New research suggests that there may be a link between our chromosomes and osteoarthritis. Every time a cell divides, the protective tips of the chromosomes called "telomeres" become shorter.
Think of them as the protective tips of your shoelaces. When cells divide, they duplicate their DNA genetic information contained on chromosomes. Eventually, cells can't divide any longer to replace old worn-out cells because the telomeres become too short and won't allow it. That spells death for that cell and represents what it is to age.
That process in joints means that new cartilage can no longer be produced. As we age, the process of telomere shortening contributes to the eventual death of cartilage cells and osteoarthritis. But what is also observed is that telomeres can suddenly shorten as a result of sudden cell damage from various stressors like compression stress and oxidative stress (e.g., smoking). That may lead to the development of early osteoarthritis.
A neat corollary to this is that daily fish oil supplementation, cardiovascular exercise, and Vitamin D supplementation can actually reverse the process of telomere shortening and possibly slow down the development of osteoarthritis. Smoking causes oxidative stress to cells by causing telomeres to prematurely shorten.
Latex not in flu vaccine, but may be in syringe Q:
I avoid getting flu shots because I have a latex allergy. Why is there latex in a flu shot? It doesn't make any sense to me.
A: It's not the vaccine itself that may contain latex; it's the prefilled syringes that are the potential problem.
I say "potential" because there are several manufacturers that do not use latex in the manufacturing of their flu vaccine.
Here's a flu vaccine list from the American Latex Allergy Association that should help clarify the situation:
Afluria: The rubber tip cap and plunger used for both the single-dose syringes and the rubber stoppers used for the multi-dose vial contain no latex. Fluarix: The tip caps of the prefilled syringes may contain natural rubber latex which may cause an allergic reaction in folks with a latex allergy. FluLaval: The multi-dose vials do not contain latex. Fluvirin: The tip caps of the single-dose syringes may contain natural rubber latex; the multi-dose vials do not contain latex. Fluzone: The tip caps of the single-dose syringes may contain natural rubber latex; the multi-dose vials do not. FluMist live-attenuated single-use nasal sprayers do not contain latex.
It's not too late for you to get one of those latex-free flu vaccinations. The peak of flu season is right now.
Mitchell Hecht specializes in internal medicine. Send questions to him at: "Ask Dr. H.," Box 767787, Atlanta, Ga. 30076. Due to the large volume of mail received, personal replies are not possible.