All posts by india01pd2014

Medicine for the Incurable Disease

Recently one of my closest friends was diagnosed with epilepsy. Prior to this, epilepsy treatment had always been an unknown topic and I was fairly sure that the treatments were very limited if not ineffective. I’d heard about treatment medicines to slow down your brain, making you sluggish, dull, and personally thought that the side effects outweighed the benefits. As I was told his news, I decided that as I spend a deal of time around him that I should really be aware of what to do in the event of a seizure. While doing this, I came across treatments for epilepsy and was surprised to see abundance treating its symptoms. I became interested as to how effective the current treatments for epilepsy are, as my friend began his drugs this summer.

Epilepsy can be defined as “a common serious neurological condition where there is a tendency to have seizures that start in the brain.” (Epilepsy Society, 2013) There are 40 types of epilepsy (Epilepsy Society, 2013), all without known cures but with a large amount of preventative medicine to stop seizures and treat symptoms. For the sake of my search, I focused upon the most common drugs used to treat epilepsy; Depakene ® (valproate, valproic acid) and Zonegran ® (zonisamide), which my friend is currently taking. Depakene works to target epilepsy by increasing the “level of gamma-aminobutyric acid in brain” (Farlex) thus reducing seizure activity. “ Gamma-Amino Butyric acid (GABA) is an amino acid which acts as a neurotransmitter in the central nervous system. It inhibits nerve transmission in the brain, calming nervous activity. “ (Denver Naturopathic Clinic) Zonegran is also known to affect the levels of this acid, however its precise method of preventing seizures is unknown. It is thought that zonisamide prevents the movement of sodium and calcium, as they must move into nerve cells to build up an electrical signal to throughout the brain. By stopping nerve cells from firing rapid electrical signals this stabilizes brain activity and prevents seizure-causing signals from spreading. (Netdoctor) Although Netdoctor at first seemed to be an unreliable source, I noted that “Over 250 of the UK’s and Europe’s leading doctors and health professionals write, edit and update the contents of NetDoctor.co.uk.”(Netdoctor) and the information, particularly the one I took note form, is not written by the general public. 

I dove deeper into the adverse reactions stemming from the use of Depakene, which were copious. Notable common side effects included but were not limited to “vomiting, hair loss, and a decrease in thinking speed.” (WebMD) Long term usage of the drug led to possible hearing loss, liver damage, decreased platelets (clotting cells), bone thinning and pancreatic issues. (WebMD). WebMD, like Netdoctor, turned out to be a reliable source when i was researching as many of their articles were written by experts in the field. Depakene turned out to not be the only epilepsy treatment with severe side effects, as the use of Zonegran can induce metabolic acidosis, fatal skin rashes, kidney stones, reduced white and red blood cell counts, and problems with concentration, attention, memory, thinking, speech, or language. (FDA, 2012)

Treatment for epilepsy, though abundant, is still limited. Many medicines counter the symptoms of epilepsy, but do not actively cure the disease itself.

For 70% of patients with epilepsy, drugs can control seizures. (WebMD) Medicine to prevent epilepsy, though beneficial, is still very limited as it does not cure the disease and has severe side effects.  As these medications are dangerous and do not cure epilepsy, are they worth taking at all? These medications do actively prevent the biggest symptom of epilepsy, seizures. I can conclude personally, that they are worth taking, as the risk of having a spontaneous seizure is reduced if not eradicated. Nevertheless, takers should be fully aware of the side-effects and take these medicines with caution and be fully aware of the risk of severe side effects. Seizures interfere with daily life, preventing the epileptic from daily activities such as driving or swimming for the fear of having a seizure and crashing or drowning. Though the medications have severe side effects, the implications of these medicines mean that people with epilepsy can continue to have a regular lifestyle without worry of personal injury. Currently treatments for epilepsy are effective to an extent, and I do hope that research into the disease yields brighter results for cures in the future.

Work Count: 628

References:

References

Denver Naturopathic Clinic. (n.d.). GABA.  Welcome to the Denver Naturopathic Clinic . Retrieved September 6, 2013, from http://www.denvernaturopathic.com/news/GABA.html

Epilepsy society. (2013, May 5). What is epilepsy | Epilepsy Society. epilepsy society | Epilepsy Society. Retrieved September 6, 2013, from http://www.epilepsysociety.org.uk/what-epilepsy#.UhGGNKA2W0s

FDA. (2012, January 24). Medication Guide ZONEGRAN®. fda.gov. Retrieved September 3, 2013, from www.fda.gov/downloads/Drugs/DrugSafety/UCM152828.pdf

Farlex. (n.d.). Depakene – definition of Depakene by the Free Online Dictionary, Thesaurus and Encyclopedia.. Dictionary, Encyclopedia and Thesaurus – The Free Dictionary. Retrieved September 6, 2013, from http://medicaldictionary.thefreedictionary.com/Depakene

NetDoctor. (n.d.). Zonegran (zonisamide). NetDoctor.co.uk – The UK’s leading independent health website. Retrieved September 6, 2013, from http://www.netdoctor.co.uk/brain-and-nervous-system/medicines/zonegran.html#ixzz2cOMj5wr

WebMD. (n.d.). Common Epilepsy Seizure Medications: Types, Uses, Effects, and More. WebMD – Better information. Better health.. Retrieved September 6, 2013, from http://www.webmd.com/epilepsy/medications-treat-seizures

WAT ER YOU DRINKING? : Tapping into Shanghai’s Water Secrets

Tapping into Shanghai’s Water Secrets


I recently read an article in the news, ‘2,800 Pigs Dumped in Shanghai River Raises Concern’, which lead to me questioning the pollution levels in Shanghai’s waters. Living in Shanghai, everyday I face a dilemma I always found to be rather minimal, whether or not to drink the water from the tap or to not be lazy and climb the four flights of stairs down to the nearest bottled water dispenser. As I had previously lived in countries such as England, and Japan, where clean water is abundantly available from taps, I assumed that Shanghai’s tap water could not have a large concentration of pollutants within its waters. I used to drink water in Shanghai from the tap, arguing that if anything, the exposure to these unknown particles would harden my immune system, like a child playing in the soil.


About 80% of the water we get in Shanghai is from the Huangpu River. The remaining 20% comes from the Yangtze River. On the list of the most polluted rivers in the world, the Yangtze and the Huangpu are both mentioned, with the Yangtze River Water Resources Commission report noting the total volume of sewage emptied into the Yangtze river totaling approximately 20 million tons. Noteable pollutants within the Shanghai river water are chlorine, heavy metals such as lead, nitrates and bacteria. (WHO, 2011)


Chlorine, a highly efficient disinfectant, is added to water for cleaning purposes, “Chlorine has been hailed as the savior against cholera and various other water-borne diseases, and rightfully so,” says Steve Harrison, president of water filter maker Environmental Systems Distributing. “Its disinfectant qualities…have allowed communities and whole cities to grow and prosper by providing disease-free tap water to homes and industry.” (About.com, 2010) However, Chlorine is defined by the American journal of Public Health to cause “significant increases in certain types of cancer, asthma and skin irritations” (American Journal of Public Health, 2011) . When combined with organic matter found in rivers, chlorine undergoes a chemical reaction to form products such as trihalomethanes (THMs) which is are known carcinogens (a substance capable of causing cancer in living tissue). Chlorine converts chemically by replacing three of the four hydrogen atoms of methane (CH4) with chlorine halogen atoms to produces these THMs. Due to the high levels of bacteria caused by improper dumping of sewage and other biological contamination, Chinese departments of water works simply use more chlorine.


Similarly to chlorine, lead is also extremely dangerous as it is toxic even in the amount of micrograms when entering the body, and leads to higher blood pressure, kidney dysfunction, anemia and colon cancer in adults. Nitrates found in the river water enter through organic runoff such as through fertilizers. These nitrates entering the readily available tap water can be fatal to children under the age of six months, as they cannot perform the chemical process shown below in their stomachs to convert nitrites into nitrates. (Sigler, 2010)


2NO2(g) + 2OH(aq) –> NO3(aq) + H2O(l) + NO2(aq)


If nitrites are not converted into nitrates, this poses a problem as in the early stage of development, nitrite reacts with hemoglobin, which is responsible for the transfer of oxygen, and prevents this transport. Evidently, the effect of this is a decreased oxygen supply to the body, well known as blue baby syndrome (or methemoglobinemia). Nevertheless, it should be known that this condition is very rare.(WHO, 2011)


I believed that by simply boiling Shanghai’s water, it would be safe to drink as boiling kills bacteria and parasites. After researching, I noted that boiling water doesn’t get rid of pollutants. There are plenty of solutions to the issue, for example, the establishment of sediment filters are an inexpensive way to physically trap particles, especially those of a filter size of 1 micron or smaller. (NRDC, 2009) However these filters still do not filter out chemical contaminants. The use of bottled barreled water, though expensive, are generally safe when from a reputable source. Furthermore, Activated carbon filters process most physical contaminants out, such as chlorine, and are EPA approved. Obviously, the key way to target this issue would be to stop it at the core, by removing pollutants from the lakes and river themselves. (WHO, 2011)


To fully assess the risk of drinking Shanghai’s water, we must note that there is a cleaning system to filter the water of the majority of the pollutants. When reading Nick’s post, he noted a water filtering company, Veolia, who first extract their water from underground aquifers and surface water bodies. All the water then passes through a purification process, which includes coarse and fine screening, flocculation and settling, filtration, ozonation and chlorination. (Veolia Water, 2010).These processes can all be explained in further detail in Nick’s blog post. Despite all these processes, nitrates still persist within the water, and hold particular risk to small children, as noted earlier. However, for me and the general population, water pollution holds quite a low risk to our health as it has been filtered numerous times before reaching our taps. The only real risk with Shanghai water is with the concentration of pollutants, not the pollutants themselves. Detrimental health risks only occur in situations in which the concentrations of these pollutants are very high, which is more likely in lesser developed countries, more rural areas, than in Shanghai itself.


References:


About.com (2010). Why is Chlorine Added to Water. Retrieved April 20, 2013 from http://environment.about.com/od/earthtalkcolumns/a/chlorine.htm

Adam Sigler (13 March, 2010). Nitrate/Nitrite Fact Sheet. Retrieved March 19, 2013, from http://waterquality.montana.edu/docs/homeowners/nitrate_fact_sheet.shtml

American Journal of Public Health (2011). Stabilization of Chlorine in Water . Retrieved March 11, 2013, from http://ajph.aphapublications.org/doi/abs/10.2105/AJPH.32.9.1025?prevSearch=chlorine&searchHistoryKey=

NRDC. (2009). Water. Retrieved April 20, 2013, from http://www.nrdc.org/water/

WHO . (January 1, 2011). Nitrate and Nitrite in Drinking Water. Retrieved March 11, 2013, from http://www.who.int/water_sanitation_health/dwq/chemicals/nitratenitrite2ndadd.pdf

WWF Global. (25 October 2010). Threat of Pollution in the Yangtze. Retrieved March 11, 2013, from http://wwf.panda.org/about_our_earth/about_freshwater/freshwater_problems/river_decline/10_rivers_risk/yangtze/yangtze_threats/

The Graphene Age

When I think of life attainment, the signification of peak achievement would be to attain the Nobel Prize. This occurred to me when surfing through BBC news and coming across the 2010 Nobel Prize winners for physics. I began to think, what form of action to benefit the globe would lead to the presentation of this award? ‘Due to their discovery of graphene, the Nobel Prize for Physics for 2010 was awarded to Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov  at the University of Manchester, as they managed to extract single-atom-thick crystallites (graphene) from bulk graphite in 2004.’ (Materials Breakthrough Wins Nobel, 2010) When researching this topic I noticed that the analysis of graphene tied in neatly with the class subjects of intramolecular and intermolecular bonding and analysis of the carbon allotropes, which is why I decided to pursue it.

‘Graphene, an allotrope of carbon similarly structured to graphite in the aspect of being arranged in a hexagonal pattern, is an extremely light material.’ (Graphene: World-leading Research and Development, 2012) Its general structure is a single planar sheet of carbon atoms, packed into a dense honeycomb lattice. The carbon atoms in Graphene are arranged into a hexagonal shape, where each carbon atom is bonded to three others, leading to the presence of a delocalized electron. This quality allows graphene to conduct electricity. The structure of graphene is exactly alike to that of graphite, however as graphite is layered, graphene’s structure is a one-atom sheet of graphene. It is very thin, with one square meter of this sheet weighing only .77 milligrams. Graphene is used as a basic building block for carbon allotropes such as graphite, charcoal, carbon nanotubes and fullerenes,’ (Graphene, 2012) which we all discussed this semester in class. Alongside its capability for the creation of graphitic materials of other dimensionalities, Graphene is also the thinnest material known; yet it is also one of the strongest!

(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Graphene)
(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Graphene)

Then I wondered, although these two men had discovered this material, what use did it have in the world, what benefit did it hold? ‘Applications of graphene include the production of lower cost, high-efficiency solar cells made solely from carbon. These solar cells are generated through the use of graphene as an electrode, and carbon nanotubes and buckyballs to absorb light and generate electrons. Through the use of various allotropes of carbon, the necessity for higher-cost materials and manufacturing techniques are eliminated.’ (Graphene/Nanotube Hybrid Makes Single-Surface Material for Energy Storage, Electronics, 2012). The implications of this would be that technology now would become cheaper, and more quickly made, saving factories money to create these goods at a better quality level.

‘Further applications of graphene feature the development of high frequency transistors. Whereas common transistors feature silicon, the speed at which electrons move within graphene is much more efficient, thus allowing the transistor to work at a higher frequency.

Graphene also allows for the higher hydrogen capacity storage within fuel cell powered cars, as certain prepared graphene layers increase the binding energy of hydrogen to the graphene surface in the fuel tank. This would lead to a lighter tank and a larger amount of hydrogen storage. ‘ (What kind of uses does graphene have, 2011)

A Nobel Prize is only awarded to “the person who shall have made the most important discovery or invention within the field of physics” (BBC, 2010) during the year. There have been years where the prize was not awarded. The implications of being awarded this prize, aside 1.4 million dollars; celebrate the scientific innovations of certain individuals. The discovery of graphene has led to implications of its chemical properties such as opening countless doors for scientists to breed insight into more efficient models of current energy sources, transportation, etc. It is peculiar that these two men won the Nobel Prize for physics, when at first it seems apparent that this would be more suited for Chemistry. However, the key advantages to the discovery of grapheme were to do with its physical properties and the innovations they could produce, such as those listed above. This discovery of grapheme allowed me to realize the extent of scientific discovery necessary to obtain the Nobel Prize that so many reach for, and the effort and genius that must be instilled into those striving to attain it. Personally, I agree that the discover of graphene was worthy of attaining the Nobel prize in physics, as it completely changed the way we think about material efficiency, as the chemical properties of graphene allow for it to create innumerous more efficient, cheaper products.

References:

BBC. (5 October 2010). Materials Breakthrough Wins Nobel. Retrieved January 21, 2012, from http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-11476301.

Graphene Industries. (3 October, 2011). What kind of uses does graphene have? Retrieved December 23rd, 2012, from http://grapheneindustries.com

Science Daily. (27 November, 2012). Graphene/nanotube Hybrid Makes Single-Surface Material for Energy Storage, Electronics. Retrieved December 25, 2012, from http://www.sciencedaily.com/news/matter_energy/graphene/

The University of Manchester.(2012). Graphene is going to revolutionize the 21st Century. Retrieved 24 December, 2012, from http://www.graphene.manchester.ac.uk.

For Background Research:

Wikipedia. (2012). Graphene. Retrieved 21 December, 2012 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Graphene.