July 23, 2014

Health Roundup: Drugs repurposed, dogs, discoveries and warnings

The asthma drug that is being used to beat paralysis: How one patient went from using a wheelchair to walk unaided

A type of medication that  is normally used by asthma sufferers has been proving stunningly effective in treating a form or paralysis – and has even allowed a wheelchair-bound teenager to walk unaided for the first time in seven years.  Jimmy Webster, 18, took salbutamol to treat congenital myasthenia. He had been so disabled he sometimes needed an oxygen-mask to breathe.  But he says: ‘Within three days I could stand and within a week I could walk.’ Now he is about to go camping and adds: ‘I wouldn’t have contemplated this last year.’
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Salbutamol is prescribed to asthmatics in inhaler form under the brand name Ventolin. It is now proving a remarkable treatment for myasthenia….Myasthenia is either congenital – due to a genetic mutation – or caused by the immune system turning inward and attacking the body, developing later in life…..Studies had shown widespread benefits, with another teenage patient going from needing crutches to walk, to jogging and doing sit-ups.

Do Parkinson's drugs make people more CREATIVE? Pills that increase dopamine levels may improve artistic abilities

Parkinson's experts have been noticing a remarkable phenomenon – some of their patients have developed impressive creative talents.
The link between Parkinson’s and artistic abilities was brought to the attention of the world two years ago by Professor Rivka Inzelberg of Tel Aviv University in Israel.  Now she has completed the first empirical study to verify a link between Parkinson’s disease and creativity, which the study suggests may be down to drugs used to treat the disease.

Professor Inzelberg first noticed the trend in her own Sheba Medical Centre clinic when the usual holiday presents from patients - typically chocolates or similar gifts took a surprising turn.  ‘Instead, patients starting bringing us art they had made themselves,’ she said.  Bringing together case studies from around the world, Professor Inzelberg examined the details of each patient to uncover a common underlying factor – all were being treated by similar drugs.

Arthritis drug could also halt Alzheimer's: Treatment found to stop progression of memory loss and poor mood

A safe and widely-used arthritis drug stops Alzheimer’s in its tracks, a British study has found.  The 20 men and women who were given Etanercept did not descend further into the disease – unlike those who were given a dummy treatment. Memory, mood and the ability to carry out vital everyday tasks such as washing and dressing were all, on average, stopped from getting worse.  The results, revealed at a major Alzheimer’s conference and dubbed ‘quite amazing’, are comparable with those for Aricept, one of the few existing Alzheimer’s treatments.
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Professor Holmes cautioned that only a small number of patients were treated – but described the results as ‘quite amazing’.He said: ‘Our results are better than we expected. ‘It is the first drug in a long time that has shown such promise.’

The easy way to feel ten years younger…get a dog: Pets not only keep you active they also make you mentally fitter

Dog owners act ten years younger than their age, a study found.  The St Andrews University research showed that they not only more active, they are also mentally fitter.  Researcher Dr Zhiqiang Feng said: ‘It is well known that pet ownership may help alleviate feelings of loneliness and depression in older people, but one area that has received little attention is the effect of dog ownership on the physical activity levels of the elderly.

The rate of Alzheimer's disease is DECLINING in the U.S. as people take better care of their health - but it continues to grow in poorer countries

The rate of Alzheimer's disease and other dementias is falling in the United States and some other rich countries, new  research shows.
An American over age 60 today has a 44 percent lower chance of developing dementia than a similar-aged person did roughly 30 years ago, the longest study of these trends in the U.S. concluded.  Dementia rates also are down in Germany, a study there found.  However, the epidemic is still growing simply because more people are living to an old age.

Protein discovery that could reverse the damage of diabetes: Breakthrough could lead to cheap drug that would halt disease

Scientists have discovered a treatment for type 2 diabetes which could reverse the disease. The researchers found that a protein which is already naturally produced in the body cured the disease in mice and they are confident that it could be easily replicated in humans.  The breakthrough raises hope of a cheap drug which could effectively halt one of the world’s fastest growing diseases.

The protein, called FGF1, already plays a natural role in human cell growth and tissue repair - but it never usually enters the blood stream.  Diabetes experts found that when the protein was injected into a muscle and interacted with the blood, it dramatically reduced blood sugar levels.  Crucially, the protein also seems to reverse the root cause of type 2 diabetes - making the metabolic system react to insulin when it had been failing to do so.
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Professor Ronald Evans, of the Salk Institute in La Jolla, California, said: ‘This is a big deal - this treatment is very simple to make. We are at a very early stage but we know all about this protein already so we have a head start.

Cancer cells may guide treatment

A Boston-based team published proof Thursday that one of the most alluring ideas in cancer care can work: Exceedingly rare tumor cells can be filtered from a patient’s blood sample and used to noninvasively monitor the evolution of cancer and identify the most promising treatments.

The scientists drew blood from women with one type of breast cancer, isolated the rare cancer cells, and then experimented with those cells in a laboratory dish to find drugs that might effectively halt the spreading cancer.

The work demonstrates a powerful way to track and personalize cancer treatment with a simple blood draw. The technique, described in the journal Science, could enable doctors to frequently check for genetic changes that allow tumors to develop resistance to medications and to fine-tune therapy.

Arsenic warning over rice milk: Parents warned not to give drink to children because it can contain harmful levels of the chemical

Niacin – Also Known As Vitamin B3 — Supplements Can Be Deadly

Niacin, or vitamin B3, is too dangerous and should not be used routinely by people looking to control their cholesterol levels or prevent heart disease, doctors say.
The warning comes following recent evidence showing the vitamin does not reduce heart attacks or strokes, and instead is linked to an increased risk of bleeding, diabetes and death.

Niacin has long been used to increase people's levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or the "good" cholesterol, and has been a major focus of research into heart disease prevention for several decades. However, clinical trials have not shown that taking niacin in any form actually prevents heart problems. Considering the alarming side effects of niacin, researchers now say the vitamin shouldn't even be prescribed anymore.

"There might be one excess death for every 200 people we put on niacin," said Dr. Donald Lloyd-Jones, a cardiologist and chair of preventive medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. "With that kind of signal, this is an unacceptable therapy for the vast majority of patients."
Posted by Jill Fallon at July 23, 2014 10:51 AM | Permalink