How Will the COVID Pills Change the Pandemic?

In March, 2020, researchers at Emory University published a paper about a molecule called NHC/EIDD-2801. At the time, there were no treatments available for the coronavirus. But NHC/EIDD-2801, the researchers wrote, possessed “potency against multiple coronaviruses,” and could become “an effective antiviral against SARS-CoV-2.” A few days later, Emory licensed the molecule to Ridgeback Biotherapeutics, a Miami-based biotechnology company which had previously developed a monoclonal antibody for Ebola.

Ridgeback partnered with the pharmaceutical giant Merck to accelerate its development.The Emory researchers named their drug molnupiravir, after Mjölnir—the hammer of Thor. It turns out that this was not hyperbole. Last month, Merck and Ridgeback announced that molnupiravir could reduce by half the chances that a person infected by the coronavirus would need to be hospitalized. The drug was so overwhelmingly effective that an independent committee asked the researchers to stop their Phase III trial early—it would have been unethical to continue giving participants placebos.

None of the nearly four hundred patients who received molnupiravir in the trial went on to die, and the drug had no major side effects. On November 4th, the U.K. became the first country to approve molnupiravir; many observers expect that an emergency-use authorization will come from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in December.

Oral antivirals like molnupiravir could transform the treatment of COVID-19, and of the pandemic more generally. Currently, treatments aimed at fighting COVID—mainly monoclonal antibodies and antiviral drugs like remdesivir—are given through infusion or injection, usually in clinics or hospitals. By the time people manage to arrange a visit, they are often too sick to receive much benefit. Molnupiravir, however, is a little orange pill.

A person might wake up, feel unwell, get a rapid COVID test, and head to the pharmacy around the corner to pick up a pack. A full course, which needs to start within five days of the appearance of symptoms, consists of forty pills—four capsules taken twice a day, for five days. Merck is now testing whether molnupiravir can prevent not just hospitalization after infection but also infection after exposure.

If that’s the case, then the drug might be taken prophylactically—you could get a prescription when someone in your household tests positive, even if you haven’t.Molnupiravir is—and is likely to remain—effective against all the major coronavirus variants. In fact, at least in the lab, it works against any number of RNA viruses besides SARS-CoV-2, including Ebola, hepatitis C, R.S.V., and norovirus. Instead of targeting the coronavirus’s spike protein, as vaccine-generated antibodies do, molnupiravir attacks the virus’s basic replication machinery. The spike protein mutates over time, but the replication machinery is mostly set in stone, and compromising that would make it hard for the virus to evolve resistance.

Once it’s inside the body, molnupiravir breaks down into a molecule called NHC. As my colleague Matthew Hutson explained, in a piece about antiviral drugs published last year, NHC is similar to cytosine, one of the four “bases” from which viral RNA is constructed; when the coronavirus’s RNA begins to copy itself, it slips into cytosine’s spot, in a kind of “Freaky Friday” swap. The molecule evades the virus’s genetic proofreading mechanisms and wreaks havoc, pairing with other bases, introducing a bevy of errors, and ultimately crashing the system.

A drug that’s so good at messing with viral RNA has led some to ask whether it messes with human DNA, too. (Merck’s trial excluded pregnant and breast-feeding women, and women of childbearing age had to be on contraceptives.) This is a long-standing concern about antiviral drugs that introduce genomic errors. A recent study suggests that molnupiravir, taken at high doses and for extended periods, can, in fact, introduce mutations into DNA. But, as the biochemist Derek Lowe noted, in a blog post for Science, these findings probably don’t apply directly to the real-world use of molnupiravir in COVID patients. The study was conducted in cells, not live animals or humans.

The cells were exposed to the drug for more than a month; even at the highest doses, it caused fewer mutations than were created by a brief exposure to ultraviolet light. Meanwhile, Merck has run a battery of tests—both in the lab and in animal models—and found no evidence that molnupiravir causes problematic mutations at the dose and duration at which it will be prescribed.With winter approaching, America is entering another precarious moment in the pandemic. Coronavirus cases have spiked in many European countries—including some with higher vaccination rates than the U.S.—and some American hospitals are already starting to buckle under the weight of a new wave. Nearly fifty thousand Americans are currently hospitalized with COVID-19.

It seems like molnupiravir is arriving just when we need it.It isn’t the only antiviral COVID pill, either. A day after the U.K. authorized Merck’s drug, Pfizer announced that its antiviral, Paxlovid, was also staggeringly effective at preventing the progression of COVID-19 in high-risk patients. The drug, when taken within three days of the onset of symptoms, reduced the risk of hospitalization by nearly ninety per cent. Only three of the nearly four hundred people who took Paxlovid were hospitalized, and no one died; in the placebo group, there were twenty-seven hospitalizations and seven deaths. Paxlovid is administered along with another antiviral medication called ritonavir, which slows the rate at which the former drug is broken down by the body.

Like Merck, Pfizer is now examining whether Paxlovid can also be used to prevent infections after an exposure. Results are expected early in 2022. (It’s not yet known how much of a difference the drugs will make for vaccinated individuals suffering from breakthrough infections; Merck’s and Pfizer’s trials included only unvaccinated people with risk factors for severe disease, such as obesity, diabetes, or older age. Vaccinated individuals are already much less likely to be hospitalized or die of COVID-19.)

Living in an Age of ExtinctionPaxlovid interrupts the virus’s replication not by messing with its genetic code but by disrupting the way its proteins are constructed. When a virus gets into our cells, its RNA is translated into proteins, which do the virus’s dirty work. But the proteins are first built as long strings called polypeptides; an enzyme called protease then slices them into the fragments from which proteins are assembled.
If you can’t cut the plywood, you can’t build the table, and Paxlovid blunts the blade. Because they employ separate mechanisms to defeat the virus, Paxlovid and molnupiravir could, in theory, be taken together. Some viruses that lead to chronic infections, including H.I.V. and hepatitis C, are treated with drug cocktails to prevent them from evolving resistance against a single line of attack. This approach is less common with respiratory viruses, which don’t generally persist in the body for long periods.
But combination antiviral therapy against the coronavirus could be a subject of study in the coming months, especially among immunocompromised patients, in whom the virus often lingers, allowing it the time and opportunity to generate mutations.

Merck will be producing a lot of molnupiravir. John McGrath, the company’s senior vice-president of manufacturing, told me that Merck began bolstering its manufacturing capacity long before the Phase III trial confirmed how well the drug worked. Normally, a company assesses demand for a product, then brings plants online slowly. For molnupiravir, Merck has already set up seventeen plants in eight countries across three continents. It now has the capacity to produce ten million courses of treatment by the end of this year, and at least another twenty million next year.

It expects molnupiravir to generate five to seven billion dollars in revenue by the end of 2022.How much will all these pills soften the looming winter surge? As has been true throughout the pandemic, the answer depends on many factors beyond their effectiveness. The F.D.A. could authorize molnupiravir within weeks, and Paxlovid soon afterward. But medications only work if they make their way into the body. Timing is critical. The drugs should be taken immediately after symptoms start—ideally, within three to five days. Whether people can benefit from them depends partly on the public-health infrastructure where they live. In Europe, rapid at-home COVID tests are widely available.

Twenty months into the pandemic, this is not the case in much of the U.S., and many Americans also lack ready access to affordable testing labs that can process PCR results quickly.Consider one likely scenario. On Monday, a man feels tired but thinks little of it. On Tuesday, he wakes up with a headache and, in the afternoon, develops a fever. He schedules a COVID test for the following morning. Two days later, he receives an e-mail informing him that he has tested positive. By now, it’s Friday afternoon. He calls his doctor’s office; someone picks up and asks the on-call physician to write a prescription. The man rushes to the pharmacy to get the drug within the five-day symptom-to-pill window.

Envision how the week might have unfolded for someone who’s uninsured, elderly, isolated, homeless, or food insecure, or who doesn’t speak English. Taking full advantage of the new drugs will require vigilance, energy, and access.Antivirals could be especially valuable in places like Africa, where only six per cent of the population is fully vaccinated. As they did with the vaccines, wealthy countries, including the U.S. and the U.K., have already locked in huge contracts for the pills; still, Merck has taken steps to expand access to the developing world.

It recently granted royalty-free licenses to the Medicines Patent Pool, a U.N.-backed nonprofit, which will allow manufacturers to produce generic versions of the drug for more than a hundred low- and middle-income countries. (Pfizer has reached a similar agreement with the Patent Pool; the company also announced that it will forgo royalties for Paxlovid in low-income countries, both during and after the pandemic.) As a result, a full course of molnupiravir could cost as little as twenty dollars in developing countries, compared with around seven hundred in the U.S. “Our goal was to bring this product to high-, middle-, and low-income countries at fundamentally the same time,” Paul Schaper, Merck’s executive director of global pharmaceutical policy, told me.

More than fifty companies around the world have already contacted the Patent Pool to obtain a sublicense to produce the drug, and the Gates Foundation has pledged a hundred and twenty million dollars to support generic-drug makers. Charles Gore, the Patent Pool’s executive director, recently said that, “for large parts of the world that have not got good vaccine coverage, this is really a godsend.” Of course, the same challenges of testing and distribution will apply everywhere.

Last spring, as a doctor caring for COVID patients, I was often dismayed by how little we had to offer. We tried hydroxychloroquine, blood thinners, and various oxygen-delivery devices and ventilator maneuvers; mostly, we watched as patients got better or got worse on their own. In the evenings, as I walked the city’s deserted streets, I often asked myself what kinds of treatment I wished we had. The best thing, I thought, would be a pill that people could take at home, shortly after infection, to halt the cascade of biological processes that sends them to the hospital, the I.C.U., or worse.

We will soon have not one but two such treatments. Outside of the vaccines, the new antiviral drugs are the most important pharmacologic advance of the pandemic. As the coronavirus becomes endemic, we’ll need additional tools to treat the inevitable infections that will continue to strike both vaccinated and unvaccinated people. These drugs will do that, reducing the damage that the coronavirus can inflict and, possibly, cordoning off avenues through which it can spread. Still, insuring that they are meaningfully and equitably used will require strength in the areas in which the U.S. has struggled: early and accessible testing; communication and coördination across health-care providers; fighting misinformation and building trust in rapid scientific advances. Just as vaccines don’t help without shots in arms, antivirals can’t work without pills in people.

 

Source: https://www.newyorker.com/

More on the Coronavirus

New Study Shows Folate Foods Help Prevent Alzheimer’s

Many people don’t think about integrating folate or folic acid into their diet until they’re trying to get pregnant, which is an unfortunate oversight. In fact, a new scientific study just further affirmed the fact that folate is an important nutrient and key to maintaining optimal health at all phases of life. Here’s what you should know about the importance of eating folate-rich foods daily.

What is folate, and what is the difference between folate vs. folic acid?

Before we jump into the new research, let’s define what folate is and clear up a common misconception: that folate and folic acid are the same thing. Folate is a B-vitamin (vitamin B9 to be exact) that is naturally found in food. It’s needed to make DNA and other genetic material and is key for helping cells divide.

It also helps a baby’s brain, skull, and spinal cord develop properly, which is why folate is so closely associated with the conception and pregnancy periods. On the other hand, folic acid is the synthetic version found in supplements and fortified foods. It’s important to note that folate is not made by the body, which makes it an essential nutrient that we must get from outside sources, meaning foods rich in folate

Whether you’re consuming folate or folic acid, in order to reap these benefits, the nutrient will need to be converted into an active form. This process is far more likely to happen when you are getting the vitamin naturally from folate foods versus folic acid supplements. “This is because folate is converted into its active form in the digestive system before entering the bloodstream.

With folic acid, however, not all of it is converted in the digestive system,” explains Lyssie Lakatos, RDN, CDN, CFT and Tammy Lakatos, RDN, CDN, CFT, The Nutrition Twins and founders of 21-Day Body Reboot. “Instead, some needs to be converted in the liver and in other tissues, which is not an efficient process. Unmetabolized folic acid can sit in the bloodstream for a long time and it can’t be utilized, which has been associated with a number of health problems.”

The new research findings on folate deficiency

Now, there is one more key reason to zone in on folate. A new study published in Frontiers in Neuroscience—a systematic review and meta-analysis of the association between folate and Alzheimer’s Disease—found that there is evidence to show that the vitamin plays an important role in the development of Alzheimer’s Disease. This is critical because Alzheimer’s is, today, the most common type of neurodegenerative disease leading to dementia in the elderly.

Around 60 publications were included in the review, each of which had a sample size ranging from 24 to 965, to comprehensively evaluate the associations between Alzheimer’s and folate levels. The results showed that the folate level of Alzheimer’s patients was lower compared with that of the healthy controls. Therefore, researchers concluded that there’s plausible reason to think that a deficiency of folate increases the risk for Alzheimer’s and, arguably more importantly, sufficient daily intake of folate could reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s.

“From the information in this study and considering the other known benefits of folate for our body and brain, it is encouraged to have sufficient daily intake of folate to reduce risk of Alzheimer’s,” says Lauren Hubert, MS, RD.

Amy Cameron O’Rourke, MPH, CMC, an advocate for senior care in the U.S. and the author of The Fragile Years echoes this. “I have been a long time believer in a deficient diet being a risk factor for many medical diagnoses and Alzheimer’s is no exception. Folate aids in the growth of healthy cells, so it isn’t difficult to make the leap to see proper folate as a protective factor for Alzheimer’s.” O’Rourke goes on to say that exercise, along with being socially engaged and following an anti-inflammatory diet (or a diet with less processed food), are some other effective ways to prevent Alzheimer’s.

The recommended daily amount of folate for adults is 400 micrograms (mcg). For those who are pregnant, it is about 600 -1000 mcg. “If a person is eating a balanced diet, they are likely getting enough folate,” says Lauren Manaker, MS, RDN, LD, a registered dietitian for Zhou Nutrition.

She goes on to advise that women of childbearing age consider taking a supplement and eating fortified foods to make sure they’re reducing the risk of developing certain birth defects should they become pregnant. In general, however, she affirms that supplements are a supplement to a healthy diet.

“It’s also important to note that like anything in life, you can consume too much folate and that can have other impacts on the body,” says Hubert. “For most people, you don’t need folic acid supplementation and should instead focus on getting folate through natural food sources in your diet.” Luckily there are many non-processed, anti-inflammatory foods that contain folate. Here’s a look at five of the best, according to The Nutrition Twins.

The top 5 folate foods

1. Edamame

“One-half cup cooked edamame has 241 mcg folate, or 60 percent of the daily requirement. It makes a delicious snack or appetizer that provides a prolonged energy boost thanks to the combination of fiber and protein, which help to keep blood sugar stable. You can toss edamame beans on salads, too.”

2. Lentils

“One-half cup of cooked lentils has 179 mcg of folate—almost half of the daily requirement. Lentils are a great source of protein and fiber and are a super satisfying source of plant protein. They’re wonderful to add to the diet as their fiber helps to keep you regular and improve gut health. They’re also a great source of iron, which is particularly good for vegetarians who often struggle to get enough. They make a great substitution for meat in tacos, salads, and soups.”

3. Asparagus

“One-half cup asparagus has 164 mcg, or 40 percent of the daily requirement. It’s also rich in fiber, and is a great source of anthocyanins—these antioxidants help protect the body from the damage caused by free radicals, which can lead to chronic disease. Another fun reason to add it to the diet: asparagus contain the amino acid asparagine, which acts as a natural diuretic, helping to flush excess fluid and salt from your body.”

4. Spinach

“A half cup of steamed spinach provides 131 mcg of folate, which is around one third of the daily 400 mcg requirement. It promotes immune and skin health since it’s rich in vitamin C. Spinach is also great for vegetarians and vegans since it’s a rich source of iron and calcium, two nutrients that most people associate with animal products.”

5. Black Beans

“One half cup serving of black beans contains 128 mcg of folate, roughly a third of the daily requirement. Add beans to your salad, make bean soup, chili, burrito, bean salsa, or a casserole and you’ll also get a hefty dose of fiber, antioxidants, plus protein.”

By: Sharon Feiereisen

Source: New Study Shows Folate Foods Help Prevent Alzheimer’s | Well+Good

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Related Contents:

AI Breakthrough Could Spark Medical Revolution

Artificial intelligence has been used to predict the structures of almost every protein made by the human body. The development could help supercharge the discovery of new drugs to treat disease, alongside other applications. Proteins are essential building blocks of living organisms; every cell we have in us is packed with them.

Understanding the shapes of proteins is critical for advancing medicine, but until now, only a fraction of these have been worked out. Researchers used a program called AlphaFold to predict the structures of 350,000 proteins belonging to humans and other organisms. The instructions for making human proteins are contained in our genomes – the DNA contained in the nuclei of human cells.

There are around 20,000 of these proteins expressed by the human genome. Collectively, biologists refer to this full complement as the “proteome”. Commenting on the results from AlphaFold, Dr Demis Hassabis, chief executive and co-founder of artificial intelligence company Deep Mind, said: “We believe it’s the most complete and accurate picture of the human proteome to date.

“We believe this work represents the most significant contribution AI has made to advancing the state of scientific knowledge to date. “And I think it’s a great illustration and example of the kind of benefits AI can bring to society.” He added: “We’re just so excited to see what the community is going to do with this.”

Proteins are made up of chains of smaller building blocks called amino acids. These chains fold in myriad different ways, forming a unique 3D shape. A protein’s shape determines its function in the human body. The 350,000 protein structures predicted by AlphaFold include not only the 20,000 contained in the human proteome, but also those of so-called model organisms used in scientific research, such as E. coli, yeast, the fruit fly and the mouse.

This giant leap in capability is described by DeepMind researchers and a team from the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) in the prestigious journal Nature.  AlphaFold was able to make a confident prediction of the structural positions for 58% of the amino acids in the human proteome.

The positions of 35.7% were predicted with a very high degree of confidence – double the number confirmed by experiments. Traditional techniques to work out protein structures include X-ray crystallography, cryogenic electron microscopy (Cryo-EM) and others. But none of these is easy to do: “It takes a huge amount of money and resources to do structures,” Prof John McGeehan, a structural biologist at the University of Portsmouth, told BBC News.

Therefore, the 3D shapes are often determined as part of targeted scientific investigations, but no project until now had systematically determined structures for all the proteins made by the body. In fact, just 17% of the proteome is covered by a structure confirmed experimentally. Commenting on the predictions from AlphaFold, Prof McGeehan said: “It’s just the speed – the fact that it was taking us six months per structure and now it takes a couple of minutes. We couldn’t really have predicted that would happen so fast.”

“When we first sent our seven sequences to the DeepMind team, two of those we already had the experimental structures for. So we were able to test those when they came back. It was one of those moments – to be honest – where the hairs stood up on the back of my neck because the structures [AlphaFold] produced were identical.”

Prof Edith Heard, from EMBL, said: “This will be transformative for our understanding of how life works. That’s because proteins represent the fundamental building blocks from which living organisms are made.” “The applications are limited only by our understanding.” Those applications we can envisage now include developing new drugs and treatments for disease, designing future crops that can resist climate change, and enzymes that can break down the plastic that pervades the environment.

Prof McGeehan’s group is already using AlphaFold’s data to help develop faster enzymes for degrading plastic. He said the program had provided predictions for proteins of interest whose structures could not be determined experimentally – helping accelerate their project by “multiple years”.

Dr Ewan Birney, director of EMBL’s European Bioinformatics Institute, said the AlphaFold predicted structures were “one of the most important datasets since the mapping of the human genome”. DeepMind has teamed up with EMBL to make the AlphaFold code and protein structure predictions openly available to the global scientific community.

Dr Hassabis said DeepMind planned to vastly expand the coverage in the database to almost every sequenced protein known to science – over 100 million structures.

By : Paul Rincon / Science editor, BBC News website

Source: AI breakthrough could spark medical revolution – BBC News

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9 Ways Empathy Helps With Inner Growth

Empathy can be best defined as the trait or skill of understanding, sharing, recognizing, and even feeling the emotions, thoughts, and experiences of those around you or those who you see. It is often a crucial skill in developing healthy relationships, moral or ethical decision-making, prosocial behavior, and compassionate attitudes.

Simply put, empathy denotes an ability to walk in the shoes of another person. It can be a complex trait to develop, and some people may believe that empathy is harmful. After all, feeling the pain of others can become tiring. But in moderation, this skill is a fantastic way to improve yourself while helping others. Here are nine ways empathy helps with inner growth.

1.    Empathy Reduces Stress

You may have noticed people who are empathetic seem to experience less stress. Considering how research has shown that stress accuses all sorts of diseases, it raises the question – how does empathy help?

  • It teaches emotional regulation skills.
  • Relating to others in positive ways teaches
  • It engages in our ability to control and handle our emotions in a healthy manner.
  • It helps us recognize where and when we may be feeling stressed or emotional, thanks to observing and empathizing with our loved ones.

Empathy can be best defined as the trait or skill of understanding, sharing, recognizing, and even feeling the emotions, thoughts, and experiences of those around you or those who you see. It is often a crucial skill in developing healthy relationships, moral or ethical decision-making, prosocial behavior, and compassionate attitudes.

Simply put, empathy denotes an ability to walk in the shoes of another person. It can be a complex trait to develop, and some people may believe that empathy is harmful. After all, feeling the pain of others can become tiring. But in moderation, this skill is a fantastic way to improve yourself while helping others. Here are nine ways empathy helps with inner growth.

As you can imagine, this helps you become an emotionally more stable person in the long run – indeed a fundamental thing to any future growth and maturation you wish to experience!

2.    It Improves Your Ability To Communicate

Communication isn’t as simple as an exchange of words. After all, think about the many times you find yourself constantly misunderstood, no matter how hard you try. As it turns out, empathy can teach you how to express yourself better! This outcome is because:

  • You learn how to see, feel, and think from the other person’s perspective.
  • You’ll better understand how your words and thoughts may be interpreted by others.
  • You can tailor your expression of your thoughts and emotions to the individual you’re communicating with, so they can understand you better.
  • You can limit misunderstandings and miscommunications by seeing how the other person would process information from their point of view.

Indeed, you may notice that all of these positive benefits first require you to listen better and understand the other person before you can explain yourself in a way that truly resonates with them. This is why empathy is so important!

3.    It’s Good For General Survival

Historically speaking, being social creatures is the critical reason for our species’ continued survival – and despite how much has changed socially, this hasn’t changed on a fundamental level! Empathy allows us to:

  • Pick up on nonverbal cues that indicate something is amiss
  • Tune in immediately to a situation the second someone starts acting strangely
  • React appropriately to a life-threatening situation you haven’t seen yet, just from the behavior of others in the area
  • Pay attention to abnormal atmospheres or facial features that suggest something is wrong

These examples may sound dramatic, but they can be applicable in all sorts of places – from recognizing when a bar fight is about to erupt to paying attention to a loved one who seems to be quieter than usual.

No matter which way you slice it, empathy may be the critical thing that saves you or your loved one’s life.

4.    It’s Good For Your Health

How are empathy and your physical health related to each other? They’re more intimately intertwined than you might think. Various studies have shown a positive correlation between the ability to handle stress – a source of many health issues – and high levels of empathy.

This is because of empathy:

  • It encourages us to form close bonds that form the basis of our support network.
  • Teaches us how to form healthy coping mechanisms when trying to manage stress.
  • It assists us in paying attention to our bodies as an extension of learning how to observe those around us.
  • Reduces depression and anxiety levels as we communicate and empathize with our loved ones.
  • It helps us create healthy boundaries so we can avoid picking up second-hand stress and negative emotions.
  • Encourages positive thinking and mindsets via reconnecting to the world around us.

This ultimately leads to a better psychological and physiological state, resulting in a much better health and immune system. Not to mention, it’s easier to take care of yourself when you’re mentally and emotionally more stable and healthy!

5.    It Can Guide Your Moral Compass

Normally, we learn empathy and emotional regulation in childhood – something that research has shown is important for our development. But that doesn’t mean our journey stops there!

As we grow older and meet new people, we must continue to learn and adapt to the changing world around us – and in this aspect, empathy is an essential tool. For example, it:

  • It helps us re-evaluate our core values and morals
  • Shapes and guides how we care for others and how we expect to be cared for
  • It shows us how to take care of those around us
  • Encourages us to strive for a better understanding of those we love

In other words, empathy can actually help us reshape our foundational understanding of the world and our relationship with it. This is important, as it can lead to us growing both mentally, emotionally, and spiritually as we strive to meet the needs of our loved ones!

6.    It Connects You To Others

Ever found yourself just sitting there, unsure as to how to respond to someone else? Empathy is actually a vital and helpful tool in this regard!

How so? Research has shown that empathy is responsible for helping us better understand and respond to a loved one’s actions – both in the present and for potential future actions. Here are a few ways how it mentally preps you and encourages you to form positive relationships:

  • It helps us feel and better understand what the other person is experiencing.
  • Teaches us how to reciprocate and make the other person feel seen and heard.
  • It assists us in forming and nurturing intimate bonds where both sides can feel safe and vulnerable.
  • It encourages us to listen to those around us truly and really take the time to be there for them.

The final result? We end up learning not just about experiences we couldn’t otherwise have possibly gotten on our own, but also will likely end up with a close and personal relationship with the other person!

Over time, you will likely find that this sort of behavior cultivates deep, intimate connections that can bring you a sense of peace and stability – an incredibly vital foundation for any further inner growth you wish to achieve.

7.    It Helps Prosocial Behavior

We are only human, so it’s natural to want close, intimate, and meaningful bonds. In fact, it is hardwired into our very DNA – we wouldn’t have gotten this far without that desire to bond with those around us, after all. As you can imagine, this means that the ability to empathize is crucial. This is because it:

  • It teaches us how to become more compassionate and caring
  • It’s crucial to our ability to communicate and connect with others
  • It encourages us to care for and help each other
  • Assists us in being kind and understanding to others around us
  • It tries to make us see things from a different point of view

From there, we then learn how to adjust our behavior and actions to ensure we are doing our best to love and care for those around us. This can then ultimately lead us to create the relationships so fundamental to our emotional and mental wellbeing!

8.    It Fights Burnout

There is some irony in how, in an increasingly connected world, we feel even more lonely. And with that loneliness comes all sorts of mental health struggles and burnout as we struggle with work on our own. But it doesn’t have to be this way.

A study has shown that those workers who are empathetic actually deal with less burnout – something you might find interesting! Here’s how empathy can help you achieve these outcomes:

  • It guides us in how we can communicate with those around us.
  • Assists in the development of soft skills that are crucial to handling conflicts with others.
  • It teaches us how to ensure both sides feel seen and heard.
  • It helps us connect and form meaningful relationships with others.
  • Encourages us to create social networks that can inversely support us in our times of need.
  • Promotes positive thinking as we pull from the experiences of others around us.

With the development of better communication and conflict-management skills, you may find yourself becoming a more emotionally mature and understanding person as you rise against the challenges life throws at you. And it’s all thanks to empathy!

9.    It Improves Your Work

With just how helpful it is when you’re trying to both listen and to be heard, it’s no wonder that empathy forms a core aspect of communication – a vital skill in any team-based work. But there’s more to this than just better communication. Empathy also helps:

  • Negotiating with others to create a solution that meets everyone’s needs and desires
  • Encourages teamwork when trouble-shooting issues
  • Creates an environment of respect and trust
  • It makes people feel valued and involved in any project
  • It makes for a smoother transition and workflow, as you are already paying attention and anticipating the quirks and workstyles of those around you

As you can imagine, these aspects are all super helpful when you’re working on any team-based project. And these skills are transferable too! You can just as easily apply these positive benefits to both your work and your personal life and watch your relationships become better for it! Final Thoughts On Some Ways Empathy Helps With Inner Growth

Empathy is a valuable trait, yet it may seem like it is rapidly declining in today’s world. This can seem discouraging, and some may even worry that being empathetic may open them up to feelings of pain and discomfort.

The lucky truth is that this is not the case. Empathy is crucial for your inner growth and can actually make you stronger, healthier, and more resilient. If you struggle with developing empathy for others, you can speak to a mental health professional for help.

By:

Source: 9 Ways Empathy Helps With Inner Growth | Power of Positivity

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Critics:

Empathy is the capacity to understand or feel what another person is experiencing from within their frame of reference, that is, the capacity to place oneself in another’s position. Definitions of empathy encompass a broad range of emotional states. Types of empathy include cognitive empathy, emotional (or affective) empathy, somatic, and spiritual empathy.

Empathy is generally divided into two major components:

Affective empathy

Affective empathy, also called emotional empathy: the capacity to respond with an appropriate emotion to another’s mental states. Our ability to empathize emotionally is based on emotional contagion: being affected by another’s emotional or arousal state.

Cognitive empathy

Cognitive empathy: the capacity to understand another’s perspective or mental state. The terms social cognition, perspective-taking, theory of mind, and mentalizing are often used synonymously, but due to a lack of studies comparing theory of mind with types of empathy, it is unclear whether these are equivalent.

Although measures of cognitive empathy include self-report questionnaires and behavioral measures, a 2019 meta analysis found only a negligible association between self report and behavioral measures, suggesting that people are generally not able to accurately assess their own cognitive empathy abilities.

Somatic empathy

Hey, There’s a Second Brain In Your Gut

Scientists have known for years that there’s a “second brain” of autonomous neurons in your long, winding human digestive tract—but that’s about where their knowledge of the so-called abdominal brain ends.

Now, research published in 2020 shows that scientists have catalogued 12 different kinds of neurons in the enteric nervous system (ENS) of mice. This “fundamental knowledge” unlocks a huge number of paths to new experiments and findings.

The gut brain greatly affects on how you body works. Your digestive system has a daily job to do as part of your metabolism, but it’s also subject to fluctuations in functionality, and otherwise related to your emotions.

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Digestive symptoms and anxiety can be comorbid, and your gut is heavily affected by stress. So scientists believe having a better understanding of what happens in your ENS could lead to better medicines and treatments for a variety of conditions, as well as improved knowledge of the connection between the ENS and central nervous system.

The research appears in Nature Neuroscience. In a related commentary, scientist Julia Ganz explains what the researchers found and why it’s so important:

“Using single-cell RNA-sequencing to profile the developing and juvenile ENS, the authors discovered a conceptually new model of neuronal diversification in the ENS and establish a new molecular taxonomy of enteric neurons based on a plethora of molecular markers.”

Neuronal diversification happens in, well, all the organisms that have neurons. Similar to stem cells, neurons develop first as more generic “blanks” and then into functional specialties. The human brain has types like sensory and motor neurons, each of which has subtypes. There are so many subtypes, in fact, that scientists aren’t sure how to even fully catalog them yet.

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Neurons of the same superficial type are different in the brain versus the brain stem—let alone in the digestive tract. So researchers had to start at the very beginning and trace how these neurons develop. They tracked RNA, which determines how DNA is expressed in the cells made by your body, to follow how neurons formed both before and after birth. Some specialties emerge in utero, and some split and form afterward.

To find this new information, the scientists developed a finer way to separate and identify cells. Ganz explains:

“Using extensive co-staining with established markers, they were able to relate the twelve neuron classes to previously discovered molecular characteristics of functional enteric neuron types, thus classifying the ENCs into excitatory and inhibitory motor neurons, interneurons, and intrinsic primary afferent neurons.”

With a sharper protocol and new information, the researchers were able to confirm and expand on the existing body of ENS neuron knowledge. And now they can work on finding out what each of the 12 ENS neuron types is responsible for, they say.

By isolating different kinds and “switching” them on or off using genetic information, scientists can try to identify what’s missing from the function of the mouse ENS. And studying these genes could lead to new treatments that use stem cells or RNA to control the expression of harmful genes.

The Mind-Gut Connection is something that people have intuitively known for a long time but science has only I would say in the last few years gotten a grasp and acceptance of this concept. It essentially means that your brain has intimate connections with the gut and another entity in our gut, the second brain, which is about 100 million nerve cells that are sandwiched in between the layers of the gut.

And they can do a lot of things on their own in terms of regulating our digestive processes. But there’s a very intimate conversation between that little brain, the second brain in the gut and our main brain. They use the same neurotransmitters. They’re connected by nerve pathways. And so we have really an integrated system from our brain to the little brain in the gut and it goes in both directions.

The little brain, or the second brain, in the gut you’re not able to see it because as I said it’s spread out through the entire length of the gut from your esophagus to the end of your large intestine, several layers of nerve cells interconnected. And what they do is even if you – and you can do this in animal experiments if you completely disconnect this little brain in the gut from your main brain this little brain can completely take care of all the digestive processes, the contractions, peristaltic reflex, regulation of blood flow in the intestine.

And it has many sensors so it knows exactly what’s going on inside the gut, what goes on in the wall of the gut, any distention, any chemicals. All of this is being picked up by these sensory nerves, fed into the interior nervous system, the second brain. And then the second brain generates these stereotypic responses. So when you vomit, when you have diarrhea, when you have normal digestion, all of this is encoded in programs in your second brain.

What the second brain can’t do it cannot generate any conscious perceptions or gut feelings. That really is the only ability that allows us to do this and perceive all the stuff that goes on inside of us is really the big brain and the specific areas and circuits within the brain that process information that comes up from the gut. Still most of that information is not really consciously perceived. So 95 percent of all this massive amount of information coming from the gut is processed, integrated with other inputs that the brain gets from the outside, from smell, visual stimuli.

And only a very small portion is then actually made conscious. So when you feel good after a meal or when you ate the wrong thing and you’re nauseated those are the few occasions where actually we realize and become aware of our gut feelings. Even though a lot of other stuff is going on in this brain-gut access all the time.

When we talk about the connection between depression and the gut there’s some very intriguing observations both clinically but also now more recently scientifically that make it highly plausible that there is an integrate connection between serotonin in the gut, serotonin in our food, depression and gut function.

By: Caroline Delbert

Caroline Delbert is a writer, book editor, researcher, and avid reader. She’s also an enthusiast of just about everything.

Source: Pocket

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Critics:

The enteric nervous system (ENS) or intrinsic nervous system is one of the main divisions of the autonomic nervous system (ANS) and consists of a mesh-like system of neurons that governs the function of the gastrointestinal tract. It is capable of acting independently of the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems, although it may be influenced by them. The ENS is also called the second brain. It is derived from neural crest cells.

The enteric nervous system is capable of operating independently of the brain and spinal cord,but does rely on innervation from the autonomic nervous system via the vagus nerve and prevertebral ganglia in healthy subjects. However, studies have shown that the system is operable with a severed vagus nerve.

The neurons of the enteric nervous system control the motor functions of the system, in addition to the secretion of gastrointestinal enzymes. These neurons communicate through many neurotransmitters similar to the CNS, including acetylcholine, dopamine, and serotonin. The large presence of serotonin and dopamine in the gut are key areas of research for neurogastroenterologists.

Neurogastroenterology societies

See also

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