Issue 28: Colorectal Cancer, 3 Parent Babies, Delay Weed & Mediterranean Diet

Recommended Colorectal Cancer Screening Age is Now 45
An unpleasant experience. Image: CNB News

We all fear aging because we have to get colonoscopies for screening colorectal cancer. The recommended age is now 45. The American Cancer Society updated its guidelines last week, based on incidence rates and modeling. The screening includes either a high sensitivity stool-based test or a visual exam. This means that the recommendation is not based on an actual clinical trial. So far, the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force and the American Academy of Family Physicians recommend screening for colorectal cancer from ages 50-75. Screening recommendations is a balancing act between benefiting from catching the disease early vs. the burden of getting the screening procedure itself. Smells like more cash for the GI docs for now!

Trump Signs VA Bill 
Trump surrounded by people wearing hats. Image: The Hill

It's a good day for the veterans. Several issues ago, we covered the news regarding the Veterans Affairs (VA) expanding its care into the private sector. President Trump finally signed it today. Veterans now have the option of seeing private sector doctors depending on the wait time, distance from the VA, and the type of care needed. Called the VA MISSION Act, this was part of Trump's pledge during his campaign, and has won bipartisan support. The hope is that it will also improve the quality of VA through incentives such as scholarships for medical students to pledge working at the VA, and not just encourage public-private sector partnerships.

3 Parent Babies
Are we playing God or practicing good science? Image: HFEA

An infertility technology that uses DNA from 3 parents has been successful in four babies. One of them is already 15months old. Doctors in a clinic in Kiev, Ukraine are performing this dark magic-esque procedure known to the scientific community but not practiced publicly anywhere else on earth. UK approved this technology back in 2016 but has had no successful babies yet. Dr. John Zhang in New York used the procedure for patients with mitochondrial diseases in 2017 but received a warning from the FDA. The technology basically involves two sperms from the husband and one egg from the wife and another from a donor. A sperm is injected to each egg and allowed to develop into embryos. The donor's embryo gets evacuated except for its mitochondrial DNA, and the DNA from the husband and wife's embryo gets injected into the donor's. It is believed that the mitochondrial DNA has 37 genes and may contain defects that prevent women from getting pregnant. They have succeeded in 4 out of 21 patients, but remains optimistic in providing the hope that some couples are desperate for. But of course scientists and clinicians find approach irresponsible as it does not have enough trials or research to prove safety. Is this another step closer to designer babies or genetically modified babies?

Say 'Delay' to Weed
Some kids know more about THC than us. Image: KQED

Marijuana has been legal in several states for a while, and its ubiquity has gotten some forward thinking teachers to come up with a new approach. Instead of the conventional 'Just Say No' campaign, teachers have implemented a more informative approach that teaches students the science behind marijuana. The Being Adept curriculum is an evidence-based tool in San Francisco that utilizes scientific concepts such as THC concentrations, dopamine pathway, and tolerance. Instead of scaring and forcing the students, the teachers encourage the students to 'Delay, Delay, Delay,' and tell them that it is ultimately up to them to decide what to do at parties or other places they are exposed to marijuana. Would kids be scared of their frontal lobes getting hijacked by marijuana or view marijuana as source of legit recreation?

Fight Air Pollution With Mediterranean Diet
Colorful Mediterranean diet. Image: Great Lakes Ledger

Recently, there was a groundbreaking smackdown-style comparison between different types of diet and the Mediterranean diet won. A recent study further substantiated their prowess; it can apparently help protect against air pollution. Researchers at NYU looked into data from over half million people based on how close their diet was to the Mediterranean diet, then compared their death rate relative to their exposure to air pollution. People whose diet most closely resembled the Mediterranean diet had the lowest death rate for those had long term exposure to nitrous oxide, a chemical The take home message is that the Mediterranean diet might have the best antioxidant effects to fight the inflammatory effects that the good old city air has on our lungs. The study author, Chris Lim, who happens to be a friend of ours, drove home the core message of their study, "eat your veggies."