Although very hard to believe today, there was actually a time where medicine wasn’t exactly practical and not necessarily beneficial. This time period we like to call it now as the Dark Ages, or the Medieval time period aging around 5th century to the mid 15th century. During this time period medicine wasn’t really effective, and a lot of plagues and disease spread easily due to the lack of technology and knowledge of bacteria, viruses parasites, and other pathogens that can effect the human body. This time was very dark because the people living in this time period didn’t have any means of treating and fighting off disease so if you were infected, you either got better or you died.
However, since Alexander Fleming’s discovery in the 1930’s, it has been a rather golden age in medicine because we are treating illnesses that we couldn’t before. Unfortunately it would seem as if we may soon be heading back to another dark age in human history. That is because by the means of evolution, there are now antibiotic resistant microbes. These microbes are resistant to current antibiotic treatments and are not treatable. This is problematic because the drug industry is pushing out newer drugs slower than the bacteria becoming resistant to them. It is estimated that 700,000 people die yearly now but that could jump to more than 10million by 250.
Fortunately, it would seem that there is a new movement in science who focus and look at older medicinal treatments such as in the Medieval Age and are working together to make new remedies. A team recently conducted a study with a 1,000 year old recipe called Bald’s eyesalve which they believed was used to help infection of the eyelash follicle. In their study, it would seem that it turned out to be a potent antistaphyloccal agent that killed bacterium and killed MRSA in mouse models.
This is extremely significant because this suggest that there may be hidden unknown more natural methods of treating illness than we previously thought. This also will push digging and looking further into Premodern European medicine and ancient Chinese medicines because these tend to be overlooked and many have their superstitions about them. As of now the team seems to have a database of other medicinal recipes that they are looking to try and hopefully they will be effective as with Bald’s eyesalve so we can avoid another Dark Age.
People today are always trying to figure out how they can be healthier and try to do so much to help themselves. That is why people go on vegetarian or vegan diets, take omega 3 fish oils, certain vitamins and minerals to fill in their dietary requirements. But what if I told you while yes this is good, more can be done at a smaller level. How small? Microscopically small. Yes you read that correctly, microbes play a big part in your life more than your probably realize.
In recent years there has been a trend on gut microbiome and how that may impact health. A notable well known science writer for the Atlantic even recently wrote a book called, I contain Multitudes- the Microbes within us and a Grander view of life where he even talks about this topic and various ways how out gut bacteria affect us. In a recent study researchers looked at babies and how their newborn gut biome may have a part with some later in early child development aspects such as weather or not they will have asthma, certain allergies, and even immune health.
They did find that certain types of rare bacteria that may have not been introduced into their gut environment had they received other bacteria from their mother tripled the risk for asthma. These same microbes that live with us symbiotically, ultimately help us with a lot more than just that.
There is research being looked into that they help with digestion, immune system development, and even there may be links of brain development. We have only begun to scratch the surface, but one thing is for sure is that you can help your gut microbiome and Dr. Christiane Northrup discusses this further. Hopefully next time think twice about what you are putting into your bodies because you and our small friends need the right nutrients.
Ed Yong is quite a young renowned science writer who blogs and writes science articles in The Atlantic. He writes and covers a multitude of science topics that can range from how the government and politics sees science to the tiny, naked to the human eye, microscopic organisms that live inside of us.
On that last note, he recently published a new book in 2017 called, I contain Multitudes-the Microbes within us and a Grander view of life. This book is rather quite interesting in the aspect that Ed Yong tries to show us how we are more connected at a microscopic level than we think. First Ed Yong wants to get rid of the generalization that modern society has depicted of microscopic organisms, that they are “bad and dangerous”.
Through the chapters of the book, he shows us like the evolutionary history and talks about how we got to where we are today. Then then within each chapter there is some sort of significance that can be related back to you, the reader. For example one chapter states how your first gut bacterium and immunity can be traced from your mother because through vaginal births, you get a swab of her when you first come out. And he talks about studies where that those babies who came out via C-section may lack certain microbes that are crucial in early life. He also tells us some stories and snippets of what he got from interviewing well renowned doctors and researchers.
Ultimately Ed Yong is trying to change some misconceptions on microbes and he wants the general public to have and view a bigger picture about life. This read is particular good because he simplifies terminology for those who may not be familiar in the science field, he relates it back to the reader, and he even gives tips on what we can do. You can now find his book on Amazon on your preferred platform ranging from $10.99 to $33.99. This book is an amazing read and I hope that you check it out.
HIV is very elusive and devastating retrovirus. First globally recognized as a problem in the 1980’s, physicians worldwide have been trying to figure out and find a cure/vaccine to this virus, but unfortunately to no prevail. Part of the problem is that the cells that they infect and stay undetected in evade the body for a long time until it is too late. These cells are called T-cells which are a type of lymphocyte that that plays a central role in cell-mediated immunity.
Scientist are trying to find these elusive cells, study and then ultimately kill them. The good news is that recently, scientist may actually be on to making more progress with this disease. On an infected T-cell that is dormant, there is a receptor called CD32a that is a protein. With this receptor, the protein provides a way to distinguish these sleeper T cells from other immune-system cells.
The receptor provides hope that scientists could target these silent, infected cells and destroy them. One reason why researchers are interested is because of antiviral drugs. These drugs are good because they prevent the virus from spreading throughout the body, and infected immune cells like the T-cell to stop transcribing and replicating the viral DNA. But because there is a small portion of infected T-cells that are dormant, the drugs nor our immune systems detect these cells.
Then arises the problem if the patient stops taking the drug then these cells can become active and the problem then progresses. In 2012, HIV researchers found and attempted a new approach to targeting dormant, infected T cells. This technique was called “shock and kill”, which essentially means they are reactivating/trying to kickstart viral replication in these dormant T-cells. This may be a big red flag because why would you want to “turn on” these infected cells.
But actually it is a good idea because with this theoretically then the viral drugs should work and we shouldn’t have to worry as much. Unfortunately for the most part when testing this, the HIV infected cells were not stimulated enough. This is where CD32a comes into play. When using a fluorescent tagger in gene expression between non-infected and infected T-cells, the infected T-cells showed this gene. Therefore scientist believe, by using an antibody that sticks to CD32a, the researchers then pulled cells expressing the protein out of human blood samples from HIV-infected people. Hopefully following this, then the ultimate goal would be to see if CD32a turns out to be a reliable marker, so it can be used to target drugs to the latent T-cells.
The Sci-Fi future that we thought was so far away is actually nearing and becoming more of a reality everyday. As seen in the animation show Futurama where our young protagonist Fry get frozen in a container and later he gets thawed out one thousand years later into the future, this type of freezing all though maybe not as long is looming among us. We turn to look at this concept becoming more reliable in the field of medicine when it comes to with organs for organ transplants.
One of the main problems with organ transplants is essentially like with food, organs outside of the body have a certain “Shelf life”. Because of this we are losing many organs and money trying to keep these organs only to have them lost. Part of the problem is when chilling organs the problem isn’t chilling them, but getting them rewarmed to use them in a quick manner because ice particles will form if they aren’t unfrozen fast enough and the organ will be lost. Apparently at the University of Michigan have created an innovative way to help increase the viability of the organs.
A solution of silica with iron coated nanoparticles seem to be the answer. Essentially how it works is that they would freeze the organs in a process called vitrification where theoretically the organs would be viable for an eternity and when you need to use them, they would use an electromagnetic field, and through the electromagnet waves the nanoparticles would be excited which is called inductive heating. And since the problem is with getting the whole organ heated, they would have the nanoparticles equally but well dispersed and because of this the whole organ would be heated at the same time.
They scaled this and tested with this up to 50 milliliters which brought back a pig’s artery but that is really far from a whole heart. They are planning to do with Rat kidneys but there is still so much to do. The other problem occurs because since the heart has many valves and chambers, dispersing them equally will be harder than a more compacted organ like a kidney so thats one obstacle they need to get around. Although we are a long way away from freezing full bodies like Fry from Futurama, we are getting closer to a future of full cryopreservation.
The Aztec Empire, one of the most famous and most notable Empires in history especially throughout Latin America. It was dated to have first come about and around through what is now modern day Central America in the country of Mexico. The Empire was founded around 1428 and lasted roughly around a hundred years although this ancient group of people had quite a functional and one could argue a civilized empire. But how could a people who were fairly well adapted around this time have vanished after not being around for quite a century? That’s right you guessed it, it was due to the Europeans.
To be politically correct it was actually impart due to Conquistadors, or the explorers/conquerors for the Spanish Empire were the ones to have utterly crushed this empire, which was roughly estimated with a population to be as high as 25 million versus the small Spanish forces. It wasn’t so much that the Europeans were better equipped and were more technologically advanced than the Natives that brought the Aztecs to their demise, it was actually due to a much smaller and more dangerous adversary…. a deadly form of Salmonella which came from Europe.
In a pair of recent studies, they have suggested and seemed to have found that from recovered DNA of the stomach bacterium from burials in Mexico which can be traced back to the 1540s, it is said that this caused an epidemic that wiped out up to 80% of the country’s native inhabitants. They traced this and look back to when Hernando Cortés a famous Spanish Conquistador came pretty much after a century helped plummet that population to 1 million. They believe one of the largest of the outbreaks, Cocoliztli killed many people and that in cities/large towns would big huge unmarked graves and dump the dead within them. From this scientist gathered from using DNA and genetics to sequence DNA from 29 people buried and almost all were linked to Cocoliztli, and further sequencing of short damaged DNA showed and allowed the team to remake two genonmes of Salmonella enterica known as Paratyphi C. It is actually still found today and causes typhus like illness and is in most developing places, and if left untreated kills 10-15%.
Some things to consider is that modern medicine helps a lot and they didn’t have the same treatment to counter this threat. Also there is a question of origin which they think it came from Europe which if that is the case, this would leave the Natives to almost no immunity because they didn’t have contact with Europeans prior. Due to the lack of Sanitary conditions as well, this may have been a thriving source for Salmonella.
This is important because we have a better idea of what happened and can now trace ancient pathogens and the team looks to continue its findings and study other places such as in the Caribbean burial sites.