The New Year is off to a flying start, not just for me but for the health research community as well! Hope this post finds everyone in good spirits and ready for a healthy and productive 2014. Something I am trying to work on this year is positive thinking. I think it’s really important to stay optimistic, no matter what life throws at us. Finnish researchers recently mapped parts of the body that are activated by each emotion and discovered that every organ, tissue and cell in our body is affected by how we are feeling (Prevent Disease). Happiness is the most significant emotion so that really tells us something about the importance of striving to be joyful, doesn’t it?

Epigenetics

The term ‘epigenetics’ was first coined in 1942, but here we are in 2014 and we still have as many (if not more) questions than answers (Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology News). A really hot topic right now is how the diet and lifestyle habits and environments of our ancestors can be passed down through the generations, taking some of the control over our health out of our hands (Sydney Morning Herald).

An Aspirin a Day?

A new National Institute for Health Research (UK) review has called into question the effectiveness of daily aspirin use when weighed against the risks. It is uncertain that the aspirin will prevent cardiovascular disease and cancer. On the other hand, daily aspirin use raises the risk of bleeding, stroke, asthma and digestive system harm. Europe’s Aspirin for Asymptomatic Atherosclerosis (AAA) study came to the same conclusions so it will be interesting to see whether a similar review is conducted in the United States.

Cancer

Every cancer is different. New therapies are being designed to target specific cancers based on a person’s specific genetic situation (Economist), especially as technology becomes affordable enough to allow scientists to track each tumor’s mutations and develop drugs to fight the cancerous cells. This doesn’t, of course, mean that the medications are going to be affordable but it’s a step in the right direction. New advances were made in the study of breast cancer, revealing that women with lower white blood cell DNA methylation were more prone to the disease (Epigenetics). This is extremely interesting considering that another study found that folic acid (the synthetic vitamin version of folate) was found to increase the progression of breast cancer in a rat model (PLOS).

Other Interesting Developments

Good news for dog lovers: living in a house with a canine companion is actually good for children. The dust of a Fido-friendly home facilitates a particular gastrointestinal microbiome composition, which protects kids from allergic diseases like asthma (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America). And, following the trials and tribulations of personal genetics company 23andMe, a similar venture, GeneLink Biosciences is facing a lawsuit from the Federal Trade Commission for allegedly making unfounded claims (Scientific American).

Have I missed anything this month? Please share any relevant news in the comments below.

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