News Bites brings you 5 weekly news in bite sized forms.
1. Toxic Alzheimer’s proteins found in blood test
As the global population continues to grow older, the prevalence of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s continue to grow at an unprecedented rate. Now, a group of scientists from Japan and Australia have developed a blood test that is able to accurately detect a toxic protein allegedly linked to Alzheimer’s disease (AD).
Despite being in early stages of development, the new test has already shown very positive results. As outlined by the study results, the blood test works by detecting the amyloid beta levels, which are toxic proteins associated with the disease. “This study has major implications as it is the first time a group has shown a strong association of blood plasma amyloid with brain and cerebrospinal fluid,” highlighted Dr Abdul Hye, from King’s College London.
Moreover, the new test’s only counterpart is cost-ineffective and impractical, brain scan. While a definitive cure for Alzheimer’s has yet to be found, an early detection system could go a long way in ensuring the elderly remain cognitively active for a longer period.
2. A vaccine for cancer
Researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine have discovered a “vaccine” for eliminating cancer and its spread in mice. By administering two immune-stimulating agents directly into the tumour site of mice, the team was able to eliminate all traces of cancer growth and spread. Working by reactivating the bodies innate cancer-specific defense, this “vaccine” has also been postulated to be able to work on all forms of cancers.
“When we use these two agents together, we see the elimination of tumours all over the body,” explained Ronald Levy, MD, professor of oncology. “This approach bypasses the need to identify tumour-specific immune targets and doesn’t require wholesale activation of the immune system or customisation of a patient’s immune cells.”
Tests thus far, have been limited to mice but, the team have already begun moving forward with human patients specifically those suffering from lymphomas. Starting with a small group, the goal is to eventually increase both the number of trial patients and cancer types.
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3. Dengue infection in babies worsened by mother’s antibodies
A new study by the National University of Singapore (NUS) has found that mothers with antibodies against dengue may be harming their babies in some situations. Expectant mothers can receive a dengue vaccination, especially in tropical regions, to protect their new-born against the viral infection. However, under certain scenarios, these antibodies provided by the vaccine may end up exacerbating the infection in babies.
These specific scenarios include the vaccine failing to cover the various dengue strains or a complete reliance on the mother’s antibodies that the baby fails to develop its own antibodies. These cases proved to be true for all dengue vaccines, except those that work by stimulating a T-cell response and provided even better protection.
“We hope our work will further convince the dengue vaccine community that it is important to include a protective T-cell response in their vaccine design,” expressed team leader Associate Professor Sylvie Alonso.
4. Debunking the benefits of omega-3
Omega-3 is one of the most popular supplements in the pharmaceutical industry with long-touted benefits. Nonetheless, recent studies have somehow proven otherwise. For starters, a randomised trial by the University of Oxford found no proven link between omega-3 consumption and the prevention of heart disease. Regardless of their predisposition or condition, there was no evidence of omega-3 acting as a protective factor for heart conditions.
“Carefully done trials provide no support for the hypothesis that fish oil supplements help,” shared senior author, Dr Robert Clarke, who’s a professor of epidemiology at the University of Oxford.
In a separate study by the University of Granada, it was found that long-term consumption of fish oils leads to liver damage. Researchers discovered that long term consumption lead to an accumulation of oils in the liver leading to non-alcoholic steatohepatitis, or fatty liver. Of the back of these studies, researchers concluded the need for re-assessing consumption of omega-3 in daily diets.
5. Amazon-JP Morgan-Berkshire Hathaway joining forces to tackle healthcare
Global corporate giants, Amazon, JP Morgan Chase and Berkshire Hathaway have formed a joint venture to tackle the costly healthcare system in the United States. The US healthcare system has largely relied on insurance as payment, with self-payment often resulting in exorbitant costs. With the present unstable landscape of healthcare in the US, these three conglomerates are working together to provide an entirely new healthcare system for its employees.
With the system now privately managed by an independent company formed between the three, the new private healthcare system will be coming under a great amount of scrutiny. Unlike federal managed systems, the entirely private venture will rely heavily upon checks and balance as neither wanting to accrue a financial loss from this venture.
Whether the new system will work is anyone’s guess at this point – but, looks like it would be ushering a new perspective of healthcare. MIMS