ARTHUR BENJAMIN: THE FIRST CHAPTERS OF THE BOOK
Readers of the blog that visit BEI so often ask “Why haven’t you published a book?” that the thought of it has become quite sensible. Indeed, all of these little articles together could make a nice book. Our working title Through The Eyes of an Ophthalmologist and we’re publishing several chapters.
WE TRADITIONALLY WISH EACH OTHER TO LIVE TO 120. REALISTIC OR NOT?
I was 14 years old when I arrived here with my parents from the Soviet Union, and I still remember the myths about the Caucasians that lived to be 160. But if these fairy-tale old-timers aren’t taken into account, the real record has belonged to a French woman for 20 years now, who reached 122.
Where are all of our newest medical achievements in this field? To this, you could reply, “There hasn’t been a man on the moon in half a century, but now Mars is just around the corner”.
But what does Mars matter if we can’t break this 20-year record for longevity?
Nevertheless, there will soon be treatments that can remove the diseases associated with aging. There are those that think humans could even live for hundreds of years, and venture capitalists have invested huge sums of money to study the aging process.
Not all scientists believe this and argue that dying on time is a wise evolutionary choice. The largest number of believers, however, are located in Silicon Valley. One of the companies was founded by Google, and is called the Calico Life Company. The type of studies they are engaged in, however, is unknown. They say it doesn’t even have any signage. Mark Zuckerberg has even joined in and vowed to cure or prevent all disease by the end of the 21st century. And what are the arguments of its 120 supporters? Well, we can already increase life expectancy by almost five times in simple organisms, and some fungi, fruit flies, and worms. But the more complex the creature, the more difficult it is to achieve.
Has there been any progress on more solid multicellular organisms? There is. They’ve increased life expectancy in lab rats by 20-30%.
Skeptics present the following argument: not everyone on the planet lives to be even 60.
So what do we do? Wait? The fact is that you can improve your own health, without the help of sign-less companies. How exactly? Everyone knows the answer, and it’s only two words – physical exercise. Practically all old-timers, even the mythological Caucasians, and not to mention Okinawans, have one thing in common – an active lifestyle.
It could be dancing, swimming, daily walks, hiking – there are so many options and all of them are free. And if you want to see the full beauty of this world, you have us. By the way, we DO have a sign and the walls of our laser center are glass. No secrets at all!
10,000 STEPS – BETTER FEWER, BUT BETTER!
“One step forward, two steps back” – this was the name of one of Lenin’s works which students in the Soviet Union were forced to study. Another of these classic articles was called “Better Fewer, But Better”. I, thank God, don’t remember what these articles were about, but their names sound relevant for today.
Now, everyone is obsessed (in a good way) with the 10,000 steps program. Are you able to make it that far? And if so, don’t you think it would take up time that could be spent on other life goals?
Today every other passer-by on the street anxiously looks at their phone or tablet – have we gotten there yet or not? But why 10,000, and not 9,000 or 11,000?
It all started in the 1960s in Japan. They commercialized one of the first pedometers, and 10,000 steps was just a marketing trick. The Japanese at that time picked up on the American habit of passively watching baseball and at the same time hypodynamia, so they decided to uplift the body and spirit.
It was believed that 10,000 steps would burn an extra 500 calories. The trick worked, and the 10,000 program conquered Japan as well as the rest of the world.
But isn’t it the Sisyphean labor? Isn’t it better to have 3 short but intense walks, like the Active 10 program? With Active 10, you generally don’t have to greedily count your steps, but rather walk 3 times a day for 10 minutes.
In the UK, both methods were tested on volunteers. One group ruefully walked the 10,000 steps, and the other did 3 quick sessions for about 1.5 miles total.
“In the Active 10 group, the total volume of moderate-to-high level exercise was 30% higher than in the 10,000 steps group, despite the fact that the first was moving for less time. Moderately intense exercise has the greatest health benefit”. (BBC)
Not to mention that such exercise loads, according to some, help reduce the risk of diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and even some types of cancer. It turns out that these Marxist classics were right, as far as the title goes, but going deeper into these works isn’t worth a single step. It’s better to just go out and take a quick walk, like for example to Benjamin Eye Institute, if you live within a mile-and-a-half.
UNIVERSAL BLOOD ANALYSIS
It’s possible we will live to see a time where a blood test will show almost everything, and steps in this direction have already been done. This post is about a universal blood analysis for cancer developed by American scientists, one of the most popular of its kind.
Ideally, a person would donate blood once a year, and then for many of the undiagnosed out there the disease will be detected at its earliest stages.
Today it is evaluated in different ways. Optimists believe that the results are stunning and that they’ve found the Holy Grail, while pessimists always say don’t jump the gun and celebrate too early.
The fact is that cancerous tumors manifest themselves in a certain manner – they produce sections of mutated DNA and the so-called oncomarker proteins in the blood. This new test searches for these oncomarkers and mutations in a group of genes, the breakdown of which usually causes cancer. Although the tumor is just beginning to emerge, it can theoretically (and sometimes practically) already be detected. Do I need to say how important this is? The earlier it is found, the better the chances for treatment, and an operation isn’t always necessary – just like how early cataract operations can be postponed by correcting eyesight with properly-selected glasses.
To date, in 5 cases out of 8, cancer was impossible to catch at an early stage. Particularly insidious in this regard is pancreatic cancer, and the majority of patients die within the first year after being diagnosed.
In a new experiment, American scientists had more than 1000 participants – patients with stomach, pancreatic, esophageal, colon, ovarian, liver, lung, and chest cancers that had not yet metastasized, or in other words spread to other organs. So how effective was their test? Very effective – 70% of the cases. The test worked; it confirmed the presence of cancer. And while it’s true that it wasn’t as sensitive to cancer in its first stage (40%), the first step is always the hardest.
Now, the test will be run on a large group of people who don’t have cancer, as far as they and their doctors know. It’s understood that someone will have it, just undiagnosed. Also, the number of proteins and mutations that can be studied is far greater.
Only after that can we really say something definite about this test – I’m optimistic!
There was an unforgettable scene in the movie Minority Report with an eye implantation. In this new world (which we have almost already lived through), personality was identified through the eyes, and our hero Tom Cruise was at large, forced to have an operation at the hands of a somewhat-criminal ophthalmologist. This operation was successful, and the new eyes took root.
This scene will be remembered by many in light of recent discoveries in the field of immune cells. When a person has an organ implant of some kind, they must take drugs to suppress the immune response, but eye transplants usually don’t require this. Why? Because there are several components of the eye – the lens, for example – do not have access to the blood vessels through which immune cells are distributed. So therefore it is believed that these parts of the eye have “immune privileges”.
New research (in Scientific Reports), however, shows that this isn’t true and that the eye does not have an immunity to immunity. There was a complex study involving mice with a mutated gene that produces such-and-such protein – you don’t need all these details. It turns out that immune cells cunningly get into the lens through the ciliary ligaments. Ciliary fibers connect the lens to the ciliary body, where the muscle is located, the contraction of which controls the curvature of the lens.
Thus, immune cells may be present in the lens and facilitate the healing process, but also play a role in loss of vision.
What does this change? So far just our point-of-view. We won’t change the eye yet. But the fact that the lens is affected to some extent by the immune system may mean that we can better understand visual impairment, particularly with cataracts.
It doesn’t seem like anything sensational, and it was done on mice. But such small steps, from the view of the general reader, quite often leads us to revolutions in medicine. And such revolutions are always good.
photo by Al Martin and others on Unsplash