Aspirin For Plants Could Help Crops Survive Climate Change

“At non-lethal levels, ROS are like an emergency call to action, enabling the production of protective hormones such as salicylic acid,” explains study author Jin-Zheng Wang, from the University of California, Riverside. “ROS are a double-edged sword.”

Through experiments on a model plant called Arabidopsis, the scientists found that heat, relentless sunshine and drought conditions caused the plant cells to produce an alarm molecule called MEcPP. As this molecule builds up, it triggers the production of salicylic acid, which goes on to play an important role in protecting chloroplasts, the organelles where photosynthesis takes place.

“It’s like plants use a painkiller for aches and pains, just like we do,” said study author Wilhelmina van de Ven.

The hope is that this knowledge around how salicylic acid forms can be applied to help plants survive climate change. This could make for more durable crops that can withstand higher temperatures, but the benefits may extend to many other aspects of the environment.

“Because salicylic acid helps plants withstand stresses becoming more prevalent with climate change, being able to increase plants’ ability to produce it represents a step forward in challenging the impacts of climate change on everyday life,” said Katayoon Dehesh, senior paper author. “Those impacts go beyond our food. Plants clean our air by sequestering carbon dioxide, offer us shade, and provide habitat for numerous animals. The benefits of boosting their survival are exponential.”

Step 1

Dissolve 3 aspirin in 4 gallons of water. Allow it to sit for a few minutes so it can totally dissolve and not just be suspended in the water. Add the liquid dish soap and stir gently.

Step 2

Pour the prepared mixture into a garden sprayer. If you notice that the aspirin has not totally dissolved, wait a few minutes, or you will end up clogging the sprayer head.

Step 3

Spray any or all of your plants about once a month with this mixture, coating the stems and leaves. It helps if you wait until late morning when the dew has evaporated off the plants

Step 4

Water the roots with this mixture at the same time by generously watering the soil around the base of the plants. Repeat it every month, the same as the spray application.

The research was published in the journal Science Advances.

Nick Lavars

Source: University of California, Riverside

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Source: “Aspirin” for plants could help crops survive climate change

How Do Painkillers Kill Pain? It’s About Meeting The pain Where It’s At

Without the ability to feel pain, life is more dangerous. To avoid injury, pain tells us to use a hammer more gently, wait for the soup to cool or put on gloves in a snowball fight. Those with rare inherited disorders that leave them without the ability to feel pain are unable to protect themselves from environmental threats, leading to broken bones, damaged skin, infections, and ultimately a shorter life span.

In these contexts, pain is much more than a sensation: It is a protective call to action. But pain that is too intense or long-lasting can be debilitating. So how does modern medicine soften the call?

As a neurobiologist and an anesthesiologist who study pain, this is a question we and other researchers have tried to answer. Science’s understanding of how the body senses tissue damage and perceives it as pain has progressed tremendously over the past several years. It has become clear that there are multiple pathways that signal tissue damage to the brain and sound the pain alarm bell.

Interestingly, while the brain uses different pain signaling pathways depending on the type of damage, there is also redundancy to these pathways. Even more intriguing, these neural pathways morph and amplify signals in the case of chronic pain and pain caused by conditions affecting nerves themselves, even though the protective function of pain is no longer needed.

Painkillers work by tackling different parts of these pathways. Not every painkiller works for every type of pain, however. Because of the multitude and redundancy of pain pathways, a perfect painkiller is elusive. But in the meantime, understanding how existing painkillers work helps medical providers and patients use them for the best results.

Anti-inflammatory painkillers

A bruise, sprain, or broken bone from an injury all lead to tissue inflammation, an immune response that can lead to swelling and redness as the body tries to heal. Specialized nerve cells in the area of the injury called nociceptors sense the inflammatory chemicals the body produces and send pain signals to the brain.

Common over-the-counter anti-inflammatory painkillers work by decreasing inflammation in the injured area. These are particularly useful for musculoskeletal injuries or other pain problems caused by inflammation such as arthritis.

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories like ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), naproxen (Aleve), and aspirin do this by blocking an enzyme called COX that plays a key role in a biochemical cascade that produces inflammatory chemicals. Blocking the cascade decreases the amount of inflammatory chemicals, and thereby reduces the pain signals sent to the brain. While acetaminophen (Tylenol), also known as paracetamol, doesn’t reduce inflammation as NSAIDs do, it also inhibits COX enzymes and has similar pain-reducing effects.

Prescription anti-inflammatory painkillers include other COX inhibitors, corticosteroids, and, more recently, drugs that target and inactivate the inflammatory chemicals themselves.

Because inflammatory chemicals are involved in other important physiological functions beyond just sounding the pain alarm, medications that block them will have side effects and potential health risks, including irritating the stomach lining and affecting kidney function. Over-the-counter medications are generally safe if the directions on the bottle are followed strictly.

Corticosteroids like prednisone block the inflammatory cascade early on in the process, which is probably why they are so potent in reducing inflammation. However, because all the chemicals in the cascade are present in nearly every organ system, long-term use of steroids can pose many health risks that need to be discussed with a physician before starting a treatment plan.

Topical medications

Many topical medications target nociceptors, the specialized nerves that detect tissue damage. Local anesthetics, like lidocaine, prevent these nerves from sending electrical signals to the brain.

The protein sensors on the tips of other sensory neurons in the skin are also targets for topical painkillers. Activating these proteins can elicit particular sensations that can lessen the pain by reducing the activity of the damage-sensing nerves, like the cooling sensation of menthol or the burning sensation of capsaicin.

Because these topical medications work on the tiny nerves in the skin, they are best used for pain directly affecting the skin. For example, a shingles infection can damage the nerves in the skin, causing them to become overactive and send persistent pain signals to the brain. Silencing those nerves with topical lidocaine or an overwhelming dose of capsaicin can reduce these pain signals.

Nerve injury medications

Nerve injuries, most commonly from arthritis and diabetes, can cause the pain-sensing part of the nervous system to become overactive. These injuries sound the pain alarm even in the absence of tissue damage. The best painkillers in these conditions are those that dampen that alarm.

Antiepileptic drugs, such as gabapentin (Neurontin), suppress the pain-sensing system by blocking electrical signaling in the nerves. However, gabapentin can also reduce nerve activity in other parts of the nervous system, potentially leading to sleepiness and confusion.

Antidepressants, such as duloxetine and nortriptyline, are thought to work by increasing certain neurotransmitters in the spinal cord and brain involved in regulating pain pathways. But they may also alter chemical signaling in the gastrointestinal tract, leading to an upset stomach.

All these medications are prescribed by doctors.

Opioids

Opioids are chemicals found or derived from the opium poppy. One of the earliest opioids, morphine, was purified in the 1800s. Since then, medical use of opioids has expanded to include many natural and synthetic derivatives of morphine with varying potency and duration. Some common examples include codeine, tramadol, hydrocodone, oxycodone, buprenorphine and fentanyl.

Opioids decrease pain by activating the body’s endorphin system. Endorphins are a type of opioid your body naturally produces that decreases incoming signals of injury and produces feelings of euphoria—the so-called “runner’s high.” Opioids simulate the effects of endorphins by acting on similar targets in the body. Although opioids can decrease some types of acute pain, such as after surgery, musculoskeletal injuries like a broken leg, or cancer pain, they are often ineffective for neuropathic injuries and chronic pain.

Because the body uses opioid receptors in other organ systems like the gastrointestinal tract and the lungs, side effects and risks include constipation and potentially fatal suppression of breathing. Prolonged use of opioids may also lead to tolerance, where more drug is required to get the same painkilling effect. This is why opioids can be addictive and are not intended for long-term use. All opioids are controlled substances and are carefully prescribed by doctors because of these side effects and risks.

Cannabinoids

Although cannabis has received a lot of attention for its potential medical uses, there isn’t sufficient evidence available to conclude that it can effectively treat pain. Since the use of cannabis is illegal at the federal level in the US, high-quality clinical research funded by the federal government has been lacking.

Researchers do know that the body naturally produces endocannabinoids, a form of the chemicals in cannabis, to decrease pain perception. Cannabinoids may also reduce inflammation. Given the lack of strong clinical evidence, physicians typically don’t recommend them over FDA-approved medications.

Matching pain to drug

While sounding the pain alarm is important for survival, dampening the klaxon when it’s too loud or unhelpful is sometimes necessary.

No existing medication can perfectly treat pain. Matching specific types of pain to drugs that target specific pathways can improve pain relief, but even then, medications can fail to work even for people with the same condition. More research that deepens the medical field’s understanding of the pain pathways and targets in the body can help lead to more effective treatments and improved pain management.

Source: How do painkillers kill pain? It’s about meeting the pain where it’s at | Ars Technica

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Scientists Find an Odd Link Between Aspirin, Air Pollution, and Male Brains

If you look at the smudged skylines of Los Angeles, California or Beijing, China, the haziness creates the illusion of cities shrouded in perpetual gray. That smog is driven by a pollutant that doesn’t just ruin the view — it worms its way into the brain, influencing the health of people exposed.

In a new study, scientists find another reason why air pollution is bad for the brain — this time zeroing in on the effect it has on men’s brain health. The study examines the negative effect of fine particulate matter, also known as PM 2.5 pollution. You might know it as black carbon or “soot.”

“Our study is the first one that demonstrates that exposure to PM2.5, even just over a few weeks, can impair cognitive performance,” lead author Xu Gao tells Inverse. Gao is an assistant professor at Peking University and a researcher affiliated with Columbia University.

What’s new — Scientists are increasingly unearthing new information about how the tainted air we breathe harms our bodies, whether it’s worsening the severity of Covid-19 or reducing men’s sperm count.

Gao and colleagues found air pollution is associated with considerable negative short-term effects on cognitive health in a sample of older white men. This finding was published Monday in the journal Nature Aging.

The study suggests PM 2.5 levels not usually considered hazardous can still cause individuals to suffer from cognitive decline due to short-term air pollution. This implies “there is no safe zone for PM 2.5,” Gao says.

Interestingly, the researchers found that men who take what’s known as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) did not suffer as many harmful effects from PM 2.5 pollution. These anti-inflammatory medications include pills like aspirin.

This finding emerged although NSAIDs don’t have any known relationship to cognitive performance. The researchers suspect NSAIDs have a “modifying effect” on the inflammatory responses prompted by inhaling polluted air.

These findings are preliminary — Gao says it’s too early to endorse taking NSAIDs as a way to protect oneself from air pollution. However, he does venture to say people on these medications “may have additional benefits.”

Air pollution is associated with an ever-growing laundry list of health risks, including:

PM 2.5 pollution is especially harmful. These tiny air particles are 2.5 microns or less in size — for comparison, human hair is roughly 70 microns in diameter. This category of pollution is why you see gray horizons in cities like Los Angeles — it’s associated with smog and poor air quality. It’s arguably the greatest environmental risk factor for human mortality.

But there is some good news amidst all this doom and gloom. Some recent studies, for example, suggest exercise can offset some of the harmful effects of air pollution — even in urban areas.

Air pollution deaths have also declined by half between 1990 and 2010, correlating with improved federal regulations on air quality. But it can still do considerable short-term and long-term damage to the human mind, according to this latest Nature Aging study.

How they did it — The scientists analyzed data from 954 men in the Boston area between 1995 and 2021. The average age of a man in the study data was 69-years-old. None had chronic health conditions, but 64 percent were former smokers.

The participants were also questioned about their use of NSAIDs, including aspirin. They also took cognitive tests, including tests on their ability to remember words and repeat numbers, as well as screening exercises used to test for dementia.The researchers also analyzed this data in conjunction with information on weather patterns in the Boston area, since air pollution varies by season and is greater in the winter.

Finally, they obtained data on air pollution from a Harvard University supersite, which they used as a baseline to measure air pollution in the Greater Boston areas.

Using this information, the researchers were able to paint a picture of cognitive health that correlates with short-term air pollution and also study any potential effects of NSAIDs on cognitive performance.

Why it matters — Media and policymakers have focused, rightly so, on the number of deaths resulting from air pollution each year, which now number 200,000 annually in the U.S — and that’s just from the air that meets EPA standards.

Much less attention has been paid to air pollution’s impacts on short-term and long-term cognitive performance. The research that has been done has found air pollution can impair the cognitive performance of children, and influence cognitive decline in older adults.

Although this new study focuses on short-term effects, the researchers also conducted a sensitivity analysis to include the effects of long-term exposure to air pollution. And while preliminary, the findings don’t bode well for the human mind’s ability to withstand air pollution in the long run.

“We found that both short and long exposures were related to cognitive function,” Gao says. But the study has limitations — The study team acknowledges that their work is just a starting point. Much more research needs to be done to expand on their intriguing findings — and go beyond the scope of the study’s design.

For example, the study only focuses on older white men, “which suggests the possibility that the results might not be generalizable to other ethnic groups and/or women” the team writes. Gao would like to conduct further research involving people of different ages, races, and genders to confirm whether similar effects would occur among various demographics.

“We believe that younger people may have a better adaptive response to air pollution than the elderly. Females are also different from males with respect to health outcomes,” Gao says.

Meanwhile, scientists have long known that communities of color suffer disproportionately from air pollution. A recent Science study found Black and Hispanic individuals experience particularly high levels of PM 2.5 pollution — the subject of this study.

The researchers also analyzed this data in conjunction with information on weather patterns in the Boston area, since air pollution varies by season and is greater in the winter.

But the study has limitations — The study team acknowledges that their work is just a starting point. Much more research needs to be done to expand on their intriguing findings — and go beyond the scope of the study’s design.

What’s next — Ultimately, what’s needed is more information on both the long-term impacts of air pollution on cognitive health and the relationship between NSAIDs and air pollution. This research could be used to inform future policy, both in the U.S. and abroad.

And while Gao suggests NSAIDs could be helpful in treating the cognitive effects of air pollution, it is not a replacement for policies that reduce the actual source of pollution. Recent efforts by the Biden administration to move toward electric vehicles, as well as California’s stricter vehicle emissions standards, could help shift the tide against air pollution.

“Although our study shows that taking NSAIDs may be a solution to air pollution’s harm, [it’s] definitely not the final answer to the threats of air pollution. Changing our policies of air pollution towards a more restrictive manner is still warranted,” Gao says.

But it’s data that drives policy forward — evidence that pollution isn’t just a topic on our minds, it literally influences the brain.

By: Tara Yarlagadda

Source: Scientists find an odd link between aspirin, air pollution, and male brains

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Painkillers Like Paracetamol Should Not Be Prescribed For Chronic Pain

US-HEALTH-OPIOID-OXYCODON-ILLUSTRATION

Painkillers such as paracetamol, ibuprofen, aspirin and opioids can do “more harm than good” and should not be prescribed to treat chronic pain, health officials have said.

Draft guidance from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) said that there was “little or no evidence” the commonly used drugs for chronic primary pain made any difference to people’s quality of life, pain or psychological distress.

But the draft guidance, published on Monday, said there was evidence they can cause harm, including addiction.

Chairman of the guidance committee Nick Kosky said that, while patients expected a clear diagnosis and effective treatment, the complexity of the condition means GPs and specialists can find it very “challenging” to manage.

The consultant psychiatrist at Dorset HealthCare NHS University Foundation Trust added: “This mismatch between patient expectations and treatment outcomes can affect the relationship between healthcare professionals and patients, a possible consequence of which is the prescribing of ineffective but harmful drugs.

“This guideline, by fostering a clearer understanding of the evidence for the effectiveness of chronic pain treatments, will help to improve the confidence of healthcare professionals in their conversations with patients.

“In doing so it will help them better manage both their own and their patients’ expectations.”

Chronic primary pain is a condition in itself which cannot be accounted for by another diagnosis or as a symptom of an underlying condition, Nice said.

It is characterized by significant emotional distress and functional disability with examples including chronic widespread pain and chronic musculoskeletal pain, it added.

Nice said an estimated third to half of the population may be affected by chronic pain while almost half of people with the condition have a diagnosis of depression and two-thirds are unable to work because of it.

The draft guidance, which is open to public consultation until August 14, said that people with the condition should be offered supervised group exercise programs, some types of psychological therapy, or acupuncture.

It also recommends that some antidepressants can be considered for people with chronic primary pain.

But it said that paracetamol, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as aspirin and ibuprofen, benzodiazepines or opioids should not be offered because there was little or no evidence that they made any difference to people’s quality of life, pain or psychological distress.

There was evidence that they can cause harm, including possible addiction, it added.

The draft guideline also said that antiepileptic drugs including gabapentinoids, local anaesthetics, ketamine, corticosteroids and antipsychotics should not be offered to people to manage chronic primary pain because, again, there was little or no evidence that these treatments work but could have possible harms.

Paul Chrisp, director of the centre for guidelines at Nice, said: “”When many treatments are ineffective or not well tolerated, it is important to get an understanding of how pain is affecting a person’s life and those around them because knowing what is important to the person is the first step in developing an effective care plan.

“Importantly the draft guideline also acknowledges the need for further research across the range of possible treatment options, reflecting both the lack of evidence in this area and the need to provide further choice for people with the condition.”

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