means “hope” in Swahili.

At the same time, they are on the process of doing benchtop tests on the device and will look to file a 510K to be certified as a Class 2 medical device.

Zawicki says that it could be anywhere from three to five years before the device makes it on to the market, but there’s the potential for partnerships with big companies in the biopsy space that could accelerate that time to market.

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Groundbreaking Discovery Paves Way To A New Understanding Of Lupus

Researchers from Australian National University found out that previously neglected genetic mutation is a major cause of lupus in a groundbreaking discovery. Click To Tweet

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Scientists have found out thet previously ignored genetic mutation turns out to be the cause of lupus.

For a very long time, the medical world has had very little understanding of the autoimmune disease called lupus, but the dark days for victims of this deadly disease may come to an end as researchers were finally able to determine what causes it.

In a groundbreaking discovery, researchers from Australian National University (ANU) found out and successfully demonstrated that previously ignored genetic mutations are a significant cause of lupus.

Lupus (lupus erythematosus) is a collection of autoimmune diseases in which the human immune system becomes hyperactive and attacks healthy tissues. Symptoms of these diseases can affect many different body systems, including joints, skin, kidneys, blood cells, heart, and lungs. The most common and severe form is systemic lupus erythematosus.

The landmark discovery, entitled “Functional rare and low-frequency variants in BLK and BANK1 contribute to human lupus,” was recently published in Nature Communications Journal. The study was able to “demonstrate the functional consequences of rare and low-frequency missense variants in the interacting proteins BLK and BANK1, which are present alone, or in combination, in a substantial proportion of lupus patients. The rare variants found in patients, but not those found exclusively in controls, impair suppression of IRF5 and type-I IFN in human B cell lines and increase pathogenic lymphocytes in lupus-prone mice.”

With the discovery, a new set of understanding on the cause of the disease can be paramount in developing new treatments to put an end to the pain caused by this uncured illness and can potentially save lives in the future.

The main researchers of the study were ANU’s Dr. Simon Jian, Dr. Vicki Athanasopoulos, and Professor Carola Vinuesa. Because of them, the day when the understanding of lupus is finally over. Dr. Jiang, one of the researchers, working on the study, has spent six years analyzing the genetic instructions locked in DNA, which lead to the disease.

“We have shown for the first time how rare gene variants that occur in less than one percent of the population cause lupus and how these variants drive the disease in the body,” said Dr. Jiang, from the Centre for Personalised Immunology, an NHMRC Centre for Research Excellence at ANU.

Dr. Simon Jiang. Photo: Australia National University

Dr. Jiang noted that until their study, these genetic variants were neglected and their effect on autoimmunity and related auto-immune diseases were negligible. But the new research showed otherwise.

“We’ve shown how most lupus patients harbor those so-called rare gene variants and how these rare gene variants cause immune cells to no longer work properly […] When the cells no longer work, your immune system struggles to distinguish viruses and bacteria from self, leading to lupus,” said Dr. Jiang.

The groundbreaking discovery can pave the way to a new series of targeted and personalized treatment to people living with lupus and other autoimmune diseases.

“I’ve already started treating people who have these rare gene mutations with targeted therapies instead of bombarding their immune system with non-specific treatments that have lots of side effects—which is the current mainstay of therapy […] And because the genes we have worked on are linked to other autoimmune diseases, our discovery could also be applied to conditions like rheumatoid arthritis and type 1 diabetes.”

Interestingly, according to the researchers, the discovery can also help medical doctors and researchers determine how severe an individual’s lupus is, on top of the way the said disease can be targeted through personalized treatment.

“Lupus is a disease that can be very hard to diagnose. You can have a lot of illnesses that look like lupus, smell like lupus, but we can’t formally call it lupus […] It now will only take a few weeks to get a patient’s genome sequence. We can look at how the immune system is behaving, take blood tests, and with genome sequencing, we can fit the pieces together and see if it is lupus,” Dr. Jiang added.

As a pioneering discovery, Dr. Jiang considers their work as his personal success story and a victory in itself for he has seen so many people who have lupus.

“When I was a junior doctor, I had a patient in her 40s who died because of an autoimmune condition, and we just could not figure out what was wrong. That shouldn’t happen, and it affected me a lot. I’d like to think if she came to me nowadays I’d be able to do something different. I hope I’d be able to save her life,” he said.

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