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Eight substances added to 15th Report on Carcinogens

In the new report, chronic infection with the bacterium Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori)is listed as known to be a human carcinogen. The flame-retardant chemical antimony trioxide, and six haloacetic acids (HAAs) found as water disinfection byproducts are listed as reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen.

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Photo by Angiola Harry from Unsplash.com

Eight substances have been added to the Report on Carcinogens, bringing the total list to 256 substances that are known, or reasonably anticipated, to cause cancer in humans. This is the 15th Report on Carcinogens, which is a cumulative report, mandated by Congress and prepared by the National Toxicology Program (NTP) for the Secretary of the US Department of Health and Human Services. The release of this report coincides with the 50th Anniversary of the National Cancer Act of 1971, which initiated the war on cancer in the US.

In the new report, chronic infection with the bacterium Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori)is listed as known to be a human carcinogen. The flame-retardant chemical antimony trioxide, and six haloacetic acids (HAAs) found as water disinfection byproducts are listed as reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen.

“Cancer affects almost everyone’s life, either directly or indirectly,” said Rick Woychik, Ph.D., director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and NTP. “As the identification of carcinogens is a key step in cancer prevention, publication of the report represents an important government activity towards improving public health.”

The Report on Carcinogens identifies many different environmental factors, collectively called substances, including chemicals; infectious agents, such as viruses; physical agents, such as X-rays and ultraviolet radiation; and exposure scenarios. A substance is listed as either known to be a human carcinogen or reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen, to indicate the potential hazard.

The report does not include estimates of cancer risk because many factors affect whether a person will or will not develop cancer. Those include the carcinogenic potency of the substance, the level and duration of exposure, and an individual’s susceptibility to the carcinogenic action of the substance.

Chronic infection with H. pylori

H. pylori is a bacterium that colonizes in the stomach and can cause gastritis and peptic ulcers. Most people do not show symptoms. Chronic infection may lead to stomach cancer and a rare type of stomach lymphoma. Infection primarily occurs from person-to-person contact, especially in crowded housing conditions, and may occur by drinking well water contaminated with H. pylori.

People living in poverty and certain racial, ethnic, and immigrant groups are disproportionately affected by H. pylori infection. Treatment of infected people who have stomach ulcers or signs of stomach infection can decrease their risk of cancer.

Antimony trioxide

Antimony trioxide is primarily used as a component of flame-retardants in plastics, textiles, and other consumer products. Highest exposure occurs among workers who produce the substance or use it to make flame retardants.

Other people are potentially exposed to low levels of antimony trioxide from breathing contaminated outdoor air or dust from the wear and tear of flame-retardant-treated consumer products, such as carpets and furniture. State and federal agencies limit exposure to the substance in the workplace and the environment through regulation.

Six haloacetic acids (HAAs) found as water disinfection byproducts

Water treatment removes contaminants and disease-causing agents from drinking water. HAAs are formed during the disinfection of water from a reaction between the chlorine-based disinfection agents and organic matter in the source water.

Approximately 250 million U.S. residents use community water systems and are potentially exposed to HAAs in disinfected water. Municipal water systems monitor for some HAAs. Improvements in disinfection technology, such as filtration methods, can reduce the levels of HAAs in drinking water.

The following six HAAs are included in the report:

  • Bromochloroacetic acid (BCA)
  • Bromodichloroacetic acid (BDCA)
  • Chlorodibromoacetic acid (CDBA)
  • Dibromoacetic acid (DBA)
  • Dichloroacetic acid (DCA)
  • Tribromoacetic acid (TBA)

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Combination of drugs for obesity and Type 2 diabetes may be more effective than a single therapy

The researchers conclude that combining the drugs has several advantages, including higher effectiveness in at least some patients and fewer side-effects.

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Canadian and German researchers are teaming up to identify new drug combinations to treat people with obesity and Type 2 diabetes. 

The goal is to develop personalized prescriptions that are more effective than single drugs and that can potentially replace more invasive treatments such as bariatric surgery, especially for children. 

“As a pediatric endocrinologist, I can tell you we’re seeing more and more Type 2 diabetes in kids and adolescents, and it seems to be a more aggressive form than adult onset diabetes, so we do need better therapies to achieve even greater efficacy and degree of weight loss,” said Andrea Haqq, a professor in the University of Alberta’s Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry.

The researchers recently published a paper that examines the potential of several drugs that control incretins. These metabolic hormones stimulate the body to produce insulin and use it effectively. They also suppress appetite in order to control blood sugars and reduce weight. 

The researchers conclude that combining the drugs has several advantages, including higher effectiveness in at least some patients and fewer side-effects. 

Even a five per cent weight loss is considered clinically meaningful, and patients in some of the combination drug trials are achieving 10 or 15 per cent, said Haqq, who is a member of the Alberta Diabetes Institute and the Women and Children’s Health Research Institute. 

Haqq’s laboratory is collaborating with that of Timo Müller, director of the Institute for Diabetes and Obesity at the Helmholtz Diabetes Center and a researcher with the German Center for Diabetes Research in Münich, Germany.

As part of the collaboration with the Müller team, first author Qiming Tan, a PhD candidate in the U of A Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry, will study for a term in Germany and a German student will join Haqq’s lab here.

Haqq and Tan recommend further research to identify why some individuals respond differently to the drugs. Some racial and ethnic groups bear a disproportionate burden of obesity and Type 2 diabetes, they said, so more participants from these groups are needed in trials. Further studies should also focus on how differences in biological sex affect drug efficacy and safety. 

In addition to drug combinations, the researchers are looking for non-pharmacological solutions, such as how adding fibre to a person’s diet can slow weight gain and improve the effectiveness of existing diabetes medications.

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How sleep helps to process emotions

According to the researchers, the coexistence of both mechanisms is beneficial to the stability and survival of the organisms: “This bi-directional mechanism is essential to optimize the discrimination between dangerous and safe signals,” says Mattia Aime from the DBMR, first author of the study.

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Photo by Mpho Mojapelo from Unsplash.com

Researchers at the Department of Neurology of the University of Bern and University Hospital Bern identified how the brain triages emotions during dream sleep to consolidate the storage of positive emotions while dampening the consolidation of negative ones. The work expands the importance of sleep in mental health and opens new ways of therapeutic strategies.

Rapid eye movement (REM or paradoxical) sleep is a unique and mysterious sleep state during which most of the dreams occur together with intense emotional contents. How and why these emotions are reactivated is unclear. The prefrontal cortex integrates many of these emotions during wakefulness but appears paradoxically quiescent during REM sleep.

“Our goal was to understand the underlying mechanism and the functions of such a surprising phenomenon,” says Prof. Antoine Adamantidis from the Department of Biomedical Research (DBMR) at the University of Bern and the Department of Neurology at the Inselspital, University Hospital of Bern.

Processing emotions, particularly distinguishing between danger and safety, is critical for the survival of animals. In humans, excessively negative emotions, such as fear reactions and states of anxiety, lead to pathological states like Post-Traumatic Stress Disorders (PTSD). In Europe, roughly 15% of the population is affected by persistent anxiety and severe mental illness. The research group headed by Antoine Adamantidis is now providing insights into how the brain helps to reinforce positive emotions and weaken strongly negative or traumatic emotions during REM sleep. This study was published in the journal Science.

A dual mechanism

The researchers first conditioned mice to recognize auditory stimuli associated with safety and others associated with danger (aversive stimuli). The activity of neurons in the brain of mice was then recorded during sleep-wake cycles. In this way, the researchers were able to map different areas of a cell and determine how emotional memories are transformed during REM sleep.  

Neurons are composed of a cell body (soma) that integrates information coming from the dendrites (inputs) and send signals to other neurons via their axons (outputs). The results obtained showed that cell somas are kept silent while their dendrites are activated. “This means a decoupling of the two cellular compartments, in other words soma wide asleep and dendrites wide awake,” explains Adamantidis.

This decoupling is important because the strong activity of the dendrites allows the encoding of both danger and safety emotions, while the inhibitions of the soma completely block the output of the circuit during REM sleep. In other words, the brain favors the discrimination of safety versus danger in the dendrites, but block the over-reaction to emotion, in particular danger.

A survival advantage

According to the researchers, the coexistence of both mechanisms is beneficial to the stability and survival of the organisms: “This bi-directional mechanism is essential to optimize the discrimination between dangerous and safe signals,” says Mattia Aime from the DBMR, first author of the study.

If this discrimination is missing in humans and excessive fear reactions are generated, this can lead to anxiety disorders. The findings are particularly relevant to pathological conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorders, in which trauma is over-consolidated in the prefrontal cortex, day after day during sleep.

Breakthrough for sleep medicine

These findings pave the way to a better understanding of the processing of emotions during sleep in humans and open new perspectives for therapeutic targets to treat maladaptive processing of traumatic memories, such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorders (PTSD) and their early sleep-dependent consolidation.

Additional acute or chronic mental health issues that may implicate this somatodendritic decoupling during sleep include acute and chronic stress, anxiety, depression, panic, or even anhedonia, the inability to feel pleasure. Sleep research and sleep medicine have long been a research focus of the University of Bern and the Inselspital, Bern University Hospital. “We hope that our findings will not only be of interest to the patients, but also to the broad public”, says Adamantidis.

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MetroMart to sell only cage-free eggs nationwide by 2025

MetroMart’s e-commerce platform connects consumers with local supermarkets and retailers including The Marketplace, Marks & Spencer, Landmark and All Day Supermarket. The company delivers throughout the Manila and Cebu regions, with plans to expand nationally.

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MetroMart, the country’s largest e-commerce grocery delivery platform, won praise today from U.S.-based global NGO Lever Foundation for its new commitment to source and sell only cage-free eggs nationwide by 2025.

“MetroMart is committed to social responsibility and benefiting the community, including through selling high quality, safe and humane food products,” said Evreem Fortich, Chief Operating Officer at MetroMart and ambassador of the company on the issue. “We’re pleased to share our new policy of selling only cage-free eggs to consumers on our platform by 2025, and we look forward to working closely with our partners to achieve that goal.”

MetroMart’s e-commerce platform connects consumers with local supermarkets and retailers including The Marketplace, Marks & Spencer, Landmark and All Day Supermarket. The company delivers throughout the Manila and Cebu regions, with plans to expand nationally. MetroMart has been actively promoting sustainability initiatives by using banners on its platform to raise public awareness of environmental issues, and offering promotional discounts for ethical and sustainable products.  

Numerous studies have found cage-free eggs are safer and have more vitamins and minerals and a better nutritional profile than caged eggs. Research by the European Food Safety Authority and others has found that cage-free egg farms are up to 25 times less likely to be contaminated with key strains of salmonella compared to hens raised in cages. Hens raised in cage-free systems enjoy better bone health, are free to move and express their natural behavior such as foraging, dust-bathing, flying and nesting.

“We applaud MetroMart for its commitment on this important issue, which will benefit the company’s customers by increasing food safety and quality while also improving the welfare of animals in its supply chain,” said Robyn del Rosario, Sustainability Program Manager at Lever Foundation, which worked with MetroMart on its pledge. “With e-commerce leaders like MetroMart rising in popularity and importance during the pandemic, the company’s commitment to socially responsible policies that benefit the community sets a stellar example for other retailers and food brands.”

Leading animal protection and food safety organizations around the world encourage a switch to cage-free eggs, which are less cruel to animals and safer for consumers. On caged egg farms, each egg-laying hen is confined for nearly her entire life in a cage so small she can barely turn around. Battery cage egg production has been banned throughout the European Union as well as in Australia, New Zealand, the UK, Canada, India, and parts of the United States.

In recent years a growing list of restaurant, hospitality, retail and packaged foods brands have pledged to use only cage-free eggs in the Philippines, including KFC, Pizza Hut, Burger King, Marriott, Nestle, Unilever, and many others. MetroMart is the first retailer in the Philippines and the first online grocery delivery platform in Asia to make the same pledge.

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