Can I live?

Can I liveSweater by my friend with skills on his label B-Side by Wale. For more click here.

Hello Geeks,

Firstly and most importantly I need to say a huge THANK YOU to you for all the lovely messages of support and appreciation I have received thus far. I do not have the words to convey to you how much it means to me to open my in-box after a few weeks and find so many encouraging messages. I know I have been very slack of late with my posts and so I wanted to take a moment to let you all in on what has unintentionally kept me away for so long.

This year has been exceptionally busy and I have learnt lots. I have definitely learnt that running your own consultancy business, writing a bog, teaching, caring for your parents and having a social life all at the same time totally messes with your time management scenario. However, you will be pleased to know that I think I have a handle on it all now and will be religiously aiming to put geeky science associated words to keyboard every Friday at the very least from this day on. Word to my mama (who is visiting from Sudan at the moment :-).

I wanted to give you a quick run down of some of the things I have been doing lately and let you in on what I’m working on next before moving onwards and upwards with the blog. I find it quite difficult to talk about myself in this context but I have been given strict advice by my mentor and good friends to start self promoting myself more, so here it goes. Of-course, I have “scientific” evidence to show for my lack of postings and self promotion in the form of stories and photographs you will be please to know.

I was asked to panel on the Africa Today show with Henry Bonsu to discuss the use of genetically modified foods in Africa. It was my first major TV experience and I was super nervous having only been asked to do it a few days before. I had a lot of fun and I am looking forwards to more experience in that area in the near future (watch this space).

TVA month or so later, I was invited to speak at Oxford University. I shared my experiences in science to date, my PhD research, my blog and what I thought the future of science education and research would be. It was an amazing experience, one that I will not forget and the food at the gala was immense.

Oxford1Oxford2I have also been busy giving lectures, talks and panelling at events in and around greater London, visiting schools, Universities as well as community groups. It has been humbling to meet so many varied people ranging from Essex to Lewisham to Eaton and I have learned so much in the process. The new generation of youngsters coming out of school are incredibly inspiring. I cant wait for the world to meet them.

SchoolThe most recent event I had the pleasure of being invited to panel on was hosted  at the Deutsche Bank head quarters in London for the STEMettes event aimed at presenting Women in Science Technology, Engineering and Maths. I met some amazing women and will be sharing more of that with you soon.

STEMettesI also just came back from an amazing vacation in Brazil, Salvador Bahia. I was starting to burn out and I have always been a firm believer in the concept that if you want to achieve great things you need to give your body the energy and love it needs to keep taking you upwards and onwards. So I listened, and ignored all the millions of reasons for why I should not take a break and listened to my tired body, mind and spirit and spent three weeks relaxing in the sun, sea and sand. It was bliss.

BahiaBeachSunsetI am so thankful for the blessings that I have been given so far and I have returned from Bahia with so much renewed energy. I am very excited about what’s coming next and look forwards to sharing with you. I will be adding a new subsection to my blog and it is going to be called Real Geeks where I will be interviewing some of the many new and interesting people I am meeting who I feel are total geeks who can share with us all some amazing stories about what they do and/or what they are passionate about in the world of science, art, health and more. It is going to be so much fun, I cant wait to share the first interview with you. In the meantime, I am going to share with you some new music that I love. If you do not have the new Omar album titled The Man, please do yourself a favour and buy it now. Click play below for a taster.

Thank you for reading, I hope you enjoyed reading my story and I’m looking forwards to writing and posting my next FIG post. Oh, I am also in the middle of designing a new logo for the blog that I will reveal soon, good times :-).  Have a great weekend all.

E

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Geek Out: Angelina and family take on breast cancer

Angelina

Hello Geeks,

I want to start by saying thank you to all my followers, readers and sharers. It has been a few weeks since my last post, life sometimes throws you a curve ball that takes you off track but I am back on it now. I have received so many lovely messages asking me to write more and your support is invaluable. Thank you so much.

I am in the middle of writing up a few posts simultaneously, one of which is very dear to my heart but before I wrap them up and post them I wanted to share Angelina Jolie’s amazing story in which she shares with us her decision to have a preventative double mastectomy. I have always secretly admired this woman for her strength, leadership and fighting for what she believes in despite what the media or people say about her.

It was the first thing I read this morning and it resonated with me much for two reasons. One, my father suffers from cancer and although it was in remission for a while it came back full throttle early last year and it made me wonder about the chances of me and my siblings developing the same cancer. Two, I remembered writing a post a while back about how important it was for all women to do the monthly breasts check up for lumps, this is one of the simplest ways for us to take some preventative action and control. My favourite quote from Angelina’s story is “Life comes with many challenges. The ones that should not scare us are the ones we can take on and take control of”

Click here for her full story. Read it, share it and then go back to my post about breast cancer checks , in-fact I am going to re-post it right after this post. In the words of Angelina and Janet, take control ladies, only you can. Play Janet in the background and do it now, if you are at work take a toilet break and do it in the toilet, don’t procrastinate with your health.

Ex

Google Glass

GoogleGlass2

Hello Geeks,

I was surprised that when I mentioned Google Glass to my friends and colleagues in-order to find out what they thought about it, not all of them knew what I was talking about. Secretly, I think I also want to be a tech nerd because I get really excited about new technology, inventions and gadgets. I am super-excited about Google Glass, it feels like “The Future” that I imagined as a kid has finally arrived…well, almost.

On the 20th of February, Google finally released Google Glass to the public. However, the people at Google are very clever and have come up with a brilliant marketing strategy. You cannot go and simply buy Glass just yet, no that would be too easy and Apple have upped the game when it comes to creating hype around a product.

google glass

In-order to get your hands on one of these bad boys you have to enter an essay contest of sorts and apply to The Google Glass Explorers Programme (you can Google that if you want to know more or get involved). Once you have been selected as worthy by the Glass team, you also have to pay $1,500 dollars and they are yours to do as you please with; EXCEPT you are legally bound from re-selling it to anyone or Google will de-activate the product (I knew they always had control over our gadgetsl!). Don’t worry, if you do not want to be an explorer or write 50 words or less followed by the #ifihadglass, Google aims to bring Glass to the market early next year for all.

Click on the video below and get hyped.

Oh and please humour me and click on this video, too funny.

E

Q- Dr E, how do I know if I am lactose intolerant or not?

SayCheese_Lactose

Happy Friday Geeks,

It has been a while since my last knock knock post and I’m excited to put this one out. I get asked this question all the time and it is not an easy one to answer scientifically but I am going to give it my best shot. It is science “thick” but I am going to do my best here to touch all bases and hopefully make the science easier for everyone to digest (like my little pun here?)

I hear people say they think they are lactose intolerant quite often and they usually go to the extreme of cutting out all dairy products. I can definitely understand why that would be the first point of action for many, but it has always worried me because dairy products are our main form of calcium intake (as well as good protein and carbohydrate sources). Calcium is a very important part of our diet and it is hard for many to grasp how important it is until they are at an age (50 and over) where they are prone to an increase in bone fractures and other calcium related dis-orders associated with calcium restriction.

Let me start by explaining to you what lactose actually does for us. Lactose is the main source of sugar from milk and milk products from all mammals except the sea lion. After ingestion, lactose passes into the small intestine where it comes into contact with lactase (a natural enzyme within our bodies) at the intestinal brush border where it is hydrolysed/converted into the monosaccharides glucose and galactose (sugars), which are easily absorbed. In-short, lactose is good for us because it can be converted to sugars by lactase which are then used by many bio-chemical processes in our systems. Remember sugars are not bad!, sugars are basically our human fuel or petrol, a car can’t run properly without a good supply of petrol and the same goes for our bodies. Over subscription to sugars is what is bad.

Save_Lactose

Now that is out of the way. What do we mean when we say someone is lactose intolerant? And this is where it can get a little confusing. Time for the hard-core science section.

Non-digested lactose can cause gastrointestinal symptoms such as diarrhoea and distending the intestines (bloating, cramps, abdominal discomfort) as well as psychological symptoms, events that are likely to lead to clinical symptoms.

Lactose malabsorption refers to inefficient digestion of lactose due to reduced expression or impaired activity of the enzyme lactase.

Lactose intolerance is when the gastrointestinal symptoms are clinically observed in an individual with lactose malabsorption.

Lactose_Intolerance_Diagram

What causes lactose malabsorption I hear you ask? The most common cause of lactose malabsorption is lactase non-persistence also known as lactase deficiency, a common condition in which lactase expression decreases during infancy. What this means is that we naturally start off needing lactose as it is our earliest form of providing our systems with the sugars/energy it needs to grow and develop to adults. But, as we get older we don’t need it as much. I am about to really go in on this, hope you are ready?

Lactase activity changes during development. In most humans, lactase activity reaches a maximum in late pregnancy but declines after 2–3 years of age and reaches a stable low level at age 5–10 (this is thought to be a process which might help weaning). However, a proportion of the human population, especially Caucasians from Northern Europe or Northern European descent, retain high lactase levels during adulthood. This is known as lactase persistence. Just to be clear, lactase persistence means you and lactose can be good friends, if you want to.

Therefore, lactase persistence and non-persistence are both “normal” human phenotypes. What is very interesting, is where lactase persistence is found and why?  The prevalence of lactase persistence is high  in most regions in Scandinavia, the British Islands, and Germany (80–95%); however, this condition is observed in only 20–40% of Indian adults, 30% of Mexicans, 30% of African Americans.

Lactase persistence is thought to be related to the development of farming during the last 10,000 years. Just in-case you really really wanted to know, the genetic polymorphism responsible for most cases of lactase persistence in Caucasian individuals is the13910C/T variant (it’s all very straight-froward :-), T at position 13910 upstream of the lactase gene within a putative regulatory DNA-region causes persistence; C leads to non-persistence). Basically if you are from any of these regions you are good and if you are mixed, then you are also good because lactose malabsorption is a recessive condition meaning you need a homozygous genotype as a heterozygous/mixed geneotype is considered clinically negative.

African tribes that herd cattle in Sudan, Kenya, Ethiopia and Tanzania also have high prevalence for lactase persistence. However, lactase persistence is mediated by a different polymorphism (gene/DNA change). Importantly, this tells us that lactase persistence developed several times independently in human evolution in different areas of the world. So again, if you are east African you and lactose can be good friends. Of-course exceptions to the rule do exist, as they do with everything. (for review, see Ingram et al Human Genet 2009; 124: 579–591)

Lactose_Map

Statistical calculations of genetic data estimated that selection for lactase persistence commenced relatively recently, during the last 10,000 years. Lactase persistence was beneficial for our ancestors by providing a clean source of fluid and a source of protein, fat, and carbohydrates  generating a selective advantage of 1.5–19% in each generation. This indicates a strong selection pressure comparable to malaria resistance genes (2–5% for G6PD deficiency, 5–18% for sickle-cell trait) in various parts of the world. That is a big deal by the way, selective advantages are hard to prove.

So those rumours that humans are not supposed to drink milk, especially cows milk are questionable for two reasons, two very different reasons, in my humble opinion. Firstly, no significant bio-chemical difference between lactose in breast milk and cows milk has been observed, they both get digested in the same way via the lactase enzyme, which is common and present a birth. It is very rare that you are born lactose intolerant (known as congenital lactase deficiency). Secondly, cows milk has been reported to be ingested by humans from times dating back to the father of man, The Prophet Abraham according Biblical and Quranic scriptures and that tells me something, whether you are spiritual or not, history should at least strike a cord here? or maybe be not? As a scientist, I personally believe all evidence should be taken into account, including historical, religious, spiritual evidences.

Saying all the above, I do appreciate that many people are experiencing discomfort when ingesting milk and dairy products. So what do you do if you are one of them?

Treatment of lactose intolerance should not be aimed at reducing malabsorption but rather at improving digestive symptoms. Reduction of lactose intake rather than exclusion is recommended because long-term effects of lactose restriction may help improve gastrointestinal complaints but can lead to other damages. For example, the long-term effects of a diet free of dairy products may be a concern as you are significantly decreasing the amount of calcium. Low calcium levels are leading to an increase in fractures and orthopaedic problems. Adolescents require approximately 1300mg and over 50’s approximately 1200mg of calcium, which is roughly equal to 3 cups of milk per day. Furthermore, in blinded studies results indicate that most patients with self-reported lactose intolerance can ingest at least 12g lactose (equivalent to 250ml milk) without experiencing symptoms and taken with other foods, up to 18g lactose can often be tolerated (Suarez FL, Savaiano DA and Levitt MD, N Engl J Med1995; 333: 1–4).

I know I took you all through the paces with this one, but I really wanted to flesh this one out. As with everything all food groups are important and good for you as long as it is taken with moderation, completely cutting out a good source of calcium because you think you may be lactose intolerant is not recommended. But, if you are then you should take all necessary steps to make sure you are providing your body with the healthy amount of nutrients it requires. Many lactose supplements and calcium supplements produced as “drugs” are available that can be taken to supplement your diet, but I hope you go the foodie route, it is much more colourful, fun and tastes all so wonderful.

Lactose_ComicStrip

Hope you enjoyed the read and if the science was too “thick” for you ( ha, not sure why I like that word today, but like I do) click play and relax to this brilliant song by James Blake.

Have a great weekend all.

E

The 3D Printing Craze- Anyone for a 3D printed foetus?

3Dbaby1

Happy Friday Everyone,

The weekend is here but before we all get into the swing of things I wanted to share with you a debate I have been having with myself, in my own head, as you do, so please indulge me :-). You may or may not have come across technology’s newest advancement in printers, the 3D printer. These printers literally mean you can design something and print a 3D model either in miniature or to scale (if the design fits within the parameters of the printers settings of-course, some things do not change!). All sorts of things are being printed, tea-cups, mini-architectural designs, spoons, key rings and well you get the idea right?

Or, if you live in Japan, you can get a 3D printed foetus. Yep, that’s right, a 3D foetus. A Japanese clinic is offering parents-to-be the chance to hold their baby months before the child leaves the womb. The technology offered by Fasotec and Hiroo Ladies Clinic in Tokyo, Japan, creates a 3D model of the mother’s fetus and womb using a “Bio-Texture” process and MRI scans. The service is interestingly named “Shape of an Angel” and can be yours for a mere £764 or about $1,276 not including the cost of the MRI.  You get a small, plastic, anatomically accurate (if low on resolution) model of your son or daughter, encased, if you wish, in a see-through reproduction of the mothers midriff.

3Dbaby2

For the above price, the company will squeeze you or your partner into a MRI machine – a noisy, uncomfortable-for-the-patient piece of medical equipment capable of generating a 3D picture of the body’s interior – for an hour or so. I know you are thinking, that doesn’t sound nice but according to the Fasotec representative Tomohiro Kinoshita, the Japanese women loved it.

“We actually got three expectant mothers to try this out. They said it felt great to see how their babies looked before birth, and to be able to actually hold the inside of their own body,”  He goes on to say “They also enjoyed looking at the model after giving birth, thinking, ‘This is how my baby looked inside me’ and recalling how it felt to be pregnant.”

I am making light of it here but the technology is actually quite amazing. The service is in truth something of a PR stunt designed to promote Fasotec’s “bio-texture modelling” business, for which it has high hopes of making big money by connecting medical imaging technology to 3D printing. Fasotec also sees roles for the technology in plastic and reconstructive surgery, and in dentistry. My younger brother is an orthopaedic surgeon (aka the bone gods) and he thinks this will be the way medical students will learn to become surgeons in the future. Click on the video below to see for yourself. Pretty impressive stuff.

Although I have much respect for the technology and its promise of medical advancement, I just do not know how I feel about having a 3D print out of my foetus, when did a picture of your baby become a thing of the past? and why does this not excite me? Do they charge extra for twins, I wonder? the debate goes on….3D printed shoes however, I’ll take that.

3D_Shoes13Dshoes2

I love this song and all the shoes in this video, it has been the background song to my internal dialogues this week. Click play and enjoy while you ponder on the possibility of allowing a 3D print out foetus in your life.

Have a great weekend

Eyman

Fasting makes you younger

Hello Geeks,

As it is Ramadan again, I thought it would be a good idea to re-post this blog post to help keep us fasting people motivated lol. It is the third day in and this year I can honestly say I am struggling. Summer Ramadan’s are not the one, the day is so long and come 9.20pm I am not the most pleasant person to be around but at least I know I will look younger. Please re-blog, re-tweet and like the post.

Ramadan Kareem everyone, Love, Light and blessings to all.

Eyman

Hey All,

Hope you have all been well. Some of you may know that it is the holy month of Ramadan in the Islamic calender. This special month means that from sunrise to sunset, people of the Muslim faith abstain from eating and drinking (yes, not even water!!!). Ramadan is my favorite month, but I have to admit, this year it has been tough as the days are super long and I am definitely feeling it.

A friend of mine sent me this link to the third horizon episode called Eat, Fast and Live Longer presented by Michael Mosley.  I wanted to write a post on the scientific health benefits of fasting towards the beginning of the month but it is so much and can get very complicated. This episode is the perfect introduction into the world of health metabolics and you can see Mr Mosley take him-self through all the different types of fasts and the huge mental and physical health benefits he personally gained from actually doing the fasts. Clink on this link and watch it on bbc iplayer before it’s gone.

In-case you do not have the time to watch the whole episode. I am going to do my best to summarise the power of fasting here.

Mosley goes through different phases of food restrictions before delving into fasting. Calorie restriction, eating well but not much, is one of the few things that has been shown to extend life expectancy, at least in animals. We’ve known since the 1930s that mice put on a low-calorie, nutrient-rich diet live far longer. This is also true in monkeys, the mammal of choice for testing a theory before human trials.

The world record for extending life expectancy in a mammal is held by a new type of mouse which can expect to live an extra 40%, equivalent to a human living to 120 or even longer. 120 years of life, i’m not sure I want to live to 120 but some of you may 🙂

Why I hear you ask does this mouse have such a healthy and long life? the answer is it has been genetically engineered so its body produces very low levels of a growth hormone called IGF-1, high levels of which seem to lead to accelerated ageing and age-related diseases, while low levels are protective. Tah Dah!

A similar, but natural, genetic mutation has been found in humans with Laron syndrome, a rare condition that affects fewer than 350 people worldwide. The very low levels of IGF-1 their bodies produce means they are short, but this also seems to protect them against heart disease, strokes, cancer and diabetes, all age-related diseases.

The IGF-1 hormone (insulin-like growth factor) is one of the drivers which keep our bodies in go-go mode, with cells driven to reproduce. This is fine when you are growing, but not so good later in life, it makes us get old :-/.

How does all this relate to fasting? I’m getting there, evidence suggests that IGF-1 levels can be lowered by what you eat. The reason seems to be that when our bodies no longer have access to food they switch from “growth mode” to “repair mode”. As levels of the IGF-1 hormone drop, a number of repair genes appear to get switched on according to ongoing research by Professor Valter Longo of the University of Southern California.

Mosley had a go fasting for 3 days and saw his levels of IGF-1 drop by over half, dramatically reducing his chances of age associated diseases and diabetes, to 1 in a billion! His face on hearing this information is priceless. Finding three continuous days of fasting difficult he researches fasting diets further and goes for the Alternate Day fasting (ADF). This diet involving eating what you want one day, then a very restricted diet (fewer than 600 calories) the next, and most surprisingly, it does not seem to matter that much what you eat on non-fast days says Dr Krista Varady of the University of Illinois at Chicago who carried a range of clinical trials.

Mosley decided, he couldn’t manage ADF, it was just too impractical. Fair enough, he was being honest with himself. Instead he did an easier version, the so-called 5:2 diet. As the name implies you eat normally 5 days a week, then two days a week you eat 500 calories if you are a woman, or 600 calories, if you are a man. It worked for him but it is important to note that there are no firm rules because so far there have been few proper human trials.

The final conclusion, fasting can be good for you both physically, mentally and spiritually. Why not try it? If you want to read some of the hard-core science click on this link.

Hope you enjoyed the read, now I’m going to enjoy my fasting experience just that little bit more knowing that it’s giving my aging processes a run for it’s money. I’m working on being forever young again like Ghost. Click on the video below for Napolean Dynamites reinterpretation of Forever Young.

Until next time, happy fasting.

Eyman