In Health Blog 2017-09-09T11:00:27+00:00

DNA technologies now allow scientists to genetically modify fruits and veggies in order to enhance beneficial qualities and boost their ability to withstand pests and inclement weather. The skeptics are concerned about corporations focused exclusively on selling pesticides and increasing crop yields, while others are cautiously optimistic about the potential life-saving changes that are possible.

The treatment of diabetes was revolutionalized in the 1980’s when researchers were able to alter the DNA of a bacterium and simply manufacture insulin in a laboratory rather than using hormones extracted from the pancreas of pigs or cows. Though most GMO fruits and vegetables haven’t yet been approved for human consumption, a large percentage of the corn grown in the US to make ethanol is genetically modified to tolerate pesticides and to be resistant to bugs. And soybean and canola crops now produce plants with higher levels of healthy oils.

The process begins by locating the genetic sequence of a favorable trait on a strand of DNA. Scientists apply enzymes to the strand to chop it into fragments and generate copies of the targeted gene; a method that has been used in forensic DNA analysis for years.

DNA scientists fighing 363x270-min
khan academy2-min

A plasmid is a small, circular piece of DNA found in the nucleus of a bacteria separate from its chromosomal DNA. A plasmid can be modified with the genetic sequence for the new trait and then replaced in the bacteria or into a different host’s genome (image credit: www.khanacademy.org)

The method for assimilating the synthetic gene depends on the type of host organism

  • Bacteria being modified in order to cultivate useful enzymes are known to readily accept the plasmid and immediately produce offspring with the altered genome
  • A virus could have its genetic sequence changed and then be allowed to “infect” the host organism
  • The modified plasmid can be directly injected into the nucleus of a plant cell. The plasmid can be “flagged” with a gene sequence that produces an antibiotic, so researchers can expose the plants to a particular disease and then easily determine which ones have reproduced with the new genome.  
  • Small metal pellets could be coated with fragments of DNA and then “shot” into plant cells at high speed to infiltrate the cell membranes

These technologies are way beyond the practices of selectively breeding livestock and cross-pollinating plants that humans have experimented with for thousands of years. The research involving recombinant DNA technology is carefully regulated by the FDA, the EPA, and the USDA.

Read Instride: DNA

Health experts have found that both positive and negative emotions have an influence on our health … and that laughter really is the best medicine.

When we’re feeling angry or threatened, our adrenal glands respond by producing adrenaline and cortisol, chemicals that are usually beneficial as they provide a boost of energy and alertness so we can confront danger or get safely away. Unhealthy levels of these stress hormones could have a harmful effect, elevating heart rate, suppressing the immune system, and making it difficult to rest and get enough sleep.

In contrast, positive thoughts, and a healthy focus on diet and exercise stimulates the production of endorphins, a neurotransmitter that counteracts the effect of stress by lowering blood pressure, easing pain, and causing our brain to register feelings of happiness and well-being.

Read Instride: Heart Health

One strategy our immune system has to protect us from disease-causing microbes such as bacteria, viruses, and cancer cells is to create antibodies that flow through the bloodstream in search of invaders. An antibody is a type of protein manufactured by white blood cells that either kill a specific type of pathogen or “tag” it for destruction by other parts of the immune system.

In recent years, scientists have been developing cancer treatments that use a patient’s own immune system to detect and destroy cancer cells:

  • Antibodies can be created in a lab and used to target certain types of cancer 
  • Cancer cells are sometimes not recognized by the body as dangerous. Scientists can modify a person’s immune system to fight cancer cells that previously were able to avoid detection
  • A vaccine can be created to prevent cancer from invading other parts of the body 

With the life-long use of vaccines we can place our immune system on guard against diseases such as the measles, chicken pox, and even the flu.

Being injected with a disease-causing virus might sound dangerous, but vaccines contain a dead or weakened strain that allows our white blood cells to develop the antibodies that remain in our bloodstream for years.

Read Instride: Immunity

Though our bones naturally start to weaken as we age, we can guard against the loss of bone density by continuing to exercise moderately and getting a proper balance of nutrients in our diet.

The International Osteoporosis Foundation estimates that approximately 9 million bone breaks each year can be attributed to age-related changes in bone density.

Read Instride: Bone Health

Within the right atrium of the heart is the sinoatrial node, a small cluster of pacemaker cells that generate a spark of electricity about 80-100 times each minute.

Electricity is simply the movement of electrons. When these tiny, subatomic particles travel from a negatively charged atom to a positively charged atom, practically at the speed of light, an electric current is generated.

In the human heart, charged particles of calcium, sodium, and potassium flow through ion channels in specialized cells of the SA node to “polarize” the cells, creating an electric spark that travels through the heart and causes a precisely timed heartbeat.

An electrocardiogram, or ECG, displays the electrical activity of the heart.

Though the cardiovascular system never stops working, getting the recommended 5-7 hours of sleep each night lowers blood pressure, slows respiration, and gives our bodies a chance to rest.

Read Instride: Heart Health

We know that exercise is good for our health, but how much of a metabolic boost is needed to reap some of the benefits?

Researchers have found that just 20 minutes of physical activity a day gets the heart beating and kick starts the immune system preventing it from overproducing certain types of leukocytes that target healthy cells in the body and cause inflammation.

Read Instride: Cardio Health