Disease

Multiple myeloma is a type of blood cancer. B-cells, immune cells that play a crucial role in adaptive immunity, differentiate into plasma cells that secrete the antibodies we need to fight infections and other foreign invaders. Multiple myeloma is a cancer of these plasma cells.

A common treatment for multiple myeloma is itself an antibody called daratumumab. (Pro tip: A drug name that contains the suffix -mab indicates the drug is an antibody.) The antibody targets a cell membrane protein called CD38, which is highly expressed on malignant plasma cells. This triggers an immune response against the malignant cells, resulting in their death.

B-cells and plasma cells also play a role in allergies....

I recently returned from spending two weeks on a college campus in upstate New York. While there, I was surprised to see, in every building that I entered, signs posted with health information about mumps. Mumps... the same viral infection that was predicted to be eliminated from the United States by 2010.

Before the mumps vaccine was available in 1967, there were an estimated 150,000 - 200,000 cases reported each year. Since then, the number of cases of mumps has decreased by 99% in the United States. That being said, there remains a lot of fluctuation from year to year, easily seen in the graph below. To this point, there is an outbreak of mumps currently in Washington state, with nearly 300 cases reported - a large number compared to the normal ebb and flow of mumps from year...

The Washington Post has reported that, without explanation, the CDC abruptly canceled a conference on how climate change will impact human health. Good.

There's little doubt why the CDC canceled it. The Trump Administration is skeptical of anthropogenic climate change, so somebody -- perhaps President Trump himself -- likely made a single phone call and that was that. Journalists and the Twitterverse will surely go berserk, but they should not. Climate change falls well outside the CDC's area of expertise.

Founded in 1946, the CDC's...

You may have noticed a number of headlines referencing the “Tree Man” from Bangladesh with claims he is “cured” after 16 operations for his rare genetic disorder that transformed his hands and feet into bark-like warts and cutaneous horns.  

Also called Epidermodysplasia Verruciformis (EV), this debilitating, heritable condition is often referred to as “Tree Man Illness” or “Tree Man Syndrome.” Though it manifests throughout the body via innumerable abnormal growths on the skin, it is considered to be caused by a genetic impairment that triggers a defect in a person’s cell-mediated immunity.  

More than 200 cases have been reported since it was first described in 1922 by two dermatologists, hence, its other name “Lewandowsky Lutz Dysplasia.” (1) Most present in childhood...

Joe Schwarcz ("Dr. Joe" to his students), an award-winning chemistry professor, and the director of the McGill's Office for Science & Society at McGill University in Montreal is a well known lecturer, book author, columnist, and host of a weekly radio show. Joe's specialty is demystifying science to the public, which he does with a flair. Schwarcz also hosts "The Dr. Joe Show" on Montreal's CJAD and has appeared hundreds of times on The Discovery Channel, CTV, CBC, TV Ontario and Global Television.

Joe, a long time friend of the Council, read about my harrowing experience as a...

Everybody carries them around these days. Those tiny little hand sanitizers certainly come in handy after a ride on the subway or a trip through the airport, and they fit conveniently into my European man-bag. (Okay fine, it's a purse. I carry a purse.)

The instructions on the bottle I am carrying (which, as it so happens, comes from Bath & Body Works and beautifully matches my European man-bag purse) say: "Rub a dime sized drop into hands." Most people hardly do even that. At most, people stingily squeeze the tiniest of drops onto their hands in order to make their travel-sized antiseptic last as long as possible. 

But new research shows this is hardly sufficient. Even the dime-sized...

Malaria is a notoriously tricky infectious disease. Because of a unique genetic flexibility, it is able to change surface proteins, avoiding the immune response and greatly complicating vaccine development. Furthermore, the parasite is transmitted by mosquitoes, which are difficult to control. Insecticides work, but mosquitoes can develop resistance to them.

One method widely used to control malaria is for governments or charities to provide families with insecticide-treated bed nets. Overall, this strategy is very successful, and it has been credited with preventing some 451 million cases of malaria in the past 15 years. But bed nets are not successful everywhere. In some parts of the world, mosquitoes develop "behavioral resistance"; i.e., they learn to avoid bed nets by ...

If you have been procrastinating getting your flu shot - it's time to get it off of your 'to-do' list. 

Flu statistics are watched closely at this time of year, and the last few weeks of data have shown a notable increase in the number of flu cases. More, experts predict that flu activity will be increasing in the near future - specifically over the next several weeks.

The Weekly Influenza Surveillance Report from the NY State Department of Health says that last week (ending December 24th) was the worst week to date and it was also the first week that widespread activity was reported.

During that week, there was a 143% increase...

Now that winter has hit the northern hemisphere, our thoughts often focus on ways to keep warm. Well, not only can a nice, sweaty sauna do the trick, but according to a recent study repeated saunas may just help fend off dementia — at least for middle-aged men.

Dr. Tanjaniina Laukkanen from the University of Eastern Finland and colleagues followed the health of over 2300 middle-aged men (42-60 years old at baseline) for over 20 years. They analyzed possible associations between the frequency with which the men used saunas and the risk of their developing Alzheimer's disease or other types of dementia.

Sauna is a Finnish word that...

By now, anyone even slightly versed in health issues understands that cigarette smoking can irretrievably damage the lungs — whether via lung cancer or other disease processes, such as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). It's also true, however, that even people who have never smoked may develop these conditions, and it's not always clear who is at the greatest risk. A recent study indicates that never-smoking women are more likely to develop COPD than never-smoking men.

COPD includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis — both of which impair breathing, but by different mechanisms. Emphysema is a disease in which the tiny air sacs at the ends of the bronchial tree are damaged and collapse. This collapse...