Tag Archives: metabolism

New Material Stores Oxygen for Later Use

Oxygen is an important element required for metabolisms occurring in our body and without it we would be dead in a couple of seconds. This is the reason that we cannot survive under the water or any other place without oxygen. Scientists  at University of Southern Denmark found a new way to store oxygen for using in places that oxygen is not available. They made a substance based on cobalt which can absorb oxygen from its surrounding air or water and release it anytime it is needed.

By Kenneth Abbate , via Wikimedia Commons

Oxygen can bind many different materials but the result is not always useful. For instance, oxygen can spoil foods or can rust metals. Professor Christine McKenzie, one of the researchers, explains that this new material can reversibly react with oxygen which means it can be used to transport oxygen and release it in its initial form similar to what hemoglobin does in our body. Cobalt is responsible for determining the structure of this new material in a way that it has affinity for oxygen same as iron in our body. Professor McKenzie added that the rate of oxygen absorption can range from seconds to days because of several factors such as atmospheric oxygen content, temperature and pressure. Furthermore, the material releases oxygen when it is heated up or placed in a vacuum. This material can be used to make many useful devices. For example, a light weight device could be designed to provide oxygen for patients with lung diseases who have to carry heavy oxygen tanks with themselves all the time. In addition, divers can use this material to stay longer under the water since it can absorb oxygen from water if the diver breathes in all the available oxygen in the material.

By Stephan Borchert (Eigenes Werk.) via Wikimedia Commons

-Amir Jafarvand

“Asian Glow”: More than Embarrassment

Have you ever gone out to the bar or had a couple of drinks with friends of East Asian heritage (Chinese, Japanese, and Korean)? If so, you would have probably noticed that at least one of their faces turned red after only a few sips of alcohol. This is called the “Asian Glow”. As the name suggests, it refers to the common reaction of Asians turning red after drinking alcohol.

Asian Glow: Before and After | Image: Brooks PJ, Enoch M-A, Goldman D, Li T-K, Yokoyama A

According to U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, our body breaks down alcohol in two steps, facilitated by two enzymes that speed up the break down process. The enzyme alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH) converts alcohol into a toxic intermediate called acetaldehyde (C2H4O), then the second enzyme aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH2) turns it into acetate (CH3CO-2) and releases the toxic compound out of the body.

Breakdown of Alcohol in Two Steps | Credits: ethanol, acetaldehyde, acetate molecules from Wikimedia | Edit: Even Zheng

Unfortunately, about 80% of all East Asians are born with overactive ADH in their stomach and liver, breaking down alcohol up to 100 times faster into the toxic acetaldehyde. In addition, about 50% of East Asian have a deficiency in ALDH2 enzymes, which means it takes much longer for the body to clean out the residues of alcohol. Simply put, their body skips right past the pleasant effect of alcohol and experiences body rash, nausea, dizziness, and all the “hangover symptoms” much faster. Now we know who to blame, it’s all because of genes!

I remember a time I was at my friend’s place for a small gathering. It was only half an hour into the chitchat when my friend pointed at me and said, “Your face looks like a stop sign!” followed by everyone’s laughter. At that time, I literally had half a can of beer. If anybody can relate, someone has probably also told you to practice and increase your tolerance level, but you might want to give that a second thought.

What most people don’t know is that the toxic acetaldehyde is actually a cancer-causing agent. An article published by The New York Times revealed that researchers believe the condition of turning red after drinking alcohol may link to increased risk of throat, stomach, and esophagus cancer, which are some of the most deadly types of cancer. This is especially dangerous for people who have developed a high tolerance to acetaldehyde and became heavy drinkers.

A Time Magazine article suggested that the hereditary trait may have evolved in the ancient Chinese population as a survival strategy to allow people to drink alcohol made from fermented rice, while protecting them against alcoholism. Regardless of its credibility, there is indeed a lower rate of alcoholism among people with the deficiency, for obvious reasons. Before we find any way to replace the inactive enzyme or develop safe medications, it is the best to just avoid drinking altogether. It might make your parties a little “lame” on Friday nights, but on the bright side, you now have a good excuse to tell your friends when they want to go out for a drink right before your exam.

Here is a video to help you understand the metabolism of alcohol: YouTube Preview Image

Credit: Science of Nutrition

-Even Zheng

Birth Control and Grapefruit Don’t Mix

Ladies, we all remember the moment when the doctor is naming all the horrible side effects caused when starting new birth control pills: nausea, headaches, risks of blood clots, risks of breast cancer and many more.

L0059976 Model of a contraceptive pill, Europe, c. 1970 Credit: Science Museum, London. Wellcome Images images@wellcome.ac.uk http://wellcomeimages.org Birth control was still a taboo subject before the 1960s. ‘The pill’ seemed an ideal contraceptive because it was effective, not messy, and did not interfere with sex. The oral contraceptive pill also empowered women to take greater control of contraception. However, the first pills had a far higher level of hormones than required. This caused heart problems in some women. Later pills rectified this. ‘The pill’ is still prescribed worldwide. maker: Unknown maker Place made: Europe made: 1965-1975 Published: - Copyrighted work available under Creative Commons Attribution only licence CC BY 4.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

L0059976 Model of a contraceptive pill, Europe, c. 1970
Copyrighted work available under Creative Commons Attribution only licence CC BY 4.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

Although what most people do not know and what most doctors fail to mention is the effect that a simple fruit such as grapefruit can have on the metabolism of birth control pills.

By Citrus_paradisi_(Grapefruit,_pink).jpg: א (Aleph) derivative work: — raeky (Citrus_paradisi_(Grapefruit,_pink).jpg) [CC BY-SA 2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons

To see how such a fruit affects the way a female body digests the birth control pills we have to look at the constitution of these pills. Birth control pills are made of hormones that cause changes in the female reproductive system to make it incompatible with gestationEstradiol is a form of the sex-related hormone “estrogen” that controls Vaginal, Fallopian tube and Uterus growth. It is a main component of the birth control pills.  During the process of pill digestion, most of the pill is absorbed in the intestine with the help of CYP3A4 enzyme that has the ability to break down drugs and dispose them from the body.

Häggström, Mikael. “Medical gallery of Mikael Häggström 2014”. Wikiversity Journal of Medicine 1 (2). DOI:10.15347/wjm/2014.008. ISSN 20018762. (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Unfortunately, drinking grapefruit juice or eating grapefruit affects the enzyme’s activity directly by inhibiting its digestive function. The inability of the pill to be absorbed by the body, leads to a high percentage of the contraceptive’s main ingredient, estradiol, to be left in the bloodstream. Such a hormone can be very risky if found in high amounts in the bloodstream.

The most common side effects that will be felt are dizziness, nausea and breast tenderness. Meanwhile, long term exposure to this factor can be a main cause for blood clots and breast cancer.

Even though there are existing speculations that predict grapefruit  has the ability to completely reverse the function of birth control pills by exposing women to the risk of pregnancy, there is no current evidence to support these claims.

Take a look at this video that gives general information on the side effects of having grapefruit while being on different types of medication:

YouTube Preview Image

Author: ABC News

So next time you’re using birth control pills to practice safe sex, please stay away from the “forbidden” fruit that literally has the ability to ruin your life.

Posted by: Doris Stratoberdha