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Science & Health Values and Beliefs

Mortality OR Cancer- the Boolean Algorithm of Life!

Not the easiest title to  very contentious issues- preventing ageing, becoming immortal, regenerating ourselves and looking like 28 forever.

Image result for ageing

Cells in the human body come in a variety of types, there are about 206, such as skin cells, kidney cells, liver cells, bone cells and within these categories (skin, kidney, liver, bone) there are subgroups of cells.

For instance, in skin there are epithelial such as keratinocytes, melanocytes and connective cells such as fibroblasts. About 206 types of cells. Any of which can become aberrant and tumorous. That is part of the reason we do not have a one fix for cancer, which cell is cancerous has to be found, nor one check for cancer as each type of cancer appears in a different part of the body.

We cannot detect a cancer until there are about 1 gram of cells, which constitutes about 109 cells, which is a 1 with 9 zeros after it- a billion cells. There are 206 types of cells, but there are many cells of each of these types. We humans are composed of about 1013 cells, a one with 13 zeros, 10 trillion cells. So finding the correct cancer and detecting it early is not easy. If it was, we would have cured it ages ago.

However, what most people do not know is that cancers are probably changes in stem cells. There are about 206 types of cells in the body. These tend to be functional cells, the cells that do something, move oxygen, filter, waste, pump blood, digest food. While they do the stuff of life, the activities that keep us in what is called homeostasis, they get worn out by their work (as do we!) and can go through one of two possibilities, regeneration or death. On the whole they die. They are replaced by their other cells. These cells develop into the type of cell they are replacing, do their job, get worn out and die. All over the body this is happening. While you are reading this about 40 million cells in your body have died (about 60 billion cells die per day).  About 2,800,000 red blood cells die per second! They have to be replaced.

Stem cells are the cells that replace the worn out functional end cells, or terminal cells. Stem cells are the feeder cells. They don’t do the functions, the activities of the body. What they do is produce under-developed cells into the areas that need replacing. Blood stem cells (found in bone marrow) feed the appropriate number of cells into the various blood cell types. The cells develop through a number of cell divisions to become all the cell types of blood, red blood cells (erythrocytes), granulocytes (neutrophils, eosinophils, basophils), monocytes (macrophages), leukocytes (T cells and B cells) and platelets (thrombocytes). And that is just the cells of the blood. There are stem cells whose daughter cells make all the types of cells of the liver. There are stem cells whose daughters make most of the skin cells.

Stem cells live their lives as producers of cells that go on to produce more cells that actually do things. Stem cells are the producers of potential activities, but do nothing apart from produce cells that go on to realise their potential. Stem cells tend to have names such as Somatic Multipotent Cells or Embryonic Pluripotent Cells. These names describe the potential of the cells they give birth to.

Multipotent are stem cells such as the blood stem cells described above. They can give birth to daughter cells that can become different types of blood cells, but they don’t become muscle or skin or liver cells.

Pluripotent stem cells have more potential. The daughter cells can become all the types of cells of the body, all 206 types. But pluripotent cells are more primitive. They exist only in the first few days of life (days 5-14 post conception, post fertilisation). Very soon, the embryo pluripotent stem cells become more restricted. They become multipotent. They make daughters in one compartment of the body, the skin, the bone, the muscle, the liver.

This is the basis of life. Lots of potential and lots of realisation. Some cells have the potential, but do nothing much apart from give birth to cell that will do lots. Some cells do lots, but die.

Cancer is when the terminal cells, the functional cells, refuse to die and start to have the characteristics of earlier, less developed cells; lots of potential but no actualisation. In fact, we grade cancers by how ‘underdeveloped’ the cells are, how backwards they have gone in what they do. We call the development of mature features, the development of being functional ‘differentiation’. Stem cells and cancer cells are less differentiated, have become less different, undifferentiated.

We can live with potential, what we could have been, or we can live with realising our potential!

But being alive is being mortal.

‘And the clock waits so patiently on your song’.Image result for david bowie rock and roll suicide

 

 

At the moment there are some duff anti-ageing ‘research’. Some of it is being done by people who do not have much if any biology background (they are hiding that). They are the equivalent of an evangelical preacher who acts live The Prophet. There are a lot of them around talking nonsense, but saying what people want to hear. They have some rich backers. Because you have made a fortune in oil or tyre manufacture does not make you a genius.

We have a programme, ‘Dragon’s Den’ where people that have made money take a bet on other people’s money making ideas. It is a bet. They talk as if the people asking for cash input are stupid, but given that many of the panellists (the Dragons) have backed losers in their time, the crystal ball of predictions is as accurate for them as for the rest of us. Given that we have finally realised that economists are on the same level as crystal ball gazers, we might realise that rich people are not necessarily the font of all knowledge.  As they have made money they wish to be immortal. Immortality, in humans, is a sign of primitiveness;  lots of potential, but no differentiation, no actualisation.

Realise your potential and die. Please. Future generations do not want these people to live forever. They don’t want any of us around forever. They want vital alive people. People born with potential and realising it. Not people scared to move just in case they are run over by a truck or smile just in case they get a wrinkle.

Our job on this planet is to realise our own potential, the amazing things we can do. We can all do crap primitive stuff like killing people and destroying things. That is what children do. Destruction. Realising your potential is becoming adult, creative, growing up, caring. So please realise your potentials and help all people to realise theirs.

And then leave.

 

 

 

Categories
Science & Health

Body-Snatchers: Did the Science and Ethics get a Bypass?

       Your choice. sir?                         frankenstein

Wow-I  just heard, on Radio 4 BBC, a whole programme featuring this Canavero person and his ideas for  head transplants. It is also all over the newspapers.

They keep talking about the person with a terrible disease of the body wanting their head transplanted to a healthy body.

WHOSE HEALTHY BODY? WHOSE BODY ARE YOU GETTING?

Come on guys. Are you suggesting we kill healthy people so that somebody can have their head transplanted onto them?
Really?
Whose?
I know- let’s go abroad and get their bodies!
From some poor family or some criminal or some hitch-hiker!
Really?
There is a dreadful exhibition that has toured the world where somebody displays plasticated humans.  Real humans. They call it an anatomy exhibition. It is completely disgraceful.
What it really is are Chinese prisoners that have been sentenced to death. If they agree to sell their bodies to the curator of the show (from, of course, a Western country) they will be shot by a bullet. If not, they have a slower painful death. Yippee. People murdered for your entertainment.
Please never complain about our ‘primitive’ ancestors when we go to things like this.
Please never complain about the visitors to Bedlam in the 18th century to watch the mentally ill for their entertainment. This ‘anatomy’ show is in the 21st century. All over Europe. Perhaps elsewhere too.
Now the proposal is that people are murdered so some old wealthy person, or some rich ill person can have their healthy body.
Oh this is so bad.
And what is really sick is that the said ‘scientist’ (I use the term, liberally) is bringing some man along who has a really awful physical illness as his side-kick. The said scientist is so deluded  that he thinks he is being kind and ethical trying to relieve this man’s suffering when in fact he is promoting something so vile and rotten I cannot believe he is allowed at a science conference.
It is also CRAP science- but nobody seems to care.
Canavero is so upset that the American public have not taken to his stupid vile ideas that he is taking his bat and ball in a hissy fit and going elsewhere.
Be careful where your children go on holiday.
The body snatchers are back.
See my blog below from  March 2015:
In a  recent report :

‘First human head transplant now possible’,

‘In 1970 Robert White successfully transplanted the head of a rhesus monkey onto the body of a second rhesus.

Dr Sergio Canavero, a member of the Turin Advanced Neuromodulation Group, has proposed using a similar method with humans.

 He believes that it a team of 100 could perform the operation in 36 hours — at a cost of £8.5million. Both heads would have to be removed at the same time, and reconnected within an hour’   (The Telegraph Newspaper):

Now let’s have a little think about this, using our own heads.

First- I am going to pretend to take this seriously and do the science:

Transplants are difficult things for two reasons:

1) immunological problems– where the recipient (host) rejects the donor (graft) tissue because they are incompatible.

Transplants require matching donor to recipient as immunologically close as possible, but the recipient (host) needs to take immuno-suppressive drugs (drugs that suppress the immune system) for life. This makes the recipient susceptible to infections.

Stem cell science gets funding because it does fundamental research that has applications that benefit this clinical area. One area is ‘Regenerative Medicine’. This is getting your own stem cells to grow new tissue, the tissues that have degenerated. If you grow your own tissues you avoid the problems of immunological rejection of a donor transplant.

2)  surgical problems- connecting the organ correctly so that it functions

Being able to re-connect broken nerve cells (neurons) would be of great benefit and the surgery that this claim invokes would be very useful in doing this for patients with spinal cord injuries.

We are having problems connecting the peripheral nervous system (PNS). The central nervous system (CNS) is even more problematic, probably due to the glial cell support, but we are not sure yet.

So all of this points to Canavero’s claim as CRAP SCIENCE!

Now let’s look at the ethics:

You know those ads  for gyms and beauty parlours that tell you that you can ‘get the body you want’?

Well the body I want belongs to someone else (I can’t decide between Brad’s or Angelina’s as I would be happy with either attached to my head!).

So who is about to donate their body so you can have your ugly mug on it?

We can’t even get enough kidneys for transplants and each of us has two kidneys and can survive on one.

Heart transplants rely on someone dying as you cannot survive without your one heart and most of us are a bit reticent about being a donor.

Getting an entire  (healthy) body is even more unlikely. If it is a healthy body why are they dying?

This is all so stupid that I wonder if Canavero doesn’t, in fact, need a brain transplant. Any donors?

Categories
Science & Health

Cancer and Blame

 

Smoking

Most of us probably want to believe that we get what we deserve! However, we were not really put on this earth to make these judgements. We cannot tell how other people really live, what they face each day, and what they deserve let alone blame them for all that happens to them.

A lot of money has been spent on bad science, pseudo science and bad public health. Most epidemiology looks backwards, what has happened, and from that tries to predict what will happen. But we don’t have a crystal ball and no event reoccurs in human populations exactly the same way twice. Yes, we can learn from history, but we cannot copy it or predict how things will turn out in the future. Hence economic prophecies based on pseudo scientific principles. What a lot of twaddle we hear from economists.

Public health initiatives are often based on very poor ideas. You read those ridiculous articles such as eating salt increases your chance of heart attack. The chance they are talking about is usually very small and the amount of salt that had to be consumed to increase this small chance was very, very large. But then a public health official will spend a lot of your money on an anti-salt campaign.

You cannot live without salt. All of your reactions in your body (your metabolism) occur in a salty liquid, a plasma-type substance,  which exists both within the cell and between the cells of your body. You are about 80% water and a lot of salt. You are salty. Your kidneys filter water and salt keeping them in balance to meet your body’s needs. In fact where water goes so does salt. One cannot travel without the other. It is to do with osmotic pressure, keeping your cells at the correct salt-water balance. Too much water (i.e. too little salt) and your cells would swell up and burst. Too little water (i.e. too much salt) and your cells will shrivel and die. It is in balance. There can be too much or too little of everything. Life needs a balance. So campaigns that reduce salt too much also do you harm. If you live in a hot country where you sweat to cool yourself down (too much heat in your body kills you) then you are losing water AND salt. You need to replace BOTH.

A lot of bad science and pseudo science has been done on cancer. Why? Because it gets funding is the simple answer. Unfortunately, if you put in a proposal about cancer (or include education as an outcome!) you tend to stand a better chance of funding. While basic research, the science of cancer cells for example, is needed, a whole load of others get funding on the back of this. So we get the poor results and the silly links between things that aren’t linked at all.

I can invent some silly links myself such as ‘watching tv after 6pm gives you cancer’ or ‘reading gossip magazines gives you cancer’. I can prove these while sitting in my armchair. I would bet that nearly everybody that has died of cancer has watched TV after 6pm. There may be a few exceptions, but they would be brushed aside as exceptions. As to the gossip magazine, if you haven’t read one, you still probably read some gossip in a newspaper or heard it on the radio or TV or from a neighbour so I could still justify my arbitary claim somehow. This is because correlation does not prove causation.

Correlation is when two things occur together. The best example I was given to explain this was by a psychologist colleague. This is it:

In summer more people eat ice cream than in winter

In summer more people drown than in winter

Therefore (stupid correlation bit) eating ice cream causes you to drown.

No it doesn’t. More people eat ice cream in summer because they are hot and it may cool them down. More people swim in summer also to cool them down rather than go swimming when it is freezing outside. You could say that cooling down causes you to drown, but you don’t tend to drown from eating ice cream or sweating, which also cools you down. To drown you need to be trying to swim. In water or another liquid. If more people swim in summer than in winter than there are increased numbers of people at risk of not being able to swim in the water they are in and therefore drowning. We could probably argue that fewer people are watching TV in the summer as they are out doors swimming so watching TV prevents you from drowning. I guess it does as most of us don’t watch it while swimming (or even bathing in our bathrooms, although I have stayed in an hotel with a TV in the bathroom). Still, I would not say that watching TV prevents people from drowning. Now I hope you see that two things may occur together, ice cream eating and swimming, but they don’t necessarily cause the effect, drowning. Swimming doesn’t cause drowning either, if you think about it. It is the inability to swim at that moment in time that may cause you to drown. That may be due to a number of reasons: your general inability to swim, sudden changes in conditions, freak accidents.

Most of the bad pseudo science you hear is this sort of statistical analysis of populations done by people that say they are doing science, but they aren’t.

Well you must have heard a lot about cancer if you are over 20 years old. The most obvious one is ‘smoking causes cancer, particularly lung cancer’. I have a colleague who has never smoked or lived with smokers or lived in smoking areas and died of lung cancer. That would be impossible if smoking causes lung cancer. It increases your risk of getting lung cancer. The problem is that we are very bad at thinking about risk. Risk is to do with probability and we humans are not good at that, hence so many of us gamble. I hear people say that they make a living out of gambling. The only people that really make a living at gambling are the bookies and betting shops, the people behind the counter, not the people in front of it. We all have a flutter. But the flutter has been calculated so that we generally lose. The bookies are better at probability than we are.

Richard Doyle is the epidemiologist that came up with the link between smoking and cancer. He was good at his job. What he also said, that people have chosen to ignore is that if you give up smoking by the age of 30 you will, within about 10 years, have lungs as if you have never smoked. All those campaigns wasting money on getting teenagers to quit. It is the older (parents) that need to quit, the 30+ year olds. All that wasted money because they did not read the rest of the article!

How many of you have been asked by the doctor if you have ever smoked and if you were to say yes, 25 years ago, they would write you down as a smoker and blame all your problems on that. My father gave up smoking 40 years before he died. Still, any pulmonary (lung) condition he had they tried to blame on his having smoked. I would think that being a ‘Bevan Boy’ (sent down the coal mines) in World War 2 at a young age would have been more detrimental to his pulmonary health. Living 40 years after smoking and not having lung cancer may have been a bit of a give away in diagnostic terms; but why go with intelligence when you can go with poor science? There is a lot of stupid on the planet and wow, am I fed up of hearing it.

Coal tar has a detrimental effect on genes. It has carcinogenic chemicals, ones that can alter genetic material, ie cause mutations. That is what a mutation is. A change in one letter in your genetic code. You have three billion letters so finding a change in one of them is a tad difficult. Coupled to that you have 10 trillion cells. Each cell has that 3 billion letter dictionary. So you are looking for one letter change amongst 3 billion x 10 trillion. That is a one in a 30 billion, trillion letter. Now do you see the problem?

When daft pseudo-gerontologists (I have one in mind) come up with ways to live longer, which basically boil down to the need to diagnose people earlier  with any disease potential (and we all have that) so they can live longer they aren’t really gerontologists. They aren’t biologists. They are popularists. They are talking for the sake of hearing their own voices. Where do you look? Which one of the 10 trillion cells? Which one of the 3 billion letters in one of those cells? Do you think people haven’t been trying to diagnose cancer before it kills you? Not just treat it, but spot it as early as possible?

We have always known that diagnosing cancer is problematic. By the time we can see it there needs to be about a gram of cells. A gram is a very small amount. A teaspoon of sugar (which may ‘help the medicine go down’!) has about 5 grams on it. A gram of cells contains about a billion cells. That’s a lot of cells. Cancerous cells.

The problem with bad science is the lack of understanding of the biology of us.

Cancer has two things going on; one is genetic, the other is cell growth. The genetic bit is that there needs to be a mutation and they occur randomly. A mutation can hit a gene that has no effect on cancerous growth. But it can hit a gene that does. However, one gene in one cell won’t kill you. What you need is for the cell to grow and grow.

Most cells only grow, make new cells, to replace old cells that have worn out and died. Most of your bodily activities are carried out by ‘terminally differentiated cells’ functional end cells which do not grow and make new cells. For instance oxygen is carried in your blood by red blood cells (erythrocytes). They are terminally differentiated. They have completed their growth and development and have become restricted in what they can do (differentiated). They can only be red blood cells. When they get worn out they get replaced by cells further back in development, growing cells that are quite undeveloped. They form pools of new cells that then go on to differentiate (become different) and highly specialised, such as red blood cells that only really carry out one function, carry oxygen in the blood. It is a bit like any manufacturing process. You take a sheet of metal, It could be made into anything. If is made into the front driver side of a car door. It does not then become a car roof.

The early, underdeveloped cells that provide later cells are the Stem Cells.

If you have a mutation in a cell that is about to become a red blood cell (a reticulocyte) it may not have much effect. Some red blood cells may lack a certain protein (genes code for proteins). If the mutation is in a gene for the protein that carries oxygen (haemoglobin) then there is a problem, the red cell is inefficient. If it is in a gene for cell growth it has no effect as red cells don’t grow. To get a cancer in blood cell you need to affect the cells that grow, the stem cells. There are not many of them and they are hard to find. Why would you look for them unless you already knew there was a blood cancer?

So predicting cancer and finding cancer is very difficult. If it was easy those pseudo-scientists could do it too.

Cristian Tomasetti and cancer geneticist Bert Vogelstein of Johns Hopkins School of Medicine have just released results showing that it is bad luck getting cancer, a matter of random chance. Which gene and which cell is not predictable.

Some cancers are more common than others. Cancers occur more often in tissues that are replaced often such as the linings of tubes (stomach tubes, gut tubes, urinary tubes) and the linings of us, our skin. These are from epithelial tissues and the cancers they give rise to are called carcinomas.

Cells involved in support and transport are also replaced due to wear and tear. Each time a cell is replaced it may cause a mutation to be made in its genetic material ( a misreading of the code). Tissue such as blood, bone, cartilage and dermal tissue is replaced often. This sort of tissue, connective tissue can therefore become cancerous causing cancers called sarcomas.

Cells that seldom grow and divide, muscle and nerves, seldom pass on mistakes so muscle and neural cancers are very rare. The neural tissue that supports nerve cells, glial tissue, does grow and that can become cancerous. Any tissue that grows is thus vulnerable. Tissue that doesn’t grow is less vulnerable. That’s it. Most of the other populist stuff about cancer is not worth the funding or the TV time. Hopefully this latest finding, which is what we all knew anyway, will stop some of the dreadful nonsense and false hope. Even more importantly, it may stop the blame.