A rare clay used by B.C. aboriginals kills bacteria resistant to antibiotics

Wow. First of all, I would like to thank a blog reader, D., for the bit of news that I “announced” in the title of my post. Here’s the link to the Vancouver Sun’s article: goo.gl/5x8zCf.

And I quote: “The grey-green clay, known as Kisolite, has been used for centuries by the Heiltsuk First Nations to treat a range of ailments, including ulcerative colitis, arthritis, neuritis, phlebitis, skin irritation, and burns. Locals have also historically used the clay for eczema, acne and psoriasis.¬†Now, UBC researchers say the clay exhibits potent antibacterial activity against multidrug-resistant pathogens.

Extraordinary, isn’t it? I thought so!

My cats

_1190299I know it’s been a while since I last posted, but that’s just…how it goes. Everything is fine with me, pretty much…I’ve been very busy…working (teaching English, translating; even this past weekend), and so on…

My post on our Austrian Xmas holiday is taking forever, mainly because I have to decide which–of my two billion photos!–to use. But the post is coming along…should be done soon.

I also received the negative curcumin review (see previous post), yes, the¬†entire shebang, but I haven’t gone beyond¬†a couple of pages. For one thing, reading something like this¬†doesn’t put me¬†in the right frame of mind (irritation sets in, e.g.); for another, it’s very technical, VERY!, and after a few paragraphs my brain becomes the consistency of melted marshmallows. _1190315But you know how determined I can be, so I WILL¬†read the darn thing. I will… :-)

In the meantime, I thought I’d put up a few photos of my kitties.¬†So, here goes:¬†we recently bought a very tall and sturdy cat tower. It’s almost 3.60 meters tall (almost 12 feet tall; yes, we have high ceilings downstairs!), mainly to try to solve a problem that our younger male, Prezzemolo, has had for¬†the past several months. A “spraying” problem.

He began spraying a bit everywhere (yes, he is “fixed,” like all my cats, so it seemed very strange to us…still does) but finally decided he mostly liked¬†a couple of areas: our living room couch and armchair, and the bed in our guest bedroom. _1190346Oh, and he also likes to “mark” a few IKEA comfy chairs we have in a room downstairs…a room we don’t really use, so that’s “okay.” All of our furniture is now protected now by plastic covers, with IKEA cotton covers on top (easy to disinfect and wash)…You can see one of the dark blue covers¬†in the photo to the right.

The first thing we did when we realized this was happening was take him to the vet. They ran tests to exclude any physical causes, a urinary tract infection, etc…

Result: he’s fine. A purrfectly healthy young male cat. He’s about 4.5 years old now, I guess.

We didn’t know what else to do until someone suggested we call a behavioral veterinarian (I think that’s what they are called…sort of like Jackson Galaxy, “My cat from hell,” except the person we called is not just a behaviorist but also a vet). We made an appointment before Xmas. The vet¬†came over to our house and observed all of our cats–most of whom were taking naps!–for more than four hours. She concluded that our boy¬†suffers from anxiety.

Great, that’s all we needed: an anxious cat._1190358

Anything can, er, set him off, but his main problem is the other male cat, Piccolo (the big black and white fellow in some of my photos), who is older and, well, dominant. The alpha cat. Piccolo is¬†the source of Prezzemolo’s anxiety. In the photo on the left, you can see Prezzemolo on top, rubbing his head on the cat tower shelf, Pammy is next to the big “mouse,” and then there is Piccolo’s head, bottom left.

In the wild, the vet explained, in a stressful situation like this one, where we have two males sharing the same territory, what happens is that the younger male lion usually leaves and finds a territory of his own. The same thing happens with two male cats who live outside.

But here all our cats, male and female, are confined to the house. Yes, it’s a big house, with lots of toys and scratching posts, and two loving human parents, and so on, but our cats can’t go outside (for a bunch of very good reasons. The vet agreed with us that they should stay inside the house, in fact). _1190090So even though the cats’¬†“territory” looks huge to us, it isn’t so for Prezzemolo.

Stefano and I obviously want Prezzemolo¬†to be happy, that’s our main cat-related goal right now, so we asked her for solutions…

Her main suggestion¬†was to create a VERTICAL¬†territory for Prezzemolo, a place that the older, heavier male cannot physically reach. We already have three cat towers in the house, but the vet told us that they weren’t high enough or in the right places (except for the one in my study, which is great).

She told us to put a tall one¬†in the living room, floor to ceiling. And here we get to the point…and to the photos.

We¬†ordered a¬†huge, expensive cat tower in January, after researching every single sort of high cat tower on the market. When it arrived, it took us a while to assemble it and set it up. As soon as we’d finished, we figured the cats would jump on it immediately. But no, in typical cat fashion, they ignored it, especially Prezzemolo. I mean, TOTALLY IGNORED IT. They were more interested in the boxes it had been delivered in. I put his favorite toys on it, high up, inside the hammocks, and I hung strings to tempt him…but that didn’t work.¬†Until…

Until a few weeks had passed (again, typical…).

_1190296I began¬†finding him on the tree, asleep in a hammock or sitting on one of the shelves, looking outside the living room window. I have also seen him climb all the way to the top (several times, including this morning). Impressive. Since he’s the youngest of our cats, he’s also the only one who is physically able to do that, although Pinga (photo no. 2) can almost get to the top.

That is the whole point: if he can expand his territory, a territory that the alpha male cannot reach, he should begin to calm down. Fingers crossed.

His vertical territory hasn’t stopped¬†him from spraying yet, but the incidents seem to have lessened. And anyway, luckily for us and for our nose buds, his urine doesn’t smell unless you stick your nose¬†practically right on top of the area where you think he MIGHT have sprayed. Of course, it’s still a bummer…I have to¬†sniff all of the IKEA covers on a daily basis and replace them with clean ones if necessary. Well, fingers crossed that this is just a phase…

By the way, I should mention that Prezzemolo is an adorable cat. In addition to being absolutely gorgeous, as you can see, he is also very cuddly. The cuddle business didn’t happen overnight. We don’t know¬†much about his previous life, before we adopted him, that is, but I know it can’t have been an easy one. It took a VERY LONG time for him to trust us. When we’d reach out to pet him, he’d duck his head and look frightened.¬†_1190340But we were patient…we didn’t push it…we knew it was going to be a slow process.

Our patience, mine in particular, was rewarded. A¬†few months ago, one day, totally out of the blue,¬†he jumped into my lap for the first time (note: he’s lived with us¬†for more than four years now!). It was an emotional moment for both Stefano and me.

Nowadays he curls up in my lap at least twice a day. He always comes to me after dinner, while we are still at the dinner table. He rests his head on my arm, purrs, and looks up at me with his big yellow eyes, full of love. And by the way, he even jumped into my lap twice while the vet was visiting…to our great surprise, since he usually stays away when we have visitors…Well, that is changing now.

_1190093He¬†has become much friendlier¬†recently…with strangers, I mean. And, with the exception of Piccolo (who growls and wacks the poor kid¬†if he gets too close), he also gets along with the other cats, including Pammy (and NONE of them get along with her…She’s a tough cookie, but that is fodder perhaps for another cat post).

In sum, he is scared only of Piccolo. And there is not much we can do about it…except give him heaps of love, of course. And play with him, and single him out for attention…and buy him a big cat tower…things like that…

Anyway, I have work to do, so I’d better get going. I hope you enjoy the photos. By the way, if you hover over them with your “mouse,” you can find a little explanatory note.

Take care, everyone, and…CIAO! :-)

Have I been deceived, too?

We’re back in Florence from our holiday in Austria (we got back last weekend, actually), and I’m trying to catch up with a million different things, including laundry…but a few days ago¬†a big translation plopped into my lap. So my plan of sifting through my photos and posting about our trip has been postponed…until I get some of this big beastie¬†translated, at least…

But I just read an¬†article, a very negative article, about curcumin, one that I couldn’t ignore. It was published recently in the “Scientific American.” Curcumin is actually defined as a “deceptive spice extract.”

Deceptive? You’ve got to be kidding me. I was absolutely stunned…still am.

Where, in this review, will I find an explanation for my having managed to stay away from conventional treatments for multiple myeloma thus far (more than 10 years after my SMM diagnosis), in spite of being at high risk for progression?

Where will I find the explanation for the disappearance of my rosacea…although I am still prone to blushing easily (but hey, the horrendous pustules disappeared years ago, and my skin is smooth and soft).

And how would this review explain a host of other side effects that have made my life so much more comfortable? Just to mention one other thing: my recurrent, painful vaginal yeast infections completely disappeared after I began taking curcumin. I have written about this…

Oh wait, then there’s¬†my familial¬†hypercholesterolemia, which used to be really, REALLY, bad. My cholesterol levels aren’t back to normal, but I’ve reached¬†the point where my family doctor has me tested only once a year.

Placebo effect for all this? Not according to my doctors…

But I felt I couldn’t simply ignore this article. After all, I don’t ONLY read and post about positive stuff about curcumin, That would be really silly of me. I mean, hello???, I don’t want to be taking something that will harm me!!!

So¬†even though I think this article is potentially dangerous, in the sense that it might discourage people¬†from taking curcumin, I decided to post about it. Here’s the link, by the way: goo.gl/iJSTLO

What do YOU think???

Cats and presents!

Oh, this is¬†such an adorable video for anyone who has cats…and also for anyone who doesn’t have cats, come to think of it! ūüėČ Note: not my cats, btw!¬†

Okay, must get ready to leave now. Again, Happy Holidays to everyone…BUONE FESTE!!!!!

A new Italian study on the role of inflammation in myeloma progression

Well, since I have a gazillion things to do before leaving, I was going to forget about blogging until next year ūüėé , but this morning a just-published Italian study caught my eye, and I just had to write about it: goo.gl/77intB

In a nutshell, the study proves¬†that inflammation and the evolution of myeloma are closely connected. This is not entirely a surprise. I mean, this isn‚Äôt the first time we‚Äôve seen the word ‚Äúmyeloma‚ÄĚ mentioned in the same sentence as ‚Äúinflammation.‚ÄĚ

But I found this study amazingly interesting¬†and¬†worth much more than a cursory look. So I‚Äôll do my best to report on it, considering I’m a bit distracted (by the above-mentioned gazillion things ūüėČ ) at the moment…Please forgive me for any repetitions, etc.

This group of Italian researchers came up with and analyzed a short list of twenty genes, eventually identifying eight genes that showed there were clear differences between MGUS, SMM, and MM. These genes were also associated with MM patients’ survival: IFNG, IL2, CCL2, LTA, and CCL3, VEGF.

The ‚Äúbad‚ÄĚ ones¬†are the last two, CCL3 and VEGFA, which are linked with inflammation in the bone marrow microenvironment (BMM) and with a host of negative occurrences (MM cell survival, etc.). Bottom line: patients with a high expression of these two genes have a worse prognosis.

And here is a very interesting bit of info: compared to MGUS, in MM these two genes were consistently upregulated. That means that they are not (consistenly upregulated) in MGUS…

The ‚Äúgood‚ÄĚ genes, that is those¬†linked to a MM patient‚Äôs longer survival, are IFNG, IL-2, CCL2, and LTA.

The patients who lived the longest had high levels of Th1 cytokines (the above-listed IFNG, CCL2, IL-2) and low levels of CCL3 and VEGFA. Oh boy, now I am getting into deep water. I just spent about an hour trying to write a simple explanation of how all this stuff works and so on, what all the acronyms mean (LTA stands for lymphotoxin-alpha, e.g.), but it got to be too complicated and involved, so I threw it into the trash. I’m no scientist, after all…

Let’s forget about trying to understand every single detail of the study. After all, what really matters is for us to GET the main concept.

Basically, the process has to do with proinflammatory responses, which are okay under normal circumstances (e.g. in the case of a viral attack), but not under others. Indeed, too much of a proinflammatory response can be damaging. In the words of the researchers, ‚Äúinflammation has a critical role in MM patient progression and survival.‚ÄĚ

IMPORTANT: the MM patients who survived longer also had high albumin, low B2-microglobulin and low CRP (C-reactive protein) levels. To a significant degree. Food for thought!

And this paragraph provides more food for thought: ‚ÄúAlthough lacking the clinical features of symptomatic disease, both MGUS and sMM patients carry the same initial mutations and most of the chromosomal abnormalities of overt MM, suggesting that these events are necessary but not sufficient for disease progression. The evolution from MGUS to sMM and finally to MM relies on further complex conditions that include genomic instability, epigenetic and microenvironmental signals.‚ÄĚ Well, well. Necessary but NOT SUFFICIENT.

And, further on, ‚ÄúMM cells grow and proliferate almost exclusively within the BM, where they produce an inflammatory/immunosuppressive milieu, which promotes disease progression, drug resistance, neo-angiogenesis, bone destruction and immune escape.‚ÄĚ

The researchers ‚Äúhypothesize that PCs progressively shift the BMM toward a pro-inflammatory and immunosuppressive shape, which drives disease evolution.‚ÄĚ ( PCs are plasma cells, btw.)

Since not many conventional studies mention curcumin, but this one DOES, I thought I‚Äôd quote the entire¬†passage: ‚ÄúInflammation is an hallmark of cancer development. Indeed, different studies have already demonstrated a strong correlation between chronic inflammation and increased risk of cancer. Moreover, the chemopreventive role of aspirin and other NSAIDs has been clearly demonstrated. Along this line, recent clinical trials revealed a promising therapeutic activity of anti-inflammatory compounds such as aspirin and curcumin in both MGUS and sMM patients. Furthermore, inflammation could also reduce the activity of current anti-cancer treatment (both cytotoxic and immunotherapies), by impairing effective immune-response against tumor cells.‚ÄĚ

The study highlights the best BMM conditions under which bortezomib, pomalidomide and other conventional drugs might be more effective. It also addresses the issue of its limitations‚ÄĒonly certain genes were analyzed, etc. Those undergoing conventional treatments might want to check out and ask their specialists about that part…

Here’s¬†the main thing I got from this study: REDUCE INFLAMMATION!!! And, of course, take curcumin…and perhaps aspirin, too.

Now I really must get going. Final thought: I hope everyone has a lovely and restful holiday. Take care!!! :-)

Happy Holidays!!!

img_20161219_0001Dear me, my poor, abandoned blog!¬†Life¬†just keeps getting in the way (of my doing research and/or writing for the blog, I mean)…piles of things to do, piles of work (translations, students…), piles of house-related projects…closely following the U.S. presidential elections (YIKESSSSSSSSSSSSSS!!! Sorry, couldn’t help my horrified/terrified self…), and, well, having fun, too. :-)

Time just whizzes by, doesn’t it?¬†

Speaking of which,¬†now I am getting ready to take off with Stefano for the Xmas holidays. Wait a sec, wasn’t it September just a week or so¬†ago? How did Xmas sneak up on me? ūüėČ

Until very recently, we didn’t have a cat sitter for the Xmas holiday, so we actually hadn’t planned to leave Florence. However, we got lucky almost at the last minute when I managed to find a highly¬†recommended cat sitter who agreed to take on our family of 7 cats (plus one outside kitty¬†to whom we give shelter and food). We’ve tested the cat sitter¬†a few times, and she has done very well…

And so we’re driving to Austria for the holidays. We’re spending Xmas in Vienna and then New Year’s in Salzburg, where we will be joined by a couple of our best friends…Fantastic fun!

By the way, do you have any suggestions as to what we should see, do, eat in Vienna and/or Salzburg? Thanks!


P.S. Sorry, today’s cartoon is really fuzzy¬†(enlarging the original didn’t help at all!)…but I hope you can tell that the critters in front of (and on) the sleigh are kitties licking themselves, sleeping, and basically ignoring Santa. Typical. Anyway, I thought it was quite funny…. :-)

“Sometimes, whatever you do, things just don’t work out.”

I’ve been very busy in this period…and I have a couple of studies to post about, but I just can’t get to them…so it’s a bit frustrating. But there you go. Life gets in the way of the blog, sometimes…actually, often! :-) Anyway, today I decided to post the link to an absolutely fantastic BBC Earth video about the flame bowerbird’s (Papua New Guinea) strange and wacky, read: hugely entertaining!, courtship ritual.

I mean, check out those pupils! How does he do that??? Unbelievable. Never seen anything like it. Anyway, I hope you enjoy this video as much as I have: goo.gl/e0N5tL

Take care, everyone, and see you soon! Ciao!

Photobombing Pammy

_1160933Just a cute post today…

In sequence, here are some photos I took last week of Piccolo (my black and white male cat) and Pammy.




I found them lying side by side on our bed, and for some odd reason they stayed in the same position¬†even after I’d grabbed my camera (you know how cats can be…)…


But while I was busily snapping¬†photos, Pammy¬†got up, stretched her legs and started slowly walking toward me…and¬†then…PHOTOBOMB!!!!! :-)

For me, the funniest part of this sequence is that the expression on Piccolo’s face never changes…



“Curcumin induces cell death of the main molecular myeloma subtypes, particularly the poor prognosis subgroups”

I’ve written so many posts–more than 1500 since 2007–that I often can’t remember if I’ve already written about something or…not. So very frustrating sometimes…

Case in point: this morning I came across what for me sounded like¬†a “new” study, that is, a study I hadn’t read yet. But it dates to 2015. How could I have missed it? I couldn’t remember posting about it, and searching my blog yielded nothing, nada de nada…

So here I am, sitting in front of my computer, puzzled (I mean, the more I look at this study, the more I KNOW that I have read it before…but perhaps…ah yes that might¬†be IT!…perhaps I neglected to post about it, verybadbadbadofme!) but also amused.¬†The joke’s on me! I should probably keep a record of the studies I post about…Sounds like a great idea, but since I haven’t done it thus far, I probably won’t do it in the future, either…

Well, I suppose it’s better to post about¬†a study TWICE¬†than not to post about it at all, so here goes, without too many details, just in case I’ve written about all this before. ūüėČ

The full study is available online for free: goo.gl/LuSij2

In a nutshell, what the Universit√© de Nantes¬†researchers did was test curcumin on a “large panel of human myeloma cell lines.” And that is very important, since previous studies had tested just a few of these lines. The researchers discovered that curcumin killed most MM cell lines, including poor prognosis ones. Very exciting…

The most important part, as far as we are concerned, is the researchers’ conclusion that¬†“Altogether, these results support clinical trials including curcumin in association with standard therapy.” Especially since “chemoresistance remains a major challenge in myeloma treatment.”