Cures What Ails Ya

It’s not a drug known for its benefits to health. In fact, if you were caught with this class A substance and claimed it was for ‘medicinal purposes’ you’d probably be laughed at all the way to the police station.

But, bizarrely, cocaine – and other drugs like morphine – were routinely used in remedies for coughs, colds and toothaches as a cure-all magic ingredient in the Victorian era.

Long before the drugs were criminalized – and prior to the regulation of both medicine and advertising – the substances were frequently touted as effective treatments for illnesses as serious as cancer and liver disease.

 
Inappropriate: An advert for cocaine toothache drops, marketed at children, which cost just 15 cents in 1885 
 
An advert for Mrs Winslow's Soothing Syrup, a patent medicine of the late 19th century which contained morphine, and was used as a cure for teething troubles in infants
 advert for Mrs Winslow’s Soothing Syrup, a patent medicine of the late 19th century which contained morphine, and was used as a cure for teething troubles in infants

These bizarre posters reveal the lethal medical concoctions containing cocaine and opium once unwittingly consumed by millions.

The quack cure advertisements – often depicting children – claimed to heal a long list of illnesses.

But the miracle cures were often loaded with substances such as cocaine, morphine and alcohol – all of which have been proven to be detrimental to our health in large doses.

Seems we’ve come a long way.

Up in smoke: An advert produced by Minnesota Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Company in 1895 claiming its cigars don't damage health because they are pure and scientific  An advert produced by Minnesota Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Company in 1895 claiming its cigars don’t damage health because they are pure and scientific
 
 
 
An advert from 1900s for Vin Mariani, French tonic wine made from coca leaves, a source of cocaine
A drug advert from 1891 for a kidney and liver cure from US drug company Warner
An advert from 1900s for Vin Mariani (upper), French tonic wine made from coca leaves, a source of cocaine. Pictured (lower) is a drug advert from 1891 for a kidney and liver cure from US drug company Warner.
 

Dr Seth Arnold's Cough Killer, which contained morphine, from the late 1800s was claimed to cure coughs, asthma, pneumonia, malaria and many other diseases

Dr Seth Arnold’s Cough Killer, which contained morphine, from the late 1800s was claimed to cure coughs, asthma, pneumonia, malaria and many other diseases

All the products were once readily available over the counter and millions rushed to snap them up around the world in the late 1800s.

One advert for Ozone paper urges buyers to ignite its special paper and inhale the smoke to cure their asthma and bronchitis.

While Dr Seth Arnold’s Cough Killer’s campaign showed a young girl clutching a puppy – but contained high levels of Morphine.

Another ad dating back to 1885 advertised its ‘instantaneous cure’ for toothache – using cocaine.

 
Purely ridiculous: These products from the early 1900s were advertised as a 'blood purifier' to treat cancer
Purely ridiculous: These products from the early 1900s were advertised as a ‘blood purifier’ to treat cancer
 
 
 
An advert from 1895 selling a product that makes you fat, something seen as the sign of good health before regulation was introduced
An advertisement for an anti-fat remedy, patented by the Botanic Medicine Company, Buffalo, New York, in 1878
 Weighty issue: An advert, (upper), from 1895 selling a product that makes you fat – something seen as the sign of good health- and one for weight loss,(lower), in 1878
 
An advert for Mrs Winslow's Soothing Syrup for children from the late 19th century, which contained morphine
 advert for Mrs Winslow’s Soothing Syrup for children from the late 19th century, which contained morphine

Stephen Jackson, a quack cure and medicine historian, said: ‘There were a lot of medicines before the 1900s that incorporated cocaine and alcohol, simply because they were cheap components.

‘Since nobody tested them to see if they lived up to their wild claims, companies could say and claim anything they wanted to.

‘They invested a tremendous amount of money in advertising and the public was pretty gullible. People made a tremendous amount of money around the world hawking this stuff.

‘They used a lot of alcohol in products for kidney and liver problems for example, which is the last thing you want in that situation.

Dr Scott's Electric Flesh Brush, featured in this 1881 advert, is a concept still used today. Millions use body brushes to improve circulation and skin conditionDr Scott’s Electric Flesh Brush, featured in this 1881 advert, is a concept still used today. Millions use body brushes to improve circulation and skin condition
 
 
An advert from 1912 claiming to offer treatment for female diseases and piles, which consisted mainly of cocoa butter
An advert from 1912 claiming to offer treatment for female diseases and piles, which consisted mainly of cocoa butter
 An advert from 1912 (upper) claiming to offer treatment for female diseases and piles, which consisted mainly of cocoa butter. A breast enlargement advert (lower) dating from the early 1900s
 
This tubular device claimed to cure erectile dysfunction in the 1900s. The Vital Power massager created a vacuum via a crank that supposedly increased blood flow to the penis
This tubular device claimed to cure erectile dysfunction in the 1900s. The Vital Power massager created a vacuum via a crank that supposedly increased blood flow to the penis

Shock tactics: This advertisement from 1889 shows a product that supplied patients with a continuous current of low intensity electricity for a range of health remedies

Shock tactics: This advertisement from 1889 shows a product that supplied patients with a continuous current of low intensity electricity for a range of health remedies

 
 
Vintage health clinic advertisement in a newspaper dating from the early 1900's for Dr. Flint, Chicago Rupture Specialist, an unproven proprietary or patent medicine
Vintage health clinic advertisement in a newspaper dating from the early 1900’s for Dr. Flint, Chicago Rupture Specialist, an unproven proprietary or patent medicine
 
Attribution: Daily Mail

The ‘Hulk’ Protein

If you hate the idea of working out in a gym to look toned and muscle-bound, then this could be the news you have been waiting for.

Scientists in Australia believe they have found one of the molecular keys to a protein that promotes weight and muscle mass gain – without any exercise involved.

Researchers have found that by blocking the function of Grb10 – nicknamed the ‘Hulk’ protein – while mice were in the womb, they were considerably stronger and more muscular at birth than normal mice.

The study, published in the September issue of the respected FASEB Journal, has important implications for a wide range of conditions such as muscular dystrophy, Type 2 diabetes, and problems produced by muscle inflammation.

Grb10 seems to have a significant role in promoting muscle growth without any change in activity, diet, or adverse health effects, according to researchers.

“By identifying a novel mechanism regulating muscle development, our work has revealed potential new strategies to increase muscle mass”, said Lowenna J. Holt from the Diabetes and Obesity Research Program at the Garvan Institute of Medical Research in Sydney.

Holt and her colleagues compared two groups of mice. One with the Grb10 gene and the other where it was blocked.

Researchers examined the properties of the muscles in both adult and newborn mice and discovered that the increase caused by the loss of Grb10 had mainly occurred during prenatal development.

These results suggested that it may in future be possible to alter muscle growth and help faster healing, as the processes involved in muscle regeneration and repair are similar to

Um…Gross

those for the initial formation of muscle.

But Dr Gerald Weissmann, editor-in-chief of The FASEB Journal, warned: “Don’t turn in your gym membership just yet.  If you want big muscles, the classic prescription still applies: lift heavy things, eat and sleep right, and have your hormones checked.”

‘”But this study shows that when we understand the basic science of how muscle fibers grow and multiply, we will be able to lift the burden – literally – of muscle disease for many of our patients.”

Attribution: Mail Online

Antibiotics Cause Obesity

I don’t know if I buy this but it’s an interesting tidbit to consider. I personally, am more concerned with the overuse of antibiotics leading the way to anitbiotic resistant super-bugs.

Antibiotics Can Make Kids Fat

by:

Researchers are exploring a new culprit in the ever-growing childhood obesity epidemic: rampant use of antibiotic drugs to treat minor childhood illness.

For decades, farmers have been doping commercial livestock with antibiotics because the drugs increase, by about 15 percent, the weight of cattle, pigs and chickens.

A new study from the International Journal of Obesity suggests that treating infants with antibiotics during the first several months of their lives could have the same fattening effects. Babies that were given antibiotics within the first six months of life were more likely to be overweight as toddlers than those not exposed to the drugs. The study couldn’t prove beyond the shadow of doubt, however, that antibiotics were the only cause of weight gain.

A similar study examined the medical records of children born in the U.K. in the early 1990s and also found that infants given antibiotics within the first six months of life were more likely to be overweight or obese as toddlers when compared to babies not exposed to the drugs.

Other studies on the effects of antibiotics on the gut microbes of lab mice might explain the reason behind the weight gain. Researchers found that in the mice, antibiotics changed the makeup of gut bacteria that are instrumental in helping the body break down food and store proper amounts of fat.

More Advances in Cancer Research

A chemical found in green tea has been used to treat two types of skin cancer, scientists say.

The extract is too weak to make an impact when consumed in tea. However, when applied to cancer cells in the lab it made two-thirds of tumors shrink or disappear.

Scientists at the universities of Strathclyde and Glasgow, who carried out the research, found the extract, known as epigallocatechin gallate (EGCg), had no side-effects on other cells or tissue.

They created a cell with EGCg and transferrin, a protein that naturally targets and latches on to the surface of cancer cells, and applied it to tumors.

Tests were done on two types of skin cancer: epidermoid carcinoma which forms scales on the surface of the skin and melanoma which often develops in people who have moles on their skin.

In both studies, 40 per cent of tumors vanished, while 30 per cent of tumors in carcinoma cases and 20 per cent in melanoma cases shrank. A further 10 per cent of melanoma tumors were stabilized, so did not grow or shrink.

Anti-cancer properties of EGCg were established in earlier laboratory tests elsewhere. Scientists at other universities around the world have experimented with it to treat prostate cancer and leukemia.

Lead researcher Dr Christine Dufes, from the University of Strathclyde, said: ‘These are very encouraging results which we hope could pave the way for new and effective cancer treatments.

‘When we used our method, the green tea extract reduced the size of many of the tumors every day, in some cases removing them altogether. By contrast, the extract had no effect at all when it was delivered by other means, as every one of these tumors continued to grow.

‘This research could open doors to new treatments for what is still one of the biggest killer diseases in many countries.’

The research is published in the medical journal Nanomedicine.
Attribution: Nanomedicine, Daily Mail

Sunbathing Sharks

Sharks who spend too much time in the sun get a tan, researchers have discovered.

However, they do not appear to suffer from skin disease, raising hopes that shark skin could hold the key to beating skin cancer.

‘As far as I’m aware, sharks appear very robust to skin damage and disease,’ said Michael Sweet, a researcher in the School of Biology at Newcastle University’s Newcastle Institute for Research on Sustainability.

‘I don’t know what makes shark skin so special, but it definitely needs to be studied.

‘There have been a lot of attempts to induce melanomas in sharks to no affect.’

Researchers hope that if they can find the secret of how shark skin protects itself, it could be used to create a ‘shark lotion’ to protect human skin.

Another recent study, undertaken by the California State University Shark Lab, also looked at tanning in sharks.

Hammerhead shark pups held in a shallow clear seawater pond at the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology darkened after several weeks, where UV levels are 600 times greater than those in their regular habitat of Kaneohe Bay.

An opaque filter was placed over the pectoral fins of untanned sharks to cut out UV light, to determine whether the darkening was due to solar radiation.

‘Areas of skin from under the opaque filter were untanned, whereas all other skin exposed to direct sunlight was considerably darker, resulting in distinct ‘tan lines’, the researchers said.

Our experiments demonstrated that the sharks were truly sun-tanning and that the response was, in fact, induced by the increase in solar radiation, particularly UV.

‘These sharks increased the melanin content in their skin by 14 percent over 21 days, and up to 28 percent over 215 days.’

The researchers said the only other animals known to suntan are mammals.

Attribution: Medical Daily, Mail Online

Gimme Some Skin

Replacement skin may soon be easily available for burn victims and sufferers of other skin-related conditions following a break-through in the laboratory.

Scientists have been able to engineer skin on a large-scale – growing centimeters at a time, a huge step-up from previous techniques which could grow just microns at a time.

The researchers from the University of Toronto are able to grow sheets of skin by placing individual cells into a gel-like sheet, and they can  even be grown into specific shapes – such as letters.

Axel Guenther, associate professor in the department of mechanical and industrial engineering, said: ‘There’s a lot of interest in soft materials, particularly biomaterials, but until now no one has demonstrated a simple and scalable one-step process to go from microns to centimeters.’

The invention, presented in a cover article for the journal Advanced Materials this month, is currently being commercialized, with the university filing two patents on the device.

The scientists perfected the technique by mixing biomaterials, causing a chemical reaction that forms a ‘mosaic hydrogel’ – a sheet-like substance compatible with the growth of cells into living tissues, into which different types of cells can be seeded in very precise and controlled placements.

This is unlike more typical methods, for instance scaffolding, where cells are seeded onto an artificial structure capable of supporting three-dimensional tissue formation.

Instead, cells are planted onto the mosaic hydrogel sheets as they are being created – generating the perfect conditions for cells to grow.

The placement of the cells is so precise, in fact, that scientists can spell words and can precisely mimic the natural placement of cells in living tissues, which could prove very beneficial for burn victims.

The resulting tissues, says Lian Leng, lead author on the project and a 3rd year PHD candidate, are remarkably stable.

She said: ‘In this case, when we put the cells in the right places we create cellular organization quite naturally.’

Guenther added: ‘My laboratory is currently pursuing different applications of the technology with different tissues.’

Currently, the two UofT labs are also collaborating their research with a burn unit at Sunnybrook Hospital.

‘At some point [the machine] could allow dermal [skin] grafts to be prepared that perhaps will be less expensive, and more efficient,’ said Guenther.

Attribution: Mail Online

Cancer Cure?

The deadly ‘mother cells’ that drive the growth of tumors have been pinpointed for the first time – a breakthrough which could help in the development of a ‘real cure’, scientists say.

In three separate studies on different cancers, researchers have shown the growth and life of a tumor to be dependent on one small group of cells.

These cells, known as cancer stem cells, are also thought to fuel the disease’s spread around the body – the most common cause of death in cancer patients.

They are believed to be resistant to radiotherapy and chemotherapy and so to be to blame for cancers coming back after treatment.

But, until now, no one had proved them to exist in tumors.

The breakthrough, reported simultaneously in the prestigious journals Nature and Science, raises the prospect of better treatments for cancer.

Some scientists liken the killing of cancer stem cells to pulling dandelions out by the roots, rather than merely removing their heads.

They say that combining a drug that attacks these cells with current treatments could lead to a cure.

Ben Simons, of Cancer Research UK’s Cambridge Research Institute, said that knowing just which cells to target ‘might be a much better strategy to effect a real cure and prevent relapse’.

Professor Simons’s study tracked the development of skin cancer in mice. By tracking individual cells, it showed a small number of them drive the growth of the tumor.

A second study identified a group of cells that allow the most common type of brain tumor to regrow after chemotherapy.

This recurrence and resistance to treatment is blamed for the poor prognosis of glioblastoma, with patients living an average of just a year after diagnosis.

University of Texas researcher Luis Parada showed that killing the stem cells, with the help of genetic wizardry, stopped the brain tumors from growing any further in mice.

The third study showed the importance of cancer stem cells in early-stage stomach cancer.

The experiments are important because they tracked the progress of individual cells in tumors as they appeared. This makes the results more reliable than those of previous experiments, which have used more artificial scenarios.

In time, the work could lead to new drugs that home in on and destroy the ‘mother cells’. Options could include combining these with standard therapies to mop up cancer cells left behind by traditional treatment.

However, the work is still in the early stages and any patient benefits are likely to be many years away.

Hurdles include finding a drug that kills cancer stem cells without harming essential healthy stem cells.

Dr Michaela Frye, a Cancer Research UK scientist based at the University of Cambridge, said: ‘Their results add even more weight to the theory that cancers are driven by a distinct group of cells called cancer stem cells.’

Attribution: Mail Online

Blind Mice…No More

An injection into the eye could one day restore sight to the blind, scientists say.

The jab has already been found to repair sight in blind mice, leading to hopes for new treatments for human patients.

The molecule is injected into the eyes and acts as a ‘photoswitch’ that turns on light sensitive cells.

It allowed genetically programmed sightless animals to temporarily see. The researchers are now working on a better compound that could eventually cure people with degenerative blindness.

It could help those with the genetic disease retinitis pigmentosa – the most common inherited form of blindness – as well as AMD (age-related macular degeneration).

In both diseases the light sensitive cells in the retina – the rods and cones – die, leaving the eye without functional photoreceptors.

Professor Richard Kramer, of California University in Berkeley, said the chemical called AAQ acts by making the remaining, normally ‘blind’ cells in the retina sensitive to light.

AAQ (acrylamide-azobenzene-quaternary ammonium) is a photoswitch that binds to proteins on the surface of retinal cells. When switched on by light AAQ activates brain cells in much the same way as rods and cones are triggered.

Prof Kramer said: ‘This is similar to the way local anaesthetics work – they embed themselves in ion channels and stick around for a long time so you stay numb for a long time.

‘Our molecule is different in that it’s light sensitive so you can turn it on and off and turn on or off neural activity.’

Because the chemical eventually wears off it may offer a safer alternative to other experimental approaches for restoring sight – such as gene or stem cell therapies – which permanently change the retina. It’s also less invasive than implanting light-sensitive chips in the eye.

Prof Kramer said: ‘The advantage of this approach is it is a simple chemical which means you can change the dosage, you can use it in combination with other therapies or you can discontinue the therapy if you don’t like the results.

‘As improved chemicals become available you could offer them to patients. You can’t do that when you surgically implant a chip or after you genetically modify somebody.’

Co-researcher Dr Russell Van Gelder, an ophthalmologist at Washington University in Seattle, said: ‘This is a major advance in the field of vision restoration.’

The blind mice in the experiment had genetic mutations making their rods and cones die within months of birth and inactivated other photopigments in the eye.

After injecting very small amounts of AAQ into their eyes, light sensitivity was restored because the mice’s pupils contracted in bright light.

The mice showed light avoidance – a typical rodent behavior, impossible without the animals being able to see some light.

Prof Kramer whose study is published in Neuron is hoping to conduct more sophisticated vision tests in rodents injected with the next generation of the compound.

Dr Van Gelder said: ‘The photoswitch approach offers real hope to patients with retinal degeneration.

‘We still need to show these compounds are safe and will work in people the way they work in mice but these results demonstrate this class of compound restores light sensitivity to retinas blind from genetic disease.’

The current technologies being evaluated for restoring sight include injection of stem cells, gene therapy to insert a photoreceptor into blind neurons to make them sensitive to light and installation of electronic prosthetic devices to stimulate blind neurons.

Prof Kramer said several dozen people already have retinal implants and have had rudimentary, low vision restored.

Eight years ago his researchers developed an optogenetic technique to chemically alter potassium ion channels in blind neurons so a photoswitch could latch on.

Potassium channels normally open to turn a cell off but with the attached photoswitch they were opened when hit by ultraviolet light and closed when hit by green light – activating and deactivating the neurons.

Prof Kramer said new versions of AAQ now being tested activate neurons for days rather than hours using blue-green light of moderate intensity.

These photoswitches naturally deactivate in darkness so a second color of light is not needed to switch them off.

He said: ‘This is what we are really excited about.’

‘However, clearly it is still at an early stage and more extensive trials are needed to confirm the safety and effectiveness of this kind of treatment.’

Gestapo Marches into Maine

by: Steve Mistler, Portland Press Herald

Gov. Paul LePage used his weekly radio address to blast President Obama’s health care law and described the Internal Revenue Service as the “new Gestapo.”

The IRS description was a reference to a provision in the Affordable Care Act that requires Americans not insured by their employers or Medicaid to buy health insurance or pay an annual penalty when filing their tax returns.

The provision, known more broadly as the individual mandate, was the subject of a multi-state lawsuit, but was recently upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court. LePage said the court decision has “made America less free.” “We the people have been told there is no choice,” he said. “You must buy health insurance or pay the new Gestapo — the IRS.”

Maine Democratic Party Chairman Ben Grant, responding to LePage’s remarks, said, “We’ve come to expect a bunch of nonsense from Gov. LePage, but this is a step too far. There appears now to be no limit to the extreme language he will use to misinform, degrade and insult people. Somebody needs to explain to him that he’s the governor of a state, and not a talk radio host. I demand a full apology on behalf of all those who suffered at the hands of the real Gestapo.”

“There is nothing that degrades politics more than purported leaders who so cavalierly invoke the worst in human history when they can’t get their way in legitimate, modern policy disagreements,” Grant said. The Gestapo were Nazi Germany’s official secret police under Adolf Hitler, who imprisoned and murdered thousands of people without cause.

The debate over the mandate has become a political flash point since the health law was enacted. Republicans maintain that the requirement is an unfair tax. Democrats say the mandate was originally a Republican idea born from the conservative Heritage Foundation, which introduced the measure in 1989 as a counterpoint to calls for a single-payer health care system.

LePage also addressed another element of the health-care law that was immediately thrust into the public debate: Medicaid expansion. Originally, Obamacare required states to increase eligibility for low-income residents or pay a penalty. The court decision struck down the penalty; however, the federal government is still offering to pay for the expansion. The federal government will fund 100 percent of the expansion from 2014 to 2016, gradually declining to 90 percent after that.

LePage says he needs more answers before making a decision about the Medicaid expansion, which has been assailed by fellow Republican governors. At least 15 have said they’ll forgo the federal funding. LePage said the state doesn’t know how the federal matches will be paid for and how the newly eligible recipients would be defined. “However, Maine is already a welfare expansion state because of the generous benefits offered,” he said, adding that Maine’s welfare costs are among the highest in the nation because the state had expanded Medicaid prior to the Republican electoral sweep of 2010.

The governor also appeared to preempt potential pressure from hospitals to support Medicaid expansion. Hospitals may end up supporting the expansion because increased Medicaid offerings lower uncompensated, or charity, care levels. Uncompensated care is health-care costs that hospitals absorb because people can’t or won’t pay.

A recent report in the Portland Press Herald showed that uncompensated care by Maine hospitals has doubled over the last five years, from $94 million to $194 million. LePage said that increasing Medicaid may make it more difficult to pay hospitals the $500 million the state already owes in reimbursement.

The governor added that Maine will not move forward the ACA’s insurance exchanges — the marketplaces where individuals can shop for health plans from private companies — until the proposed $800 million tab to pay for them passes Congress. “With these looming uncertainties circling around this issue, Maine cannot move forward right now with Obamacare,” LePage said.

The governor finished his radio address by outlining his ideological opposition to the health-care law, which he said “raises taxes, cuts Medicare for the elderly, gets between patients and their doctors, costs trillions of taxpayer dollars, and kills jobs.” “Even more disheartening is that reviving the American dream just became nearly impossible to do,” he said. “We are now a nation which supports dependency rather than independence. Instead of encouraging self-reliance, we are encouraging people to rely on the government.”

Modified Mosquitoes

Huge numbers of genetically modified mosquitoes are to be breed by scientists in Brazil to help stop the spread of dengue fever, an illness that has already struck nearly 500,000 people this year nationwide.

Dengue effects between 50 and 100 million people in the tropics and subtropics each year, causing fever, muscle and joint ache as well as potentially fatal dengue haemorrhagic fever and dengue shock syndrome.

The disease is caused by four strains of virus that are spread by the mosquito Aedes aegypti. There is no vaccine, which is why scientists are focusing so intensely on mosquito control.

The initiative in Brazil will produce large quantities of genetically modified male Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, which will be released into nature to mate with females, the health ministry said.

“Their offspring will not reach adulthood, which should reduce the population,” it said in a statement.

The new mosquitoes will be produced in a factory inaugurated on Saturday in the northeastern Brazilian state of Bahia. Four million insects will be churned out per week.

The experiment has already been attempted in two mosquito-infested towns in Bahia, each with about 3,000 inhabitants.

“Using this technique, we reduced the mosquito population by 90 per cent in six months,” the ministry said.

Attribution: UK Telegraph