What Does Your “SNIP” Say About You?


A team of researchers have been studying 17 “snips” and recently published their findings in Nature Genetics. “Snips” are known as genetic tweaks found in DNA. These scientists delved deep into the genetic material of thousands of humans who participated in the study, all hoping to contribute to the future of medicine by doctors and patients, alike, being able to discover reliable genetic markers that will indicate certain diseases.

One of the lead researchers involved in the project is a Harvard psychiatrist, Professor Roy Perlis, who serves as Associate Director of the Psychiatric Genetics Program for Massachusetts General Hospital. His greatest hopes have been realized in the findings of the research. Discovered were genetic variations that occurred consistently in people who suffered with depression. What is the potential of this discovery in providing relief for depression sufferers and possibly preventing its development in a person who is genetically marked as a potential candidate?

There exists private genomics companies where a client can basically spit in a cup, have their DNA analyzed and learn any number of secrets that may be hiding there, like the potential for developing depression. This type of information, long before the onset of an illness, can transform healthcare as we know it. Rather than show up at a psychiatrist’s office in a full-blown state of debilitating depression, a person can begin preventative measures far in advance, thus improving their chances for a depression-free life of the highest quality.  This could potentially save patients and health insurance providers thousands of dollars per patient throughout that patient’s lifetime (and this could possibly be the motive behind some of the loudest critics).

The findings of the research determined 17 DNA markers linked with Major Depressive Disorder. Some of these variations are also connected with other psychiatric disorders thus connecting depression as a role player in the development of other forms of mental illness. If depression is, say, step one down the road of developing schizophrenia, imagine how many lives can be saved from such suffering if that single step can be avoided altogether.

Because effective treatment of any mental illness depends on patients self-reporting their symptoms and cooperating with treatment measures, mental illness is often under-reported and under-treated as a natural result of the mentally ill not having the capacity to recognize symptoms, or in denial of what they indicate, and often inconsistently participating in the critical component of treatment. By establishing awareness and beginning preventative treatment long before a patient becomes symptomatic, the chances of long-term success are greatly increased because medical professionals are dealing with a psychiatrically healthy  individual from the beginning.

The gringa sees all the critics and naysayers have to say. They are worried about misdiagnosis. They are worried about genomics companies offering unauthorized medical advice. But the gringa is not a Negative Nellie. The gringa is a Positive Polly. I believe that any person who is seeking out the services of a genomics company, willing to pay their own hard-earned money to get an analysis of their DNA in order to better understand their health risks, is a person who is not going to make bad decisions such as exploring medical treatment and advice from non-professionals. I also don’t believe they will be the type of people to be hampered with a misdiagnosis. I believe they will be some of the best informed patients a doctor will ever deal with. So enough with the criticism and embrace an advance in medical science that will most certainly save lives, preserve lives and improve the quality of those lives, as well as the lives of the loved ones surrounding them.

Sources:

www.nature.com

http://chgr.org/index-faculty_perlis.html

www.businessinsider.com

www.theguardian.com

Image Credit: images.boomsbeat.com

 

 

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Fashion, Big Headed Aliens & P.T. Barnum


In the first of the three posts regarding the extra-terrestrial connection with ancient Egypt, the gringa felt pretty confident that the singular event of one particular pharaoh presenting with a suspiciously bulbous head and large limbed body could be attributed to a congenital abnormality rather than extra-terrestrial hybridization. However, in Peru, there is more than one elongated skull to consider. And the multiple elongated skulls in Peru are not accompanied with the usual gigantism to consider the condition to be a classic and common birth defect. So, then, were there big headed aliens living in South America? Is that why the gringa’s caveman has such a big head?

South of Lima, in the same vicinity the Nazca lines can be found, is the Paracas Peninsula, home to the ancient Paracas civilization. Existing from 800-100BC, the Paracas were the precursors to the Nazca civilization. Eking out a life in the coastal desert of southern Peru, the Paracas became adepts at irrigation in order to manage their cotton crops.

As cotton producers, it is only natural that the culture would be textile driven. They were known to be master weavers who created complex and intricate textile patterns. Elaborately patterned clothing was how they denoted status and rank. This focus on clothing for the purpose of social identity may have been the result of being a culture with no written language.

Paracas history is defined by two eras: Cavernas (500-300BC) and Necropolis (300-100BC). The earlier period is noted as the time the culture wrapped their dead in simple fabrics then entombed them in underground caverns with pottery brightly decorated with animal motifs. The later Necropolis period shifted to more elaborate mass burials within prepared chambers featuring horizontal shelving carved into cavern walls. Mummies wore more decorative textiles and were placed in a fetal position. They would be buried with elaborate jewelry, sacred objects and staple foods such as maize. Many of these mummies presented with elongated skulls.

Why did Paracas people have big heads?  Were they aliens? Evidence indicates that they were wholly human and had purposely manipulated their skulls into these extraordinary conditions. The elongated skull mummies were usually found to be entombed with more valuable textiles and jewelry. Skull elongation could very well have been a fashion statement of the rich and famous. Perhaps my big-headed caveman is the descendant of Paracas nobility. That’s all the gringa needs; a caveman who thinks he’s the king.

How the heck could a primitive culture perform “cosmetic surgery” and change the shape of skulls? Well, the gringa discovers the Paracas were not as primitive as one might think. They were, perhaps, the originators of “trepanning”. That’s the old fashioned method of brain surgery where a doctor drills a hole in your skull to treat your psychiatric disorder by letting the evil spirits out or to relieve you of chronic headaches. These holes would then be patched with gold plates. Sweet.  So, it may very well have been within their medical skill to reshape a human skull. After all, over three hundred of these skulls were found in 1928 in an archaeological funerary dig in Paracas by Peruvian archaeologist Julio Tello.

Most historians have explained that the procedure to deform a skull in this fashion would begin in infancy. By cradle boarding and binding of the head, the skull would gradually be trained to an elongated shape. However, recent findings using modern methods and technology has revealed there may be more to the Paracas story than simply squeezing baby heads.

Recently it was widely reported that an assistant director for a Peruvian museum announced that DNA analysis of a Paracas skull revealed that the DNA is a mutation unknown to “any human, primate, or animal known” to our world. The inference being that perhaps there were other-worldly origins to the elongated Paracas skulls. So who is this Brien Foerster and what kind of place is this Paracas History Museum he works for?

The museum is actually not a museum at all. It is really just a private collection owned by a fellow named Juan Navarro. First of all, any search for a website is fruitless. I mean, really, what legitimate business doesn’t have a website or even a Facebook page? And, although a Facebook page listing pops up, um, there is nothing there!

But, aha! Brien Foerster has a Facebook page. His page reveals a passion for the paranormal and extra-terrestrial. Although the gringa does not doubt his sincerity and commitment to marching to the beat of his own drum, I do question his methods. True science follows a method that is inscrutable and allows its findings to be questioned and the reporters of data to have their credibility tested. Although he claims to have DNA evidence to support his extra-terrestrial Paracas theory, he has not published the source of such evidence in order for his claim to be verified. Although Mr. Foerster may use the title of “scientist”, the gringa believes he is misspelling the title. It should go something like this… Mr. Brien Foerster, pseudo-scientist.

The gringa’s only other option to determine the legitimacy of this museum, short of visiting it in person, is to look at reviews from visitors. One fella stopped by twice in the same day, during business hours, but it was closed. He tried again the next day and got the same results. However, by camping out on the front steps he did make contact with a neighbor who let him into the building and he viewed the skulls. Not the kind of security I would expect if your museum housed the only biological specimen that proved extra-terrestrial life on planet Earth.

Another museum goer informs the public that the museum’s entire collection can be viewed in about ten minutes.  Although another review claims this “not-a-museum”  museum can actually be toured in 5 minutes. A couple of reviews find the space alien connection “amusing”. And, if you give ol’ Juan (the museum’s owner who doubles as the guide) a sizable tip, he will let you see a secret skull that looks “vaguely human”. And for an extra five bucks you can take a photo of the exhibits.  Mm hmm.  I understand now why some reviews state “rip-off alert” in their descriptions of the place.

So, the best the gringa can determine as far as “facts” go is that:

  • A personal collection of old Paracas trinkets are exhibited in a tiny storefront and marketed as a “museum” by the owner/tour guide who has no background in history or archaeology.
  • The “museum’s” assistant director is reported to have a Bachelor of Science degree from a university in Canada but his personal Facebook page states that he only studied biology, chemistry, mathematics and physics at the University of Victoria, no degree indicated. So, nothing qualifies him as a geneticist, archaeologist or historian other than a personal obsession turned hobby turned business venture. You see, Mr. Foerster owns a tour guide company whose bread and butter is made from promoting the extra-terrestrial/Paracas skulls exhibited at the “Paracas History Museum” owned by his friend, good ol’ Juan.
  • When attempts by experts to validate the DNA claims have been made, Mr. Foerster has refused to reveal the details of the DNA research claiming that the analyst wishes to remain anonymous.

I see. It seems the Paracas elongated skull story of alien connections has the smell of P.T. Barnum all over it. So, did the Paracas elite have extraordinarily long, bulbous skulls? Yes. Were they extra-terrestrials? No, just very vain people.  It seems there is nothing new under the sun.

 

Sources & Image Credit:

www.ancient-origins.net

www.boundless.com

www.discover-peru.org

www.britannica.com

www.infowars.com

http://www.quora.com

doubtfulnews.com

www.tripadvisor.com

http://www.missiongalacticfreedom.wordpress.com

http://www.latinamericanstudies.org

 

 

 

 

 

The Case Of The Hitchhiking Microbe


What, exactly, does NASA hope to accomplish if astronauts really do set their boots on the surface of Mars? One thing they hope to discover are clues to the origins of life on Earth. The gringa asks, “What exactly does that mean?” It means that NASA is considering the theory of “panspermia” and is exploring outer space to see if stellar evidence proves this theory to be true.

Panspermia is nothing new.  As far back as 5BC scientists were considering panspermia as the explanation for how humans came into existence here on Earth. In 1871 it was officially proposed in the scientific community of that day. Panspermia posits that it is possible for life to planet hop, possibly even hop among star systems, and seed the planets it visits with life. In a nutshell, that would mean that the primitive biological material that evolved into the original ancestors of humans was not created here on Earth, but, rather, were alien hitchhikers who made their way here on cosmic fragments.

NASA’s exploration policy is to “follow the water” because it is necessary to produce life as we know it. Water is found throughout the universe, just not in the form we need, liquid. It’s usually frozen. However, wherever there is frozen water, perhaps, in that planet’s history, it was once liquid. And, if so, perhaps that is where human origins can be found if the panspermia theory is true, that life exists in the universe and can travel via meteors to other planets and eventually develop on other worlds where the environment is sufficient to support its development.

Since Mars was a warm world with water long ago, the necessary ingredients for life as we know it, it makes it a logical planet to explore for evidence of panspermia. The exploration and data collected so far from the rovers and satellites studying Mars have been limited to studying the surface of the Red Planet. No evidence has been found on the surface. It is possible, however, that important evidence could be buried beyond the reach of the rovers’ digging capabilities or a satellite’s imaging. That is why it is important to get some human explorers out there.

What would the implications be if Earth-like microbes were discovered on Mars? Every human would first want to go have a very long look in the mirror and then a very long look up into the heavens and ponder the concept. NASA, however, would not be surprised. NASA has already conducted studies on over 130 meteorites from Mars and determined that none contained any microbial evidence despite the fact that some claims to the contrary were made. NASA understands the serious repercussions that would occur around the world if such a discovery is made and we can trust them to report the truth without any hype. NASA takes scientific truth seriously.

They even have a program established that studies the effects such discoveries might have throughout the world. They understand that an announcement that extraterrestrial life exists will have serious philosophical, religious, legal, ethical and cultural implications that will impact people all over the world.

Despite NASA’s interest in this theory and their willingness to explore space with the idea in mind to search for supportive evidence, they are also realistic about its probability. They believe that it is probably unlikely that life as we know it on Earth was seeded from Mars origins. However, because science is not about “probably”, they must continue the studies until the theory can be proven or disproven.

There are some scientists who do believe that Mars was an ideal place for life to have existed at some time. They believe that since such life would have existed long before life on Earth ever existed, it is then not unreasonable to consider the possibility that microbes traveled to Earth on a meteorite and introduced life here on the Blue Planet.

One reason some scientists support the idea of panspermia via Mars is because Martian meteorites contain the precursors to RNA, boron and molybdenum. In fact, they contain more of these two elements than what is found in early Earth. And why does that matter? RNA is a molecule that plays a critical role in regulating genes and its presence is necessary for all life forms as we Earthlings know them. So, if an old rock from Mars contains such a molecule, it only stands to reason, at least from an Earthling perspective, that it existed on Mars for the purpose of regulating the genetic codes of some Martian life form.

Another Martian discovery that further supports the belief that life once existed on Mars has to do with phosphates. It has already been established that Mars has provided evidence of the presence of RNA. In order for RNA to form, phosphates must be present. Well, not only does Mars have phosphates, but Martian phosphates dissolve in water much better than Earth’s phosphates. The logic then goes that since life as we know it here on Earth originated in water, Martian conditions were even more friendly to the aspect of life forming than conditions on Earth. So, if it could happen here, it most certainly should have happened on Mars.

So, basically, the theory goes that about 4 billions years ago a comet or meteorite of Martian origins blasted through our galaxy and slammed into Earth. Now this could have been an accident or, according to “directed panspermia” theory, a deliberate action by an intelligent civilization.

Historically panspermia has been considered “fringe” science. However, it is now gaining new consideration in light of the Mars mission. In fact, in 2013 Professor Chandra Wickramasinghe of the University of Buckingham claims to have discovered fossilized remains of organisms in meteorites found within Earth’s atmosphere. This proves that it is possible for primitive life forms to survive the intense heat of entry into Earth’s atmosphere and make its way to Earth’s surface. He believes it is possible that the entire Milky Way Galaxy could have been teeming with life at one time long, long ago. He also believes that organic, possibly even living, stellar material is constantly being exchanged throughout the cosmos through meteoric impact.

So, the gringa awaits the exciting mission of boots on the ground on Mars. I eagerly await the drill, baby, drill action that will delve deep below the dusty surface of the Red Planet. I can’t wait to find out what may lie beneath the frozen crust of the vast Martian ocean. Scientists believe the Martian seas are not frozen solid. Could a Martian “Nessie” be swimming about waiting for visitors to come feed her a few breadcrumbs? It very well could be. And, she could be our distant cousin.

Source: http://www.nasa.gov

Photo credit: www.groundzeromedia.org

 

Dynamic Duo


NASA astronaut Scott Kelly will return to Earth from the International Space Station (ISS) in the spring of 2016. He is one of two key components of a very special medical study NASA is conducting. His twin brother, Mark, is the other component. They are the superstars of the NASA Twin Study. While Scott is deployed for one year to the ISS, Mark is grounded here on Earth. A parallel study of two individuals who have the same genetics, but are in different environments, is underway. NASA wants to study the differing effects of identical medical events occurring to a human in orbit round the Earth and one whose feet are firmly planted on the ground.

In September both brothers were inoculated with an influenza vaccine. Before and after the injections, blood was drawn from the brothers to analyze how their immune systems responded to the vaccines. Understanding the changes the immune system undergoes is critical to keeping astronauts fit and healthy throughout a mission into space. However, maintaining spaceflight health is not the only thing doctors and scientists are working on. They also are devising methods to protect astronauts from infection while they are on Earth, prior to deployment. Success in developing such preventative measures will not only benefit astronauts. NASA’s humanitarian aim would share such data with medical professionals everywhere for the benefit of all mankind to benefit where health related issues are concerned. Patients with auto-immune diseases like diabetes and arthritis should keep their eyes turned toward NASA for possible breakthroughs in their treatment options as well as the possibility of a cure.

While on the ISS, Scott Kelly participated in radiation research with the RaDI-N2 Neutron Field Study. He collected eight detectors that had been placed throughout the station and returned them to the Russian crew who stored them until he returns with them later on in the year. Participation by the Canadian Space Agency used their bubble spectrometers to isolate and measure neutron radiation levels. Neutrons do not have an electrical charge. This makes it easier for neutron radiation to enter the body and cause damage. This study will provide NASA with data that will help develop methods that will protect future crews that participate in deep-space missions from radiation damage. All Earthlings will benefit from this technology also because it will help medical experts have a better understanding of how neutron radiation damages and mutates DNA in order to most effectively treat patients.

Once again, NASA is collaborating with many other agencies in order to gather the best talent team possible in order to gather vital information that will eventually benefit all mankind. The gringa is certain with a team of such diversity that surely there is a place for someone like me! Keeping my fingers crossed that at least one of NASA’s future missions has a need for a chatty, sassy, outspoken writer with an insatiable curiosity.

Source & Photo Credit: http://www.nasa.gov