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How This CEO Is Using Your Period To Prevent Chronic Diseases

5 Min Read
Health

With so many groundbreaking medical advances being revealed to the world every single day, you would imagine there would be some advancement on the plethora of many female-prevalent diseases (think female cancers, Alzheimer's, depression, heart conditions etc.) that women are fighting every single day.

For Anna Villarreal and her team, there frankly wasn't enough being done. In turn, she developed a method that diagnoses these diseases earlier than traditional methods, using a pretty untraditional method in itself: through your menstrual blood.

Getting from point A to point B wasn't so easy though. Villarreal was battling a disease herself and through that experience. “I wondered if there was a way to test menstrual blood for female specific diseases," she says. "Perhaps my situation could have been prevented or at least better managed. This led me to begin researching menstrual blood as a diagnostic source. For reasons the scientific and medical community do not fully understand, certain diseases impact women differently than men. The research shows that clinical trials have a disproportionate focus on male research subjects despite clear evidence that many diseases impact more women than men."

"I wondered if there was a way to test menstrual blood for female specific diseases,"

There's also no denying that gap in women's healthcare in clinical research involving female subjects - which is exactly what inspired Villarreal to launch her company, LifeStory Health. She says that, “with my personal experience everything was brought full circle."

“There is a challenge and a need in the medical community for more sex-specific research. I believe the omission of females as research subjects is putting women's health at risk and we need to fuel a conversation that will improve women's healthcare."

Her brand new biotech company is committed to changing the women's healthcare market through technology, innovation and vocalization and through extensive research and testing. She is working to develop the first ever, non-invasive, menstrual blood diagnostic and has partnered with a top Boston-area University on research and has won awards from The International Society for Pharmaceutical Engineering and Northeastern University's RISE.

How does it work exactly? Proteins are discovered in menstrual blood that can quickly and easily detect, manage and track diseases in women, resulting in diseases that can be earlier detected, treated and even prevented in the first place. The menstrual blood is easy to collect and since it's a relatively unexplored diagnostic it's honestly a really revolutionary concept, too.

So far, the reactions of this innovative research has been nothing but excitement. “The reactions have been incredibly positive." she shared with SWAAY. “Currently, menstrual blood is discarded as bio waste, but it could carry the potential for new breakthroughs in diagnosis. When I educate women on the lack of female subjects used in research and clinical trials, they are surprised and very excited at the prospect that LifeStory Health may provide a solution and the key to early detection."

To give a doctor's input, and a little bit more of an explanation as to why this really works, Dr. Pat Salber, MD, and Founder of The Doctor Weighs In comments: “Researchers have been studying stem cells derived from menstrual blood for more than a decade. Stem cells are cells that have the capability of differentiating into different types of tissues. There are two major types of stem cells, embryonic and adult. Adult stem cells have a more limited differentiation potential, but avoid the ethical issues that have surrounded research with embryonic stem cells. Stem cells from menstrual blood are adult stem cells."

These stem cells are so important when it comes to new findings. “Stem cells serve as the backbone of research in the field of regenerative medicine – the focus which is to grow tissues, such as skin, to repair burn and other types of serious skin wounds.

A certain type of stem cell, known as mesenchymal stem cells (MenSCs) derived from menstrual blood has been found to both grow well in the lab and have the capability to differentiate in various cell types, including skin. In addition to being used to grow tissues, their properties can be studied that will elucidate many different aspects of cell function," Dr. Salber explains.

These stem cells are so important when it comes to new findings. "Stem cells serve as the backbone of research in the field of regenerative medicine – the focus which is to grow tissues, such as skin, to repair burn and other types of serious skin wounds.

To show the outpour of support for her efforts and this major girl power research, Villarreal remarks, “women are volunteering their samples happily report the arrival of their periods by giving samples to our lab announcing “de-identified sample number XXX arrived today!" It's a far cry from the stereotype of when “it's that time of the month."

How are these collections being done? “Although it might sound odd to collect menstrual blood, plastic cups have been developed to use in the collection process. This is similar to menstrual products, called menstrual cups, that have been on the market for many years," Dr. Salber says.

Equally shocking and innovative, this might be something that becomes more common practice in the future. And according to Dr. Salber, women may be able to not only use the menstrual blood for early detection, but be able to store the stem cells from it to help treat future diseases. “Companies are working to commercialize the use of menstrual blood stem cells. One company, for example, is offering a patented service to store menstrual blood stem cells for use in tissue generation if the need arises."

3 min read
Lifestyle

Help! Hater Wants to be a Dater!

Email armchairpsychologist@swaaymedia.com to get the advice you need!

HELP! Haters Wants to be a Dater

Dear Armchair Psychologist,
My gay best friend is becoming a frenemy, begrudging any success I enjoy and balking at giving me any of the support and help I need. I think he never quite accepted that we remain friends and not anything more. His bitchiness has gotten too grating, which I guess is too bad. Help.
- Yikes

Dear Yikes,

It's too bad your best friend is antagonizing you. I'm sure it's also very hurtful. Perhaps there are underlying reasons for his sudden change in behavior? Maybe he wants out of the friendship and signals it this way? It would be wise to give yourself a bit of distance to determine what is going on. This way, if he comes back and wonders why you've been distant, than this would be a good time to initiate a conversation with him to get to the bottom of what going on. If he doesn't reach out after your MIA act, then good riddance. Have some tea and move on!

- The Armchair Psychologist

HELP! I'm chronically depressed

Dear Armchair Psychologist,
I'm chronically depressed. I try very hard to be a productive person but my mother is extremely psychologically abusive. She makes me feel like I'm worthless, but she's my mother and I'm her only child? What should I do?
- Worthless

Dear Worthless,

I'm sorry your mother is causing you such distress. It sounds to me like you need to create some distance between yourself and your mother. Many psychologists, including Freud, agree that a child needs a mother or caretaker through their development cycle in order to live balanced lives. However, women account for 56% of all child abusers and most cases are psychological abuse.

Essentially, whether you're stuck in a "Mommy Dearest" scenario, a movie in which Joan Crawford mercilessly abuses her daughter by attempting to strangle her and, in another famous incident, beats her with wire hangers because she prefers crochet hangers, or whether you're experiencing a quiet psychological hell, it's time to get some help. I recommend you reach out to a qualified professional psychologist because you're worthy of love and support.

- The Armchair PsychologistNeed more armchair psychologist in your life? Check out the last installment or emailarmchairpsychologist@swaaymedia.com to get some advice of your own!