Tag Archives: cancer

Tackling Cancer: Organogels to the Rescue

“Cancer” —  a word that brings fear among the public because ‘incurable’ is what first comes to mind. Drug industries and researchers have spent countless hours to develop a cure against this fatal disease. However, due to rapid advancements in science, what if we are inching closer towards a solution on eliminating cancer? Would that put the public more at ease? To this day, only a handful of cancers are curable such as prostate cancer, thyroid cancer, testicular cancer, and breast cancer. A recently discovered structure called an organogel offers an attractive approach in helping to combat cancer.

Source: Image of organogel, provided by Dr. Roy van der Meel

What are organogels?

Organogels act as a delivery system that carry drug particles, protect the drug particles, and make their way to cancer cells where it releases the drug contents. Drugs often contain small particles that bind and interfere with proteins made by virus and cancer cells. These particles are called small interfering ribonucleic acid (siRNA). RNA is present in all living cells where it has a role in controlling protein synthesis. Upon binding of siRNA to its target (cancer cells/viruses), the production of harmful proteins from cancer cells in our body will be stopped. Preventing harmful protein production will prevent cancer from forming in our bodies and eventually killing cancer cells. This is the general basis of how pharmaceutical drugs work.

We had the chance to interview Dr. Roy Van der Meel, a postdoctoral research fellow at UBC. In his research, Dr. Van der Meel and his colleagues showed that the use of organogels is very efficient against harmful cells. He found that organogels were able to locate and bind to cancer cells, and successfully release its contents. To learn more about this technique and its impact in the world, view the video below.


What makes organogels so special?

What sets the organogel technique apart from others is that organogels are able to bind to deep tissues within our bodies that are difficult to access. Furthermore, use of organogels contain less severe side effects compared to other methods such as chemotherapy , radiotherapy and surgery. Organogels are biodegradable. This means the body is able to successfully break down the components of the organogel, which minimizes the amount of harm on the body.

Even though this technique has many advantages, there are a few challenges and limitations that accompany it. The small interfering RNA (siRNA)  can be easily damaged by physiological factors in the body which makes it difficult to successfully deliver siRNA to the targeted tissue. Furthermore, injection of organogels is minimally invasive but can have side effects such as short lifetime of siRNA, low renewal efficiency of siRNA, and harming body tissues.

Moving forward into the future

The discoveries and findings in the study provide a basis for the technique of organogels, which still has room to grow. The newly developed technique provides a platform for future research on cancer therapy. Listen to the podcast below to find out more on how this technique can be implemented in the future!

Source: BenSound

Group 1: Aron Ha, Simranjit Singh, Cyndi Yan, Yuuki Shibutani

The Diet for “Fast” Physical and Mental Health Benefits: Intermittent Fasting

You may have heard of the typical low carb or low fat diet, but have you heard of intermittent fasting? Intermittent fasting (IF) is a relatively new diet that has been recently growing in popularity because of its powerful, life-changing benefits for the body and the brain.

There are many diets out there that are complex and intimidating to follow; however, IF keeps it simple.

What is intermittent fasting and how does it work?

IF is an eating pattern where an individual cycles between periods of eating and non-eating. There are many variations of IF that contain different fasting and non-fasting timeframes. Which variation an individual should use is based on their personal preference and their lifestyle/goals. Compared to other diets that require you to limit your calories, IF requires you to cut out the entire meal itself. With IF’s unconventional dieting approach, this makes IF easy to follow for the average person. This has contributed to the diet’s rise in popularity as well as its benefits in body composition and the brain.

Why should I try this diet? What are its benefits?

There are many benefits with intermittent fasting. Below are some of the most important ones that separate this diet apart from others.

Source: The Renegade Pharmacist

 IF alters the function of cells, genes and hormones

When the body is in a fasted state, the body undergoes physiological changes such as changes in hormone levels. This allows the body to use stored fat as its main source of energy. Furthermore, insulin blood levels decrease which helps with fat burning. The human growth hormone (HGH) also gets elevated during fasting. Elevated levels of HGH further increase fat burning, muscle gain and other health benefits. As a result of decreased insulin levels and increased HGH, our cells undergo cellular repair processes and removes toxic waste from cells. This in turn can help prevent cancer. 

IF benefits the brain

Previous studies have shown that IF improves certain metabolic features that are important for mental health. This involves lowering of blood sugar levels and insulin resistance which is important in fighting against certain diseases. Fasting up-regulates the secretion of brain-derived neurotrophic factors (BDNF), a protein that is involved in cognitive functions, memory and overall brain health. A study that experimented with rats showed that IF can elevate the production of new nerve cells which positively impacts the brain. Secretion of BDNF also contributes to lower chances of mental disorders such as depression and other brain conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease. Furthermore, a study involving animals has shown that IF prevents brain damage caused by strokes.

IF can lower the risk of Type 2 Diabetes

As mentioned earlier, fasting reduces insulin. The reduction of insulin levels ultimately lowers type 2 diabetes, a lifelong disease that increases the production of insulin beyond healthy levels. A study comparing IF to calorie restriction diets showed that IF has a stronger impact on lowering insulin levels and lowering blood sugar levels in the body. Collectively, studies have shown that IF can serve as an efficient protection mechanism for people at risk of type 2 diabetes.

IF can improve heart health

Today, heart disease is the leading cause of death in both men and women. It is still not well known whether IF can improve heart health due to the limited amount of studies out there. Emerging studies on the effectiveness of IF and heart disease are slowly on the rise.

Below is a video from the Intermountain Research & Medical Foundation discussing their findings on heart disease and IF.

Source: IntermtnMedCtr/Youtube


Intermittent fasting comes with physical and many mental health benefits that sets this apart from other diets. Why diet focussing only on physical health when you can also improve mental health and focus on bettering your longevity?

Make a change where your future self will thank you.

– Aron Ha