Beta is the second letter of the Greek alphabet, corresponding to B in Latin. Within the International Phonetic Alphabet (a system of phonetic notation that linguists developed), beta is the letter that represents the voiced bilabial fricative.
The concept is very prevalent in the field of computing. It is used to name the first version of a program (software) that is shown, which contains the basic elements of the complete idea and allows to understand the objectives of the developers. Generally, beta versions are used for analysis, testing and demonstration before the program is officially released to the market or to the public.
The beta release can be done in a number of ways. Some developers prefer to present it internally, so that employees (some of them even dedicated exclusively to carrying out these tests) are the ones who use it. In other cases, the beta version reaches a small number of users. Many times companies prefer to present them at a massive level to study the impact on their potential consumers and make changes based on their feedback.
It can be said, therefore, that the beta version is an intermediate stage in the complete development cycle. For example: “I just installed the beta version of the new word processor and it seems to work very well”, “The program is missing some features since it is still in its beta version”.
Other uses of the term beta take place in the realm of statistics (to name a continuous probability distribution), physics (it designates a particle that is an electron fired from a radioactive event), and mathematics (a special function related to the gamma function).
A class of drugs is known as a beta blocker that is used primarily to treat heart rhythm problems and to recover from a heart attack. It is worth mentioning that it receives several possible names, among which are beta antagonist, beta-adrenergic blocking agent and beta-adrenergic antagonist.
Most beta-blockers are pure antagonists, that is, when they come into contact with a cell receptor, they do not generate a biological response, but rather block or stop reactions mediated by substances called agonists. However, there are some of the partial antagonist type, which produce a certain activation in the receptor, although much less important than the so-called complete ones.
There are three classes of beta receptors known, named by the numbers one to three: beta1 is found mainly in the kidneys and heart; beta2, in the heart muscle, gastrointestinal tract, lungs, uterus and liver; beta3, in fatty tissue.
Historically, it can be said that the first of the beta-blockers used for clinical purposes was propanol, whose inventor was Sir James W. Black. It was a revolutionary product that forever changed the treatment of angina pectoris, and marked one of the major contributions to 20th century pharmacology and clinical medicine.
Until more efficient drugs appeared, beta-adrenergic antagonists were used as a first remedy against hypertension. Another factor that contributed to its loss of popularity was the increasingly certain suspicion that it could cause type 2 diabetes millitus (also known as adult diabetes). On the other hand, several institutions of great prestige in the field of research worldwide have tried to demonstrate their little or no effectiveness in treating hypertension.
Some of the diseases most commonly treated with beta blockers are listed below: cardiac arrhythmias, congestive heart failure, glaucoma, essential tremor, headaches, and migraines. Likewise, although less frequently, they are indicated to combat obstructive hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, Marfan syndrome and some anxiety disorders.