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July 2011
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September 2011

Too Many Newborns Still Die in US

Despite one of the most technologically advanced healthcare systems, the United States is lagging other countries in reducing the risk of death in the first four weeks of life.

A new study published in PLoS found that babies in countries including Poland, Cuba and Malaysia have a better chance of survival than those in the United States.

At the same time, doctors in the US "actively manage labor. What does this tell us?

Maybe Love Can Cure Cancer!

New research shows that love (aka oxytocin) may be able to help cure cancer.

I tend to find anecdotes of people healing themselves through meditation, good thoughts, etc. as too woo-woo. But here is science finding that imbalances in peptide hormones can cause cancer - and that rebalancing these hormones can maybe cure it.

Chris Easton, PhD, and graduate student Lucy Ca, of The AustralianNational  University, are researching PAM, an enzyme that activates oxytocin and calcitonin, which promotes cell proliferation.

High levels of calcitonin are found in patients with small-cell lung cancer. They found that in cultures of this cancer, controlling PAM reduced levels of calcitonin.

The article begins, "Research into an enzyme that produces a hormone released after sex has inspired ANU chemists to create new treatments for small-cell lung cancer."

Unfortunately, the article doesn't make clear how oxytocin plays into this, if at all, and I'm not finding the study itself. My guess is that the key is in the balancing of peptide hormones. If both oxytocin and calcitonin are influenced by PAM, maybe more oxytocin leads to less calcitonin?

Chemistry experts out there, please weigh in!

Huggies Promotes Oxytocin

This is brilliant marketing that also serves the social good. Think about it: Diapers, babies, hugs and mommies. It's a natural fit.

Oh! In fact, that's the name of the product. Huggies Natural Fit is working with parenting expert Dr. Carol Cooper to to help parents further understand the importance of cuddling and the actual cuddle hormone, oxytocin.

Huggies released a survey which found that two thirds of new mothers were unaware of the importance of oxytocin in bonding with their babies. The good news is that more than half strongly believe that cuddling is important for creating a stronger bond.

Oh, wait a minute. That figure is 55 percent. Only 55 percent of mothers know it's important to cuddle their babies? Eek! I hope Huggies can help.

Feel Bad? Phone Mom

But only if you love her...

Twelve- and thirteen-year-old girls who had phone calls with their mothers had an oxytocin response that counteracted stress.

The research, by Leslie Seltzer of the University of Wisconsin at Madison, included only girls who reported good relationships with their mothers. (For some people, talking on the phone to Mom is stressful in itself.)

Interestingly, instant messaging with mothers did not produce the oxytocin response in this study.

Earlier research by Seth Pollack, also of U of Wisconsin, found the same effect in girls seven to 12 years old.

If your relationship with your mother is rocky, you will likely get the same benefit by calling a good friend or other family member.


Childbirth Drug Could Have Off-Label Uses

Monash University researcher Dr. Michelle McIntosh hopes to create an aerosol delivery system for oxytocin to replace oxytocin injections commonly used to stop bleeding after delivery of a baby.  She's received a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to develop this drug delivery method, which could eliminate the need for sterile needles and their disposal, as well as for keeping oxytocin refrigerated.

According to the Monash University press release,

“Oxytocin is an ideal candidate for delivery via the lungs. It is a highly potent drug, so only a small amount would be required to enter the systemic circulation. And its demonstrated absorptiveness in the nose and mouth suggests a passage through the huge absorptive surface of the lung is unlikely to present obstacles,” added Dr McIntosh.

Of course, inhaled oxytocin also affects the social circuits in the brain. Psychiatrists and psychotherapists are already testing oxytocin inhalants to help with a variety of psychiatric disorders, and this system could also make it easier for them.

And then, there are all the people out there dying to try oxycin ...