At the time that I’m writing this, I still haven’t succumbed to the “yuck” that’s been knocking out my co-workers one-by-one since November. Those of us who are still healthy were discussing how we fortify our immune systems in preparation for the flu season. All of the suggestions were pretty typical—orange juice, Vitamin C supplements, and of course, the the annual flu shot.
While my morning routine typically only involves a large cup of coffee, increasingly more Americans are beginning their days with a set of sun salutations. Sun salutations are a series of poses originating from yoga, one of the most popular types of mind-body intervention in the United States. Along with yoga, other commonly recognized mind-body interventions (MBI) include meditation, mindfulness, Tai chi, and Qigong. Despite the fact that each of these activities differ in the amount of physical effort required, they all view mental and physical health as single cohesive system.
The influence of overall mind-body intervention on health and wellness is an ancient concept that is now revolutionizing Western medicine. In the past, Western medicine has focused primarily on the health of the physical body. Yoga and meditation were viewed as beneficial, but were less likely to be recommended by clinicians as a method for relief. Now, with recent developments in gene expression analysis techniques, we have a better understanding of biological mechanisms and how they interact with psychological variables. A possible shift in clinician’s philosophies can be seen in the steady rise in the complementary health approaches of yoga, Tai chi, and qi gong1.
To completely understand how MBI affects a person’s health, we must first realize the links between stress and the conserved transcriptional response to adversity (CTRA). CTRA refers to the common molecular pattern discovered in individuals facing hardship. Whether it be in the form of diagnosis of a life-threatening disease or the death of a loved one, the characteristics of CTRA stay consistent. CTRA causes an influx in the production of epinephrine and norepinephrine. These neuromodulators then affect the production of transcription factors. Continue reading ““Reverse” Molecular Reactions in DNA through Mind-Body Interventions”
First we eat, then we do everything else.–MFK Fisher
Swatting away mosquitoes one July morning in the garden on the Promega Madison, WI, campus, Senior Culinary Manager Nate Herndon leans down and pulls back the leaves of a squash plant, revealing the bright yellow flowers that in a couple of hours will highlight a seasonal special on the lunch menu at one of the company’s cafeterias: green onion-cream cheese stuffed fried squash blossoms served on a grilled jerk pork tostada with black beans and cilantro sauce. Herndon explains that dishes made from scratch with high-quality, locally sourced (and sometimes unexpected) ingredients are the rule at Promega Madison kitchens, where it’s not uncommon to find entrees like house made ramp garganelli with oyster mushrooms and asparagus, braised beef ragu with house made buckwheat parpadelle pasta and baby kale, or fried perch tacos.
Food is an extension, a daily demonstration, of our overall commitment to sustainability, the community and employees
There has been a lot of effort recently to perform whole genome sequencing, for humans and other species. The results yield new frontiers of data analysis that offer a lot of promise for groundbreaking scientific discoveries.
One objective of human genome sequencing has been to identify sources of disease and new therapeutic targets. This movement has opened the door to create personalized medicine for cancer, whereby the genetic makeup of an individual’s tumors can be used to determine the most effective drug intervention to administer.
Interest in studying the characteristics unique to individual cells seems obvious when considering the function of healthy cells versus tumor cells, or brain cells compared to heart cells. What has surprised scientists is the realization that two cells in the same tissue can be more different from each other, genetically, than from a cell in another organ.
For example, a small number of brain cells with a specific mutation can lead to some forms of epilepsy while healthy people may also carry cells with these mutations, but too few to cause disease. The lineage of a cell, where it came from and what events shaped its development, ultimately determines what diseases can exist.
It is remarkable to me how quickly in vitro fertilization has gone from an experimental, controversial and prohibitively expensive procedure to becoming a mainstream option for those struggling with fertility issues. What was unheard of in my parents’ generation is nothing extraordinary among my friends who are having children.
It challenges the mind to imagine what reproductive technologies might be widespread when my children and their friends are adults. When experts speculate about the future of human reproduction, there always seems to be a lot of focus on provocative scenarios that portend a dystopian future, such as designer babies. What gets lost are some of the more general scientific advances that are being applied to ART in fascinating ways.
While improvements in reproductive technologies serve many, one group that remains underserved are pediatric cancer patients. As a result of treatment, these patients are often faced with impaired ovarian function that can prevent puberty and result in infertility. In vitro fertilization and ovarian transplants are currently used, but do not provide lasting solutions for all individuals.
In response to this need, researchers are working to develop an organ replacement that can provide long-term hormone function and fertility for all patients. A recent study in Nature Communications presented encouraging results in mice using bioprosthetic ovaries that may further revolutionize the field of ART. Continue reading “Creating ART from 3D Printed Ovaries”
I never hated my trips to the dentist until the anesthetic injection didn’t work and I felt everything the dentist was doing as he relentlessly drilled my molar. We eventually figured out why the injection didn’t work and solved the problem. I have had numerous pain-free visits since then, yet each time I’m in that chair my mind is anticipating impending doom.
Musicians wait onstage as the sound tech adjusts the cables around them. He signals “OK” and runs back through the seats of the empty auditorium to the mixing board. The musicians all dressed in black, instruments in hand, prepare to play. Four sharp whacks from the drummer’s sticks and music fills the space. Horns, keyboards, electric guitar, bass, and harmonica back singers as they belt out the upbeat earworm Drive It Like You Stole It. They sound great and make it look pretty effortless too, which is why it’s hard to believe these “rock stars” are also scientists, marketers, IT specialists, lawyers, you name it, who make up the Promega employee band, Lead Generation. (Thank marketing for the name.)
“Lead Generation is just one of the many opportunities at Promega that make it truly unique,” says Kris Zimmerman, a research scientist who sings and plays trumpet with the band. “Any kind of expression of creativity can help you to have different perspectives and be a better problem solver. Fostering an environment where collaboration and creativity are rewarded really helps to create a sense of belonging, and creates a vibe of excitement that you don’t find just anywhere. Plus how cool is it to tell people that you play in a band? At work?”
Are you looking for a way to save money on those need-to-have items that you buy throughout the year? You know, not fun items or cool clothing, but rather those medical expenses that have a way of draining your wallet? Have you ever considered using a medical Flexible Spending Account (FSA)? Flexible Spending Accounts have been around for over 50 years, initially created in the 1970’s by the Internal Revenue Service as a solution to the addition of deductibles and elimination of dental and vision insurance by many employer-sponsored health insurance plans. The expenses that insurance didn’t cover – but employees still experienced – were given a tax-free pass by the IRS up to an annual limit.
Over the years the accounts have gone through many changes: adding the convenience of debit-card access, on-line claims submission services, increases in the annual limits, and elimination of many over-the counter expenses as eligible. So how do you know what you can and cannot use the account for, and is it really worth the hassle of claims submission? Continue reading “Taking a Second Look at Flexible Spending Accounts”
Two years ago my, then ten-year-old, daughter and I started a journey together. We joined a local dojo (karate school). At the time my daughter was still looking for ‘her’ activity, and after trying both girl scouts and 4H as well as several intramural sports, I reached back into her early childhood when she had enjoyed participating in karate classes as a three and four year old. I was hoping to find an activity that we could share (much as her brother and father share camping and outings with Boy Scouts) that we would both find challenging and enjoyable—and maybe part of me had secretly always wanted to be a ninja.
A number of friends, family and even acquaintances have expressed surprise that this was the activity that my daughter and I settled on, or more specifically, that I was taking up karate as an adult. We tend to associate karate with classes of kids in white gis, or with high-intensity, high-level competitive martial artists, which we typically think of as male. But this is not a “kid only” or “male only” sport. According to the New York City-based research firm, Simmons Market Research, over 18.1 million Americans participated in karate or some other form of martial art at least once, and roughly 9.4 million were adults. The study also found that gender is pretty evenly split between men (52%) and women (48%). Karate is popular globally, with an estimated 50 to 100 million practitioners worldwide (Japan web and World Karate Federation, respectively), and was one of five new sports added to the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.
Martial Arts Improves Physical and Cognitive Performance in Youth
It is easy to find the reasons why people enroll their children in martial arts training. Participation in karate has been shown to improve physical performance in children and young adults as measured by such things as better coordination, reaction speed time, explosive leg strength and muscle endurance (1, 2). At the same time, children participating in karate also score better than their peers on executive functions, working memory and visual selective attention (1). Karate has also shown promise in helping with behavior issues by improving self-regulation and executive function (3).
A bike ride through the beautiful countryside, or even a routine walk to the corner store, is good for both body and soul. But sometimes even that’s not enough to get us moving in the fresh air. So our Promega Biotech Ibérica branch recently found a way to raise the stakes, and make outdoor activity even more valuable for its employees.
Last summer, the branch came up with the idea to donate one euro to the children’s oncology department of Hospital La Paz in Madrid for every kilometer its staff biked, walked or ran outside. The idea behind Kilometros Solidarios (Solidarity Kilometers) was simple but powerful: healthy activity leading directly to the health of others.
The plan worked. During the months of July, August and September, employees got up and outside and the branch raised €1884 (about $1993 USD) toward the purchase of a much-needed portable ultrasound machine for the hospital. (To point out the obvious, 1884 kilometers of outdoor activity were racked up by just 15 employees. That’s 4710 times around an Olympic track, or about the same distance as walking, biking or running from Promega Ibérica to Promega GmbH or from the Promega Madison headquarters straight south to the Gulf of Mexico.) Continue reading “Promega Spain Gets Moving Outdoors For A Cause”