March 25, 2014

Health Round-up: 'Astonishing" cancer drug, statins and MS, protective brain molecule against Alzheimer's, why dark chocolate is good for you

'Astonishing' new cancer drug could extend the lives of terminally-ill patients and eliminate their symptoms overnight….with virtually no side effects

The world-first project is being led by Professor Simon Rule, a globally-renowned expert in haematology and researcher at Plymouth University Peninsula Schools of Medicine and Dentistry.  He says the new pill has the potential to transform the lives of desperately ill patients and eliminate the need for costly, gruelling bouts of chemotherapy.

Professor Rule said: ‘The astonishing thing about these drugs is that they have virtually no side effects, which is unprecedented from my experience. In some patients the effects are immediate.
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‘This is not a cure for cancer but it will mean we are significantly improving our patients' life expectancy and quality of life; similar to managing a chronic condition.

‘I have yet to come across another class of drugs in my career that has been so successful for leukemia or lymphoma. I have done a lot of drug trials in my career, this drug and its predecessor, which I was fortunate to be the first person in Europe to use - they are transformational as far as I am concerned.

A daily statin tablet could slow march of MS: Regular dose found to almost halve brain shrinkage suffered by patients

British researchers randomly assigned 140 patients with secondary progressive MS to recieve either 80mg of simvastatin or a placebo.  Small but significant improvements in disability were noted by doctors

Study leader Dr Jeremy Chataway of University College London Hospitals, said ‘In the progressive stage of MS the brain shrinks by about 0.6 per cent a year

Protective Brain Molecule May Stave Off Alzheimer's

Studies have shown that a third of people have the brain pathology of Alzheimer's at autopsy, yet never experienced symptoms of cognitive decline during their lifetime. Therefore, scientists say, something must be protecting their brains from succumbing to the toxins.

Yankner and colleagues found that the protein known as REST (short for "repressor element 1-silencing transcription factor") turns off genes involved in cell death and resistance to cellular toxins. REST, which is normally produced during brain development, is very active in aging brains, but appears to be missing in the brains of people with cognitive impairment or Alzheimer's disease.
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Yanker's team also studied the effects of stress in the roundworm Caenorhabditis elegans. They found that worms that lacked proteins similar to REST became more vulnerable to stress and had shorter life spans than normal worms. This suggests the protective function has been conserved by evolution.

The researchers found that the protein isn't actually gone from brains of people with Alzheimer's. Instead, their brain cells continue to produce REST proteins, but cellular machinery called autophagosomes engulf the proteins and degrade them.

Consequently, it may be possible to intervene and prevent the degradation of these proteins, bringing scientists closer to diagnosing or preventing Alzheimer's disease and dementia.

Why dark chocolate is good for you

Dark chocolate might pack a double positive punch for our health—thanks to the microbes that live in our gut. New research suggests that beneficial bacteria that reside toward the end of our digestive tract ferment both the antioxidants and the fiber in cocoa.

In their deep-gut alchemy these microbes create anti-inflammatory compounds that have been linked to the cardiovascular and other benefits from dark chocolate consumption. The findings were presented March 18 at the American Chemical Society meeting in Dallas.
Posted by Jill Fallon at March 25, 2014 5:35 PM | Permalink