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'Exciting' Study Shows How Quitting Smoking Can 'Magically' Heal Damaged Lungs
Quitting smoking now may do more than just prevent further damage to your lungs — it could jumpstart the release of healthy cells that actually repair the linings of your airways.
That's according to a new study published in Nature by the UK's Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute and University College London Hospital, which found that these healthy cells resemble those of people who have never smoked, even in the lungs of former long-term smokers.
The lungs of ex-smokers contained up to four times as many genetically healthy cells than those of current smokers. The Sanger Institute / UCL
"People who have smoked heavily for 30, 40 or more years often say to me that it's too late to stop smoking - the damage is already done," joint senior author Dr. Peter Campbell, of the Wellcome Sanger Institute, said in a press statement.
"What is so exciting about our study is that it shows that it's never too late to quit - some of the people in our study had smoked more than 15,000 packs of cigarettes over their life, but within a few years of quitting many of the cells lining their airways showed no evidence of damage from tobacco."
Smoking causes up to 10,000 extra mutations in nine out of every 10 lung cells, the researchers found, including many that cause cancer. But in the former smokers the researchers examined, there were four times as many healthy cells, with up to 40 percent of their lung cells appearing no different than those in someone who has never smoked, BBC News reported.
"There is a population of cells that, kind of, magically replenish the lining of the airways," Campbell said according to BBC News.
For the study, the researchers took lung biopsies from 16 people, including adults and children. Among them were current and former smokers, as well as those who were never smokers. They then sequenced the DNA of 632 non-cancerous cells from the samples and analyzed the patterns of mutations, the Daily Mail reported.
That said, the researchers could not identify how the healthy cells in former smokers avoided damage or what triggers their replacement of the damaged cells, AFP reported, but they believe the body may have a reservoir of these cells stored somewhere.
In a review of the study published by Nature, experts not involved in the study also said the surprising results may be due to the rather small sample size, meaning that more research is needed.
According to the American Lung Association, lung cancer is the leading cancer killer for both men and women in the U.S. An estimated 229,000 new cases will be diagnosed in 2020, even as falling smoking rates and lung cancer treatment progress recently drove the largest single-year drop in cancer deaths the nation has ever seen. Similarly, Cancer Research UK estimates that there are 47,000 cases of lung cancer diagnosed annually in the UK and 35,000 deaths.
"Our study has an important public health message and shows that it really is worth quitting smoking to reduce the risk of lung cancer," joint author Sam Janes, of University College London Hospitals Trust, said in a press release. "Stopping smoking at any age does not just slow the accumulation of further damage, but could reawaken cells unharmed by past lifestyle choices."
"Further research into this process could help to understand how these cells protect against cancer, and could potentially lead to new avenues of research into anti-cancer therapeutics."
The benefits of quitting now may extend beyond the individual in other ways as well, considering that cigarette butts are the most littered item in the world, spreading toxic chemicals into the earth and water sources.
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'How Dare You Put Our Lives at Risk': Pennsylvania Democrat Brian Sims Rips GOP Members for 'Coverup' of Positive COVID-19 Tests
Brian Sims, a Democratic representative in the Pennsylvania legislature, ranted in a Facebook Live video that went viral about the hypocrisy of Republican lawmakers who are pushing to reopen the state even though one of their members had a positive COVID-19 test.
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In another reversal of Obama-era regulations, the Trump administration is having the National Park Service rescind a 2015 order that protected bears and wolves within protected lands.
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By Linda Lacina
World Health Organization officials today announced the launch of the WHO Foundation, a legally separate body that will help expand the agency's donor base and allow it to take donations from the general public.
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Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation
By Nicholas Joyce
The coronavirus has resulted in stress, anxiety and fear – symptoms that might motivate a person to see a therapist. Because of social distancing, however, in-person sessions are less possible. For many, this has raised the prospect of online therapy. For clients in need of warmth and reassurance, could this work? Studies and my experience suggests it does.
Telehealth Versus Traditional Therapy<p><a href="https://www.cigna.com/hcpemails/telehealth/telehealth-flyer.pdf" target="_blank">Private insurance companies</a> like Cigna and Aetna, have come around; they now provide coverage for what they see as a "legitimate" service. And <a href="https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/american-wells-2019-consumer-survey-finds-majority-of-consumers-open-to-telehealth-adoption-continues-to-grow-300906438.html" target="_blank">surveys show</a> consumers are receptive to telehealth counseling: no driving to an appointment, no searching for a parking space, no worries about childcare while they're away, no need to switch providers if they move, and no problem if the specialist happens to be far away.</p><p>Online therapy opens doors for clients who wouldn't otherwise seek help, <a href="https://www.worldcat.org/title/empirical-examination-of-the-influence-of-personality-gender-role-conflict-and-self-stigma-on-attitudes-and-intentions-to-seek-online-counseling-in-college-students/oclc/941976505" target="_blank">particularly patients</a> who feel stigmatized by therapy or intimidated by a stranger sitting across the room from them. Often, <a href="https://doi.org/10.1089/1094931041291295" target="_blank">people open up</a> more easily in telehealth sessions. Firsthand accounts have detailed <a href="https://www.romper.com/p/i-tried-online-therapy-for-a-month-this-is-what-happened-13630" target="_blank">positive experiences from consumers</a>.</p>
Overcoming Prejudices About Online Counseling<p>Now COVID-19 is forcing most traditional psychotherapists to adapt their practice to <a href="https://www.psychologytoday.com/intl/blog/expressive-trauma-integration/202003/covid-19-etherapy-in-times-isolation" target="_blank">online counseling</a>. After experiencing the medium, they are <a href="https://www.wecounsel.com/blog/why-every-therapist-in-private-practice-needs-a-telehealth-option/" target="_blank">overcoming their prejudices</a>. Many will convert some or all of their caseloads to telehealth after the pandemic ends. Most of our clients seem to be good with it: responding to a satisfaction survey, 85% of USF students strongly or somewhat agreed their telehealth experience was comparable to an in-person visit.</p><p>All this allows a continuity of care for clients that before was impossible; there is, however, a caveat. Because of the coronavirus, some of my clients at USF who live out-of-state have moved back home. That means, legally, I can no longer serve them. Even though they are still USF students, my license is valid only in Florida.</p><p>For telehealth to work effectively, our national system of licensing and regulation law needs to adapt. Although the federal government temporarily halted HIPAA regulations to promote telehealth during this time, not all states are allowing out-of-state practice. The coronavirus may not be here forever, but spring break and Christmas holidays always will. We need seamless telehealth across state lines.</p>
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As many parts of the planet continue to open their doors after pandemic closures, a new pest is expected to make its way into the world. After spending more than a decade underground, millions of cicadas are expected to emerge in regions of the southeastern U.S.
Kevin Frayer / Stringer / Getty Images
By Jessica Corbett
Even after the world's largest economies adopted the landmark Paris agreement to tackle the climate crisis in late 2015, governments continued to pour $77 billion a year in public finance into propping up the fossil fuel industry, according to a report released Wednesday.
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