Saturday, March 4, 2017

Science Saturday : Depression & Risks in PoC Communities

You know when you lose your passion for something and rather than try to putter through… you just kinda... give up on it for awhile? That’s how I’ve been feeling about writing about skincare the past few months. I just can’t force myself to be quippy and clever (and then I got hit like a mack truck with some pretty serious depression so that was fun). Writing is suppose to be fun and it just wasn’t for awhile.

Anyway, I’m feeling a bit better (and I feel like I can manage blogging?). So I figured I would do a “best of” wrap up about all the skin/skincare science coming out in January & February. Seriously, there’s some boss ass ‘ish comin’ out of labs this month.

Real time photo of me in Bio lab. Not featured: a dope-ass microscope

First up- the research paper I find the most… interesting. “SDSU public health research shows non-heterosexual black male teens use indoor tanning at levels equal to Caucasian female teens.” Essentially, young men (specifically, young black and hispanic non-heterosexual men) are an under-researched group when it comes to tanning behaviors. Specifically this research highlights the prevalence of skin cancer rates in this group (for which sexual minority males have one of the highest known prevalences of skin cancer (!!!)) and the confusion regarding these behaviors in this specific group. “UV exposure can induce relaxation through the release of natural opioids in the brain, it's possible that non-heterosexual black and Hispanic teenage boys engage in indoor tanning to help regulate psychological distress, which could be the result of discrimination, prejudice, and victimization based on their sexual orientation and/or race/ethnicity.

The reason I find this research so fascinating is two-fold: one, that it provides evidence that tanning/sun exposure is a valid coping strategy among sexual minority PoC and two, the risk that tanning poses does not deter these individuals. In fact, researchers from the American Osteopathic Association believe the combination of youth and melanin-rich skin gives people a false sense of security regarding protection against sunburns. Furthermore, there’s really a dearth of research regarding skin health and PoC (or… like… anything and PoC). So research honing in on groups like this really peaks my interest. Anyhoo- I can’t wait to see the results the lead researcher gets with his follow up plans.

* * * * *

Turns out that sun protection at the beach isn’t as simple as finding shelter under an umbrella. Research conducted in Texas found that, “during 3½ hours of sun exposure, 78% of participants under shade from a beach umbrella developed a sunburn vs 25% of participants using sunscreen. Neither shade nor sunscreen alone completely prevented sunburn” [source]. Of course these findings are horribly surprising for the sunscreen initiated, but it’s important in clarifying what sun exposure entails. Simply hiding in some shade isn’t enough to protect you.

I like to think of sun-protection like pregnancy prevention- wrap it every which way to increase your protection from getting burned. Protective clothing, accurately applied (and reapplied!) sunscreen, shade, hats… a witch’s spell to dim the sun. Of course I’m not saying you should fear the sun- but keep in mind that there’s a radioactive, soulless ball of gas burping out flares on the regular mere miles from our planet. Act accordingly.

[Note on conflict of interest: two researchers reported being employees of Johnson & Johnson Consumer Inc., the parent company of Neutrogena Corp. and manufacturer of the sunscreen tested in this study. The study was funded in part by Johnson & Johnson Consumer Inc.]

* * * * *

At the University of Madrid, Scientists have created a 3-D bioprinter to print human skin.  The bioprinter, “replicates the natural structure of the skin, with a first external layer, the epidermis with its stratum corneum, which acts as protection against the external environment, together with another thicker, deeper layer, the dermis. This last layer consists of fibroblasts that produce collagen, the protein that gives elasticity and mechanical strength to the skin."

Researchers hope to use the printed skin for transplants on burn patients, tests in pharmaceutical research, and cosmetic testing that currently employs animal testing.

This is the 3-D bioprinter at work!
* * * * *

Stem cells have been a hotly debated topic for the past few decades. Many people are under the misguided impression that stem cells can only come from fetal tissue. When in fact, we are constantly creating stem cells throughout our lifetime. And these stem cells can be taken from our own tissues and used in medicine and medical treatment. Recently, researchers at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania have found that adult stem cells harvested from fat are far more stable than stem cells harvested from other cells.

"Unlike other adult human stem cells, the rate at which these [adipose-derived stem cells] multiply stays consistent with age. That means these cells could be far more stable and helpful as we continue to study natural aging." This stability could potentially have implications for anti-aging medications/therapies in the future should use of these cells gain FDA approval.

* * * * *

I think one of the more fascinating studies to come out these past few months is the research conducted by the University of Calgary, Canada. The authors found that depression significantly increases the risk of psoriasis patients developing psoriatic arthritis, specifically, “patients who developed depression were at a 37% greater risk of subsequently developing psoriatic arthritis, compared with psoriasis patients who did not develop depression.”

As someone studying psychology (carrying out psychological research and working towards licensing in psychiatry), it's not often I see connections between bodily disorders and mental illness. So I find it fascinating that this connection between psoriasis and depression has been made. Further, this research could provide basis for new physiological avenues of research with regards to studying depression (and other mental health problems such as anxiety).

Laurie Parsons, MD, of the Cumming School of Medicine, concludes: "It is evident to physicians who treat patients with psoriasis, that there is a significant psychological and social burden associated with this disease, which is reflected in an increase in the rates of depression. This study brings us a little closer to understanding the role of chronic inflammation as a systemic player in both the physical and psychological manifestations of psoriasis and underscores the need for closer attention to symptoms of depression in this group of patients.” [research paper]

* * * * *

Lastly I have some cool little tidbits that aren’t really deserving of their own section, but are interesting nonetheless.

- Differences in how much men and women sweat have little to do with gender, according to a new study. Instead it has more to do with body size.
- Tanning devices cost the US $343.1 million a year in medical costs because of the skin cancers their use is associated with.

And that is all, y’all. I hope you enjoyed reading all this cool science as much as I enjoyed compiling it for your reading pleasure! If you have any questions about the research found here and would like some explanation, please let me know in the doobly-doo. I would be more than happy to explain anything unclear.

Is there any new research you’ve been following that you think is cool and isn’t found here? Let’s chat about it in the doobly-doo!

pat your head with delicious science knowledge