Monday, December 31, 2012

The Good Things About Oxidation


This is incomplete but I really want to be done with it for now. Expect difficulties, provide criticism.

For decades we have been assailed with the evils of oxidation. This paper argues that we are mistaken, that oxidation is not always bad but is an adaptive mechanism to address pathological insults. It is a challenging and fascinating hypothesis. The author provides some interesting insights that help elucidate the current contradictions between cellular based studies and epidemiological studies, the former indicating benefits from antioxidants and the latter finding no evidence, or even evidence of harm, from heavy anti-oxidant loading.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Who is the Strongest?

It is strange the sort of things that pop into my inbox and draw my attention. An article from Psychcentral highlighted yet again why I expect mental illness treatment to remain problematic for sometime to come. The article is entitled,, "The Myth of the Strong Person."

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Psychotherapy and Drugs: A Dangerous Combination?

Recent comments by baz on previous post have drawn me away from the endless reading that is slowly destroying my life and harkened me back to the original idea in relation to that post. My original thought was this:

The use of drugs simultaneously with psychotherapy has value but must be carefully managed. Inducing behavioral change in a patient whose mental state is under the influence of powerful drugs may instantiate the desired behavior change that can easily be lost once the drugs are discontinued simply because the behavior change was created in that context. 
Today I read this: 

Beware small positive studies. By Neuroskeptic.

When selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) were introduced for depression, effect sizes greater than 1.0 were reported, which created their legacy as a wonder drug. Over the course of 20 years, the mean effect size of SSRIs decreased to around 0.3. A similar trend was demonstrated for cognitive-behavioral therapy.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Psychiatry, Psychology, and Philosophy

6/11/2012 3:31PM

One of the more puzzling features of the mental health profession is the refusal to engage in a rigourous analysis of their own assumptions. It is as if they ignore the warning of Bertrand Russell when he advised that one of the first goals in philosophy is to recognise that a problem exists. Psychiatry is wedded to an excessively reductionist view of behavior , it is as if they have never encountered the concept of emergent properties let alone realised that a bottom up approach to understanding a complex system is almost always doomed to fail when there are many variables in play. The brain is the penultimate complex system. (Perhaps, given we don't know what brains do it may turn out that the processes are very simple, like a series of reiterations of very simple processes.) The psychologists catch and grab and whatever therapy comes along until it is eventually seen to be just another therapy offering little more than the placebo effect. Carl Rogers may deserve more credit than he is given today. Paradoxically the placebo effect may be the principle benefit in many therapeutic interventions but of course neither psychiatrists or psychologists would admit that because that would constitute a problem for them. No-one likes having the foundations of their concepts challenged. It is painful and could demand a complete re-appraisal of a conceptual structure. Hard work.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Society Without God - Phil Zuckerman(Review)

Phil Zuckerman, Professor of Sociology at Pitzer College

New York University Press. 

Phil Zuckerman does a good job in dismantling the common mis-perception that religion is essential for society. Focusing on Denmark and Sweden, two countries notably lacking in religious affiliation and influence, the author demonstrates how in these countries the lack of religiosity has not turned them into hell holes of depravity and chaos but rather are outstanding examples of peaceful societies where individuals can enjoy their environment without fear of being mugged or murdered.

Friday, October 19, 2012

The Age of Empathy - Frans De Waal(Review)

If you are one of the great many who subscribes to the view that nature is red in tooth and claw, that humans are fundamentally and biologically selfish and only culture constrains our selfish impulses, please read this book. After you have done that, send a copy to your local politician! By golly they certainly need huge doses of the author's wisdom and insight.

In many of the developed nations the last 30 years has been marked by a distinct cultural shift towards a more Ayn Rand type view of human behavior. I have no idea why anyone would trust a philosopher to instruct them about human behavior, it is like asking a child to create quantum mechanics.

Frans De Waal, in the great tradition of Darwin and all good science, seeks to enlighten us as to the origins of our behavior by referencing not theories and intuitions, but observations tempered by a rigorous empiricism. The Age of Empathy is an outstanding piece of work.  

Thursday, October 4, 2012

The Mankind Project: Modern Man Mythologised

Warning: this is a rant. If you like the idea of rediscovering your masculinity then don't bother reading on because you will be offended in every paragraph. Later on in this post I will attempt to give a dispassionate analysis that addresses the philosophical underpinnings of The Mankind Project.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Sunshine, Pathogen Genocide, Vitamin D, Happiness, and Cognition

Immunology has long fascinated me. Somewhere, sometime I read how the immune system was so sensitive it could identify a self from non-self protein in as little as 10 amino acids. "Crap!" I internally exclaimed even though completely ignorant of immunology at that time. As it turns out ...

Sort of true. That is a class of molecular structures known as PAMPS: pathogen associated molecular patterns.  Charles Janeway is the poster boy on that front. Our innate immune system is sensitized to these patterns. When you crunch numbers in a crude off the top sort of way, the immune system does a remarkably good job at fending off pathogens that have certain mathematical advantages. The challenge is so great that evolution came up with(remarkably!) the heavy and light chains which allow a tremendous ongoing creation of antibody types until there is one that "fits". It is a numbers game and while there are good odds with microbes the odds are bad with viruses because their replication and mutation rates are, relatively speaking, much higher. Two modern viruses are excellent examples of this. Hepatitis C and HIV exist in a variety of variants that will keep expanding. So when you think of mass extinctions remember one viable cause is a tiny molecular structure of only two key components which can wipe out a species very quickly and leave no trace. It dies with the species. That is an unsuccessful virus and not our concern. We are concerned with all the bugs that manage to live on and in us.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Ontological Assumptions of Psychiatry

On the ontological assumptions of the medical model of psychiatry: philosophical considerations and pragmatic tasks

Tejas Patil, James Giordano

Philosophy, Ethics, and Humanities in Medicine 2010, 5:3

Full Text Available here.

A common theme in the contemporary medical model of psychiatry is that pathophysiological processes are centrally involved in the explanation, evaluation, and treatment of mental illnesses. Implied in this perspective is that clinical descriptors of these pathophysiological processes are sufficient to distinguish underlying etiologies. Psychiatric classification requires differentiation between what counts as normality (i.e.- order), and what counts as abnormality (i.e.- disorder). The distinction(s) between normality and pathology entail assumptions that are often deeply presupposed, manifesting themselves in statements about what mental disorders are.
In this paper, we explicate that realism, naturalism, reductionism, and essentialism are core ontological assumptions of the medical model of psychiatry. We argue that while naturalism, realism, and reductionism can be reconciled with advances in contemporary neuroscience, essentialism - as defined to date - may be conceptually problematic, and we pose an eidetic construct of bio-psychosocial order and disorder based upon complex systems’ dynamics. However we also caution against the overuse of any theory, and claim that practical distinctions are important to the establishment of clinical thresholds. We opine that as we move ahead toward both a new edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, and a proposed Decade of the Mind, the task at hand is to re-visit nosologic and ontologic assumptions pursuant to a re-formulation of diagnostic criteria and practice.

This is an interesting paper, especially their treatment of essentialism and the impressive way in which they associate epistemological demands with clinical realities(see the Conclusion). They also present a very good systems theory approach to understanding why psychiatric diagnosis will never have the precision we would like. Below I will address some of their statements but be warned, the paper should be read in full; and carefully. There are some difficult issues here, beware of what seems plausible. As the authors note:
In other words, naturalistic intuitions are not evidence of their content.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

The Truth About Stress

Author: Angela Patmore
Publisher: Atlantic Books, London, 2006

About the Author:

Former University of East Anglia research fellow and International Fulbright Scholar. Her book, Sportsmen Under Pressure(1986) was a Times sports book of the year. The Truth About Stress was shortlisted for the MIND Book of the Year Award 2007.

General Thesis

  1. Stress is a bad concept. Not defined.
  2. The stress response has been pathologised but is vital to our survival.
  3. We are medicalising a response to contingencies when we should be managing those responses to contingencies.
  4. That most drugs to treat anxiety and stress are next to useless if not dangerous.
  5. That the stress industry is largely un-regulated and is costing governments, business, and individuals too much money.
  6. That the best approach to managing stress is to introduce people to stress. Inurement. Basically, train people to cope with stressful events.

page 81
"This [steady state hypothesis of physiology -Cannon's] has led to the fight-or-flight mechanism being viewed as a hard-wired, primitive, malfunctioning sort of bodily self-destruct system, that is even referred to in some of the literature as 'the fight-or-flight syndrome', as though the survival mechanism were an illness."

Sunday, May 20, 2012

What Caused Me?

I thought history had long answered the below issue. 

While we may believe that our moral principles are rigid and based on rational motives, psychological and neuroscientific research is starting to demonstrate that this might not actually be the case.

The Science of Morality

John, now settled into his new locale, finds hope on the website. This series is about understanding human behavior. That is somewhat absurd because we can only understand human behaviors with respect to specific individuals in specific circumstances at specific times and even then we have to attach a margin error of unacceptably large proportions. It is intrinsically impossible to create global models of human behavior, too bloody NP hard by a galactic lifetime or two. So when you hear people talking about models of human behavior, whether it be astrology or psychology, tell said person to be wary of individuals falling from the sky who tried to fly to close to the sun.

One of the striking features of Milgram's research, tucked away into the data, was that of all the groups that were willing to administer lethal doses of electricity to actors feigning pain, Roman Catholics figured prominently in this regard. Now to a person who believes that their behavior is guided by their morality I would like to remind you that during the Japanese militarism of the 30's Zen masters were quite happy to offer their metaphysical support for unmitigated violence and hatred against the Other, once again demonstrating that morality in front of a gun, and behind it, can be remarkably flexible. The Roman Catholic predisposition is much better explained by the fact that Roman Catholics are taught to submit to authority from a very early age. Human beings are like cars: get ém when they are brand new, keep ém clean, service ém regularly, take them places to explore the world, give ém regular baths, take them to parks so they can mix with their own kind, avoid head-on collisions as these damage the steering, don't demand more than they can give but always be prepared to put the foot down when necessary, and you should get a long and reliable service out of car and human.

We think we are in control of our behavior but that is absurd. That is not possible. How can anything be in control of its behavior? Intentionality may be an emergent property but it has its antecedents from which it cannot be divorced. Socrates said: Know Thyself. Arrogant Twit. Camus wrote: Forever shall I be a stranger to myself. Bloody pessimist. It will take another 50 years for the full implications and value of this behavioral research to bear fruit in our public debates. That's good, we need to recognise the mythologies about ourselves. Away with Essentialism, get back in your kennel your naughty little genetic determinist puppy for tomorrow we put you down. 30 years I've waited! I'm going to watch you draw your last breath, hear your last heart beat as I pump in the KCL and no there won't be any anesthetic you sick little puppy.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Immunological Turncoats Ward off Tumour Eradication

Confocal microscope image of a spontaneous breast cancer tumor in a mouse. (Credit: Image courtesy of University of California - San Francisco)

This news report from ScienceDaily highlights how much progress has been made in our understanding of cancer. The picture is beautiful because it presents an image of what has long been suspected. 

As the news article states ....

Instead, these immune cells are headed off at the pass. A completely separate set of healthy cells that are already in contact with the tumor effectively establish a defensive perimeter around it.
This is very important information, it provides insight into one of the fundamental mysteries of cancer: why the immune system can both recognise and mount a T cell attack that gets headed off at the pass. Cancer Immunotherapy began long ago with a chap named Steven Rosenberg ...

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Weinberg on the Big Science Crisis

I was directed to an article by the acclaimed physicist Steven Weinberg through a link in this blog. In the article Weinberg is arguing that in the USA Big Science has already missed some golden opportunities, including building a collider much more powerful than the Cern Large Hadron Collider. The story in about that funding fiasco is sad but common, once again indicating that political concerns too often dominate spending decisions.

The picture is not a pretty one but what really surprised me is that towards the end of the article Weinberg lays out his cards in no uncertain fashion. He is not happy with the economic settings of the USA. Thus ...
I am not an economist, but I talk to economists, and I gather that dollar for dollar, government spending stimulates the economy more than tax cuts. It is simply a fallacy to say that we cannot afford increased government spending. But given the anti-tax mania that seems to be gripping the public, views like these are political poison. This is the real crisis, and not just for science.
It is a difficult issue because the dividends of Big Science can be far into the future. A good example of this is the concept of "spin" in quantum mechanics. During the mid-20's the bods in Copenhagen did realise that they needed more metrics to understand the behavior of an electron and so did find a little known branch of mathematics praise be to drunken Irish mathematicians that allowed them to come up with the property of "spin". Some 60 years later a bod realises that we can use the concept of spin to creating an imaging device that will revolutionise modern medicine, as it has done. MRI is impossible without the concept of "spin".

Read the article by Weinberg. He goes through a long history of major breakthroughs in science and highlights the changing nature of the challenge over the century. This is not the economic time to establish Big Science projects but if we tarry too long that is time irreversibly lost. It reminds me of the challenge to the meta-mathematician Paul Erdos, who used amphetamines for the last 20 years of his life because claimed he could not do mathematics without those drugs. A friend challenged him to stop for one month on the grounds that he had become addicted. Paul Erdos immediately and easily met the challenge. His response to his friend was: you have put off the progress of mathematics by one month. You'll find that story in a great biography of Paul Erdos, The Man Who Loved Only Numbers. How long can we wait? I don't know but I have a sneaking suspicion it could be a very long time because in the coming decades our intellectual energies will be directed to more immediate practical concerns.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Cancer: Death by Suicide or Death by Execution?(Rommel's Dilemma)

Apoptosis, programmed cell death, is a central issue in cancers and the failure of apoptosis allows pre-cancerous cells to become very dangerous. As the article notes ...

Cancer cells can die in several ways, Weiner says. One is a natural process called apoptosis, or programmed cell death, which is a way that the body keeps the cells growing within an organ or body in check. "This is a normal process, so the immune system ignores those cells," Weiner says. Manycancer drugs are designed to promote apoptosis.
See the problem? Apoptosis is way of ensuring that the process of cell death does not lead to nearby cells being attacked by the immune system. The failure of apoptosis may enable tumours to grow but that does not mean increasing apoptosis is always the best way to kill the cells. I even vaguely recall studies suggesting apoptosis can lead to humoral factors that limit the immune response.

The Evolving Tumour

Some people wonder why the challenge of cancer has not been met. Even with the advanced techniques of today the principle strategy for defeating cancer remains personal behavior. The treatments are improving but at a slow rate. This news item highlights that despite all we have learnt about cancer at the molecular level, there are some very important information that we simply fail to discover. Fortunately with so much research going on the representations we can create are increasingly accurate, much more detailed, and slowly but surely coalesce into fruitful schemas that facilitate the development efficacious therapies. This news item calls for a some serious reconsideration of our strategic imperatives.

A tumour can be a hotbed of diversity, British scientists have discovered. Just as different types of tumours have distinct genetic mutations, so do separate parts of the same tumour.

This "Magic Bullet" is Critical for Future Cancer Treatment

Bright future ahead for antibody cancer therapy
March 15, 2012 in CancerAntibodies, once touted as the "magic bullets" of cancer care, are now fulfilling that promise and more advances are on the way, say cancer researchers at the Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center

When we think of antibodies we typically think of an immune response. The reference here is different and is an excellent example of how molecular biology can provide insights that revolutionize clinical treatment.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Stay Hungry to Fight Cancer and Dementia

This is a good news article by David Liu on the Food Consumer website. It relates to how fasting can have significant anti-cancer benefits and is protective of the brain. Latter the article references Professor Mattson, who long ago wrote a fascinating little article entitled, "Starve me and watch my brain run". He is now investigating the possibility of intermittent fasting as an anti-dementia strategy. After reading his previous work and that of others I long ago decided that intermittent fasting is one of the best things we can do for our health in general and cancer and cognitive function in particular. This is good epidemiological, physiological, and cellular data to support this contention. Three levels of analysis confirmation is good enough, especially given the strength of the primary data.

If you are at all serious about maintaining good health you must think very seriously about fasting as an integral part of your lifestyle. For another example of that have a look at the previous post on the news report, Short fasting cycles work as well as chemotherapy in mice. In relation to the other benefits of fasting you'll have to read on. 

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Cancer, heat shock protein 90, and adaptation

I read about this quality of heat shock protein 90 a long time ago and was always puzzled by it because it challenged our conventional view of protein production control.  It means the capacity for adaptation does not require de novo mutations, that the potential for adaptation is often present but suppressed by hsp90, which can let this adaptive potential loose when conditions change or stress occurs. Fascinatingly, hsp90 also binds the key stress receptors, GCs and MRs, and their function requires a dissassociation from the two. So from single cell creatures to us, hsp90 has a strongly conserved evolutionary role, this being rather typical of most heat shock proteins.

Prions and chaperones: Outside the fold

Monday, February 13, 2012

Carbs and Cancer

I've just finished reading an interesting review article on the relationships between carbohydrate intake(sugar!) and cancer incidence and metabolism. There are some important lessons here and worth giving serious thought to. For example:

Cancer, which might be considered a disease of civilization, has consistently been reported to be very rare among uncivilized hunter-gatherer societies [1-4].
Data from 229 hunter-gatherer societies included in the revised Ethnographic Atlas indicate
that hunter-gatherer diets differ from typical Western ones in basically two aspects: first, a
strong reliance on animal foods (45-65% of energy or E%) and second, the consumption of
low-GI plant foods such as vegetables, fruits, seeds and nuts [7]. This is consistent with stable
isotope studies of human fossils [8, 9].
Full details of the paper overleaf.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Starving Cancers

This news item is interesting because it represents a novel strategy to delay tumour progression but that strategy is also unlikely to eradicate the tumour.
Short fasting cycles work as well as chemotherapy in mice
Even fasting on its own effectively treated a majority of cancers tested in animals, including cancers from .
It touches on the Warburg Effect. You can read the Wiki entry on this but it has some errors. Notably:
  • Glycolysis is not just anaerobic, it can also be aerobic. Hence the claims by some that oxygen therapy should kill cancers is just plain wrong. As I said to a friend recently, if oxygen is the enemy of cancer then explain lung and brain cancer. Can't be done. 
  • The collapse of mitochondrial function still remains a mystery. Any cell may contain hundreds of mitochondria so we can rule our mtDNA changes, the causal agents here must be humoral. One possible candidate is UCP proteins, these proteins uncouple mitochondrial respiration from producing ATP. Brown adipose tissue uses this property to generate heat in our bodies. So we have a situation where this is a specific class of normal cells with UCP being ubiquitous but not driving cancer. That may be irrelevant because to my knowledge in adulthood we do not produce new fat cells, only make existing fat cells fatter. So fat cells may be oncologically disabled. 
Why Does Fasting Have This Effect?

The Warburg Effect, which is surprisingly common if not pervasive in cancer cells, makes the cell entirely dependent on sugar. Caloric Restriction does very much lower the incidence of cancer but comes at a big cost. That being:
  • Compromised fertility
  • Potentially reduce immunological status. 
  • Hypoglycemia
  • In humans I suspect over the long term it damages cognition(Neurons are entirely dependent on sugar, astrocytes absorb sugar from the bloodstream, convert it to pyruvate, which is then excreted to the extra cellular space, where it is then picked up by neurons. 

Caloric Restriction is impractical and unnecessary. Short intermittent fasting can do provide many of the same benefits. It is my view that if you are concerned about cancer prevention then learning to fast is a good idea. Stop the cancer before it stops you because nearly all of us have nascent tumours. It is a probability game and intermittent fasting helps stack the odds in your favour by promoting cell death in pre-cancerous and cancerous cells.

Fasting can induce sugar loss but keep in mind that despite all the hype about the dangers of sugar we'd be dead without it. Our brains our critically dependent on sugar, whether it be from glucose, fructose, or carbs(reduced to sugar via our bodies), we need that sugar in our bodies, hence the large reserves stored in our liver and muscles as glycogen. It therefore becomes problematic that collapsing sugar levels is a key component in the anti-cancer effects of CR and fasting. In fact, without experiencing hypoglycemia, which knocks you to the floor and carries its own risks, including brain damage, I'm not sure how collapsing sugar intake can be beneficial in treating cancers. So .... .

A very notable effect found in Caloric Restriction studies is that very substantial decline in Insulin Growth Factor prodn. We are talking about multiple declines in concentration here, not just a dip but a big decline. Sugar levels play an important role in regulating insulin growth factor levels. Insulin growth factor, stimulated for release and production from the liver by Human Growth Hormone, is the key growth factor. This addresses the above quandary because reducing sugar levels will have an immediate impact on growth factor production. As there is an increasing view that cancers are being driven by cancer stem cells, and these cells are signalled by growth factors, and the recent trend towards identifying inhibitors of growth factor receptors in cancerous cells, this suggests that real benefit of fasting is not sugar restriction per se but rather its impact on growth factor production.

This study highlights an ongoing and mysterious problem with cancers treatments:

As with any potential cancer treatment, fasting has its limits. The growth of large tumor masses was reduced by multiple fasting and chemotherapy cycles, but cancer-free survival could not be achieved. Longo speculated that cells inside a large tumor may be protected in some way or that the variety of mutations in a large mass may make it more adaptable.
Clonal selection, somatic evolution, what a damned nuisance! It large tumours it may even be the case that the surviving cells are feeding off the debri from all those dead cells! Don't know. Alternatively, even in apoptosis, there is some degree of inflammation present and this may drive increased blood supply when large numbers of apoptotic cells are present as inflammation generally increases blood and nutrient flow to a given region. That is the primary purpose of inflammation, it "opens up" the blood vessels to allow in various immune cells, growth factors, and nutrients to enter into the damaged tissue. Don't friggin know!

Friday, February 3, 2012

New Approach to Cancer Stem Cells

This will be the most important focus of future cancers research.

Collaborative Research Sheds Light On New Cancer Stem Cell Therapies

A collaborative anti-cancer research jointly conducted by The Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU), Peking University Shenzhen Graduate School and Nevada Cancer Institute has led to the development of a novel class of chemical inhibitors that specifically target cancer cells with pluripotency.

  1. Felix Cheung. Cancer biology: Ridding the seeds of evilNature China, 2012; DOI: 10.1038/nchina.2012.1
  2. J. Wang, F. Lu, Q. Ren, H. Sun, Z. Xu, R. Lan, Y. Liu, D. Ward, J. Quan, T. Ye, H. Zhang. Novel Histone Demethylase LSD1 Inhibitors Selectively Target Cancer Cells with Pluripotent Stem Cell Properties.Cancer Research, 2011; 71 (23): 7238 DOI: 10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-11-0896

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

IDO, ITO, tryptophan, and Cancer Immunotherapy

One for the archives but this is interesting because it has long been known that tumours often express proteins that inhibit immune responses. ...
Scientists from the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research (LICR) in Brussels identified a new target for cancer therapy, an enzyme which prevents the immune system from recognizing and destroying certain types of tumors. Called tryptophan 2,3-dioxygenase or TDO, the enzyme works by depriving immune cells of tryptophan, an amino acid essential to their activity. TDO is produced by a significant number of human tumors. Scientists also show that blocking TDO activity with a novel TDO inhibitor promotes tumor rejection in mice. The study findings were published online today in the January 30 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

Friday, January 27, 2012

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Cancer and Chromosomes - Again

Aneuploidy has been much neglected but is now gaining interest, possibly because after finding so many genetic alterations it has been realised that cancers are much more than about genes. There is one issue with this news release though. When they state:

"But in cancer, there are many cases of extra or missing chromosomes. Yet cancer cells thrive more effectively than other cells," Prof. Shamir says.

Yet in the paper I read the other day it was claimed that most cancer cells become senescent after 60-90 days(in their model at least). That makes sense because if a cell is being damaged or not working properly it will become senescent. Cancer cells don't thrive, the cancer stem cells may thrive, but even that is problematic. 

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Cancer and Stem Cells

Ever wondered why a cancer treatment can so successfully reduce tumor size only to see it come back stronger than ever some months later? If you're prepared to investigate the mathematical model put forward in this paper then you'll have an interesting perspective on the challenge of cancer treatment and the realisation that modern cancer treatments are still missing a vital component in strategy.

Happy Dog.

Thorium and Climate Change

A friend of mine directed me to this TED talk. I have heard of the promise of thorium reactors and this talk by Kirk Sorensen is an excellent example of why we need to consider nuclear power for our future needs.

I do believe in AGW but I don't believe in props on sticks and shiny things facing the sky. These technologies have their place and will be important for our future energy needs but the current attempts to rely so much on these energy technologies is not only misguided it is a big mistake. We are planning to rely on environmentally contingent energy sources because we are convinced the environment is undergoing massive change. That does not make sense. We need energy sources that we have complete control over.

Because thorium is associated with nuclear people panic. It's that word thing again, too many people pay too much attention to words rather than meanings. Politicians use this to great effect the bastards. Thorium reactors, however, cannot melt down and the waste is very manageable. Recent designs in standard nuclear reactors has also led to the creation of meltdown proof reactors. The Chinese are the first nation to grid one of these new reactor designs.

Why thorium hasn't received more attention is beyond me. Except to say this: you cannot create fissile material with a thorium reactor. I don't think that is the major reason though, it is just typical of our species to fall into a mode of behavior and refuse to budge even when the evidence for change is overwhelming. Politicians use this to great effect the bastards.

We now cannot prevent climate change, it is already happening. We have to prepare for the future and if history is any guide the ability to harness and control energy is a key aspect of a civilisation's success. While I am an environmentalist I am also a realist. Human beings en masse will not change their behavior in time to prevent the ongoing environmental "degradation". ("Degradation" suggests some proper state for the earth. There isn't.) If we survive our civilisation will completely transform the ecology of this planet, and perhaps that last claim should be in the past tense. There is no balance, it is always changing, and as change agents we are Nature.

Listen to what Kirk Sorensen has to say. Because the whole climate change debate is largely driven by Green interests any type of nuclear power is off limits. Our future will demand nuclear power. If climate change is going to be as drastic as some of the alarmists claim then we're going to need huge amounts of manageable energy to address all the unexpected contingencies that will arise in the future. Controlled high energy sources, combined with automation, will enable us to transform the planet even further. We're going to do it because we've always done it and if you think you can stop it you are on the wrong planet.

Friday, January 20, 2012

House keeping and exercise

"House keeping" refers to an intra-cellular process that relates to the functions which involve removing excess and potentially dangerous molecules and detritus from the cell. It is crucial to cell function and survival. The main waste product that builds up is called lipofuscin, a set of lipids and proteins and lipoproteins that need regular removal before aggregation makes it too difficult to remove the same. Accumulation of lipofuscin can be taken as a marker of cell aging to developing strategies to maintain regular house keeping is very important because aggregates of molecules are extremely difficult to degrade.

For example, a key protein degradation pathway, the UPS pathway, has a severe limitation in that the organelle has a very narrow opening and hence will not allow aggregated proteins into the organelle to be digested. So it is essential we maintain UPS and the other key process mentioned in this article, autophagy, to maintain cellular health.

As this study highlights exercise is a good way to promote autophagy. So stop reading and go for a walk!

Chromosomes and Cancer

In my previous post, Cancer as a Metabolic Disease, I referenced an extensive review article that argues for a different etiology for cancer. Their argument is that it arises from mitochondrial dysfunction which in turn causes aneuploidy, the key focus of this recent research. As stated in the news release:
"The most common genetic change in cancer is the presence of an incorrect number of intact chromosomes within cancer cells -- a condition known as aneuploidy," 
 That remark is consistent with the claims of the earlier study. It is odd that only now is it beginning to receive more attention but that probably reflects the gene centric orientation of cancer research. It is tempting to think of these are competing paradigms but this is incorrect, the paradigms are complementary and together can provide a much better picture of what is happening in cancers. There is no single correct paradigm for understanding cancer. It can arise directly through specific mutations and through mitochondrial dysfunction. In the same way that cardiovsacular disease or neurodegeneration can arise through a number of risk factors, cancer can have multiple etiologies.

This suggests that those who propose magic bullets for cancer have completely misunderstood the nature of the pathology. Correct, they have. There are potentially many approaches to managing cancer, from increasing alkalinity to DCA, each cancer type may well respond to different strategies.

Cancer is NOT a single entity pathology!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Cancer as a Metabolic Disease

4/01/2012 5:33PM

Cancer as a Metabolic Disease(Review),
Thomas N. Seyfried, Laura M. Shelton
Nutrition & Metabolism, 2010, 7:7
Download the full paper here.

Emerging evidence indicates that impaired cellular energy metabolism is the defining characteristic of nearly all cancers regardless of cellular or tissue origin. In contrast to normal cells, which derive most of their usable energy from oxidative phosphorylation, most cancer cells become heavily dependent on substrate level phosphorylation to meet energy demands. Evidence is reviewed supporting a general hypothesis that genomic instability and essentially all hallmarks of cancer, including aerobic glycolysis (Warburg effect), can be linked to impaired mitochondrial function and energy metabolism. A view of cancer as primarily a metabolic disease will impact approaches to cancer management and prevention.
It is nice to know that at my age I can still perceive my stupidity. This review paper reminded of concepts and findings in relation to cancer that I had long ago read about but only as an interesting footnote. I haven't studied cancer, except to say that I read enough of it to know that it is a terribly difficult phenomena to understand and I'd rather conquer a galaxy cluster or two than waste my time reading anymore about it because that would constitute a larger waste of time. I like aiming high and MOO3 sucks so I'll read something, if only because over the last 6 months I have read findings that raise serious questions about cancer being a disease of the genome.