Columns

In the U.S., 24.4 million people over the age of 40 have cataracts. Pixabay photo
Reducing oxidative stress with diet may lower risk

By David Dunaief, M.D.

Dr. David Dunaief

The likelihood we will have cataracts that affect our vision increases as we age, but we can take an active role in preventing them. 

A cataract is an opacity or cloudiness of the lens in the eye, which decreases vision over time as it progresses. Typically, it’s caused by oxidative stress, and it’s common for both eyes to be affected.

Cataracts affect a substantial portion of the U.S. population. In the U.S., 24.4 million people over the age of 40 were afflicted, according to statistics gathered by the National Eye Institute of the National Institutes of Health (1). This number is expected to increase approximately 61 percent by the year 2030.

Cataract prevalence varies considerably by gender, with 61 percent of cases being women, and by race; 80 percent of those affected are white. There are many modifiable risk factors including diet, smoking, sunlight exposure, chronic diseases (such as diabetes and metabolic syndrome), steroid use, and physical inactivity. Here, we will focus on the dietary factor.

Impact of meat consumption on cataract risk

Diet has been shown to have substantial effect on the risk reduction for cataracts (2). One of the most expansive studies on cataract formation and diet was the Oxford (UK) group, with 27,670 participants, of the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) trial. Participants completed food frequency questionnaires between 1993 and 1999. Then, they were checked for cataracts between 2008 and 2009.

There was an inverse relationship between the amount of meat consumed and cataract risk. In other words, those who ate a great amount of meat were at higher risk of cataracts. “Meat” included red meat, fowl and pork. These results followed what we call a dose-response curve. 

Compared to high meat eaters, every other group demonstrated a significant risk reduction as you progressed along a spectrum that included low meat eaters (15 percent reduction), fish eaters (21 percent reduction), vegetarians (30 percent reduction) and finally vegans (40 percent reduction). 

There really was not that much difference in meat consumption between high meat eaters, those having at least 3.5 ounces, and low meat eaters, those having less than 1.7 ounces a day, yet there was a substantial decline in cataracts. This suggests that you can realize a meaningful effect by simply reducing or replacing your average meat intake, rather than eliminating meat from your diet.

In my clinical experience, I’ve had several patients experience reversal of their cataracts after they transitioned to a nutrient-dense, plant-based diet. I didn’t think this was possible, but anecdotally, this is a very positive outcome and was confirmed by their ophthalmologists.

Do antioxidants have an effect?

Oxidative stress is one of the major contributors to the development of cataracts. In a review article that looked at 70 different trials for the development of cataract and/or maculopathies, such as age-related macular degeneration, the authors concluded antioxidants, which are micronutrients found in foods, play an integral part in eye disease prevention (3).

The authors go on to say that a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, as well as lifestyle modification with cessation of smoking and treatment of obesity at an early age, help to reduce the risk of cataracts. Thus, you are never too young or too old to take steps to prevent cataracts.

Among antioxidants studied that have shown positive effects is citrus. The Blue Mountains Eye Study found that participants who had the highest dietary intake of vitamin C reduced their 10-year risk for nuclear cataracts (4).

Cataract surgery

The only effective way to treat cataracts is with surgery; the most typical type is phacoemulsification. Ophthalmologists remove the opaque lens and replace it with a synthetic intraocular lens. This is done as an outpatient procedure and usually takes approximately 30 minutes. Fortunately, there is a very high success rate for this surgery. So why is it important to avoid cataracts if surgery can remedy them?

There are always potential risks with invasive procedures, such as infection, even though the chances of complications are low. However, more importantly, there is a greater than fivefold risk of developing late-stage age-related macular degeneration (AMD) after cataract surgery (5). This is wet AMD, which can cause significant vision loss. These results come from a meta-analysis (group of studies) looking at more than 6,000 patients.

It has been hypothesized that the surgery may induce inflammatory changes and the development of leaky blood vessels in the retina of the eye. However, because this meta-analysis was based on observational studies, it is not clear whether undiagnosed AMD may have existed prior to the cataract surgery, since they have similar underlying causes related to oxidative stress.

Therefore, if you can reduce the risk of cataracts through diet and other lifestyle modifications, plus avoid the potential consequences of cataract surgery, all while reducing the risk of chronic diseases, why not choose the win-win scenario?

References: 

(1) nei.nih.gov. (2) Am J Clin Nutr. 2011 May; 93(5):1128-1135. (3) Exp Eye Res. 2007; 84: 229-245. (4) Am J Clin Nutr. 2008 Jun; 87(6):1899-1305. (5) Ophthalmology. 2003; 110(10):1960.

Dr. David Dunaief is a speaker, author and local lifestyle medicine physician focusing on the integration of medicine, nutrition, fitness and stress management. For further information, visit www.medicalcompassmd.com.

Pixabay photo

By Bob Lipinski

Bob Lipinski

‘A glass of wine is a great refreshment after a hard day’s work.’ — Ludwig Van Beethoven, 1770-1827, German composer

Mendoza, a grape-growing province in the Cuyo region in the central-western part of the country, directly west of Buenos Aires, was founded in 1561. It is the country’s most important wine-producing area, and its main subregions include Uco Valley, Tupungato, Luján de Cuyo, and Maipú.

Vineyards are planted at the edge of the Andes Mountains, at some of the highest altitudes in the world, with the average site located 2,000 to 3,600 feet above sea level. The climate is desert-like with a mere 9-inches of rain per year, and irrigation is necessary to grow and ripen the grapes.

Mendoza is the largest and most important grape-growing province in Argentina, accounting for 70 percent of wine production, with over 375,000 acres of grapevines planted.

Red grapes account for over half of the entire province’s acreage. Mendoza’s red grapes include Malbec, Bonarda, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Tempranillo, and Merlot. Major white grapes include Pedro Giménez, Chardonnay, Torrontés Riojano, Chenin Blanc, and Sauvignon Blanc.

Some red wines from Mendoza to try are…

2011 Don Manuel Villafañe “Gran Malbec.” Intense violet color, complex nose with aromas of black fruit, raspberries, plums, and nuts. Medium-bodied and quite smooth with spices, licorice, and chocolate.

2018 Achával-Ferrer “Finca Altamira” Malbec. (The wine was aged 15 months in French oak barrels.) Inky in color; smells like raspberry jam, with dark fruit and spices. Full-bodied and tannin with flavors of espresso, blackberry, and bittersweet chocolate.

2016 Juan Gregorio Bazán Reserva “Blend Selection.” (Blend of Malbec 40%, Cabernet Sauvignon 40%, and Merlot 20%). Dark ruby color with a bouquet of raspberries and hickory smoke-flavored barbecue sauce. Medium-bodied with flavors of red plums and spices. Smooth finish and aftertaste of toasted oak.

2016 Cruz Alta “Grand Reserve” Cabernet Sauvignon. Deep color, full bouquet of black tea, juicy raspberries, and figs. Complex flavors of cherries, plums, and blackberries. Hints of vanilla and cocoa appear in the aftertaste.

2018 Septima “Cabernet Sauvignon.” Ruby colored with a bouquet of blackberry jam, black olive, black pepper, and toasted oak. Medium-bodied with flavors of plums and roasted coffee, with subtle nuances of licorice and mint.

Other producers to look for are Catena Zapata, Doña Paula, Familia Zuccardi, Norton, Rutini Wines, Salentein, Trapiche, Trivento, Vistalba, and Bodegas Weinert.

Bob Lipinski is the author of 10 books, including “101: Everything You Need To Know About Whiskey” and “Italian Wine & Cheese Made Simple” (available on Amazon.com). He consults and conducts training seminars on Wine, Spirits, and Food and is available for speaking engagements. He can be reached at www.boblipinski.com OR [email protected].

The following incidents have been reported by Suffolk County Police:

Centereach

■ A resident on Buick Drive in Centereach reported that two unknown men broke the rear car window of his vehicle on June 22 and removed two iPhones valued at $800 and cash.

■ A resident on Anne Drive in Centereach reported a petit larceny on June 22. Three men were observed entered her unlocked vehicle in the driveway and removing cash from a wallet. That same day, a car window on Corvette Road in Centereach was broken and a wallet was stolen.

Commack

■ Marshall’s on Henry Street in Commack reported a petit larceny on June 24. Two men allegedly stole miscellaneous clothing valued at $170.

■ Costco on Garet Place in Commack called the police on June 24 to report a shoplifter. A man allegedly stole a 48” LG television valued at $900.

■ Walmart on Crooked Hill Road reported a shoplifter on June 22. A person allegedly stole various electronics and cleaning supplies valued at $550.

■ Commack Cigar & Vape on Commack Road in Commack was burglarized on June 19. Someone smashed the glass front door and stole various items valued at $2,000.

■ A woman shopping at Trader Joe’s on Jericho Turnpike in Commack on June 25 reported that someone stole her wallet from her pocketbook while it was in a shopping cart.

■ Home Depot on Jericho Turnpike in Commack reported a shoplifter on June 24. A person allegedly stole assorted Milwaukee tools valued at $100.

■ Walmart on Crooked Hill Road in Commack called the police on June 25 to report that two en allegedly stole miscellaneous merchandise valued at $500.

East Setauket

■ Walmart on Nesconset Highway in East Setauket reported a shoplifter on June 21. A man allegedly stole a Sharper Image drone and miscellaneous items valued at $80.

Huntington Station

■ Saks 5th Avenue on Walt Whitman Road in Huntington Station called the police on June 21 to report a grand larceny. A man and a woman allegedly stole Chanel sunglasses valued at $675 and used a sleight of hand to steal money from a cashier.

■ A 2020 Acura MDX was reported stolen from a residence on 3rd Avenue in Huntington Station on June 19. The vehicle was valued at $20,000.

Miller Place

■ A patron of McNulty’s on North Country Road in Miller Place reported that a wallet containing credit cards was stolen from his car parked in the parking lot on June 23. 

■ Sonny’s Cards N’ Things on Route 25A in Miller Place reported a burglary on June 20. Someone smashed the glass front door and allegedly stole cash and lottery tickets.

Port Jefferson

■ A resident on Belle Terre Road in Port Jefferson called the police on June 22 to report that someone broke into their vehicle and stole headphones valued at $50.

Port Jefferson Station

■ A car was reported stolen from the driveway of a resident on Maple Avenue in Port Jefferson Station on June 22. The vehicle, a 2016 Lincoln MKZ, was valued at $18,000.

■ Speedway on Route 112 in Port Jefferson Station reported a burglary on June 20. A man allegedly broke the front glass door of the store overnight and stole numerous Newport cigarettes valued at $1100.

■ Uncle Giuseppe’s Marketplace on Route 112 in Port Jefferson Station reported a shoplifter on June 19. A man allegedly concealed food items including crab cakes, octopus salad, shrimp and steak in his jacket, went to the self-checkout, paid for several items but not what was in his jacket before fleeing. The items were valued at approximately $100.

■ A resident on Champlain Street in Port Jefferson Station reported that someone entered their unlocked vehicle parked in the street on June 18 and stole a wallet containing cash and credit cards. A second resident on the same street reported the same crime on June 19.

■ A resident on Peters Lane in Port Jefferson reported that someone entered his unlocked vehicle on June 18 and stole Apple AirPods and a wallet.

Rocky Point

■ A resident on Narcissus Road in Rocky Point reported that someone broke the window of her car on June 18 and stole a backpack with a laptop and sports gear.

■ A resident on Broadway in Rocky Point called the police on June 20 to report that someone removed a battery powered ATV Quad Razor valued at $600 from their property.

■ A resident on Rosewood Road in Rocky Point reported that someone entered his unlocked vehicle on June 18 and stole Apple iPods, backpack, and a wallet containing credit cards.

■ The rear passenger side window of a vehicle on Magnolia Drive in Rocky Point was reported broken on June 19 and a purse was stolen.

Selden

■ Walgreens on Middle Country Road in Selden reported a petit larceny on June 22. A man and a woman allegedly stole 6 12-packs of Corona beer. The items were valued at approximately $100.

■ Home Depot on Middle Country Road in Selden called the police on June 20 to report a shoplifter. A man allegedly stole copper wire valued at $160.

Smithtown

■ Off-Road N’ Outdoors Power Sports on West Jericho Turnpike in Smithtown reported a burglary on June 25. Two men broke the glass front door of the store and stole a dirt bike valued at $1800 and a locked cash box.

South Setauket

■ Stop & Shop on Pond Path in South Setauket reported a shoplifter on June 18. A man allegedly put $1750 worth of allergy and pain medications in a shopping cart and walked out without paying for the items.

Stony Brook

■ Country House Restaurant on North Country Road in Stony Brook reported a burglary on June 25. Someone broke a window to gain entry but fled when the alarm went off.

Suffolk County Crime Stoppers offers a cash reward for information that leads to an arrest. Anyone with information about these incidents can contact Suffolk County Crime Stoppers to submit an anonymous tip by calling 1-800-220-TIPS.

— COMPILED BY HEIDI SUTTON

Above, a stand of Christmas Fern. Photo by John Turner

By John L. Turner

Throughout the forests, woodlands, and wetlands of Long Island exists a group of plants with great lineage and I do mean GREAT lineage, with a fossil record that goes back approximately 360 million of years, well before the appearance of dinosaurs. In some places in the world, but not Long Island, these species reach tree size. Dozens of examples of this group can be found here, perhaps one or a few in an untouched section of your yard. What group might this be? Ferns and their relatives — the clubmosses and horsetails (the latter two will be the subject of a future article).

Because they aren’t colorful, ferns are often thought of as “background plants” in landscape settings. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t beautiful because many are very much so, given their fragile, graceful, and lacy appearances. Generally you can think of a fern frond as being “undivided, once-divided, twice-divided, or thrice-divided,” the lacier a fern the more “cuts” or divisions it has. (We don’t have any undivided ferns native to Long Island). 

Rare ferns seen at Fort Totten. Photo by John Turner

Remembering how many times a fern is divided is a convenient way to classify and identify species (it’s how I learned it many decades ago). So a fern like the well-known Christmas Fern, is a “once-divided fern” since its one division creates just a series of leaflets that collectively make up its frond surface. A twice-divided fern, like Bracken Fern, has leaflets like the Christmas Fern but in the Bracken Fern’s case, the leaflets themselves have cuts, creating subleaflets or pinnules. If, in turn, the subleaflets are cut to form even smaller lobes, as in Hayscented Fern, you’re looking at a thrice-divided fern.

Ferns have no flowers — no nectar, pollen, or seeds and depend upon no insects or animals to successfully reproduce. Rather, they depend upon spores and vegetative spread (through rhizomes in most cases but also, as in the case of Walking Fern, an undivided species that doesn’t grow on Long Island, in which the fern tip arches downward to anchor in the soil from which another fern grows, hence the term “walking”). 

The tiny, almost microscopic, spores develop within a case known as a sporangia. Often the sporangia are clustered together in what are known as sori or fruit-dots (although this isn’t accurate). The location of the sori can be very helpful, in fact diagnostic, in identifying fern species. With some, such as Sensitive, Cinnamon, and Netted Chain Ferns, the sori are located on a separate stalk, while in others like Grape Ferns they are connected via a stalk to the main frond. Most often though, the sori are located on the underside of the frond leaflets and their shape and location on the leaflet can be diagnostic as to species. A five to seven power hand lens opens up a new world to you while inspecting the many distinctive spore cases produced by our native ferns.

You might reasonably assume that a spore, wafting away from a sporangia upon the slightest breeze, will eventually land in a suitable location, germinate, and develop into a new fern. Your assumption, while most reasonable, would be incorrect as the process is more complicated and this is where the concept of “alternation of generations” comes in. The spore does germinate and develop, but not directly into a new fern. Rather, it grows into a prothallus, a small structure shaped like a Valentine’s Day heart. The prothallus is the “gametophyte” stage because the prothallus contains the gametes or sex cells (sperm and egg) On one part of the “heart” is the antheridia, where the sperm come from, and nearby is the archegonia, which produces the egg. In optimal conditions, that is, when the prothallus is wet, the sperm travels the short distance to the egg. Upon germination a new spore-producing fern (the sporophyte stage) develops. The sporophyte is the fern stage that is before your eyes to identify and enjoy. So we have sporophyte-gametophyte-sporophyte-gametophyte, ad infinitum.

As mentioned, some ferns spread vegetatively through the growth of underground horizontally oriented rhizomes from which new fronds grow in a perpendicular fashion, emerging from the surface of the soil. Bracken Fern, the common fern species of the drier upland habitats in the Pine Barrens, is an excellent example of a fern that spreads through rhizomes. In some places bracken fern stands can cover as much as an acre or more.

Long Island is home to several dozen fern species, present in most habitats occurring here. Freshwater and forest habitats are especially well represented with ferns; however, none occur in salt marshes or on beach dunes. Let’s look at some!

The previously mentioned Christmas Fern is a common and widespread species growing throughout Long Island’s woodlands. It is often noted the species received its name from the similarity of a leaflet to a Christmas stocking hanging from a fireplace mantle. A competing explanation is that this fern species is one of the few plants still green through the winter, standing out around Christmas time.

Similar looking to Christmas Fern but smaller is the Common Polypody, so named due to the resemblance of the leaflets to lobed feet (think pody-podiatrist). This fern is uncommon here, growing on steep slopes and large boulders. This species was a favorite of Henry David Thoreau who on several occasions remarked about the “cheerful communities” of polypody growing on rocks in New England.

Sensitive Fern grows in more sunlit locations and is easy to identify, with a “once-divided” look. As mentioned above, the sporangia are on separate stalks growing from the rootstock. Come the fall and frost, Sensitive Fern quickly dies back, hence its name.

Cinnamon Fern is an abundant fern growing in moist woodlands and wooded swamps. It is quite distinctive with a beautiful growth form in which several sterile fronds radiate from a central rootstock with the spore-producing fronds coming up through the middle. The sterile fronds appear as unfurling fiddleheads (there are no species of ferns known as fiddleheads per se; a fiddlehead is a growth stage of some ferns in which the emerging frond at first is curled like the head of a fiddle; in some species, the fiddleheads are edible). They are coated in a cinnamon “wool” — giving rise to the common name — which is reportedly used by hummingbirds and a few songbirds as nest lining material.

Bracken Fern is, as mentioned earlier, locally common to abundant in the Pine Barrens, forming an extensive thigh-high layer, unmistakable due to its triangular growth form. Bracken Fern is one of the more widespread species of ferns, found in many other places in the world including Japan and Asia. While it spreads mostly vegetatively, it also produces spores located on the rolled margins of the leaflets. It was once harvested for food but this came to an end when the species was determined to be carcinogenic.

New York Fern is another common woodland fern. It is distinguished by the tapered nature of both the top and bottom of the frond. Supposedly, a New England botanist thought this tapered growth form reminded him of New York socialites who “burned their candles at both ends” and the name New York Fern stuck.

Most native ferns here are adapted to acidic soils and as a result we don’t have many ferns that prefer more basic, calcarious soils found in limestone regions. On a birding field trip six years ago to Fort Totten in northern Queens Andy Greller (a very fine botanist, naturalist, retired Biology Professor from Queens College, and all around good guy) and I found some Purple Cliffbrake and Blunt-lobed Cliff Fern growing in the mortar seams holding together the large stones of the fort. The mortar provided the right conditions for these limestone loving ferns to thrive.

There are many other ferns awaiting your discovery — Royal and Interrupted Ferns both of which are related to Cinnamon Fern (the latter so named because the leaflets on the sterile frond are “interrupted” by the fertile leaflets in the middle of the frond), the Chain Ferns, the Grape Ferns, the hard to identify but lacy Wood Ferns, Lady, Marsh and Hay-scented Ferns, the distinctive looking Ebony Spleenwort, and a few others.

Right now these species await your visit and if you go exploring, don’t forget to bring a hand lens!

A resident of Setauket, John Turner is conservation chair of the Four Harbors Audubon Society, author of “Exploring the Other Island: A Seasonal Nature Guide to Long Island” and president of Alula Birding & Natural History Tours.

METRO photo

By Barbara Beltrami

They’re here! Grab one and bite into it. Let the juice run down your chin, down your arm and onto your shirt. If it’s a good peach, who cares? If it’s not, you’ve wasted your money and made an unnecessary mess. And in my experience there’s no way of knowing whether it will be succulent and delicious or taste like a raw potato. It’s also been my experience that a peach’s quality has nothing to do with its price. 

I’ve bought peaches that are all rosy and perfect looking in green quart baskets at local farm stands and paid a handsome price for them only to have them go furry on me before they’re even ripened, and I’ve bought peaches on sale  at the supermarket that are not so rosy and are hard as rocks and had them ripen and taste wonderful. It’s really anybody’s guess what the variable is.  

The only thing I can say is that one should never ever buy a peach with any blemish whatsoever because it will not end well. You’ll ultimately  have to salvage parts of that peach that have not started to rot and cook them up to go with a nice dish of vanilla ice cream. Should you have to do that, here are a few recipes to try.

Peach Tart

YIELD: Makes 6 to 8 servings

INGREDIENTS: 

1 1/2 cups flour

1/4 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

7 tablespoons butter, softened

1 large egg

1 egg yolk

1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons apricot jam

4 medium peaches, cut into 1/2” wedges

Confectioners’ sugar for dusting

DIRECTIONS:

Place oven rack in lower third of oven, then preheat oven to 375 F. In a food processor combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and butter. Pulse a few times to blend, then add the egg and egg yolk and pulse just until a soft dough forms; turn the dough out onto a pastry board and knead until it all comes together. Press the dough onto the bottom and sides of a 10 1/2” fluted tart pan with a removable bottom. 

Spread the quarter cup jam over the bottom crust, then arrange peaches in concentric circles on top. Bake for 20 minutes or until crust is a light golden color and peaches are still a little hard; spread the remaining two tablespoons jam over the peaches and return tart to oven and bake for 25-30 minutes more, until crust is a nice golden color and peaches are tender.

Let cool about 30 minutes, then dust with confectioners’ sugar, remove from pan and serve warm with creme fraiche. 

Peachy Barbecue Sauce

YIELD: Makes about 2 cups

INGREDIENTS: 

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 large shallot, diced

One 3” piece ginger, peeled and diced

3/4 pound peeled, pitted and diced fresh peaches

3/4 cup apple cider vinegar

1/2 cup brown sugar, firmly packed

Salt and pepper to taste

1 teaspoon dried hot pepper flakes

DIRECTIONS:

In a medium saucepan over high heat, warm the oil, then add the shallot and ginger; stirring often, cook until shallot is soft, about 3-5 minutes; add peaches, vinegar, brown sugar, salt and pepper, and hot pepper flakes; stir and bring to a simmer, lower heat and maintain a gentle simmer until the peaches are very soft, about 25-30 minutes. Using an immersion blender, puree the sauce until it reaches desired consistency, then use to baste ribs, chicken or pork and serve with corn on the cob.

Peach Crisp

YIELD: Makes 6 servings

INGREDIENTS: 

3 pounds fresh peaches, peeled, pitted, diced

1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar

1/2 cup flour

1/2 cup rolled or quick oats

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg

Pinch salt

6 tablespoons unsalted butter

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 375 F. Butter a 9” square baking dish. Arrange peaches evenly in baking dish. In a medium bowl, combine brown sugar, flour, oats, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and butter. Mix until it achieves a crumbly consistency; sprinkle over peaches; bake until golden brown and crispy on top, about 30 minutes. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream. 

Apple Fritter. Photo from Smithtown Animal Shelter

MEET APPLE FRITTER!

This week’s featured shelter pet is Apple Fritter, a 2-year-old Puggle Mix currently up for adoption at the Smithtown Animal Shelter. 

Apple Fritter. Photo from Smithtown Animal Shelter

Sweet Apple Fritter was found as a stray and was never claimed.  This little lady loves people and is gentle natured.  She will likely do well with another dog her size that can help show her the ropes.  Apple was clearly not walked or exposed to the world because she shows a lot of fear. Her ideal home would be an active one with the ability to show her how to be confident and how to enjoy the world around her. She would be a wonderful addition to any home.

If you would like to meet Apple Fritter, please call ahead to schedule an hour to properly interact with her in a domestic setting.

The Smithtown Animal & Adoption Shelter is located at 410 Middle Country Road, Smithtown. Visitor hours are currently Monday to Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. (Sundays and Wednesday evenings by appointment only). For more information, call 631-360-7575 or visit www.townofsmithtownanimalshelter.com.

Photo by Gayatri Malhotra. Unsplash photo

People often wish they could turn back time. The U.S. Supreme Court did just that on Friday, June 24.

America has been cast back to the mid-20th century as states can now make it illegal for women to get abortions. The justices overturned Roe v. Wade, the 1973 landmark decision that granted a pregnant woman federal license to have an abortion and struck down federal and state laws that forbade the medical procedure. The recent Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision also overturned Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the 1992 decision that affirmed Roe’s central holding and cemented abortion access as judicial precedent. 

Around two dozen states are now poised to criminalize abortion, a collective slap in the face to all women from the court’s conservative majority. Women of childbearing age will now have fewer options than their mothers or grandmothers. The reversal can lead to dangerous abortions, especially when one has limited access to health care.

The U.S. already has the highest maternal mortality rates among developed nations, according to the Commonwealth Fund. The actual number is bound to climb as women’s reproductive health is no longer federally protected.

How will these states deal with the repercussions? How will they pay for children whose parents can’t afford to raise them or for the therapy some women will need after delivering a child conceived during rape? Who will adopt or foster the children who are given up, because a mother knows she can’t take care of her child.

Yes, there are more ways to try to prevent unwanted pregnancies. However, birth control is not 100%, and in the case of rape, sometimes by someone who is known, people are not always given a choice regarding having sex.

What’s equally disturbing is that Justice Clarence Thomas wrote that other landmark decisions such as those regarding contraception, sodomy laws and same-sex marriage should be reconsidered.

Are the Supreme Court justices allowing religion to motivate them when making these decisions or suggesting reviews of other laws? There have been debates over when life begins, because we live in a melting pot where people come from various religious backgrounds and some don’t identify with any one religion. In the U.S., we have varying opinions on numerous subjects. There is a need to make a decision considering those varying opinions.

Most of all, women deserve body autonomy. Lawmakers can’t make Americans donate organs after death, so how can they tell women that no matter what their circumstances, one option is not available to them.

The reversal of Roe v. Wade sets a dangerous precedent. Allowing states to set their own laws regarding major issues can lead to chaos.

U.S. citizens don’t have to sit on the sidelines. Every election is a chance to voice our opinions. During the midterm elections, vote for the candidates who will protect and fight for our rights to make our own personal choices.

Members of the CanCan team, from left,Oliver Maddocks, David Lewis, Johan Vande Voorde, Bette Caan, Marcus Goncalves, Eileen White, Mariam Jamal-Hanjani, Tobias Janowitz, Karen Mustian, Janelle Ayres andToni Hui

By Daniel Dunaief

If a team Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Assistant Professor Tobias Janowitz co-leads succeeds, researchers will know more about the end stage of numerous types of cancer that involves the loss of tissue and muscle mass.

Tobias Janowitz

Recently, lead scientists Janowitz; Eileen White, Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey Deputy Director and Chief Scientific Officer; and Dr. Marcus DaSilva Goncalves, Assistant Professor of Medicine at Weill Cornell Medicine received $25 million in funding as a part of a Cancer Grand Challenge, which is a combined trans-Atlantic funding effort between Cancer Research UK and the National Cancer Institute in the United States.

The cachexia group was one of four teams to receive funding among 11 finalists.

Bruce Stillman, president of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, described cachexia as “one of the most difficult clinical problems with late stage cancer.”

Stillman added that the collaboration is promising because it brings together a group of “remarkable” scientists, including White, who was a postdoctoral fellow in Stillman’s lab. “It has great potential for making a difference in the lives of patients.”

Stillman believes Janowitz is an ideal co leader for this challenging project because he has an MD and a PhD and is clinically certified as an oncologist.

CanCan team

For his part, Janowitz is looking forward to the opportunity to team up with other ambitious research efforts to create a virtual institute.

Eileen White

“It’s incredibly exciting to get the chance to do something you think is higher risk with a large group of people who have come together around this problem,” said Janowitz. “We often talked about how it would be nice to bring team members from other disciplines into this area.”

Indeed, the cachexia team, which White named CanCan for Cancer Cachexia Action Network believes cachexia is a tumor-driven metabolic imbalance. The group is pursuing different areas of research, including metabolism, neuroendocrinology, clinical research, and immunology, among others, to define clinical subtypes with the hopes of creating individualized therapies.

While the effort brings together a range of scientists with different expertise and technological skills, researchers don’t expect an immediate therapeutic solution within that time frame. Rather, they anticipate that their experiments and clinical data will help inform future approaches that could enhance efforts to prevent and treat a wasting disease that causes severe declines in a patient’s quality of life.

“What we would deem as a success is, if in five years time, we have maybe one to three strong lead hypotheses that comes out of our shared work on how we can either prevent or treat cachexia as it emerges,” Janowitz said.

The complexity of cachexia

Dr. Marcus DaSilva Goncalves

As a complex process that involves an understanding of numerous interconnected dynamics, cachexia has been a challenging field for researchers and a difficult one for funding agencies looking for discrete problems with definable results and solutions.

Cachexia research had “never reached this critical mass that people were seeing where we can say, ‘Okay, there’s enough work going on to really unravel this,’” Janowitz said.

The CanCan team has several scientific themes. Janowitz will be involved with metabolic dysregulation. He would like to understand the behavioral changes around appetite and food intake.

Additionally, the group will explore the interaction of normal cells and cancer cells by looking at the tumor micro environment. This research will explore how cancer cells can reprogram healthy host cells.

“We’ve got a really exciting axis of research” within the network, Janowitz said.

Searching for signaling molecules

Janowitz said Norbert Perrimon, James Stillman Professor of Developmental Biology at Harvard Medical School is one of the leading experts in fly genetics and fly biology. Perrimon has created a model of cachexia in the fruit fly. While that sounds far from patients, Perrimon can use single molecule resolution of the entire organism to get an insight and understanding of candidate molecules.

“We are hoping to search for new signaling molecules that might get involved” in cachexia, Janowitz said. Once the research finds new candidates, he and others can validate whether they also work in mouse models of cancer and cancer cachexia.

With numerous clinical groups, Janowitz hopes to contribute to the design and execution of experimental medicine studies.

The Cancer Grand Challenge will distribute the funds based on what members need. Janowitz described the allocation of funds as “roughly equitable.” He will use that funding to support a postdoctoral researcher, a PhD student and a technician, who can help with specific projects he’s merging in his lab to combine with the team effort.

The funds will also support his salary so he can supervise the work in his lab and help with the coordination of this effort.

The funding agencies have an additional budget to organize conferences and meetings, where researchers can discuss ideas in person and can ensure that any clinical and laboratory work is standardized and reproducible in different facilities.

Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory will host the first full gathering of the cachexia team in November.

Challenging beginnings

When he was a doctor in the United Kingdom, Janowitz was fascinated and confounded by cachexia. In the early years of his training, he saw patients who had a small tumor burden, but were so sick that they died. Those experiences made “such a strong imprint” that he wanted to help unravel this process as a junior oncologist, he said.

Getting funding was challenging because cachexia was complex and didn’t involve a finely defined project that linked a receptor protein to a cell type that led to a diseased condition.

Janowitz, among others in this field, felt passionate enough about this area to continue to search for information about cachexia. After he restructured his research into a narrower focus, he secured more funding.

An unsolved mystery

With enough researchers continuing along this path, Janowitz said the group developed an awareness that this is “one of the big, unsolved mysteries of cancer progression.”

Janowitz appreciates the opportunity to work with a team that has accomplished researchers who work in fields that are related or synergistic, but aren’t necessarily considered part of the cachexia field.

The significant funding comes with expectations.

“The grant is both a great joy, but also, essentially, a mandate of duty,” he said. “Now, you have to utilize this grant to make significant contributions to understand and hopefully treat this debilitating condition.”

METRO photo

By Father Frank Pizzarelli

Father Frank Pizzarelli

June is the time of year when school ends and summer begins. It’s a time of year when our high school seniors graduate and prepare to transition into young adults. Some will go away to college; others will prepare to enter the workforce. All of our graduates will hopefully deal with all of the challenges of change and transition in a positive way.

The hard question to answer is are these graduates ready and prepared for the new challenges before them? The pandemic has definitely impaired many of these extraordinary young men and women.

However, despite the challenges and the lack of holistic services in the area of mental health and addiction services, many of these graduates have begun to navigate the difficult road before them with extraordinary character and integrity.

Despite the polarizing landscape they must navigate, the class of 2022 are genuinely beacons of hope. So many of them have courageously challenged the hypocrisy of our present age. They have reached out to the most vulnerable and marginalized among us.

A growing number of high school students who have graduated and have been victimized by the mass school shootings that have ripped at the soul of America have become prophetic voices in our midst. They have worked tirelessly to raise people’s awareness that sensible gun laws don’t infringe on our Second Amendment rights, but rather remind us that all life is sacred and we need to protect all!

Graduates of 2022, thank you for reminding all of us that hope lives in our midst and that your class is going to make a profound difference in our world! Thank you for reminding us that all people matter, no matter what their race, religion, sexual orientation, or economic status.

Class of 2022, may you always have the courage despite our social climate of divisiveness to build bridges instead of walls, to create a world where love, forgiveness and inclusiveness are foundational.

One of your classmates this graduation season did not walk with his fellow seniors because he was killed due to gun violence. His high school career was marked by compassion and service to others. He constantly talked to his mom about wanting to go into public service after college and trying to make a difference in the world. He won’t have that opportunity but many of you could choose that career path. We desperately need you; our democracy is moving towards autocracy; we need your help to reclaim the soul of our nation and protect our freedoms.

May you always remember hope does not abandon us, we abandon hope! Class of 2022 —  always be men and women of hope!

Father Francis Pizzarelli, SMM, LCSW-R, ACSW, DCSW, is the director of Hope House Ministries in Port Jefferson.

By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

We don’t usually go to bed thinking, “what if I’m wrong?” We don’t get up asking ourselves the same question.

We develop our beliefs, stick with them and, as time goes on, we defend them or push for change based on something we think, or are fairly certain, we know.

But it’s worth considering the possibility that we might be wrong, particularly in connection with something as important as the only habitable planet we know.

If you don’t believe climate change is a threat and you think rules restricting environmental pollution are unnecessary and a federal government overreach, have you considered the consequences of being wrong?

I won’t trot out all the climate science experts who have what they consider incontrovertible proof that the climate is warming based on years of data.

You’d probably come back with the argument that the data can be interpreted in other ways or that science itself rarely has complete certainty.

You might even suggest that a warmer climate would mean we wouldn’t need to use as much heat during the winter months and that some crops might grow better during a longer, hotter growing season.

While I don’t ascribe to those thoughts —which a headline grabbing Republican recently espoused — because of the danger to so many staple crops from a warmer season that could include droughts and storms that cripple cities and destroy crops, I want those who don’t believe climate change is real to consider what might happen if they are wrong.

At the time of this writing, the Supreme Court hadn’t ruled on West Virginia vs. Environmental Protection Agency. If the conservative majority, who have been reshaping the political and legal landscape at a rapid pace, rules as expected, the EPA will have less authority to regulate power plant pollution.

That would mean power plants won’t have to comply with federal rules that limit the gases they emit into the environment and the pollutants they send into the air.

These companies may be able to make more money by continuing to operate as they had in the past. Yay for them? Right? Well, not so fast.

What’s the risk if they are wrong? We all make decisions when weighing risks, whether it’s the types of stocks we invest in, the places we go that might be dangerous at night, or the undercooked foods we eat.

So, if they’re wrong, the world continues to heat up, storms such as hurricanes move more slowly, dumping more rain on any one area, crops get destroyed, glaciers continue to melt causing sea levels to rise, and biodiversity declines, wiping out species that might have otherwise led to cures for disease or provide future food sources.

Some areas also become uninhabitable.

Our children, grandchildren and future generations can’t come back to tell us who was right. What we do or don’t do, however, will undoubtedly affect them.

Using the same logic climate change deniers use to suggest that nothing is certain, it seems critical to hedge their bets, protecting us from a future they believe is possible but unlikely.

Even if the Supreme Court acts (or acted, depending on the timing) as expected, we don’t have to be fatalistic or cynical about the next steps in the battle against our own gaseous waste.

Utilities and other companies that produce these gases have to take responsibility for their actions, regardless of what the Supreme Court says or does. Even reluctant legislators have to consider what might happen if they are wrong. Yes, leaders have numerous other problems.

We can’t ignore the Earth. If some people consider the consequences of freeing up companies to send carbon dioxide into the only air we have, they might be making a one-way mistake. They must consider what will happen if they are wrong.