Advances in Nanoparticle Technology!

Medical science in the 21st century is increasingly more sophisticated and growing exponentially. One of the more fascinating areas of medical research involves the evolution of nanoparticles.

Nanoparticles are (in simple terms) small objects that behave as a unit to have common properties and to perform specific jobs.They are tiny complex particles on the scale of one billionth of a meter—mere fractions of the width of a human hair.

These particles are molecular-sized entities that can be made from almost any material: metals, plastics and a multitude of hybrid materials. The most common at present are made of silicon, and 3D printing technology is advancing this technology faster than ever.

Because they are approximately the size of a biological molecule, they offer great potential for use in the human body to cure diseases, mainly because of their ability to transport substances on their surfaces or within their structures (think sponge-like configurations) into the body.

When used for medical purposes, they enter the body most often via intravenous injections. But advanced nanos that can be administered via an oral capsule and nanoemulsions that could be used for aerosolized nasal delivery are being developed.

Recently, I came across an interesting article about new research into using nanotechnology to prevent the paralysis resulting from severe spinal cord injuries.

When spinal cord injuries occur, often it’s the body’s own immune system that causes the inflammation and subsequent paralysis by squeezing and killing nerve cells. Inflammation prevents communication between neurons and produces scars that prevent nerve cells from regenerating. Thus, there is a cascade paralysis effect to areas below the injury site.

Nanoparticles, in this case, are used to bind with immune cells to prevent them from racing to the spinal injury and causing inflammation that may create a paralysis. These nanoparticles, in essence, render inflammation-causing immune cells useless and protect the spinal cord from inflammation. This allows nerve tissue to regenerate.

To this date, the process has been successful with mice and this area of research is also targeting multiple sclerosis.

As with all technological advances, the amazing cures and enhanced qualities of life that are on the forefront of nanoparticle development could have an alternate dark side. As we’re seen with powerful herbal and pharmaceutical remedies, misuse can result in lethal outcomes.

I can already imagine what poisons and toxins could be delivered into the body by nanos, and what other lethal consequences could be achieved by ill-used nanoparticles entering the body by injection, oral or nasal spray applications.

Thoughts? Comments? I’d love to hear them!

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Dead Man’s Fingers Fungus

I’ll bet you’re thinking this blog is about a disease, and maybe a “yucky” one at that. Nope . . . not even close! This is all about another type of fungus—mushrooms.

Mushrooms are a culinary delight, including such wonderful treats as morel mushrooms and truffles. Even the more common, and much less expensive, varieties are welcome additions to many recipes.

Care must be taken, however, to stay away from some of the deadly varieties, such as those I wrote about in a previous blog. Some varieties can be used, and are often abused, for their hallucinogenic effects. I’ve described those in another blog.

There is a most interesting variety of mushroom that reeks of death. However, it’s not deadly to humans. It’s commonly called “Dead Man’s Fingers.” The technical name for this fungus is Xylaria polymorpha.

Although this fungus can resemble the fingers of a corpse reaching out from the earth, it’s not a zombie clawing its way out of a grave. It does have deadly properties, however, only not to humans. Dead Man’s Fingers are fungi growing out of decaying wood—stumps or logs of dead, buried trees—that continue the decay process to rot wood.

In fact, this attribute has several beneficial purposes. The Dead Man’s Fingers fungi are nature’s sanitation to rid forests of dead tree wood. These fungi are also used to increase the acoustic ability of woods used to make violins. Raw violin wood is inoculated with the Xylaria fungi to cause a certain degree of wood decay, thereby decreasing the wood’s density. After a time, the fungus is killed with ethylene oxide to prevent further wood rot and this creates the beautiful sounds of a violin.

Although this fungus is indigenous to the regions of Nepal, Bhutan and Northeastern India, it can be seen in the United States where it attacks apple, maple, beech and elm trees as well as a variety of ornamental shrubs to destroy home landscapes.

The colors of these interesting fungi vary from white to blue to black at different stages in their life cycle. When young, they are pale in color, almost white, and they vary from that whitish color to a pale blue as they grow. When this variety of mushroom continues to age, the bluish color deepens all the way to black before the fungus dries out and dies.

In China, younger blue fungi are often cooked and eaten; but, as the fungi age, they are considered not edible because they become hard to digest. At that point, most Dead Man’s Finger Fungi are used as decorations or garnish, instead.

I don’t consider this fungus lethal in any way to humans, but it can make for an interesting plot twist if used in a setting where it might appear that human remains are reaching out from the grave. I’ll have to figure out a way to use this in one of my storylines. What about you?

Thoughts? Comments? I’d love to hear them!

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When a Murder is Not Technically a Murder!

When someone dies, they’re dead, right? Well . . . maybe not. And when someone dies at the hand of another, that’s a murder, right? Well . . . maybe that’s true, or maybe not.

Sure, there are various degrees of murder, ranging from intentional to unintentional homicide—and those include legal terms such as first degree or second degree murder, negligent homicide, etc.

But what if the dead person simply wakes up and walks out of the morgue? Is that considered a murder, or is that an “almost murder” if the person wakes up the next day and recovers from that dastardly deed?

Legally, people are either dead or not! Is an “almost murder” called an assault? What if the person was not technically harmed, nor remembers any such event? What is that called?

Three years ago, I published a murder mystery novel that featured my favorite detective duo—Homicide Detective Rosie Young and her partner Detective Vince Mendez. Rosie is tough, single-minded and a no-nonsense investigator. Vince, on the other hand, is more laid back. He kicks back and analyzes more than Rosie. She’s inclined to power her way through a case and pull out all the stops to find the bad guy.

In my Novel ALMOST DEAD, these detectives encounter the true challenge of their lifetime when, not one, but two murder victims wake up within 24-hours of their “murder” and simply move on with their lives as if nothing had happened. So, that can’t be called a murder, right?

Well, these victims appear dead with all the diagnostic clues of end of life—no muscle, corneal or gag reflexes, no detectable heartbeat or breath sounds. They were pronounced dead by the coroner beyond a shadow of a doubt!

Impossible, you say? Maybe, but there is science to explain such events. And, of course, drugs do exist that, when administered in the proper dosages, can create a situation that mimics death. In my novel I use both the science of physiology and some interesting pharmaceutical agents to make that very thing happen.

There is a long list of drugs, both from ancient times and the present, that can mimic death, and I’ve blogged about them in the past. The problem with most is that they are short-acting, and larger doses that can prolong a deep comatose state either produce violent side effects or lead to a truly lethal outcome.

In ALMOST DEAD, I create the plot and the perfect combination of drugs to produce unique and believable death scenes that prove to be only temporary with the victims not staying dead.

The chase to find answers and uncover the person responsible for such craziness leads Detectives Rosie Young and Vince Mendez on a multi-faceted, fast-paced hunt of this elusive villain and leaves a body count of truly dead people in their wake.

ALMOST DEAD is the first in my detective series. Book two is my current work in process and will be published toward the end of this year.

Almost Dead – A Murder Mystery Novel

“Intriguing and Great Entertainment!”

Click HERE for Amazon Download

(Available in eBook or Paperback Formats)

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Drug Trade Balances

First off, this is not a blog about trade wars! I adhere to the philosophy of not blogging about religion, politics or sex—and today is no exception—but, with so much in the news about trade tariffs, my pharmaceutical mind went to the question of where our prescription drugs originate.

Those prescription drugs in your medicine cabinet are purchased from various and sundry pharmacies (online pharmacies, mail order, corner drug stores, etc), but how and where do those pharmacies acquire their drugs? They usually buy them from a drug supplier called a drug wholesaler. Many large chain pharmacies, however, now order them from centralized, company-owned warehouses.

But, where do THOSE drug wholesalers or central warehouses get their medications from? Good question! It’s possible that there may be yet another wholesale middleman before we can say that those warehoused drugs are bought from a pharmaceutical manufacturer.

The supply chain of prescription drugs that ends with your prescriptions dispensed at the store level can be very complex and that supply chain often takes an international route before ending up in consumer hands.

Are prescription drugs sold in the United States even made in the United States? How about Canada? Do Canadian pharmacies stock only drugs actually made in Canada? Those questions are again complex with no simple answer.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) generally defines a specific drug’s country of origin as ONLY the final stop in the manufacturing process where the ingredients are actually combined into a pill, capsule, patch or solution—or even packaged in the final container. Studies show that more than three quarters of the active ingredients of a drug (the specific substance that actually causes a prescription to produce a therapeutic effect) are manufactured mainly in India and China.

Per FDA guidelines, drug companies are required only to list the name and their business address on the label. Therefore, a US-based pharmaceutical company could list a US name and address for a finished drug product even though the active ingredients, or the drug itself, was made overseas.

That means your common cholesterol-lowering medications, even the more expensive brand-name ones made in the US, may contain ingredients actually made in manufacturing plants in India, China and elsewhere. Estimates are that up to 80% of the active ingredients of even brand name medications are manufactured in India and China.

Furthermore, some of the most commonly used generic medications are now completed into finished products in other countries, and India and China are where most of those drug manufacturing plants are located. Generic drugs make up almost 90% of the prescription medications consumed in the US and Canada, and nearly 40% are made in India alone and shipped in.

My point here is that prescription medications are an international commodity, especially generic drugs, and the medications you take every single day may well be affected by any change in trade policy.

I won’t discuss the pros and cons of generic drugs here. I wrote a blog a long time ago about this. Click HERE to see that blog. I believe most generic medications are safe to use. I take some of those medications myself from time to time, but I readily admit that oversight of the overseas manufacturing plants is not as stringent as those on the North American continent.

As examples of what can go terribly wrong in some international manufacturing plants and the lethal ripple effect that can happen anywhere all along the drug distribution chain, you can read my novels Lethal Medicine and Imperfect Murder.

Both are in my Jon Masters international thriller series. I’m proud that both have received great reviews on Amazon, and one of those actually freaked out my editor as she worked on polishing that manuscript. Maybe they’ll give you a thrill as well, or maybe even some goose bumps, if you read them.

Thoughts? Comments? I’d love to hear them!

I’d also love for you to read my novels ~ Great Entertainment!

Order Lethal Medicine HERE and Imperfect Murder HERE.


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Eat Real Food and Live Longer

The headline would seem to be a no-brainer. Eat real food instead of “junk food” and you’ll likely live longer, or at least have a better quality of life as you age. These days, however, eating real food (i.e.: unprocessed foods) may not be as easy as you think. Additionally, including ultra-processed foods in our modern diets has increased dramatically over the past several decades.

An ultra-processed food is generally defined as a food item that contains multiple chemical ingredients and which is manufactured from a variety of industrial processes.

Some would say the age of processed foods began with the introduction of the “TV Dinner Age” and that may well be true. The switch to convenience or packaged foods from store shelves, fast foods from drive-thru outlets, and eating at restaurants that simply microwave foods that are pre-made offsite are all included in this category of ultra-processed foods.

Recent studies indicate that increased consumption of ultra-processed foods result in a higher risk of an early death. These foods contribute to a shorter lifespan in a number of ways that include heart disease, high blood pressure, cancer, diabetes and other chronic diseases.

Eating “clean” is generally defined as eating real foods that do not contain chemical ingredients. Ultra-processed foods are on the other side of the spectrum, with ingredients that include a list of chemicals with too many syllables to pronounce or even define. In general, previous studies have shown a link between high consumption of processed foods and an increased risk of obesity and the chronic diseases mentioned above.

A recent study shows that about 30% of the calories in a modern diet comes from foods that are in the ultra-processed category. The study also indicated that, for each 10% increase in the proportion of ultra-processed foods in a participant’s diet, there was a corresponding 14% higher risk of death over the study period of seven years.

Ultra-processed foods are higher in sodium, have a greater sugar content, and are low in fiber. They also generally contain chemicals that may be harmful or at least produce harmful chemicals in the manufacturing process. An example that has been studied extensively is the nitrite chemicals added to processed meats like bacon and hot dogs.

I have decided to “eat clean” for a number of reasons. I’m an older adult and want to remain active and healthy for a great many more years. I also have arthritis in some of my joints, particularly my hands and shoulders, and I have started a regimen of eating less inflammatory foods. The short story on my journey to eating clean from an inflammatory standpoint is to eat less processed foods, but also less refined carbohydrates. So, my diet is now richer in unprocessed fruits, vegetables, proteins and good fats with less reliance on commercial carbohydrates to fill me up.

I’ll keep you posted on my progress. Maybe I’ll even drop a couple of those nasty excess pounds in the process.

Thoughts? Comments? I’d like to hear them!

Posted in About James J. Murray, Added Sugar Content on Food Labels, Blog Writers, Blogging, Chemicals in Our Foods, Cleaning Up The Modern Diet, Deadly Food, Designer Diets, Eating Clean, Fat Content on Labels of Foods, Food Trends, Foods For Health, Foods That Kill, Foods to Prevent Aging, How To Change Bad Habits, James J. Murray Blog, Life-Altering Goals, Murder Mayhem and Medicine, New Blog, New Life Goals, New Research Technology, Prescription For Murder Blog, Skills to Create a Better Life, Ultra-Process Foods and Health, Ultra-Processed Foods and Chronic Diseases, Ultra-Processed Foods and Early Death, Ultra-Processed Foods in Modern Diets | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Quantifying Pain Effectively

There are a multitude of methods to measure a patient’s pain level. Most use a sliding scale to quantify one’s pain from 0 (no pain) to 10 (the worse imaginable pain).

Top ten types of pain scales:

  • 1 – 10 pain scales
  • Faces pain scales, typically the Wong-Baker FACES® pain rating scale
  • Global pain scale
  • Visual analog pain scale
  • McGill pain scale
  • Mankoski pain scale
  • Color scales for pain
  • Pediatric pain scales
  • CPOT pain scale
  • Patient-created personalized pain scales

Of the above-mentioned pain scales, the most often used include a visual of facial expressions (such as, the Wong-Baker FACES) in which patients point to a face that depicts their degree of discomfort.

Although these pain scales are relatively effective, they are subjective in that they rely on a patient’s perception of pain, with the resulting built-in flaws. In other words, one person’s pain level of “5” is different from another person’s perception of what a pain level of “5” may be.

Researchers are now working on a prototype for a blood test that could measure the severity of pain without the subjective nature of patient self-reporting or physicians relying on clinical observations of the pain a patient may be experiencing.

New research indicates that there are identifiable biomarkers in a patient’s blood to objectively determine how severe a person’s pain level is. A biomarker is basically a measurable substance in an organism that indicates a specific phenomenon. The biomarkers in this case help researchers identify compounds in blood to quantify pain intensity. Thus, a more accurate and effective pain treatment regimen could be initiated.

Much of the present opioid epidemic/crisis has been contributed to the over-prescribing of addictive medications, without the close monitoring of when to discontinue pain meds in a timely manner. As a patient begins to experience less pain, less addictive pain medication options could be substituted with equal pain-relief effectiveness. Biomarkers could identify when that appropriate time is.

Study experts are discovering also that biomarkers in blood can objectively direct researchers to match a patient’s current pain experience with specific analgesic drugs to control pain.

Treating pain more effectively without using strong, addictive medications or decreasing the use of addictive drugs when pain is beginning to recede will be a medical breakthrough. Treating pain intelligently with the right medication at the right time could provide a much-needed change from the current overuse of opioid medications and lessen the potential of drug addiction.

Thoughts? Comments? I’d love to hear them!

Posted in About James J. Murray, About Medications/Pharmacy, Alternative to Botanicals for Painkiller Drug Manufacturing, Alternatives to Opiate Painkillers, Blog Writers, Blogging, Controlling Drug Costs, Death From Prescription Painkillers, Drug Abuse, Effective Pain Control, Epidemic of Narcotic Overdoses, James J. Murray Blog, Medical Technology Advances, Medication Abuses, Medication Non-Compliance, Medication Safety Issues, Murder Mayhem and Medicine, New Blog, New Drug Research, New Research Technology, Non-Addictive Pain Treatments, Opiate Epidemic, Opioid Crisis, Opioid Crisis Management, Opioid Therapy Alternatives, Pain Biomarkers, Patient Therapy Outcomes, Pharmacy/Pharmaceuticals, Prescription Drug Safety, Prescription Drugs Become Street Drugs, Prescription For Murder Blog, Prescription Narcotic Overdoses, Prescription Painkiller Overdose, Prescription Prescribing Practices, The Opioid Epidemic, The Pharmacy Profession, The Practice of Pharmacy | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

A New Cardiac Pacemaker and Murder

Heart stimulators, commonly called pacemakers, are small devices implanted in patients to control abnormal heart rhythms. Such cardiac abnormalities are commonly referred to as heart arrhythmias, and pacemakers emit electrical pulses to prompt the heart to beat at a normal pace to prevent those irregular heartbeats.

The number of these life-saving devices that are implanted each year extends into the millions worldwide. One of the overwhelming issues to overcome with such technology, however, is the limited lifespan of the batteries which power these pacemakers.

Many older implanted devices have batteries that last about seven years. These battery packs, with wire leads connected to the pacemaker nearer to the heart, are implanted and secured in surgical pockets either in a chest, abdomen or some other fleshy area of the body. Repeated surgeries to replace worn out battery packs expose patients to infections and excessive bleeding during the periodic procedures.

Newer devices that are placed directly inside the heart are called leadless devices. These pacemakers send an electrical impulse to the heart whenever it senses that the heartbeat is too slow. These pacemakers do not require insulated wires connected to battery packs placed in the chest or abdomen. They are very small devices, about the size of a pill, and have internal batteries that can last for about 12 years.

These small devices are certainly a technological advance, but they present new issues regarding the dangers of retrieving these devices implanted directly into the heart when the batteries wear out.

For that reason, doctors often leave an old device in the heart muscle while inserting a new device, usually delivered via a catheter threaded through a large vein in the leg up to the heart. The depleted pacemakers, therefore, pile up inside the heart. Due to the small size of these pacemakers, however, the “device trash” is not believed to pose any appreciable danger to the patient.

Despite these tremendous advances in pacemaker technology, however, the bottom line is that pacemakers are limited by the life of their batteries, and patients must be subjected to periodic replacements either of a battery pack or the entire pacemaker that may have an internal battery.

Cutting edge pacemaker technology bypasses the entire dead battery issue with the development of pacemakers that contain no batteries at all. These devices are implanted into the heart like leadless pacemakers, but they contain no internal power source!

So the question is, how do these devices work without an energy source—and more importantly—what does all this have to do with murder?

Let me answer that first question about the technology of these supposedly powerless pacemakers. They are called piezoelectric pacemakers and contain high-performance nanogenerators (ah, a power source). The nanoparticles in these pacemakers create electrical impulses generated from motion in the near vicinity of these devices—a high tech motion detector, if you will.

In most cases, the motion of the last heartbeat of the cardiac muscle stimulates a piezoelectric pacemaker to generate the electric impulse to stimulate the next heartbeat, and so on and so forth. It’s like a good vicious cycle of cause and effect.

Some types of piezoelectric pacemakers even harvest energy from blood pressure variations in the heart’s pump cycle to assure continued regular heartbeats. These “good vibrations” pacemakers basically use the same technology that reproduces sounds picked up by a microphone and sent to a loudspeaker. A simplistic analogy, but basically that’s the idea.

Although these piezoelectric, nanoparticle pacemakers are about ten years away from common use, the technology works flawlessly in animal studies, even those that involve pigs and cows—which are about the size of a human and a human heart.

I was fascinated with these studies when I came across them a couple of years ago in an article I read. That was about the time I needed a specific method to stop the heart of a victim in my Almost Dead murder mystery. Yet, I needed that victim to walk out of the funeral home before anyone realized what was happening.

The real mystery here is not if this technology works as promised. Research shows that it has real potential for becoming common practice within a decade. The real mystery here is how my Detective Rosie Young character figures out how the device stopped working and what caused it to suddenly start up again on a perfectly still “corpse.”

So, these motion-activated pacemakers have everything to do with murder in my murder mystery novel. If you’d like to see just how Detective Rosie Young and her partner Detective Vince Mendez solved the case, check out my murder mystery Almost Dead.

Thoughts? Comments? I’d love to hear them!


A Murder Mystery with 5-Star Reviews!

Available at:

Amazon   Smashwords    iTunes    Kobo

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