Tuesday, 27 May 2014

More on Needle-free Immunisations

Professor Mark Kendall has delivered a most engaging TED talk where he describes the history of needles and the latest development in his research.  With improved immune responses to the nanopatch, vaccines that were previously too expensive to administer in the developing world can now be available at a hundredth of the dose to those in particular need.  This same logic applies to vaccine candidates that are currently too weak to be effective.  Examples include vaccines currently under development against HIV, tuberculosis and malaria.  Improved immune responses with the nanopatch delivery method allows for a better way to tackle these diseases.

Another advantage of the nanopatch delivery method is it eliminates the need for the "cold chain" - that is the need for current liquid preparation vaccines to be refrigerated from the point of manufacture to the point of administration.  This cold chain has to be maintained throughout the vaccines' journey and is a key limitation in the developing world, where temperatures are high and fridges are few.  Up to 50% of vaccines in Africa are ineffective due to failure of the cold chain.  With the nanopatch this requirement is removed as the vaccine is a dry preparation.

Currently there are field trials of the HPV vaccine (cervical cancer vaccine) in Papua New Guinea.  This trial tests two of the limitations of current vaccines - the cold chain and the prohibitive cost.  I will be following the results with interest.

Not to mention - no more needle-phobia!

Bacteria Wars

A picture of bacteriophage P1 showing the head containing the DNA, the  tail and tail fibres
Diagram of a bacteriophage - a virus that "eats" bacteria

In the fight against bacteria, a not-so-new weapon has re-emerged, namely viruses.  The viruses that attack bacteria are called bacteriophages and were first described in the Ganges River in India in the late 1800s.  With the ability to heal skin sores on pilgrims, progress in knowledge of the organisms was hampered by their minute size which made them invisible until the advent of the Electron Microscope in 1942.  The emergence of antibiotics such as penicillin further placed bacteriophages on the back-burner.  However, the rise of antibiotic resistance and the shortage of newer antibiotics to target resistant bacteria has led to a re-emergence of interest in these tiny organisms.

To read more, click here.


Friday, 28 March 2014

Making Blind Eyes See

It has been a long time since I have posted but I am glad to see there have still been a steady stream of visitors to my blog.  My thoughts recently have turned again to God, the Universe and the miracles we are to expect in the near future. 

Specifically, I watched some of Prof Stephen Hawking's future series.  He tells of a new technology that is allowing blind eyes to see.  It really is the stuff of science fiction and we are only still beginning to discover the amazing ways that technology can enhance the capabilities of the human body.

Personally also I have come to realise that God works in amazing ways and who knows if in the future the miracles described in the Bible will become commonplace through technology.  Already the lame can walk and the deaf can hear

But for me the real message of the Bible is in the love of Jesus on the cross and that is what helps me get through the daily hurdles of life in this busy world.

God bless!

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Needle-Free Immunisations Update

In the experimental stage at present are nanoparticle delivering skin patch systems to deliver immunisations.  Developed by Prof Mark Kendall from the University of Queensland, the patches are starting to undergo human trials this year in Australia and Dr Kendall hopes they will deliver low-cost and effective immunisation to the developing world.  He has received a grant from Merck and also won an enterprise award from Rolex, to help him carry out the work.

The needle-free nanopatch should not be confused with homoeopathic vaccinations which are also needle-free.  These oral preparations are prepared by a process of succussion or potentiation whereby the disease extract is diluted in water a number of times by vigorously shaking until there is none of it  remaining in the final preparation.  This is then administered orally to patients.  Each practitioner approaches their preparations in a different way, as there is no regulating body that oversees the practice of homoeopathy in Australia. 

The British Homoeopathic Association and the Australian Register of Homoeopaths both do not recommend homoeopathic immunisations over conventional vaccination.  In fact, the Australian Homoeopathic Association on it's webpage on vaccinations clarifies that homoeopathic vaccinations is a misnomer as vaccination requires the formation of antibodies which is not the case with the homoeopathic system.  This system should better be known as homoeoprophylaxis and is not recommended by all homoeopaths.

Saturday, 26 October 2013

Art = Health

Art As Therapy is a website that attempts to inspire and educate regarding the beauty and therapeutic potential of great works of art.  It is created by the wonderful Alain de Botton, who has helped make philosophy accessible and palatable to many people.  Botton's musings are like a the sound of trickling water - a soothing soliloquy that relaxes and inspires the soul.  Botton has also developed an educational forum called the School of Life which offers sermons and gatherings of a secular nature where people can reflect and learn from others on the various challenges of modern life.  Modern wisdom is imparted on a range of topics such as why work is often unfulfilling and why relationships are so hard to negotiate.  Botton's motivations appear to be philanthropic, directing his energies to existentialist dilemmas in the Western World.  Indeed, Botton's London School of Life offers classes and therapies to those who seek to live life wisely and well.  It draws its wisdom not from religion or dogma but from the humanities and philosophy.  I think it is the way to go for those seeking poetic answers that speak to the spirit of life's daily toil.

I Heart Fats and Oils

Here is an interesting documentary worth watching.  Interesting and seemingly plausible.  I recommend it!  Hopefully it will be of help to those battling high cholesterol and offer some hope.  A more restrained commentary from the BBC is also available here.  There does seem to be some credibility in the views expressed.  The ABC Catalyst show has been traditionally high quality reporting.  I would like to know more about the Atkins Diet and how it fits in with the latest theories.  To download the articles on which the report is based, see here.  The report is based on a new book by Dr Stephen Sinatra (cardiologist) and Dr Jonny Bowden (nutritionist) called The Great Cholesterol Myth.  More searching will reveal that concerns regarding cholesterol date back to 2000 when Uffe Ravnskov, a Danish independent researcher, publicised the theory through his own enquiry.

One of the frustrating things I find is how big business and corporations jump on every emerging theory when there is a buck to be made.  And powerful politics is not far behind.  It is very hard to get to the truth of the matter.  But I still think good science is the tool to make sense out of it all in the end.  We just have to persevere!  What needs to follow now is a proper systematic review of the literature and more research.  It will be a battle with the industry and big pharmaceutical companies standing to lose their vested interests.  However, it does seem that statins, the drugs which lower cholesterol, do have some benefits in those with high risk of heart disease and those who have had a heart attack.  However, Ravnskov proposes that the mechanisms by which this occur is other than lowering of cholesterol, and the benefits are modest - probably not worth the financial cost.  Furthermore, other harmful side effects with statins have been described.  It is quite compelling stuff.

In the meantime, the Mediterranean Diet seems to tick all the boxes with high levels of Omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants.  It is also low in refined carbohydrates like sugar - the real villain, I believe.

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Towards Health Equity for All

An article in The Conversation outlines how social status is good for health and helps those in the upper echelons achieve better health outcomes through social participation and autonomy.  The article which aims to shed light on the social determinants of disease further explains that education has positive effects across the social gradient.  The aim then should not be to acquire more riches and widen the existing gaps between rich and poor, but to affect policy changes that encourage better sharing of resources and foster broader inclusion of all people, and perhaps especially the poor, in meaningful community participation. 

Australia's welfare state aims to do just that and is quite an example internationally of an egalitarian but relatively low-taxing system, which redistributes wealth to the poorest sectors of the community.  This egalitarianism is what makes many people from diverse backgrounds undergo trials, hardships and in some instances, perilous journeys, to call Australia home.  Whilst the feeling towards migrants is often ambivalent, with policies favouring migration (especially if the migrant possesses desired skills) but people facing discrimination once here, many undertake settlement in the new country precisely because of it's values and ideals, and a system of law and governance that allows those ideals to be realised.

While some may disagree that Australia is a low-taxing country, the article on Inside Story has it that Australia is the sixth lowest taxing country in the OECD, with taxes at about 27 per cent of GDP, compared to 35 per cent on average in the OECD.  The reason why many might disagree could be because taxes in Australia are adjusted to income, and most of us in the debate are relatively well-off and highly taxed.  It may also be argued that the super-rich and their companies could be taxed more (eg. the mining tax)

If it works here, it can work elsewhere; the aim then is to reduce inequalities across the globe, and the Millennium Development Goals Report is promising progress on just that.