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Orthomolecular Medicine News Service, January 15, 2021
A Health Crisis Exposed by the COVID Pandemic
Commentary by Charles Bens
(OMNS Jan 15, 2021) Conventional medicine treats the symptoms of chronic disease, while functional medicine treats the root cause of the disease. There are over 40,000 clinical studies that support the conclusion that functional medicine is safer, more effective and less costly than conventional medicine, and yet very little movement in that direction has occurred in recent years. Dr. David Eddy confirmed this problem with his report on the lack of efficacy of conventional medicine.
 This article explained that conventional medicine largely comprises "Medical Guesswork," which is becoming costlier and often causes additional health problems with dangerous side- effects. The past ten months of experience have emphasized how bad this situation has become. The lack of effective treatment protocols for the COVID-19 viral infection has pushed the healthcare system to the breaking point. The following headlines help to illustrate the severity of this healthcare crisis:
"Profit over people, cost over care: America's broker healthcare exposed by virus." The Guardian- Amanda Holpuch
"Only 12 percent of American adults are metabolically healthy, study finds." University of North Carolina
"If Americans were healthier, we could have been better prepared for this pandemic." Stanford University Medical School
Americans are not very healthy, which is why the majority of adults have one and often two chronic illnesses. Poor nutrition is the number one problem. This is the reason why we have one of the highest COVID-19 infection rates in the world. In one dramatic example, the National Cancer Institute surveyed 16,633 people from age two to age 80 and could not find one person with a truly healthy diet. In fact, a vast majority of people were deficient in 11 out of 14 nutritional categories.
Understanding the immune system
The COVID-19 virus has drawn attention to our immune system, but most people still do not understand it very well. The following brief primer might help to expand that understanding and perhaps even encourage more people to take steps to improve this system in order to be protected against future viruses, as well as chronic illnesses such as cancer and Alzheimer's.
- Macrophages - These help to both catch and attack various pathogens that enter the body.
- Neutrophils - The first line of defense against an infection, kill bacteria, and then die, forming pus.
- Dendritic cells - These direct T-cells and B-cells to target areas as needed.
- T-cells - Have a central role in the adaptive immune system to help eliminate pathogens.
- B-cells - Make proteins called antibodies, that fight viruses and bacteria.
- Mast cells and basophils - Produce histamines that help the immune system to fight allergens.
- Natural killer (NK) cells - Rapid-response cells that attack viruses as well as cancerous cells.
- Acquired immune system - Develops complex challenges to viruses and cancer.
There are many sources for the raw material necessary to make these special immune cells. Here are some of them:
- White blood cells - Many immune cells are also called white blood cells, strengthened by nutrients and foods such as vitamin A, vitamin E, Vitamin C, selenium, zinc, astragulus, olive leaf extract, garlic, curcumin, quercetin, alpha lipoic acid, lauricidin, B vitamins and berberine.
- Stem cells - These cells divide and generate other cell types including white blood cells.
- Glutathione and Superoxide Dismutase - The primary intracellular antioxidants. They decline with age and after age 40 require assistance with supplements, including vitamin C.
How a strong immune system can prevent a viral infection such as COVID-19
Throughout our lives we are exposed to thousands of viruses on a daily basis, but only a few can cause a serious infection. The rate of infection is dependent on the virus, as well as the strength of a person's immune system. Several factors contribute to a person's immune system strength.
- Nutrition - Follow the plant-based Mediterranean Diet. Seven to nine veggies and fruits/day.
- Avoid stress with yoga, meditation and deep breathing. Test for cortisol and take vitamin B complex. The B vitamins help to generate energy, which is is depleted by stress.
- Avoid toxins like air and water pollution, chemicals in the home and radiation.
- Avoid sugar - High blood sugar competes with vitamin C for entry into cells. White blood cells need vitamin C to support their immune function. Too much sugar in white blood cells can deplete immune strength by as much as 75%.
- Sleep well - the body regains strength during sleep. Hormones are made and toxins are removed.
- Exercise is important - At least 30-45 minutes of exercise every day will help to strengthen the heart and blood circulation, the lungs and the detoxification process.
- Extra supplements to boost immunity - Most people do not get all the nutrients they need. Most people need a multivitamin, vitamin C, vitamin D3, magnesium, zinc and perhaps a green powder drink every day.
Specific health challenges impacting the immune system with COVID-19
The people most vulnerable to the COVID-19 virus are those with health challenges such as the frail elderly and anyone with an existing chronic illness. These health challenges can be placed in categories based on the level of immune challenge. Here are some examples to these levels of challenge. Each health challenge is assigned a risk level to identify the degree of relative risk: Very high, High, Moderate, Still concerned. These relative strength evaluations are based on the authors research and observations.
Very high-risk factors
- Low Vitamin D levels - This nutrient influences over 2000 genes related to our health, including the risk of cancer, influenza and several other chronic illnesses. ( < 40ng/ml)
- Intestinal disorders - Most essential nutrients are made or absorbed in our intestines (80%). With dysfunctional and challenged intestines, nutrient intake will be seriously jeopardized.
- Cancer - By far the most challenging of the chronic illnesses. Our immune system must work harder coping with cancer than it does with any other illness.
- Age over 65 years
- Chronic illness- Includes illness in organs most vulnerable to the COVID-19 virus such as kidney disease, lung disease, liver disease, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and neurological diseases.
- Pre-disease conditions - High blood pressure, high cholesterol, pre-diabetes, early onset dementia and obesity.
- Immune system challenges - Use of prescription medications, which often deplete important nutrients and challenge the liver to break down the medication and remove it from the body. Also, low levels of vitamin C (blood level < 400 micromol/L, < 1000 mg/day intake).
- Dietary factors - High sugar intake.
- Sleep levels - Consistent poor sleep patterns can cause serious health challenges.
Still concerned risk factors
- Dietary factors - High consumption of red meat, dairy, fried food, processed food; low consumption of vegetables and/or fruits.
- Chewing food - Inadequate chewing can reduce the level of nutrients absorbed from food by as much as 50%.
- Lifestyle factors - Tobacco use, alcohol use, low levels of exercise, social interaction.
- Overweight - Even modest overweight promotes inflammation.
- Toxin exposure - At work, at home, or even from non-organic foods can overexpose to toxins.
- Stress levels - High daily stress can deplete B vitamins and disrupt cellular health.
- Nutritional supplements - Without appropriate nutritional supplements, virtually impossible to get all of the nutrients needed on a daily basis from the most common foods available.
Long-term cellular damage: A COVID-19 medical crisis
To make matters worse, many COVID patients continue to experience serious symptoms long after they "recover" from the viral infection.
 The medical community apparently has no solutions. In fact, there is speculation that many of these COVID "long haulers" will end up with permanent damage to many body organs, including their lungs, brains, kidneys, intestines, hearts and blood vessels. If conventional medicine has no solution, perhaps functional medicine can find the root cause of this cellular damage and find natural strategies to address them. Some very promising treatment options can be combined into a COVID cellular repair protocol. The initial step in this examination of possible solutions should consider that cellular damage usually occurs in stages. This helps to explain how cellular healing is possible.
When a cell is stressed, it may go through several stages of cellular deterioration: stressed, weakened, challenged, dysfunctional, mutated, diseased. Most chronic illness is diagnosed at the "dysfunctional" disease development process with blood tests that identify high cholesterol, high glucose or high levels of liver enzymes. However, nutritional scientists and integrative doctors have found that most chronic illness actually begins five to ten years before that, when cells become stressed. This stress is clearly present when people drink alcohol, take common forms of prescription medications, are exposed to a toxin, or do not eat a healthy diet. These cellular assaults often accumulate to the point where some cells become weakened and eventually challenged. However, some cellular assaults such as the toxic impact of mercury occur more quickly, which can begin to cause Alzheimer-type symptoms within weeks of exposure. The same accelerated cellular assault can be seen in the symptoms of many COVID-19 "long haulers." Evidently this virus can damage many organs in the body, with the potential for causing chronic illnesses that may result in permanent organ damage, and even death. A solution to this problem is urgently needed.
Protocol to repair COVID cellular damage.
Several studies have now confirmed that people who become infected with the COVID-19 virus, including those who are asymptomatic, often experience some cellular damage.
This damage has been shown to occur in tissues in the lungs, the kidneys, the liver, the heart, the brain, the throat, the intestines and nerve cells. Damage to the nervous system is implied by headaches and difficulty with the sense of smell or taste. Difficulty in breathing may continue. However, in some cases this damage is not obvious to a cursory medical examination. Since the experience with this virus is so new in the world of viral infections, how much damage has been done or how long it may take the body to repair this damage is unknown. Therefore, it is prudent to take precautions to repair this damage, using cellular repair protocols that are proven.
An excellent diet for cellular repair and recovery is the Mediterranean Diet. This has been shown by the Framingham Heart Study over 30 years with 125,000 participants. This diet involves eating omega-3 rich fish, organic poultry, 6 or 7 vegetable servings, two low-sugar fruits such as apples and blueberries, nuts, seeds, and healthy oils such as olive oil. Drink water instead of beverages. In addition, take:
- Vitamin C - A powerful anti-oxidant, that also is required to produce connective tissue in the body such as collagen. Vitamin C also has a proven track record of helping cells to accelerate the healing process in diseases such as heart disease, cancer and viral infections, including the SARS-CoV-19 Coronavirus, as well as helping to keep pathogens under control. Further, vitamin C helps to strengthen white blood cells, which are crucial to immune function in our body. (Recommended dosage 2,000-4,000 mg/day taken 500 mg every three to four hours). Good blood levels are 400 micromol/L.
- Vitamin D - Has many roles in cellular health as an anti-oxidant and anti- viral regulator. Vitamin D regulates hundreds of genetic on and off switches for the protection and repair of our cells. Vitamin D can help to prevent cancer at the cellular level, as well as play a major role in the repair of damaged cells as part of cancer treatment programs. It is also vital to the development of healthy bones and teeth. Finally, vitamin D plays a major role in helping our cells to communicate with one another to improve our cellular protection and regeneration processes. (Recommended dosage 4,000-6,000 IU/day). High levels in the blood are proven to dramatically reduce the risk of cancer and viral infections, including the Coronavirus. Desired levels in a blood test are 50-90 ng/mL.
- Vitamin E - Particularly effective in protecting cell membranes due to its strong anti-oxidant properties. It has a proven track record in the treatment of heart disease, vascular disease and fatty liver disease. By repairing damaged cell membranes vitamin E ensures that cellular repair inside the cells can be done effectively since the membrane regulates both the intake of nutrients and the removal of waste from every cell in the body. (200-400 IU/day as mixed tocopherols in soft gel form).
- Niacin (vitamin B3) - NAD in the form of niacin (vitamin B3) plays a key role in the cellular aging process. Its is a cofactor, or helper molecule, for many biological pathways. As our cells go through the normal cell-replacement process, NAD plays a key role in insuring that all cellular systems are working efficiently. If nutrition, sleep, and exercise are all at optimal levels, then having adequate NAD levels allows excellent cellular replacement. This replacement process also occurs when cells have been damaged as is the case with the cells of COVID-19 patients. (Suggested dose 500-2000 mg/day in divided doses; to avoid the "niacin flush" start with a low dose, or take niacinamide). With a blood test, a plasma level of vitamin B3 is 0.50-8.45 ug/mL.
- B vitamins - All of the B vitamins are important, but in terms of cellular repair and replacement, several go to the top of the list. Vitamin B6, B12 and folate are methylators, which means they are needed to help convert amino acids into hormones, neurotransmitters and other important biochemicals. Vitamin B1 helps rebuild the myelin sheath (outer lining) of our nerves. As a co-factor in many cellular functions the B vitamins are crucial to cells in key organs such as the brain, heart, liver, kidneys, blood vessels and intestines. It is important to consume a vitamin B complex and also take additional amounts of vitamin B1 (benfothiamine recommended), B6. B12 and folate.
- Magnesium - Critically involved in hundreds of biological pathways, including production of energy and cellular growth and repair. More than 50% of the population is deficient, which contributes to heart attacks and a number of brain disorders, including depression, anxiety, ADD and ADHD. Magnesium is found in many foods, especially green vegetables, however exercise and cellular repair processes increase the need for this mineral. There are many forms of magnesium (Suggested dose, 300 - 600 mg/day in malate, threonate, citrate, chelate, or chloride form). Most magnesium tests only measure the serum level, which does not accurately measure represent the whole body's magnesium level. The RBC Magnesium test is superior because it measures about 40% of the total magnesium in our body. The usual range is 4.2-6.8 mg/dL and the optimal level should be at least 6.0-6.5 mg/dL.
- Zinc - Has strong anti-oxidant properties, but also has many important functions in the cellular repair and replacement process. Zinc plays an important role in the cell replication process by helping with the production of growth hormones and assisting the DNA synthesis process. The ratio of zinc to copper is more important than the serum concentration of either one of these minerals separately. One of the most common trace-metal imbalances is elevated copper and depressed zinc, which often leads to brain related challenges. When purchasing zinc in supplement form it is important to ensure a ratio of 15 mg of zinc to one mg of copper. (In terms of blood tests the desirable ratio is between 0.70-1.00). (Suggested dose, 50 mg/day- with 2 mg copper).
- Probiotics - Beneficial bacteria crucial to the synthesis of many essential nutrients in the intestines. They help to control pathogens that come into the body and they break down food for the nutrients they contain. Probiotics also help to initiate the development of anti-inflammatory and immune function molecules. They can significantly influence molecular mechanisms and pathways that can influence both the prevention and resolution of numerous chronic illnesses, as well the epigenetic expressions that can determine our future health. (Suggested dose: a capsule containing 20 billion live bacteria in a variety of strains. Yogurt is an excellent probiotic.)
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids - Alpha-linolenic acid (a short-chain omega-3 fatty acid, sometimes called ALA) is an essential nutrient that we must get from our diet. The body can convert ALA into longer-chain omega-3 fatty acids such as DHA and EPA, but this conversion is slow, and a diet rich in EPA and DHA, widely available in fish or algal oils, is thought to be beneficial. These primary anti-inflammatory nutrients have many proven benefits for the prevention and treatment of chronic illness. One of main benefits is the ability of omega-3 fatty acids to soften cell membranes, which helps to improve the entry of nutrients, the removal of waste from cells, and release of neurotransmitters for signaling in the brain. Clinical studies have shown wide-spread benefits. Omega-6 fatty acids are also an essential nutrient, but omega-3 is anti-inflammatory while omega 6 is thought to be inflammatory. Too much omega-6 means the body is vulnerable to illnesses such as cancer, flu response and other chronic illnesses. A blood test for the omega 3/6 ratio is available, but you can maintain a good ratio by eating adequate amounts of omega-3 fatty acids. A good ratio is 2:1-3:1. Omega-3 fatty acids tend to slow blood clotting, which is often beneficial, but doses may need to be considered with blood thinning medications. (Suggested dosages: diet containing rich sources of ALA, including walnuts, greens, and flax oil from freshly ground flax meal; EPA, 900 mg/day and DHA, 600 mg/day. Double or triple this dosage has been effective in several clinical trials, but should be monitored by a qualified health professional).
- Curcumin - It is very difficult to achieve effective cellular repair in the presence of inflammation. Curcumin has major anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties and is also known to help in the repair of damaged tissue, such as cartilage. Curcumin also boosts brain-derived neurotrophic factor, which has improved brain function in brain related illnesses such as dementia and Alzheimer's. (Recommended dose 500-750 mg/day).
- CoEnzyme Q10 - This enzyme helps to improve energy production in the mitochondria of our cells and aids the repair of cells in the kidneys, liver, heart and brain. It also provides energy to help protect the nucleus of cells, which is one of the most vulnerable and important cellular repair areas in the body. Chronic illness and premature aging can be caused by damage to cells' nuclear DNA. (Recommended dose 100-200 mg/day as Ubiquinol in soft gel form). A good level 0.8-1.5 ng/mL.
- Pycnogenol - This supplement comes from French Pine Bark and has been shown to have protective capabilities in several cellular functions including the repair of brain cells after a stroke. It has also been shown to improve kidney flow and function, as well as help to reduce blood clots as an anticoagulant. This is important for COVID-19 patients since blood clots have been found in many parts of the body even after symptoms have been resolved. (Possible dosage 50-100 mg/day).
- Olive Leaf Extract - Olives are one of the cornerstones of the Mediterranean Diet and have been helping people to be healthier for thousands of years. One of the primary functions of olive leaf extract is to prevent viral infections. However, it has also been shown to improve cardiovascular health, lower blood pressure and protect organs such as the pancreas, liver and the kidneys. Olive Leaf Extract has anti-inflammatory properties and has been proven to repair tissue damage related to kidney disease, upper respiratory illnesses, fatty liver disease and heart disease. (Possible dosage is 500-1,000 mg/day in split doses of 250 mg each dose).
- Digestive enzymes - As we age our body makes less digestive enzymes, which are needed for the processing of food, metabolic functions and the delivery of nutrients to our cells. By the time we are fifty years old our bodies may be making up to 50% less digestive enzymes then when we were twenty years old. This is part of the body's programmed aging process. Most raw foods have sufficient enzymes to process the nutrients in them, however cooking foods destroys all enzymes. There are over 5,000 enzymes in the body responsible for many functions including the cellular repair and replacement process as, well as helping to kill germs, bacteria, viruses and other pathogens. (Possible dosage: one capsule with each meal, especially cooked meals. Capsules should contain amylase, protease and lipase enzymes with a larger number of amylase because this is what comprises the majority of food being consumed).
In June of 2020, two athletes that I know contacted me to say that they were experiencing severe symptoms and had tested positive of COVID-19. I forwarded this COVID-19 repair protocol for their consideration. They both indicated that they began to feel better in less than two days and got progressively better over a two week period. At the end of two weeks they both reported they felt completely recovered and were able to resume their athletic training programs at the highest level. The marathon runner reported that his training times had actually improved beyond his best previous times.
Along with breakfast, the athletes would take the following: probiotics, magnesium, berberine, vitamin D3, vitamin C, zinc + copper, coenzyme Q10, and omega-3 fatty acids. With lunch, vitamin C, curcumin, niacin or niacinamide, vitamin E, and olive leaf extract. With dinner, vitamin B complex, magnesium, vitamin C, zinc + copper, coenzyme Q10, and pycnogenol. These nutritional supplements help the body to go through its normal cellular repair process.
[11-13] This repair protocol was used by the two athletes mentioned above. The sooner the repair program is initiated the sooner and more successful the repair and recovery process will be. I think daily protocol should be continued for three to six months to ensure that all cells in every organ are restored to health.
COVID Long Haulers Repair
Having a strong immune system is the number one factor in determining if someone will succumb to the coronavirus. Not experiencing frequent colds and flu is one possible measure of this strength, but there are better and more scientific ways to make this determination. Getting the best blood, urine and cellular energy tests will provide a helpful and accurate measure of the strength of any person's immune system. Here is a list of some of the best measurement tools for immune system analysis.
- C-reactive protein - CRP is a good measure of inflammation in the body. Inflammation is caused by the presentence of toxins, too much fat in the body, poor nutrition and injuries. It is a warning sign for the development of heart disease, cancer, brain disease and much more. Good level is less than 1mg/L.
- 8-OHgD - This urine test measures the accumulated oxidative stress and DNA damage in our cells. DNA damage is caused by toxins, viruses and other pathogens. High 8-OHgD levels are an indication that the body is vulnerable to diseases such as cancer and heart disease. Good levels for males 29.6+/-24.5 ng/mg and females 43.9+/- 42.1 ng/mg
- GGT test - The Gamma-Glutamyl Transpeptidase Test is a measure of how well the liver is functioning. The liver is the body's primary detoxification organ. If it is not functioning properly something is wrong, and should be corrected. Normal levels are 0-30 IU/L.
- GlycoMark - Excess sugar is serious health issue for many Americans. The best measure of sugar's presence and behavior in our body is the GlycoMark test. This test measures all aspects of sugar influence including after meal glucose spikes. A safe level is 10-31 ug/mL.
- Lymphocytes - Lymphocytes represent up to 40% of the white blood cells in the body, and are crucial to the immune system defense mechanism. Levels increase in the presence of infections, including viral infections. Blood cancer and autoimmune diseases also cause levels of lymphocytes to increase. Normal safe levels are 1000-3000/ml.
- Homocysteine - This test measures the levels of vitamin B6, B12 and folate in the body. These three nutrients are crucial to the development of hormones and neurotransmitters. Low levels lead to inflammation and the development of many chronic illnesses. Best range 5.0-7.0 mmol/L.
- Galectin 3 - This molecule is found in our blood in small amounts. However, an elevation of this molecule can indicate the growing evidence of heart failure, inflammation, and cancer. Galectin 3 is found to be over-expressed on the surface of cancer cells, and actually helps cancer cells to stick to one another. It also circulates in the blood, indicating that cancers are attempting to spread or metastasize. This is also a good test to determine the development of heart disease. Because it can indicate the possibility of multiple diseases, it should not be used alone to measure the presence or the spread of cancer or heart disease. The possible range is 3.2-94.6 ng/mL and ideal range is 11.7- 17.8 ng/mL. Anything above 18 ng/mL should be considered a possible movement of cells in the direction of chronic illness, especially heart disease or cancer.
- Oxygen test - Circulating oxygen can be measured by a finger oxygen meter. It is monitored closely in Covid-19 patients because serious pneumonia lowers the body's ability to absorb oxygen. If oxygen levels are low, the mitochondria do not produce enough energy and cells are not able to function properly. As the level of oxygen drops, the seriousness of the cellular challenge increases. (Finger meters use a 100-point scale and the desired level is from 96 to 100).
A few words about exercise
Exercise plays a crucial role in the effective delivery of nutrients in the body, as well as the functional ability of cells to do their job. With exercise, the insulin receptors on all cells increase in number and sensitivity. Insulin binding to these receptors provides a signal for glucose to be taken into cells for production of energy. Without regular exercise, these insulin receptors decline and cells are unable to uptake the glucose, and cells become stressed and weakened, making them vulnerable to pathogens such as the COVID-19 virus. This also causes glucose to continue circulating in the body causing oxidative stress and damage to blood vessels and key organs. As a final insult, this circulating glucose competes with vitamin C for entry into many cells, including white blood cells, which are a key component of the immune system. This happens because sugar and vitamin C have a similar molecular structure. White blood cells need vitamin C to do their job at fighting infections. With a high level of blood glucose but without adequate vitamin C, the immune system can be greatly weakened. Finally, make a point to get 30-45 minutes of exercise every day and eat as little sugar as possible.
Please consult your healthcare practitioner regarding the use of any nutritional supplements to ensure they are safe and appropriate for your use.
This article describes a therapeutic cellular repair program aimed at improved health recovery for patients who have experienced the COVID-19 virus. The dietary suggestions are presented, more or less, in sequential order based on importance, although all are valuable components of a cellular repair program. Other key factors include no added sugar beyond fruit, avoidance of alcohol, getting adequate exercise, practicing stress reduction, enjoying clean air and clean water, and following along the lines of a Mediterranean diet with little or no red meat.
The views presented in this article are the author's and not necessarily those of all members of the Orthomolecular Medicine News Service Editorial Review Board.
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Albert G. B. Amoa, MB.Ch.B, Ph.D. (Ghana)
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Carolyn Dean, M.D., N.D. (USA)
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Hugo Galindo, M.D. (Colombia)
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Jun Matsuyama, M.D., Ph.D. (Japan)
Joseph Mercola, D.O. (USA)
Jorge R. Miranda-Massari, Pharm.D. (Puerto Rico)
Karin Munsterhjelm-Ahumada, M.D. (Finland)
Tahar Naili, M.D. (Algeria)
W. Todd Penberthy, Ph.D. (USA)
Isabella Akyinbah Quakyi, Ph.D. (Ghana)
Selvam Rengasamy, MBBS, FRCOG (Malaysia)
Jeffrey A. Ruterbusch, D.O. (USA)
Gert E. Schuitemaker, Ph.D. (Netherlands)
T.E. Gabriel Stewart, M.B.B.CH. (Ireland)
Thomas L. Taxman, M.D. (USA)
Jagan Nathan Vamanan, M.D. (India)
Garry Vickar, M.D. (USA)
Ken Walker, M.D. (Canada)
Raymond Yuen, MBBS, MMed (Singapore)
Anne Zauderer, D.C. (USA)
Andrew W. Saul, Ph.D. (USA), Editor-In-Chief
Associate Editor: Robert G. Smith, Ph.D. (USA)
Editor, Japanese Edition: Atsuo Yanagisawa, M.D., Ph.D. (Japan)
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