Category Archives: Healthy Living

Benefits of Daily Aspirin

A study led by Cardiff University concludes that stomach bleeds that are caused by aspirin are considerably less serious than the spontaneous bleeds that can occur in people not taking aspirin. The finding that was published in the journal Public Library of Science, with the extensive study of literature, reveals that while the regular use of the drug increases the risk of stomach bleeds by about a half, there is no valid evidence that any of these bleeds are fatal.

It was quoted by Professor Peter Elwood from Cardiff University’s School of Medicine, “Although many people use aspirin daily to reduce the risk of health problems such as cancer and heart disease, the wider use of the drug is severally limited because of the side effect of bleeding from the stomach”. Their study shows that there is no increased risk of death from stomach bleeding in people who take regular aspirin and that there will be better confidence in the drug and wider use of it by older people, leading to important reductions in deaths and disablement from heart disease and cancer across the community.

The leading causes of death and disability across the world are from heart disease and cancer. Research has shown that a small daily dose of aspirin can reduce the occurrence of both diseases by about 20-30%.

Research has also shown that low-doses of aspirin given to patients with cancer along with their chemotherapy and/or radiotherapy, is an effective additional treatment reducing the deaths of patients with bowel, and possibly other cancers, by a further 15%. This particular recent study was systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized trials to ascertain fatal gastrointestinal bleeding events attributable to preventive low-dose aspirin: no evidence of increased risk can be found in Public Library of Science.

This type of study provides the strongest evidence for drawing causal conclusions because it draws together all of the best evidence.

Dr Fredda Branyon

Colorectal Cancer

Finding colorectal cancer early can be highly curable. This occurs when abnormal cells grow in the lining of the large intestine (colon), or the rectum. This can occur in both men and women and has the 2nd highest rate of cancer deaths in the U.S.

Polyp growths occur on the inside of your intestines, but most of them are harmless. Some can turn into colorectal cancer if not removed early. Two different types of intestinal polys are adenomas and hyperplastic polyps that form when there are problems with the way the cells grow and repair in the lining of the colon.

Some things that occur where you can’t control it are your age, where most people diagnosed with it are older than 50, polyps or inflammatory bowel disease and family history of colorectal cancer or precancerous colon polyps.

There are some factors that you can control like eating a lot of red or processed meats or those cooked at high temperatures that should be avoided. Obesity, not exercising enough, smoking and heavy alcohol use should also be controlled.

There aren’t early warning signs so it’s very important to get checked. Finding colorectal cancer early means it’s much more curable. As it gets worse, you might see blood in your stool or have some pain in your belly, constipation or diarrhea, unexplained weight loss or fatigue. Usually the tumors tend to be bigger and harder to treat by the time these symptoms appear.

The screening tests that are available are the key to an early diagnosis. You should have a colonoscopy every 10 years once you turn 50. A tiny tube with a tiny camera is used to look at the whole colon and rectum, and can help to prevent colorectal cancer by finding the tumors early. If you have polyps, your doctor will remove them at that time. A CT scan can also be done that shows a 3-D model of your colon, without placing a camera inside your body. This can miss small polyps and if your doctor does see some, you will still need to have a colonoscopy for their removal. If you have polyps you may need a colonoscopy every 5 years. Another test is the
barium enema, which are x-rays that give the doctor a glimpse inside the colon and rectum. Instead of a colonoscopy, they may suggest a flexible sigmoidoscopy that also looks inside your rectum and bottom part of the colon.

A home fecal blood test will show if you have blood in your stool and may indicate a colonoscopy. There is a new test called Cologuard that also looks for blood or suspicious DNA in the stool and is quite accurate, but you will still need a colonoscopy if blood is found.

Following any possible tumor, you will need a biopsy that can be done at the time of the colonoscopy.

At that point the cancer will be “staged” as

Stage 0: cancer is in the innermost lining of the colon or rectum,
Stage 1: the disease has grown into the muscle layer of the colon or rectum,
Stage 2: cancer has grown into or through the outermost layer of the colon or rectum,
Stage 3: it has spread to one or more lymph nodes in the area and
Stage 4, it has spread to other parts of the body.

The survival rate depends upon the stage of your cancer. Surgery has a high cure rate in the early stages where they remove the tumors and surrounding tissue. If they are big they may need to take out an entire piece of your colon or rectum, but if it affects your liver, lungs or other organs, surgery will most likely not help you. Chemo will probably make you sick but some medications can help you control it. Perhaps, in my opinion, before beginning any type of chemo it might be wiser to try some alternative treatments to build your immune system.

Dr Fredda Branyon

tired_person

Fatigue & Multiple Myeloma

tired_person

It is absolutely no fun to be tired and fatigued. Multiple myeloma comes with
fatigue that is different from the tiredness you may have felt before. This is a bone-deep
exhaustion that does not get better with rest. There are several things you can do to get
the rest you need and boost your energy. You must first figure out your fatigue.
Keeping a journal of all the times you feel run down is the first step. This information
can help your health team to figure out the best way to help you feel better. Some
things to keep track of are the times of the day when you feel the most tired, when you
feel stressed or depressed, how well you’re sleeping, and changes in your diet and in
your daily activity level. You should expect fatigue as a part of cancer treatment, but it’s
still important to talk with you doctor about how you’re feeling to find ways to get more
energy. Relay this information to family and friends as well as they can help. Perhaps
by helping with chores or by letting others know when you are tired, it will help. Joining
a support group might also be helpful.

The cancer cells begin to build up in your bone marrow and to crowd out the
healthy blood cells and then you become anemic. You then have fewer red blood cells
to carry oxygen throughout your body and this makes you tired. Changes to your diet
might be needed and you may need adding supplement like iron or magnesium. Try
eating more organic red meat even though you hear its not good for you. Red meat has
been known to help raise hemoglobin faster than anything else other than a blood
transfusion.

If you use mild exercise it can strengthen your muscles and boost your energy
levels. Start slowly with a low-key activity if you haven’t exercised before your
diagnosis. Low key walking with friends and family will make it more fun, but check with
your doctor about the types of activity that he/she feels is ok for you.

Eating right with a well-balanced diet is key for keeping your energy levels up.
Eating a few small meals throughout the day is preferred to eating 3 big ones.
Get plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, protein and water. Supplements may be needed.
Be sure to avoid sugary snacks, processed foods, alcohol and tobacco.

Your body’s supply of white blood cells that protect you from infection can be low
with multiple myeloma. Avoid those who are sick and other things that might put you at
risk.

Have other family members help you with chores, grocery shopping or cleaning if
fatigue makes it hard to do these things. Share your concerns about fatigue with your
boss in changing or shortening your work hours. Just remember that your health is your
number 1 priority for now.

The biggest thing you can do is rest, rest and more rest. The anxiety about
cancer, pain in your bones and nausea can keep you from sleeping well. Ask your
doctor about treatments that might help and take time each day to rest when you feel
tired. Again, focus on yourself.

Be sure to tell your doctor if you have liver or kidney problems or are on dialysis,
if you or your partner are pregnant or plan to become pregnant or if you are
breastfeeding or plan to breastfeed. Your doctor also needs to know about all the
medications, prescribed and over-the-counter, that you are taking as well as any
nutritional supplements. Keeping your health provider well informed is the first step to
helping with your side effects and dealing with your fatigue.

Be good to your body.

Dr Fredda Branyon

Desk job

Standing for Our Health

Desk jobThe average U.S. adult spends up to 10 hours a day sitting.  This is a habit viewed as a normal integral part of daily life with working at a desk job or commuting long hours.  We aren’t doing our bodies any favors by sitting so much as it contributes to rising rates of overweight and obesity, chronic disease and even sometimes premature death.

Kelly Starrett holds a Ph.D. in physical therapy and is the author of “Deskbound: Standing Up to a Sitting World.”  He is a leader in the CrossFit movement and stresses the importance of having proper body mechanics both in and outside the gym.  He addresses biomechanical inadequacies that might increase your risk of injury. Kelly and Juliet are a husband-and-wife team and experts on movement and how it can make or break your health.  Their venture, StandUpKids.org is the product of their own role as parents to improve the health of kids across the U.S. This venture began when they volunteered at their daughters’ school and were disturbed to see the kids were having a hard time with the sack race at field day.  

They believe that sitting too much at a desk all day leads to decreased functionality and affects a child’s cognition.  The children attempting the sack race had decreased functionality as a result of this excessive sitting. Since the beginning of their non-profit organization, they have given about 35,000 U.S. school kids access to standing desks in the classroom.  This change is not only physical in nature but is linked to better learning in the classroom and improved productivity at work. The muscle activity acts as a stimulus to keep the brain alert.

It’s all about moving more and listening to what your body is saying.  Giving up that chair seems overwhelming to think about, but it’s not an all-or-nothing proposition.  Think of other ways to move more and include sitting on the floor can have moving advantages over sitting in a more confined chair.  Standing up does take you out of sedentary mode and you will likely stretch, lean, bend and pace. All movement counts toward your daily activity.

After sitting for six, eight or 10 hours a day it may take some time to adjust to standing and moving more and won’t happen over night.  The average student in the U.S. spends 4.5 hours a day sitting at school and an additional 7 hours sitting in front of a screen. Therefore, 85% of their waking hours is spent sitting.

Standup Kids has partnered with a number of corporations, giving children the much-needed opportunity to move more in school by installing standing desks, complete with fidget bars. The University of California Berkeley and the local county public health department have partnered to try to get more research done. There has been concern about “forcing” kids to stand all day, but this isn’t about standing still for long hours.  They do have access to stools, should they want to use them, but the teachers are saying they rarely do.

Interventions can help you avoid chronic diseases and orthopedic problems as neck problems, temporomandibular joint dysfunction, carpal tunnel syndrome, knee problems, lower extremity problems, shoulder dysfunction, poor diaphragm function, low back pain, hernias, pelvic floor dysfunction and hip dysfunction.  Do any of these symptoms sound familiar to you? They do to me! With age comes most of the above.

Standing is not only good for children as a prevention method against poor health, but as adults we could learn a lot about standing to help our own bodies as well.  Many suffer from sitting-induced range-of-motion problems and might increase the risk of injury and compromise long-term athletic and movement abilities.

Dr Fredda Branyon

Koji

New Food Trend, Koji

KojiConsumer behavior is beginning to change in regards to food and is embracing more traditional foods. They are also relearning ancient culinary methods such as fermenting. This could be one of the most positive food trends in many decades as these fermented foods are really important for optimal gut health and plays a crucial role in how the microbiome plays in our overall health and mental wellbeing.

Your microbiome is one of the environmental factors that drives genetic expression that turns the genes on and off, depending on which microbes are present.  According to research, many are deficient in beneficial gut bacteria.

Koji (Asperfillus oryzae) is now embraced by chefs around the world.  It is a type of fungus that has been used for millennia in China and Japan.  Asperfillus ferments and produces a number of enzymes known to be beneficial for animal and human health, which aids digestion and promotes a healthy gut.  Sake, soy sauce, rice vinegar and miso soup are Asian foods and beverages made with koji. Western chefs are experimenting and coming up with all sorts of new koji-fermented products.

Koji is used to tenderize meats, cutting the time required to dry and age the meat from 45 days to as little as 48 hours.  Koji looks a bit like rice pudding or little grains covered in powder. Over time the enzymes in the koji breaks down the connective tissue in steak and rids the meat of its moisture.  The meat is beginning to decompose, and that is what makes it so tender.

Another use for koji is to use it as a marinade for fish, chicken and vegetables.  Marinade for as little as 30 to 60 minutes and keep in mind that the food may burn faster than normal when cooked.  It’s salty enough so do not add extra salt. Koji can also be used as a salt substitute.

The fermentation process produces:

  • Beneficial healthy bacteria that promotes gut health
  • Beneficial enzymes
  • Certain nutrients, including B vitamins, biotin and folic acid
  • Increased bioavailability of minerals
  • Short-chain fatty acids that help improve your immune system function

Optimizing your gut health is a foundational step.  Most people have poor gut health and would benefit from eating more fermented foods.  Fiber serves as a prebiotic and is another important component. Ways that probiotic foods influence your health and well being are: enhancing nutritional content of the food, restoration of normal gut flora when taking antibiotics, immune system enhancement, improvement of symptoms of lactose intolerance, reduced risk of infection from pathogenic microorganisms, weight loss aid, reduced constipation or diarrhea, can help prevent allergies in children, antioxidant and detoxifying effects, reduced risk for helicobacter pylori, improvement of leaky gut, reduced urinary and female genital tract infections, improvement of premenstrual syndrome, improvement of and reduced risk for atopic dermatitis and acne, reduced risk for type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes, improved mental health, mood control and behavior, improvement of autistic symptoms and reduced risk of brain diseases.

Optimizing your microbiome could be a potent disease prevention strategy.

Dr Fredda Branyon

Low-Dose Aspirin & Cancer

AspirinAna Sandolu has written another article explaining the use of low-dose aspirin and the prevention of cancer.  As well known, cancer is a leading cause of morbidity and death worldwide and is predicted to increase in the following years.  Making healthy lifestyle choices and getting tested if at risk are some prevention strategies. I have always been aware of taking a “baby” aspirin for heart maintenance but never as a possible prevention of cancer.  The new research is suggesting that a small dose of aspirin may help prevent the formation of cancer cells and explains how.

The World Health Organization (WHO) reveals that cancer is one of the leading causes of death accounting for 8.2 million deaths in 2012 alone.  They recommend making healthy lifestyle and dietary choices as well as avoiding tobacco, alcohol and staying physically active with a diet of plenty of fruits and vegetables.

The idea that low-dose aspirin intake may also help to prevent cancer and inhibit the proliferation of cancer cell reinforces the idea through new research.  The United States Preventive Services Task Force recommended in September of 2015, the daily use of a small dose of aspirin to help with cardiovascular disease as well as colorectal cancer.

This low dose of aspirin may very well inhibit cancer cell proliferation and metastasis.  The scientists from Oregon Health and Science University in collaboration with Oregon State University published their research results in the journal AJF-Cell Physiology.  They reported that the benefit of aspirin might be due to its effect on blood cells called platelets, rather than acting directly on tumor cells.  Our blood platelets also increase the levels of a certain protein that may support cancer cells and help them to spread. This oncoprotein is called c-MYC.  Its function is to regulate the expression over 15% of all the genes of the human body. The c-MYC regulator controls the life-and-death cycle of cells, the synthesis of proteins and the cells’ metabolism. Research has shown that in human cancers, this oncogene is overexpressed.

This work suggests that the anti-cancer action of aspirin might be in part during their transit in the blood; circulating tumor cells interact with platelets, which spur tumor cell survival by activating oncoproteins such as c-MYC.  This inhibition of platelets with aspirin therapy reduces the signaling between platelets and tumor cells, thus reducing tumor cell growth.

Blood platelets can play a protective role for the early cancer cells and aid metastasis.  Aspirin appears to interfere with that process and c-MYC may explain part of that mechanism.

It is also noted by the researchers that almost 1/3 of colon cancer patients and 42% of patients with pancreatic cancer had overexpression of the c-MYC oncoprotein.  The impact that aspirin has on blood platelets is just as effective in high doses as it is at low ones. The clinicians can weigh the risks and benefits of aspirin intake as well as reduce the risk of bleeding, which is a common side effect of ingesting too much aspirin.  It is emphasized the crucial role of physicians and healthcare professionals when considering even a low-dose aspirin intake.

The interaction between platelets and cancer cells is believed to occur early and the use of anti-platelet doses of aspirin might serve as a safe and efficacious preventive measure for patients at risk for cancer.

Dr Fredda Branyon

healthy foods

Low Carb Food Swaps

healthy foodsCarbohydrates are mainstay for lots of people who say they love all those comfort foods like macaroni and cheese, donuts, white rice and bread.  These sure aren’t the foods for someone who has healthy eating on the mind. These carbohydrates are just plain bad for you.

Not all carbs are the same though.  A lot of the good ones provide nutrition, containing things like protein, iron, fiber and B-vitamins.  Simple and complex are the two types of carbohydrates. A good way to separate them is simply substandard and sinful or sketchy.  Just remember to avoid them, as they contain a lot of sugar. The complex carbs are the ones that are commendable, constructive and correct.  

Kim Larson, a registered dietitian from the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics, says that when it comes to carbs, the simple ones are composed of short-chain carbon molecules that basically head straight for your bloodstream and spike your blood sugar.  The complex carbs have longer chains of carbon molecules and take longer for your body to break them down, so the sugar isn’t dumped into our bloodstream.

As we have all learned, not all carbs are created equally!  Seven nutritionists were asked to submit their favorite low-carb “swaps” for those who want to lower their carb intake without giving up the flavor.  Some of their submissions were:

  • Sweet potato “toast”.  Skip the bread, peel the sweet potato, slice it up and pop the slices in the toaster.  Then you can top it with a number of flavors just to suit your own taste. Be inventive!
  • Mashed turnips.  They contain just 2/3rds of the calories and you get lots of fiber. Wash, peel and steam, or bake them like squash or traditional potatoes.
  • Fava bean flour.  These are known as broad beans and come in a pod similar to green beans.  Mature ones are bitter, so remove the pod and release the beans inside to use in many recipes, including salads. An excellent source of folic acid.
  • Lettuce wraps.  This process has been done for many years in restaurants, so individuals can do the same at home.  Cut down on the white bread and use the lettuce. Collard greens, kale, chard and lettuce leaves are a nutritious way to cut those calories on sandwiches.
  • Applewich.  Replace that bread with apple slices by cutting an apple so you have two circular slices ¼ inch thick, and spread each slice with nut butter.  Top with pumpkin seeds, cinnamon or cherries and press them together.
  • Whipped Cauliflower.  Potatoes have 2 grams of fiber, 1 gram of sugar and 21 grams of carbs.  Steamed cauliflower has 3 grams of fiber, 2 grams of sugar and only 5 grams of carbs.  This yummy alternate to potatoes is the only option now for that mashed, buttery goodness.
  • Carrot “noodles”.  Carrot noodles work well as an alternative dish for a pasta substitute.  You get fewer carbs and the texture is crunchy.
  • Spaghetti Squash.  Another pasta option like this can cut carbs and provide you with potassium, folate and fiber.  Slice the squash length-wise, place with cut side up in baking dish with ½” of water. Salt and butter and bake for one hour at 350 degrees.
  • Broccoli “rice”.  Toss broccoli florets into the processor then steam or sauté with a little salt and butter.  This brings a good serving of fiber, vitamin B6 and vitamin K to lessen your diabetes and heart disease risks.

Umm. Lets give it a try.

Dr Fredda Branyon

Elder

Life Lessons From The Elders

ElderIn an article I found, 3 centenarians shared their life stories and words of wisdom on longevity. This was especially interesting to me since my father was 100 years old when he passed and my mother was nearing 98.  

They all agreed that a positive attitude, gratitude and appreciation for living is apparent and plays a major role in longevity.  Age is, after all, just a number. This became quite evident when the 3 elderly people were interviewed in the LifeHunters video. They each had their own story. Their birth years are 1915, 1913 and 1914.

Their strength and positivity are apparent, along with a will to live and a continued interest in and curiosity about the world around them.  While times were changing throughout their lives, they kept on living and adapting to the new phases of their lives. It was noted that they each looked far younger than their chronological years and definitely didn’t act their age.  Positive attitudes are undoubtedly to credit for helping them stay young at heart.

The mind has definite power over your body, according to evidence, and these centenarians exemplified this.  Don’t assume your body and mind will fail as you age or it will probably follow suit. Keep positive while challenging and welcoming changes.

None of these centenarians were health nuts, but they each understand the value of eating real food, which was the only option when they were born.  Home-cooked food was all they were offered. Plus the fact that most families raised their own food and many raised their own meat. Reverting back to this traditional way of eating is the best route for health and longevity.

A woman, at 116, revealed her dietary secret as eating three eggs (two of them raw) and raw minced meat daily.  All the others mentioned the importance of variations of intermittent fasting. In Japan, many who live to 100 and beyond believe in eating until you are only 80% full.

More agreed upon traits were having strong positive relationships, fond memories and living in the moment.  They were all able to look back on their life experiences and relationships with appreciation and gratitude.  Research shows that the types of social relationships someone enjoys can actually put them at risk for premature death.  About 50% increased likelihood for survival for participants with stronger social relationships. They expressed that the newness of possessions wears off just as the joy they bring you.  Experiences improve your sense of vitality, and being alive during the experience and when you reflect back on it.

Regardless of their health, they tend to have positive attitudes, optimism and a real zest for life. Their motto seems to be living in the moment, living for the day and having no regrets. They do not dwell on what they have lost but appreciate all the living they have done and have yet to do. Keeping active physically, mentally and socially will help them to stay young and healthy.

Helping others will come back to you hundreds-fold as well as being a lifelong learner.  They sincerely wish they had taken their studies more seriously early on in life. Educations early in life is regarded as a crucial point and correlated with a longer life.

Based on years of data the following is reported for those centenarians at age 70:

  • 37% were overweight
  • 8% were obese
  • 37% were smokers (for an average of 31 years)
  • 44% reported only moderate exercise
  • 20% never exercised at all

However, Israeli physician Nir Barzilai of the Institute for Aging Research at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York emphasizes you should not disregard the importance of making healthy lifestyle choices.

The words of wisdom from these centenarians are “keep right on to the end of the road.”  Be independent as you can but don’t be reluctant to ask for help when you need it. Behave well to other people and show them respect.  Help them as much as you possible can, and it will be repaid hundred-folds.

It seems to me all the above advice from these centenarians should be valued by those of us approaching this stage of life.  What better advice to take than that experienced by someone who has actually lived it?

Dr Fredda Branyon

Jet_Lag

Jet Lag, Obesity & Pathways to Liver Cancer

Jet LagHepatocellular carcinoma, the most common type of liver cancer, has nearly tripled since 1980, and obesity related liver disease is one of the driving forces behind the increasing number of cases.  Baylor College of Medicine researchers are now examining other lifestyle factors that may affect your health. By using mice, the scientists have shown that repeated jet lag increases both obesity related liver disease and the risk of liver cancer.  The Cancer Cell has published the study.

Liver cancer is rising worldwide and through human studies, we’ve seen that patients can progress from fatty liver disease to liver cancer without any middle steps such as cirrhosis, according to David Moore, a professor of molecular and cellular biology who led the study with Associate Professor Loning Fu, both at Baylor.  Studies in the Fu Lab found that chronically jet-lagged mice developed liver cancer in a very similar way as that described for obese humans.

Our bodies’ central circadian clock in the brain resets when we are exposed to light.  Traveling constantly through different time zones, working night shifts or pushing us to stay awake at the regular sleep time causes our central clock to be chronically disrupted.  This also extends to clocks in other tissues that are controlled by the central clock.

The researchers modeled the effects of chronic jet lag in normal mice who were fed a healthy diet by changing the times the lights went on and off during the night each week.  The mice gained weight and fat and developed fatty liver disease. This progressed to chronic inflammation and eventually to liver cancer in some of the cases.

Normal control of liver metabolism was lost on the jetlagged mice.  This included the buildup of fat and also increased production of bile acids, which are produced by the liver to help us digest our food.  Some studies linking high bile acid levels to liver cancer, in mice and humans, were done in earlier studies. Circadian clock disruption activated two nuclear receptors that help regulate liver bile acid metabolism.  A receptor called FXR, which keeps bile acid level in the liver within a normal physiological range in the jetlagged mice lacking the receptor, had higher bile acid levels and much more liver cancer. Those lacking a receptor called CAR, which regulates bile acid breakdown and known to promote liver cancer, did not get any liver tumors.

These receptors work in a similar manner in humans. The scientists did not directly study jetlag in humans, but there is evidence that sleep disruption increases both fatty liver disease and liver cancer risk in humans.

Studies show that more than 80% of the population in the U.S. adopts a lifestyle that leads to chronic disruption in their sleep schedules.  This has reached an epidemic level in other developed countries and coupled with the increase in obesity and liver cancer risk.

They hope to continue their research to further examine if drugs interacting with the nuclear receptors can help to prevent jet lag from affecting bile acid levels in the liver with a goal of using them as pharmaceutical strategies to prevent liver cancer in humans.

Bottom line results are that chronic jet lag was sufficient to induce liver cancer.  Results definitely show that chronic circadian disruption alone leads to malfunction of these receptors, so maintaining internal physiological homeostasis is very important for liver tumor suppression.

Dr Fredda Branyon

Graphene

Graphene to Detect Cancer Cells

 

Researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago have shown that by interfacing brain cells onto graphene, they can differentiate a single hyperactive cancerous cell from a normal cell, pointing the way to developing a simple, noninvasive tool for early cancer diagnosis.  This system is able to detect the level of activity of an interfaced cell, according to Vikas Berry, associate professor and head of chemical engineering at UIC. Berry led the research along with Ankit Mehta, assistant professor of clinical neurosurgery in the UIC College of Medicine.

Graphene is very sensitive to whatever happens on its surface and is the thinnest known material.  The nanomaterial is composed of a single layer of carbon atoms that are linked in a hexagonal chicken-wire pattern.  All of the atoms share a cloud of electron that move freely about the surface. Berry also said that the cell’s interface with graphene then rearranges the charge distribution in the graphene and modifies the energy of atomic vibration as detected by Raman spectroscopy.  She refers this to a powerful workhorse technique that is routinely used to study graphene.

The atomic vibration energy in graphene’s crystal lattice does differ, depending on whether it’s in contact with a cancer cell or a normal cell.  This is because the cancer cell’s hyperactivity leads to a higher negative charge on its surface and the release of more protons.

The electrons in graphene’s electron cloud are pushed away by the electric field around the cell.  This changes the vibration energy of the carbon atoms. Raman mapping with a resolution of 300 nanometers, allowing characterization of the activity of a single cell, can pinpoint this change.

The journal ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces published the report that looked at cultured human brain cells, compared normal astrocytes to their cancerous counterpart and the highly malignant brain tumor glioblastoma multiforme.  They are now studying the technique in a mouse model of cancer with results that look very promising. Down the road the experiments would be with patient biopsies.

They could use this technique to see if the tumor relapses once a patient has brain tumor surgery.  They would need a cell sample that they could interface with graphene and look to see if cancer cells are still present.  This same technique might also work to differentiate between other types of cells or the activity of cells.

They may be able to use it with bacteria to see if the strain is Gram-positive or Gram-negative and might be able to use it to detect sickle cells.  Berry and other coworkers introduced nanoscale ripples in graphene earlier this year causing it to conduct differently in perpendicular directions, useful for electronics.  The graphene was wrinkled by draping it over a string of rod-shaped bacteria and vacuum-shrinking the germs.

The earlier work was essentially flipped over so that instead of laying graphene on cells, they laid cells on graphene and studied graphene’s atomic vibrations.

Co-authors on the study are Bijentimala Keisham and Phong Nguyen of UIC chemical engineering and Arron Cole of UIC neurosurgery.

Dr Fredda Branyon