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The Newest Sea Creatures-Inspired Tea Bags Strengthen Japanese Tea Tradition

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In Japanese culture, tea is more than just a drink. The tea ceremony, also known as “Way of Tea,” has been an essential part of Japan’s culture for centuries. This high-valued celebration is matched with a performance that mirrors grace and beauty, accompanied by a ritual activity that strengthens the familial relationship.

For centuries, the country relies on its tea business — not just to adhere to its venerable tradition — but because drinking tea has been a part of Japanese daily routine. As companies continue to venture in tea business, creative approaches on how to spice up one’s tea packaging are also booming. One great example is the recent innovation of the Japanese company known as “Ocean Teabag” — which takes the challenge of creating a different and unique approach to tea bags.

For tea lovers, the new design becomes a “breath of fresh air” since traditional tea bags have not changed for many years. The company decides to team up with an oddity shop and a local bookstore called “Village Vanguard” to produce the new animal-themed teabags that can alter people’s mood by just looking at the cute design.

Ocean Teabag was created by Takahashi Shota, who launched the first-ever product with a dolphin design in 2015. It became the talk of the town, which transpired Shota to create another set of animals to the product line. The business gained orders from outside the country — making Ocean Tea Bag be the first and only company to introduce unique designs to teabags.

Source: ocean-teabag

The custom of drinking tea, mainly for medicinal purposes, can now be associated with pleasurable reasons. From drinking the most boring bland tea comes to the new sea creature-inspired teabags. The design elevates the daily tea ritual into a zoological adventure; ranging from giant squids, otters, to red Pandas and cephalopods. Layers, folds, and perforations create the details of each creature’s body, while the outside packaging mirrors with that of the inside. So, customers will know through the wrapping what animals to choose for their tea sessions.

Source: ocean-teabag

The tea bags can be bought online or through personal transactions at a sum of 1,820 yen or $16. These tea bags once dipped, add life to your daily tea routines, simply because of the delicate folds, which look like an animal is swimming in your tea.

Source: ocean-teabag

Tea was initially valued as medicine because of its health benefits and was only available to rich people like the noblemen and emperors. The first documented evidence of tea session in Japan dates back to the 9th century when it was brought by the Buddhist monks after studying the tea culture in China.

The monks personally served “Sencha,” an unground Japanese green tea, to the famous Emperor Saga. Japanese nobles, later on, practice it, and through an imperial order in the year 816. And since then, tea plantations had become widespread in different regions of Japan.

Until today, tea becomes a daily beverage of both the affluent class and the ordinary people. It has become a symbol of a growing relationship among Japanese and their families, even nobles and commoners.

Aside from drinking tea as a way to bond and relax, one reason for the emerging tea businesses is the proven benefits of tea in our bodies. According to a study conducted by a group of researchers from Ohio State University in Colombus, tea, mainly green tea, has shown to help fight obesity and inflammation. The findings indicated that the said tea encourages the growth of good gut bacteria which lowers the risk of obesity.

However, today, Japan faces one of the pressing issues with regards to its tea farming. The Japanese Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry in 2016 indicated that the area used for tea farming declined from 46200 hectares to 43100.

Although Japan is the eight largest tea producer in the world, tea farming itself, unfortunately, decreased in the past years. One reason is the continued support of local government to private companies which build establishment and other infrastructures in areas where tea farming is mostly found.

With this, the country relies mostly on tea imports from other countries, including China. Ocean Tea Bag supports local tea producers and hopes that its newest sea creature-inspired tea bags will continue the country’s tea tradition and strengthen the bond between Japan and its people.

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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Germany Will Make Measles Vaccine Mandatory Through New Law

Germany aims to pass a new law to increase immunity coverage to 95% all throughout the country

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Photo by Artem Beliaikin on Unsplash

Germany is well on its way with establishing a new law that will compulsorily make parents give their children the needed measles vaccine — aiming to combat the resurging of the disease in the country.

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cabinet decided Wednesday, July 17, that they will pass the Measles Protection Act, which was adopted July 19.

“Whether in kindergarten, at the childminder or at school, we want to protect all children against measles infection,” Jens Spahn, Germany’s Health Minister, said in a statement.

“Measles is extremely contagious and can take a very nasty, at times deadly, turn,” the Minister added.

The new law will require all German children to take the recommended vaccine shots before admission to kindergarten or school next year or before March 1, 2020.

The law is also mandatory over adults or staff working in daycare centers or other educational institutions.

Source: DPA

Furthermore, parents will have to prove that their children have been vaccinated before entering school or kindergarten through a vaccination certificate called “Kinderuntersuchungsheft,” which is a special booklet that parents fill out, documenting their child’s vaccines or by a medical certificate that shows that the child already had measles.

Reluctance or violating the law will receive a fine of up to 2,500 euros ($2,800) under the bill that is expected to pass quickly through the Bundestag lower house of parliament.

“We want to protect as many children as possible from measles infection,” said Health Minister Spahn, who is aiming for at least 95 percent coverage.

While 97 percent of German children had their first dose, the percentage that received the second dose dropped to 93 percent. Furthermore, some regions fall short on the desired quota at the federal level. The vaccination rate against measles in Germany is currently at 92.9 percent, but it has been falling in recent years.

Through this new law, German authorities hope to bump their coverage well above 95 percent, the level recommended by the World Health Organization to achieve a sturdy “herd immunity” against measles.

Furthermore, the new law also applies to doctors and other adults working in a community or medical facilities. In accordance, they too will also need to prove that they have had the required vaccinations. On top of that, the bill will also require asylum seekers and refugees to prove their vaccination status if they move into community accommodation.

The UN World Health Organization (WHO) has warned that global efforts to increase immunization coverage against deadly diseases are stagnating and is significantly contributing to the resurgence of measles worldwide.

Last year, 350,000 cases of measles were reported, more than double the number for 2017. In the same year, the most recent year for which estimates are available, measles killed close to 110,000 people.

In the first quarter of 2019, the number of reported measles cases globally increased fourfold as compared to the same period last year. The WHO has deemed vaccine hesitancy — the reluctance or refusal to vaccinate despite the availability of vaccines — a top 10 threat to global health this year.

The resurgence of the disease also relates to the hesitation and fear in developed countries, with the United States taking the lead on the highest rate of reported cases.

Particularly for Europe, who saw a large influx in measles cases, witnessed 82,596 new cases of measles in 2018 — a staggering 15 times the record low in 2016.

Germany was among the worst affected countries, with around 651 new measles cases being reported to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), and in the first months of this year, there are already more than 400 cases that have been reported. 

The report comes after Germany’s efforts of making vaccinations compulsory at a regional level in the state of Brandenburg. Today the country is making a full swing against the disease by enforcing the law throughout the country.

The law will still need the approval of the German parliament. But the large government majority is seemingly supportive of the move and is expected to pass without difficulty. However, the law is criticized by the Greens, who felt the vaccines should be encouraged, but not mandatory.

Related: New York Moves To Rule Out Religious Exemption For Vaccines

The resurgence of the disease in some countries has been blamed on the so-called “anti-vax” movement, which is largely based on a 1998 publication linking the measles vaccine and autism that has since been debunked.

Also faced with an increasing number of measle outbreaks, a handful of other countries around the world have introduced mandatory vaccinations, including France, Italy, and Australia. 

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The Future Of Child Care: Smart Diapers

Lumi by Pampers is a smart diaper system that allows parents to track their babies’ sleeping and peeing patterns right off their smartphones.

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Photo: Lumi by Pampers Website

Recent technological advancements have made it possible to make everything we use in our daily lives smart — phones, locks, homes, remote controls, TV, and diapers. Yes, you read that right: smart diapers.

Pampers, the world’s leading diaper and infant product brand, is set to launch its take for smart diapers. The company announced that it would be launching the new smart diaper line, called Lumi, with the capability of tracking baby urination patterns and sending insights right into a parent’s smartphone.

“Beyond keeping them dry through the night, we wondered: how can we do more to support babies’ daily development?” the company asked as they start to develop the ingenious product.

“So we partnered with Verily and Logitech to create Lumi by Pampers — the world’s first all-in-one connected care system that’s revolutionizing baby monitoring by helping parents monitor and track their baby 24/7. By combining a video monitor with an activity sensor, Lumi helps parents blend real-time data with their intuition seamlessly and offers insights tailored to their unique baby using the Lumi by Pampers app.”

Pampers partnered with Verily, Alphabet Inc.’s research organization devoted to the study of life sciences, and Logitech, a Swiss provider of personal computers and mobile peripherals, to develop the said smart diaper, as well as, the Lumi app.

Furthermore, the smart diaper was also developed with the help of leading pediatricians, Dr. Wendy Sue Swanson, and Dr. Earl Young.

According to Pampers, Lumi has activity sensors that automatically tracks baby’s activities like wet diapers and sleep. And the information gathered by the diaper will be sent to an app which shows “routine, insights and all you need to know in one place.”

The initial package includes a ten-day pack of diapers, as well as, a 24-hour camera monitor. The 1080p wide-angle HD monitor with night vision and two-way audio also track room temperature and humidity. Additional packs of Lumi by Pamper diapers will be sold separately, and pricing has not been finalized yet.

Lumi can track “your baby’s sleep, so you know how much they’re getting.” According to Pampers, “sleep fuels the fastest rate of brain development, which happens between ages of 0-3.” The app also tracks your baby’s feeding, diapering, sleep routines, and critical milestones.

“With our all-in-one system, you can monitor your baby’s unique patterns and see emerging routines.”

Aside from that, Lumi also personalizes insights and sends a notification to the parents via the app. “Lumi offers content tailored to your baby from The Wonder Weeks® and our team of baby development experts, to help you better understand your baby’s overall development,” they said.

The concept of the smart diaper is part of a global movement called the Internet of Things (IoT), which allows users to track everything through the things that they commonly use — from the number of knocks on the door to the frequency of opening the refrigerator, and to how well someone brushes their teeth.

As IoT becomes an everyday innovation across all industry, baby’s healthcare has recently been flooded by new smart products to help new and old parents to track the progress of their babies’ growth. A similar concept was previously launched by Pampers’ competitor, Huggies, where their smart diapers have the capability of notifying parents every time their babies pooped.

Other products that have the IoT technology includes a robotic crib that was said to mimic the womb to help new infants sleep soundly and some onesies that double as a sleeping pattern tracker for babies.

Pediatricians around the world have been reminding parents to track their baby’s growth consistently. Tracking allows them to be alerted when the baby is constipated, or if the baby is dehydrated, among other things that might seem wrong based on aggregate data. This is particularly essential because early diagnosis helps parents secure their baby’s health more efficiently.

While there is a plethora of tracking apps already around the market, Lumi is the first that has an activity sensor that sends aggregate data directly to the parents and makes a smart analysis of “what is happening.” The problem with Lumi, however, is that it tops out at size four, and offers no further support after the baby outgrows them.

The product is yet to be available for public purchase, and the price has not been finalized yet. But Pampers opens a site where interest parents can pre-order Lumi on a waiting-list basis.

“60 years ago, we reimagined baby care with the first disposable diaper. Lumi by Pampers is the next step in our mission to continue re-inventing baby care,” reads Lumi’s website.

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Israeli Researchers Test Drug That Starves Pancreatic Cancer Cells To Death

Isreali researchers believe that CPI-613 can effectively help expedite the process of curing pancreatic cancer of patients.

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Image by David Mark from Pixabay

Reimagining a conventional way of attacking cancer is Rafael Pharmaceuticals’ idea of aiding a more immediate way of treating patients with pancreatic cancer, which is one of the most leading causes of death from cancer in the world.

Israeli researchers from Rafael Pharmaceuticals launched a phase III clinical trial on Thursday for pancreatic cancer at eight sites throughout Israel, which the company sees as a breakthrough for the drug that they are developing.

Rafael Pharmaceuticals is a leader in the growing field of cancer metabolism-based therapeutics. Supplementarily, their approach to helping expedite the process of extinguishing pancreatic cancer from patients is to starve the cancer cells to death with the help of other existing medical solutions.

Meanwhile, the concept of starving cancer cells has been a long tried approach to attack the problem from the root—starve them enough to prevent them from dividing and cause eventual cell death. However, previous attempts have continuously failed to show much promise that proves it to become an effective track to follow.

As an effort, Rafael Pharmaceuticals is looking at a drug called CPI-613, which activates two key tricarboxylic acids (TCA) cycle enzymes called Pyruvate dehydrogenase and alpha-Ketoglutaric dehydrogenase. Particularly, these TCA cycle enzymes are responsible for signaling cells to release stored energy.

Basically, CPI-613 mimics the processes of chemical reactions performed by the two mentioned above TCA cycle enzymes. But specific to the drug, it “feeds misinformation to these regulatory elements, making them feel that there is too much carbon flow” and signal cancer cells to release stored energy. Essentially, the cells eventually die or weakened as a result.

Tim Pardee, Rafael’s Chief Medical Officer, also noted that the drug also offers many benefits: “[CPI-613] simultaneously inhibits both complexes so tumor cells that are primarily driven by glucose cannot utilize glucose in the TCA cycle. Tumor cells that are primarily driven by glutamine usage cannot use glutamine-derived carbons in the TCA cycle. And, importantly, tumors cannot switch from one source to the other in the presence of CPI-613.”

In other words, one benefit with their drug is that cancer cells cannot utilize their primary source of energy, such as glucose, to grow and replicate because CPI-613 feeds them information that there is already an abundance of which. While the second benefit is that for the cells to develop resistance to the drug is unlikely, and the third, the drug is highly selective; thus, it will hardly cause significant damage to healthy cells.

Pardee adds that CPI-613 combined with other existing treatments such as chemotherapy can effectively expedite the process of curing pancreatic cancer, at least that is what their clinical trial is trying to prove.

As of the moment, the researchers are looking to perform phase III on a group that they are calling the AVENGER 500, where the first 250 people diagnosed with late-stage pancreatic cancer will be administered CPI-613 with a chemotherapy combination of fluorouracil, leucovorin, irinotecan, and oxaliplatin, called FOLFIRINOX. Meanwhile, the next 250 will only receive chemotherapy treatment.

If the theory serves right, the pharmaceutical company will yield positive results by September 2020, and the company will be able to apply and receive expedited approval by the FDA. If not, he said that the earliest the drug would be on the market from this trial would be October 2021.

The trial kicked off at eight hospitals throughout the country, including Hillel Yaffe Medical Center, Yitzhak Shamir Medical Center, Soroka Medical Center, Sheba Medical Center, Rambam Health Care Campus, Laniado Hospital, Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center and Shaare Zedek Medical Center.

In particular with pancreatic cancer, it is the 12th most common cancer worldwide, with 458,918 new cases in 2018 alone. It is the fourth leading cause of cancer death and accounts for 7% of all cancer deaths, according to Cancer.Net.

Furthermore, the problematic thing about pancreatic cancer is that it is hard to detect early on, so researchers are hell-bent into finding solutions for the disease when it is already in its late stages, or it is already too late to administer early-on medical treatments.

Thus, the five-year survival rate for people with pancreatic cancer is 9%. For the 52% of people who are diagnosed after cancer has spread, the 5-year survival rate is 3%, Cancer.Net says.

“Every day, more than 1,200 people around the world receive a pancreatic cancer diagnosis, and our trial brings hope as the only Phase 3 clinical trial in metastatic pancreatic cancer,” said Sanjeev Luther, President and Chief Executive Officer of Rafael Pharmaceuticals. “The expansion of our trial into Israel is the first step in bringing our commitment to developing treatments for patients with significant unmet medical needs to a global level.”

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