Monday, December 21, 2009

Men for All Seasons

We agree with The - one individual stands out as the most accomplished scientists of 2009.

Unless you have been living under a rock this year, you probably know that Francis Collins, MD, PhD, was appointed director of the National Institutes of Health in August.

The geneticist accepted the position after 15 years at the helm of the National Human Genome Research Institute, during which time he helped finish the Human Genome Project ahead of schedule and under budget. Since taking control of the NIH, Collins has been pushing an agenda focused on personalized medicine and stem cell research, backing the efforts by approving 40 new human embryonic stem cell lines as eligible for federal funding. Dr. Collins has also found time to be a much more public figure than previous NIH directors, taking time out to rock with Aerosmith's Joe Perry and joke around with Stephen Colbert.

While directing the National Human Genome Research Institute, he formed a rock band called 'The Directors" with other NIH scientists.  They frequently dueled with a rock band from Johns Hopkins University, led by esteemed cancer researcher Bert Vogelstein who once said, "Anyone who likes to play with toys has got to like science because scientists have the world's best toys."

Bart Gordon comes in as a close second in our opinion.

As Chairman of the House Committee on Science and Technology, the 13th term Democrat from Tennessee played a key role in ensuring science got a major boost from stimulus funding.

Bart Gordon also authored bills to further nanotechnology research and commercialization (H.R. 554, passed February 11), require that the President create a national water strategy (H.R. 1145, passed April 23), and improve science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education programs (H.R. 1709, passed June 8).

Gordon also helped allocate $400 million in stimulus funding to start the Department of Energy's Advanced Research Projects Agency -- Energy, which funds high risk, high reward energy research. Although the Congressman announced he won't be running for re-election next year, science sure was lucky to have him around in 2009.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Darwin's Minstrel

The on-line Life Sciences Magazine called The Scientist posted an interesting piece to honor the November 24, 2009 150th anniversary of  Charles Darwin's seminal work, On the Origin of Species.

"Survival of the fittest does not mean survival of the strongest, but survival of those that best fit their environment, " says Brett Keyser, who co-wrote Darwinii, a play that focuses on big ideas, including natural selection, sexual selection, adaptation, and the struggle for survival.

View a delightful Brett Keyser video at this link

Keyser also has been quoted as saying, "Darwin work added to our understanding of the world.  He showed us that nature is always a delicate balance, which is important for our current understanding of how the decisions we make now can change our environment. "

Big Ideas, Art and Science: perfect entertainment for the 2010 Aspen Ideas Festival.

Ellen Troyer, MT MA
Biosyntrx CEO
Chief Research Officer

Friday, October 16, 2009

Eye Memory

A new study published in the journal Neuron suggests that eye movements pick the right answers in memory tests, even when the brain doesn't.

Apparently, eye movements correspond to activity in the hippocampus, one of the most important learning and memory centers in the brain. Eye movements are now suggested to reveal unconscious memories.

Two researchers showed volunteers in a functional MRI scanner pictures of 3 faces paired with 50 photos of outdoor scenes. The volunteers were then asked to choose which face had been matched with which landscape scene.   When the scene was shown, activity in the hippocampus increased, followed 500 to 750 milliseconds later by eye movements directed toward the correct face, even if the volunteer had clearly chosen a different face.

Eye movements may become a new way of helping scientists understand how much people who are unable to talk and patients with dementia or schizophrenia remember.  People with these disorders may remember far more than they are able to say.   

Bottom line: keep your eyes and brain healthy.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Buy Supplements From Reputable Companies

WASHINGTON, D.C., October 7, 2009 — In response to a “Perspective” article published on-line today by the New England Journal of Medicine, which discusses the regulatory status of dietary supplements, the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN), the leading trade association representing the dietary supplement industry, issued the following statement by Andrew Shao, Ph.D., vice president, scientific and regulatory affairs, CRN:

“We question how a perspective article about the regulatory status of dietary supplements was accepted for publication in a leading scientific journal, yet facts were not checked. This article contains numerous errors, omissions or misinterpretations with regard to the regulation of dietary supplements, including the misstatement of how botanical supplements were regulated prior to the passage of the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA). The author may be a credible doctor, but his expertise in understanding the practicalities of the regulatory framework for dietary supplements is questionable.

Contrary to what has become an urban myth, DSHEA did not lessen the oversight of dietary supplements—in fact, DSHEA actually provided the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) with new enforcement authority not previously available. For example, DSHEA provided FDA with additional authority to remove adulterated or unsafe supplement products from the market. Further, DSHEA gave FDA authority to issue good manufacturing practices (GMPs) specific to dietary supplements to help ensure the quality and safety of dietary supplements, a critical component of dietary supplement regulation, conspicuously absent from this article. It is already against the law to manufacture and market adulterated or contaminated dietary supplements.

The author chooses to focus on select isolated examples of incidents, as if they were representative of the industry as a whole and fails to place the information into any kind of context. In the first full year that mandatory reporting of serious adverse events was in existence, FDA received only 1,080 total adverse event reports, 672 of which were considered serious. For context, these numbers are minute in comparison to the hundreds of thousands of adverse event reports FDA receives each year for other regulated products such drugs, biologics and medical devices. The overwhelming majority of dietary supplements are safe and well-made and consumers value the benefits these products can provide.

The problems presented by outliers are not isolated to dietary supplements. Like any regulated industry, there are unscrupulous manufacturers that don’t follow the law—but that is not the fault of the law itself nor of responsible manufacturers and changing the law will not deter rogue companies from breaking the law. What is needed are more resources for both FDA and FTC to step up enforcement efforts. The best bet for consumers is to learn as much as they can about the companies from which they plan to purchase supplement products. Stay away from companies making product claims that purport to cure diseases or promise magic bullet results; focus on companies with good reputations, well-known brands, or third-party certifications; and discuss with your physician or other healthcare professional what products or companies he or she recommends. More than 150 million Americans take dietary supplements each year as part of their healthy lifestyle.”


I post this as a voting member of the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN), founded in 1973, is a Washington, D.C.-based trade association representing dietary supplement manufacturers and ingredient suppliers. In addition to complying with a host of federal and state regulations governing dietary supplements in the areas of manufacturing, marketing, quality control and safety, our 70+ manufacturer and supplier members also agree to adhere to additional voluntary guidelines as well as CRN’s Code of Ethics. Visit

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

How Much Fish Oil

The American Heart Association (AHA) Summary of Recommendations for Omega-3 Fatty Acid Intake as of May 7, 2009.

Patients without documented coronary heart disease (CHD)
AHA Recommendation:
Eat a variety of fatty fish at least twice a week.

Patients with documented CHD
AHA Recommendation:
Consume about 1 gram of EPA+DHA per day, preferably from fatty fish.

Patients who need to lower triglycerides
AHA Recommendation:
2 to 4 grams of EPA +DHA per day, provided as fish oil capsules and always under physician care.

The AHA report suggest that patients taking more than 3 grams of omega-3 fatty acids from capsules can be at increased risk of internal bleeding and suppressed immune system.

What do epidemiological and observational studies show?

The Good News: Epidemiologic and clinical trials have shown that omega-3 fatty acids reduce CVC incidence. Large-scale epidemiologic studies suggest that people at risk for coronary heart disease benefit from consuming omega-3 fatty acids from plants and marine sources.

However, the ideal amount to take isn't clear, and neither the AHA or the Institute of Medicine recommend more than 500 mg per day (3,500 mg per week) for disease prevention. Evidence from a few prospective secondary prevention studies suggest that taking 2 grams of EPA / DHA per day (fatty fish or supplements) reduces deaths from heart disease. Other retrospective studies suggest not.

Fish Oil is the largest selling product in the supplement industry and agressive marketers are not shy about recommending 2 or more grams of EPA/DHA a day for disease prevention. The American Heart Association clearly recommends physician care for those taking over 3 grams of Omega-3 EPA /DHA on a daily basis.

We at Biosyntrx strongly support fish consumption and fish oil supplementation, but it is not the be-all-end-all magic bullet that some suggest. Excessive amounts of supplemental fish oil may inhibit the body's ability to mount a lifesaving inflammatory response if needed.

Good health and certainly eye health is dependent on adequate consumption of the the full-spectrum of nutrients including fatty acids, portion and weight control, shades when in the sun, committment to regular exercise and loving friend and family relationships.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Omega-6 Fatty Acid Jobs

Dietary Omega-6  fatty acid is responsible for the bodies ability to mount a lifesaving inflammatory response when needed. This includes spiking a fever to kill off bacterial and viral infections, swelling to protect bones, and clotting to prevent us from bleeding to death.

Biologist have now discovered that the smell of death or injury that repels living beings has been identified as Omega-6 linoleic acid.  A biology professor at McMaster University, David Rollo, found that corpses all emit the same death stench produced by this fatty acid.

Dr. Rollo suggests that recognizing and avoiding the dead could reduce the chances of catching the disease, or allow you to get away with just enough exposure to activate your inate immunity.

He also suggests that linoleic acid is reliable and quickly released from cells following death.  Evolution appears to have favoured such clues because they were reliable associated with demise, and avoiding contagion and predation are rather critical to survival.

I am always in awe of the the brilliant way the body uses nutrients.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Grand Junction CO & Health Reform

Grand Junction Colorado's health care system is often sited as excellent and one to be envied.

The system excels because of extraordinary collaboration. This did not occur at random or in a vacuum. Effective collaboration results from the tenacious commitment of its key players to a shared vision of community performance, realized through incentives, information sharing, and appreciation of distinct comparative advantages. Many lessons of the Grand Junction experience should inform the national health reform debate.

Lesson #1:
Vision and incentives are essential to an operational sense of community. Grand Junction’s leaders view their own self-interest and the community’s interests as congruent.

Lesson #2:
Information systems and data sharing are essential for collaboration and trust. The electronic records system and the interoperability enable evidence-based collaboration on complex and high-cost cases, across institutions and among clinicians.

Lesson #3:
Complementary institutions pursuing their comparative advantages facilitate collaboration. Grand Junction’s providers allow specialized complements to focus on specific populations to ensure that all residents get the right care at the right time.

Lesson #4:
Primary care is the core of any high performance health system. Throughout a patient’s life, primary care physicians in Grand Junction are involved in all levels of treatment. Continuity and collaboration between primary care physicians, specialists, and other members of care teams leads to higher-quality care, better outcomes, and lower costs. Most importantly, team-based care refocuses the delivery system on the patient, not on the provider.

I am happy to provide a PDF of an article called Grand Junction, Colorado: A Health Community That Works to all interested readers. The authors are Len Nichols, Micah Weinberg and Julie Barnes.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Healthcare War

Every time I start to semiseriously consider just giving up on today's nasty partisan politics, a favorite writer will force me to take a deep breath, have a good laugh, and in this case - listen to some great music.

Here is San Francisco writer, Sam Barry's September 8 column. Sam is Dr. Betty Kamen's son-in-law. Dr. Kamen is an esteemed member of the Biosyntrx Scientific Advisory Board.

"We are fast approaching the time when we, as a nation—and here I am referring to the United States, not Denmark—must make a decision regarding the healthcare system. Broadly speaking, there are two positions on the healthcare crisis, which can be characterized as follows:

Position 1: Everyone should have healthcare. This should be a national priority. If you think otherwise you are an evil, greedy corporate lobbyist for Big Pharma, the insurance industry, or the AMA, or an insane member of the gun-toting Christian right-wing Republican conspiracy, located somewhere east of Berkeley and west of the Hudson River, probably in Texas or Colorado Springs.

Position 2: Healthcare is for sissies. I have a good job and I have healthcare because I earned it. Later, when I am older, I will have Medicare, which I also earned. Screw the rest of you, except for my loved ones, who deserve nothing but the best because I have family values. People who think differently than me are, in a word, Commies.

As you can see, these two positions are fairly far apart. As I see it, we can all either sit down at the negotiating table and hammer out an agreement that serves the best interests of the nation and its citizenry, or we can grab our weapons, get behind some barricades, and start shooting.

The last time we did this in the United States (the shooting that is)—if you exclude minor incidents like the pitched battles at recent congressional town hall meetings—was during the Civil War. While I am not suggesting we have another civil war over the healthcare crisis, it would solve a couple of problems: one side or the other would win, ending the debate; the economy would get a kick start; many National Guard troops would get to come home from Iraq and Afghanistan to fight Americans right here in America; and there would be some good songs written, which we could all then learn to play on the harmonica. Win, win, win all around."

Thank you Sam, for bringing some much-needed humor to the healthcare issue. As promised, here is a link of you playing two of my favorite tunes.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Annals of Surgery Abstract on Healthcare Reform

Abstract: The United States has the most expensive and complex healthcare system in the world. Despite the magnitude of funds spent on the system, Americans do not achieve the high standards of health seen in other developed countries.

The current model of health insurance has failed to deliver efficient and effective healthcare. The administrative costs and lack of buying power that arise out of the existing multipayer system are at the root of the problem. The current system also directly contributes to the rising number of uninsured and underinsured Americans.

This lack of insurance leads to poorer health outcomes, and a significant amount of money is lost into the system by paying for these complications. Experience from other countries suggests that tangible improvements can occur with conversion to a single-payer system. However, previous efforts at reform have stalled.

There are many myths commonly held true by both patients and physicians. This inscrutability of the US healthcare system may be the major deterrent to its improvement. A discussion of these myths can lead to increased awareness of the inequality of our healthcare system and the possibilities for improvement.

Sarpel U, Vladeck G, Divina C: Klotman P. Fact and Fiction: Debunking Myths in the US Healthcare System Annals of Surgery: April 2008 - volume 247-Issue 4 - PP 563-569

Friday, August 7, 2009

Statins for Age-related Macular Degeneration

This Cochrane review published on July, 17, 2009, identified one completed and one ongoing randomized controlled trial.

Of the completed trial, in which 30 patients received either 20 mg simvastatin or a placebo daily for a period of three months, the analyses did not show a statistically significant difference in visual acuity at completion of study treatment or 45 days after the completion of study treatment.

Of the ongoing trial, the preliminary analyses after 12 months of treatment did not show a statistically significant difference between 40 mg simvastatin daily and placebo in visual acuity, drusen score or visual function. Due to the small size of the completed trial and the short duration of the treatment and follow–up period, no conclusion regarding the effects of statins on the onset or progression of AMD can be made at this time. The authors will update this review as data from the ongoing trial become available.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Balanced Immune Health

Experts are warning that the 2009 fall/winter season could be a miserable one from a public health standpoint. Therefore, we strongly recommend that our Friday Pearl readers subscribe to this blog.

These folks clearly understand the importance of maintaining a properly balanced immune system, so that our killer cells instantly kill when they need to, and our suppressor cells know when to call off the attack dog cells when an aggressive immune response is no longer needed. Over-reactive immune response can be responsible for cytokine storms that are particularly dangerous for our lungs when it comes to flu bugs.
Have a great weekend.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Aspen Ideas Festival

This short Brian Greene video from this week's Aspen Ideas Festival is not to be missed by those of you who love science and those of you who weren't properly introduced to the joy of the subject.

Brian Greene is the author of The Elegant Universe, Icarus at the Edge of Time and The Fabric of the Cosmos. He is a full professor at Columbia University.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Selenium "Highly Unlikely" to Reduce Prostate Cancer Risk

FDA has concluded that minimal evidence supports the linking of selenium consumption and reduced risk of prostate cancer, likely delivering a further blow to Bayer One A Day Men’s Multivitamins products containing the mineral and touting its prostate health benefits.

In a decision dated June 19, the agency informs attorney Jonathan Emord that it “intends to consider the exercise of its enforcement discretion” for a claim stating the following: Two weak studies suggest that selenium intake may reduce the risk of prostate cancer. However, four stronger studies and three weak studies showed no reduction in risk. Based on these studies, FDA concludes that it is highly unlikely that selenium supplements reduce the risk of prostate cancer.

The agency's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition is allowing two similarly weak qualified health claims for selenium and bladder and thyroid cancer. FDA rejected all claims for a number of other site-specific cancers Emord had sought, including lung, brain and breast cancers.

In an e-mail, Emord said the agency’s decisions violate First Amendment standards and “reveal a profound and unscientific bias against communication of accurate information concerning the relationship between these nutrients and these disease risks.”

FDA currently allows QHCs linking selenium and vitamins C and E to reduced risk of “certain forms of cancers,” but has not approved the mention of any specific cancers.

Under its new leadership, FDA has shown little willingness to be flexible when claims fall outside approved language and supporting science. Commissioner Peggy Hamburg recently said the agency does not wish “to delve too deeply into the wordsmithing of various claims and labels,” but does want them “to accurately reflect the best available science with respect to the safety and benefits of a given product.”

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Genetically Modified Foods?

I just received this news release from a fellow board member of the Optometric Nutrition Society.

One May 19, 2009, The American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM) released its position paper on Genetically Modified foods stating that "GM foods pose a serious health risk" and calling for a moratorium on GM foods.

Citing several animal studies, the AAEM concludes "there is more than a casual association between GM foods and adverse health effects" and that "GM foods pose a serious health risk in the areas of toxicology, allergy and immune function, reproductive health, and metabolic, physiologic and genetic health." The AAEM calls for:* A moratorium on GM food, implementation of immediate long term safety testing and labeling of GM food.

* Physicians to educate their patients, the medical community and the public to avoid GM foods. * Physicians to consider the role of GM foods in their patients' disease processes.
* More independent long term scientific studies to begin gathering data to investigate the role of GM foods on human health.

"Multiple animal studies have shown that GM foods cause damage to various organ systems in the body. With this mounting evidence, it is imperative to have a moratorium on GM foods for the safety of our patients' and the public's health," said Dr. Amy Dean, PR chair and Board Member of AAEM.

"Physicians are probably seeing the effects in their patients, but need to know how to ask the right questions," said Dr. Jennifer Armstrong, President of AAEM. "The most common foods in North America which are consumed that are GMO are corn, soy, canola, and cottonseed oil." The AAEM's position paper on Genetically Modified foods can be found at

We recommend that everyone reading this blog take the time to read the AAEM's position paper on genetically modified foods. We can't possibly afford the disease consequences associated with new-to-nature-molecules that prove to be harmful - think hydrogenation and trans-fats.