. Scientific Frontline: Medical
Showing posts with label Medical. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Medical. Show all posts

Sunday, April 7, 2024

Disparities in sleep health and insomnia may begin at a young age

Photo Credit: Komang Dewi

Most people have experienced a night or two of sleeplessness, tossing and turning while being unable to fall asleep or stay asleep. But for some people, sleep disturbances aren’t just a one-off occurrence, and they can begin in childhood.

A team, led by Penn State researchers, found that children and teens from racial and ethnic minority groups are disproportionately affected by persistent insomnia symptoms that begin in childhood and continue through young adulthood. Specifically, Black children were 2.6 times more likely to experience these long-term sleep problems compared to white children. The findings underscore the need to identify insomnia symptoms early and intervene with age-appropriate treatment.

“Insomnia is a public health problem,” said Julio Fernandez-Mendoza, professor at Penn State College of Medicine and senior author of the study recently published in the journal SLEEP. “We’ve identified that more people than we thought have childhood-onset insomnia where symptoms start in childhood and remain chronic all the way through young adulthood.”

Poor sleep is linked to cardiometabolic disease, depression and anxiety, among other concerns. Yet, when it comes to sleep and children, insomnia symptoms aren’t always taken seriously. Fernandez-Mendoza said that most people assume that difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep is a phase that kids will outgrow.

Thursday, April 4, 2024

Vaping additives harm a vital membrane in the lungs, according to new Concordia research

Panagiota Taktikakis (left) and Christine DeWolf: “Understanding the impact of vaping additives on lung surfactant is vital, particularly for younger generations who are more influenced by vaping trends.”
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Concordia University

The health risks associated with consumption of tobacco and cannabis products are well-established by now. Much less understood are the risks associated with vaping, particularly flavored products popular with young adults.

It is an increasingly pressing issue: Statistics Canada says one in 10 Canadians aged 20 to 24 and one in 15 aged 15 to 19 reported to have vaped every day in 2022.

Writing in the journal Langmuir, Concordia researchers show how the e-cigarette additive tocopherol — an organic compound better known as vitamin E — and tocopherol acetate can damage the lungs. The study adds to the growing body of literature on what has become known as electronic cigarette or vaping product use–associated lung injury (EVALI).

When heated and inhaled, the compound embeds in the pulmonary surfactant, a nanoscopically thin lipid protein membrane coating the surface of the alveoli that regulates the oxygen-carbon dioxide gas exchange and stabilizes the lungs’ surface tension during breathing.

Wednesday, April 3, 2024

Drug shows promise for slowing progression of rare, painful genetic disease

A CT angiography scan of a person with ACDC disease showing abnormal calcification of the blood vessels in the legs and feet.
Image Credit: Courtesy of National Institutes of Health

A drug used to treat certain bone diseases shows promise for slowing the progression of a rare, painful genetic condition that causes excessive calcium buildup in the arteries, known as arterial calcification due to deficiency of CD73 (ACDC). These results are from a first-in-human clinical trial supported by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), part of the National Institutes of Health. The study, published in the journal Vascular Medicine, could lead to the first effective treatment for the rare disease.

ACDC, which has no known cure, often targets the arteries of the legs and can make walking painful and difficult. It can also affect the joints of the hands, causing pain and deformities. In severe cases, the condition can lead to potential limb loss. Symptoms of the disease often begin in the late teens and 20s. An extremely rare disease, it is believed to affect only about 20 people worldwide and has an estimated prevalence of less than 1 in 1 million. Previous studies have identified the gene for ACDC disease and the biochemical mechanism behind it. More recent studies by the NHLBI research team identified an existing drug, called etidronate, as a potential treatment for ACDC based on disease models in animals and human cells.

Tuesday, April 2, 2024

Repurposed Cancer Drugs May Improve Tuberculosis Treatment

Mycobacterium tuberculosis bacteria.
Image Credit: NIAID, NIH

Researchers have identified a combination of existing cancer drugs that may improve treatment for tuberculosis.

In a study conducted in rabbits and led by Harvard Medical School researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital, the repurposed drugs enhanced delivery of antibacterial medications that target tuberculosis-causing bacteria.

Although it is often overlooked in industrialized countries such as the United States, tuberculosis remains one of the deadliest diseases globally, causing millions of deaths every year.

Sometimes, patients die even after being treated, either because tuberculosis bacteria develop resistance to antibacterial drugs or because the ability to deliver medications to infected lung tissue is poor.

To address the latter challenge, researchers repurposed a pair of cancer drugs already approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The drugs were originally designed to enhance drug delivery to cancer cells by improving the structure and function of blood vessels around tumors, which can be compromised in cancer.

Scientists link certain gut bacteria to lower heart disease risk

Rod-shaped Oscillibacter sp. bacteria take up fluorescently labeled cholesterol (here shown in green).
Image Credit: Ahmed Mohamed 

Changes in the gut microbiome have been implicated in a range of diseases including type 2 diabetes, obesity, and inflammatory bowel disease. Now, a team of researchers at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard along with Massachusetts General Hospital has found that microbes in the gut may affect cardiovascular disease as well. In a study published in Cell, the team has identified specific species of bacteria that consume cholesterol in the gut and may help lower cholesterol and heart disease risk in people.

Members of Ramnik Xavier’s lab, Broad’s Metabolomics Platform, and collaborators analyzed metabolites and microbial genomes from more than 1,400 participants in the Framingham Heart Study, a decades-long project focused on risk factors for cardiovascular disease. The team discovered that bacteria called Oscillibacter take up and metabolize cholesterol from their surroundings, and that people carrying higher levels of the microbe in their gut had lower levels of cholesterol. They also identified the mechanism the bacteria likely use to break down cholesterol. The results suggest that interventions that manipulate the microbiome in specific ways could one day help decrease cholesterol in people. The findings also lay the groundwork for more targeted investigations of how changes to the microbiome affect health and disease.

“Our research integrates findings from human subjects with experimental validation to ensure we achieve actionable mechanistic insight that will serve as starting points to improve cardiovascular health,” said Xavier, who is a core institute member, director of the Immunology Program, and co-director of the Infectious Disease and Microbiome Program at the Broad. He is also a professor at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital.

Sunday, March 31, 2024

Combining multiple meds into a single pill reduces cardiovascular deaths

Image Credit: Copilot Dall e-3 AI generated.

Taking a single pill that combines medications targeting cardiovascular disease-related conditions was shown long ago to lower the risk of death from such causes, including heart attacks and strokes. The concept of using such “polypills” to prevent and treat atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease was introduced nearly 25 years ago. Shortly thereafter, the strategy was the focus of a seminal modeling study that promoted polypills to reduce cardiovascular disease at the population level. Still, many years and a body of supportive research later, use of such pills remains low throughout the world.

Now, a new study from researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis bolsters previous findings and provides additional evidence that polypills are beneficial in preventing heart attacks and strokes and reducing deaths among people with cardiovascular risk factors, including high blood pressure and high cholesterol. As a result of the study, the World Health Organization (WHO) has added such polypills to its most recent Model List of Essential Medicines. The list comprises medicines considered key to public health due to their importance in treating common diseases, as well as their safety, efficacy and cost-effectiveness.

Friday, March 29, 2024

‘Exhausted’ immune cells in healthy women could be target for breast cancer prevention

Photo Credit: Angiola Harry

Everyone has BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, but mutations in these genes - which can be inherited - increase the risk of breast and ovarian cancer.

The study found that the immune cells in breast tissue of healthy women carrying BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutations show signs of malfunction known as ‘exhaustion’. This suggests that the immune cells can’t clear out damaged breast cells, which can eventually develop into breast cancer.

This is the first time that ‘exhausted’ immune cells have been reported in non-cancerous breast tissues at such scale - normally these cells are only found in late-stage tumors.

The results raise the possibility of using existing immunotherapy drugs as early intervention to prevent breast cancer developing, in carriers of BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutations.

The researchers have received a ‘Biology to Prevention Award’ from Cancer Research UK to trial this preventative approach in mice. If effective, this will pave the way to a pilot clinical trial in women carrying BRCA gene mutations.

“Our results suggest that in carriers of BRCA mutations, the immune system is failing to kill off damaged breast cells - which in turn seem to be working to keep these immune cells at bay,” said Professor Walid Khaled in the University of Cambridge’s Department of Pharmacology and Wellcome-MRC Cambridge Stem Cell Institute, senior author of the report.

Patients with delirium more likely to develop dementia

Professor Ruth Hubbard interacting with a patient.
Photo Credit: The University of Queensland

University of Queensland researchers have found older patients who experience delirium are three times more likely to develop dementia.

Professor Ruth Hubbard from UQ’s Centre for Health Services Research (CHSR) said the study also found that every episode of delirium increased the chance of developing dementia by 20 per cent.

“Delirium is an acute confusional state which particularly impacts older people and can have long term detrimental effects on patients,” Professor Hubbard said.

“Our study found that it is also strongly linked to dementia.”

The researchers analyzed a cohort of more than 110,000 patients from New South Wales hospitals over five years.

Lead author and CHSR research fellow, Dr Emily Gordon, said more than 55,000 patients who had experienced delirium were compared to patients who had not.

Liquid crystal nanoparticles supercharge antibiotics for cystic fibrosis

Image Credit: Copilot Dall E-3 AI generated

Cystic fibrosis is the most common, life-limiting genetic condition in Australia. It affects the lungs, digestive system, and reproductive system, producing excess mucus, infections, and blockages.

Now, thanks to a $500,000 grant from Brandon BioCatalyst's CUREator incubator, through their CSIRO-funded Minimizing Antimicrobial Resistance Stream, University of South Australia researchers are advancing the development of liquid crystal nanoparticle-formulated antibiotics to more accurately target and eliminate difficult-to-cure lung infections in people with cystic fibrosis.

Funded by the Medical Research Future Fund CUREator provides grant funding to support the development of Australian biomedical research and innovations.

The study will use a patent-protected platform technology, invented by UniSA’s Centre for Pharmaceutical Innovation to establish new therapies for cystic fibrosis sufferers. UniSA will also work with the Cystic Fibrosis Airways Research Group at the Women’s and Children’s Hospital to advance the platform.

Tuesday, March 26, 2024

Researchers a step closer to a cure for HIV

HIV, the AIDS virus (yellow), infecting a human cell
Image Credit: National Cancer Institute

A new study involving University of Bristol researchers has shown a virus-like particle (HLP) can effectively 'shock and kill' the latent HIV reservoir.

By 2030, the World Health Organization (WHO), the Global Fund and UNAIDS are hoping to end the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and AIDS epidemic. An international team of researchers led by Professor Eric Arts from the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry, Canada, and Dr Jamie Mann, Senior Lecturer at the University of Bristol, has brought us another step closer to meeting this goal, by finding an effective and affordable targeted treatment strategy for an HIV cure. 

In a first, the study published in Emerging Microbes and Infections demonstrated the team's patented therapeutic candidate. The HIV-virus-like-particle (HLP), is 100 times more effective than other candidate HIV cure therapeutics for people living with chronic HIV on combined antiretroviral therapy (cART). If successful in clinical trials, HLP could be used by millions of people living around the world to free them of HIV. This study was done using blood samples from people living with chronic HIV. 

HLPs are dead HIV particles hosting a comprehensive set of HIV proteins that increase immune responses without infecting a person. When compared with other potential cure approaches, HLP is an affordable biotherapeutic and can be administered by intramuscular injection – similar to the seasonal flu vaccine. 

New Study Reveals Who Was More Vulnerable to Post-COVID Syndrome in Early Phases of the Pandemic

Fatigue, malaise and difficulty breathing were associated with post-COVID syndrome, according to the new Nordic study.
Photo Credit: Kinga Howard

People with post-COVID syndrome (PCS) following the COVID-19 infection often suffer from intense fatigue and dyspnea. This is what emerges from a new Nordic study led by Umeå University and recently published in the BMJ Public Health journal. High blood pressure also appears to be a risk factor for PCS diagnosis, according to the study’s findings.

"These scientific results are an important step in better understanding PCS. By identifying key factors, we can improve diagnosis, adapt care and pave the way for research into more effective treatments," says Anne-Marie Fors Connolly, MD PhD, Assoc Prof, clinical researcher at Umeå University and the study's senior author.

The study analyzed data from over one million people in Sweden who tested positive for COVID-19 during the period from February 2020 to May 2021. Of these, 1.5 percent, just over 16,000 people, were diagnosed with PCS after the main COVID-19 infection. They were diagnosed in both outpatient and inpatient care, which provided large datasets for the researchers to examine the clinical footprint of PCS. The researchers conducted an in-depth study of PCS symptoms in individuals who required ongoing healthcare three months after the COVID-19 infection.

Blood analysis predicts sepsis and organ failure in children

Photo Credit: Edward Jenner

University of Queensland researchers have developed a method to predict if a child is likely to develop sepsis and go into organ failure.

Associate Professor Lachlan Coin from UQ’s Institute for Molecular Bioscience said sepsis was a life-threatening condition where a severe immune response to infection causes organ damage.

“Our research involved more than 900 critically ill children in the emergency departments and intensive care units of four Queensland hospitals,” Dr Coin said.

“Blood samples were taken from these patients at the acute stage of their infection, and we analyzed which genes were activated or deactivated.

“We were able to identify patterns of gene expression which could predict whether the child would develop organ failure within the next 24 hours, as well as whether the child had a bacterial or viral infection or a non-infectious inflammatory syndrome.”

Professor Luregn Schlapbach from UQ’s Child Health Research Centre said sepsis is best treated when recognized early, so the finding could help clinicians in the future.

Monday, March 25, 2024

CBD products don’t ease pain and are potentially harmful – new study finds

CBD oil may be popular for treating pain but taking it appears to be a waste of money
Photo Credit: Julia Teichmann

There is no evidence that CBD products reduce chronic pain, and taking them is a waste of money and potentially harmful to health, according to new research led by the University of Bath.

CBD (short for cannabidiol) is one of many chemicals found naturally in the cannabis plant. It’s a popular alternative treatment for pain and is readily available in shops and online in the form of oils, tinctures, vapes, topical creams, edibles (such as gummy bears) and soft drinks.

However, consumers would do well to steer clear of these products, according to the new study.

“CBD presents consumers with a big problem,” said Professor Chris Eccleston, who led the research from the Centre for Pain Research at Bath. “It’s touted as a cure for all pain but there’s a complete lack of quality evidence that it has any positive effects.”

He added: “It’s almost as if chronic pain patients don’t matter, and that we’re happy for people to trade on hope and despair.”

For their study, published this week in The Journal of Pain, the team – which included researchers from the Universities of Bath, Oxford and Alberta in Canada – examined research relevant to using CBD to treat pain and published in scientific journals up to late 2023.

Thursday, March 21, 2024

Research offers hope for preventing post-COVID ‘brain fog’ by targeting brain’s blood vessels

Blood vessel endothelial cells (green) and basement membrane (red) in the brain.
Image Credit: Sarah Lutz

Among the many confounding symptoms in patients recovering from a COVID-19 infection are memory loss and difficulty learning. Yet little is known about the mechanisms of cognitive impairments like these, commonly called brain fog. 

In a new study, researchers at the University of Illinois Chicago have identified a mechanism that causes neurological problems in mice infected with SARS-CoV-2, the virus behind COVID-19. The researchers also found a treatment that helped prevent these changes. Sarah Lutz, assistant professor of anatomy and cell biology in the College of Medicine, led the research, which was published in the journal Brain.

The team focused on the blood-brain barrier, which plays a role in other neurological diseases, such as multiple sclerosis. Normally, this barrier protects the brain from potentially harmful cells or molecules circulating in the bloodstream. But the infected mice, researchers found, had leaky blood-brain barrier vessels and impaired memory or learning.

To understand why, the researchers looked at blood vessels from the brains of infected mice to see which genes were most altered. They found a significant decrease in a signaling pathway called Wnt/beta-catenin, which helps maintain the health of the blood-brain barrier and protects the brain from damage.

Wednesday, March 20, 2024

Adding ribociclib to hormone therapy reduces the risk of breast cancer recurrence

Photo Credit: National Cancer Institute

A new treatment approach that combines a targeted therapy drug with hormone therapy significantly increased the amount of time a person with stage 2 or 3 HR-positive, HER2-negative early breast cancer lives without the cancer returning, according to a new study co-led by UCLA Health Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center investigators.

The team found adding ribociclib, a drug that belongs to a class of CDK4/6 inhibitors, to standard hormone therapy not only improved invasive-free survival in women with this type of early-stage breast cancer, but also improves distant disease-free survival and recurrence-free survival.

The results were published today in the New England Journal of Medicine and findings were presented last year at the American Society of Clinical Oncology Annual Meeting in Chicago.

“We found that adding ribociclib to the standard hormone therapy resulted in a relative reduction in the recurrence rate by as much as 25%,” said first author of the study Dr. Dennis Slamon, chair of hematology-oncology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and director of clinical and translational research at the UCLA Health Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center. “And that’s huge for this the group of patients, who make up 70% to 75% of breast cancer cases.”

Many patients with this type of breast cancer are treated with surgery, and in some cases with radiation and chemotherapy, followed by endocrine therapy for up to 10 years to help reduce their risk of recurrence.

Tuesday, March 19, 2024

A protein found in human sweat may protect against Lyme disease

Human sweat contains a protein that may protect against Lyme disease, according to a study from MIT and the University of Helsinki. About one-third of the population carries a genetic variant of this protein that is associated with Lyme disease in genome-wide association studies.
Photo Credit: Erik Karits

Lyme disease, a bacterial infection transmitted by ticks, affects nearly half a million people in the United States every year. In most cases, antibiotics effectively clear the infection, but for some patients, symptoms linger for months or years.

Researchers at MIT and the University of Helsinki have now discovered that human sweat contains a protein that can protect against Lyme disease. They also found that about one-third of the population carries a genetic variant of this protein that is associated with Lyme disease in genome-wide association studies.

It’s unknown exactly how the protein inhibits the growth of the bacteria that cause Lyme disease, but the researchers hope to harness the protein’s protective abilities to create skin creams that could help prevent the disease, or to treat infections that don’t respond to antibiotics.

“This protein may provide some protection from Lyme disease, and we think there are real implications here for a preventative and possibly a therapeutic based on this protein,” says Michal Caspi Tal, a principal research scientist in MIT’s Department of Biological Engineering and one of the senior authors of the new study.

Hanna Ollila, a senior researcher at the Institute for Molecular Medicine at the University of Helsinki and a researcher at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, is also a senior author of the paper, which appears today in Nature Communications. The paper’s lead author is Satu Strausz, a postdoc at the Institute for Molecular Medicine at the University of Helsinki.

Fighting heart attack down to the smallest vessels

Graphical Abstract of drug infusion for MVO treatment via regular vs. balloon catheter.
Image Credit: © ARTORG Center

Researchers in Bern have co-developed and tested a new method to combat the blockage of tiny coronary arteries after a heart attack. The new approach, born from a cooperation of engineers, clinicians, and industry, offers a treatment option to prevent the death of heart tissue after a heart attack, responsible for poor long-term patient health.

In myocardial infarction (heart attack), the supply of the heart muscle with oxygen and nutrients is blocked by an obstruction of a major coronary artery. Even after recanalization of this artery via stent, secondary obstructions in the cardiac microcirculation (Microvascular Obstruction, MVO) occur in 40-60% of all patients. This can lead to the death of heart tissue, with a negative impact on the long-term cardiovascular health of patients. Around 200,000 people are affected by this in Switzerland every year.

Monday, March 18, 2024

New strategy to facilitate muscle regeneration after injury

From left to right, Ginés Viscor, Joan Ramon Torrella and Garoa Santocildes.
Photo Credit: Courtesy of University of Barcelona

Muscle injuries are common in the active population, and they cause the majority of player leaves in the world of sport. Depending on the severity, recovery of muscle function is quite slow and may require surgery, medication and rehabilitation. Now, a study led by the University of Barcelona reveals a strategy to improve and accelerate recovery from muscle injuries that has potential application in the sports and health sector in general.

This is the first study to provide scientific evidence for faster and more effective recovery from muscle injuries through intermittent exposure to low oxygen availability (hypoxia) in a low-barometric pressure (hypobaric) chamber that simulates high-altitude geographic conditions.

The new approach is important for the recovery of athletes — especially in the competitive elite — but also to mitigate the socio-economic impact of the loss of work productivity caused by these injuries on the active population.

The study, carried out with animal models, has been published in the Journal of Physiology. The authors of the study are the experts Garoa Santoildes, Teresa Pagès, Joan Ramon Torrella and Ginés Viscor, from the Department of Cell Biology, Physiology and Immunology of the UB’s Faculty of Biology.

Attacking metastatic prostate cancer early with combination treatment approach improves outcomes in preliminary study

Photo Credit: Accuray

A team of UCLA Health Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center investigators has shown the combination of a short course of powerful and intense hormonal therapy with targeted radiation is safe and effective in treating people with prostate cancer that has come back and has spread to other parts of the body.

In the small study, researchers found that 50% of the patients who were treated with the combination therapy had no signs of the cancer and remained free of recurrence six months after their treatment, with less than a quarter experiencing severe side effects from the treatment. 

“In contrast, without this combined treatment approach, we would expect approximately 1% of patients to have no evidence of disease at the six-month stage,” said Dr. Amar Kishan, professor of radiation oncology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and senior author of the study. “These results suggest a substantial improvement and strongly suggest there can be a meaningful impact —namely, delaying the need for hormonal therapy and thus without the significant side effects of it— by attacking metastatic prostate cancer early.”

The results were published in the journal of European Urology.

Nearly all men who are diagnosed with metastatic hormone-sensitive prostate cancer are treated with androgen deprivation therapy, a type of hormonal therapy that aims to lower the levels of male hormones called androgens that can stimulate the growth of prostate cancer cells. 

Even small amounts of licorice raise blood pressure

Researchers have studied how licorice affects blood pressure, among other things.
Photo Credit: Marion Wellmann

It is known that large amounts of licorice cause high blood pressure. A study by researchers at Linköping University now shows that even small amounts of licorice raise blood pressure. The individuals who react most strongly also show signs of strain on the heart.

Licorice is produced from the root of plants of the Glycyrrhiza species and has long been used as an herbal remedy and flavoring. However, it is known that eating licorice can also raise blood pressure. This is mainly due to a substance called glycyrrhizic acid that affects the body’s fluid balance through effects on an enzyme in the kidney. High blood pressure, in turn, increases the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Both the European Union and the World Health Organization have concluded that 100 mg of glycyrrhizic acid per day is probably safe to eat for most individuals. But some people eat more licorice than that. The Swedish Food Agency has estimated that 5 per cent of Swedes have an intake higher than this level.

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