February 24, 2017

Health Roundup: Alzheimer's, MS, Parkinsons, cooling caps and holding hearts

Too much sugar causes Alzheimer's: Study reveals 'tipping point' link between blood glucose and brain disease.

The study by the University of Bath and King's College London builds on previous research showing diabetes appears to increase the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease and vascular dementia.  They found a 'tipping point' when glucose levels start to inhibit a protein that fights the early stages of Alzheimer's.  Once levels pass the threshold, they restrict the performance of a vital protein, which normally fights the brain inflammation associated with dementia.  This is the first evidence showing link between sugar and the brain disease.

Radical stem cell treatment for MS could stop the disease in its tracks for 5 years and even allow some sufferers to walk again

Imperial College London experts used chemotherapy to kill faulty immune cells. They then replaced them with stem cells in a bid to 'reset' the body's defenses. They found that Nearly half of patients saw the disease stop progressing for 5 years. Some patients went for as long as ten years with no worsening in their condition. Experts say the findings offer hope of the first lasting treatment for MS patients.

Doctors, however, stressed the treatment is more likely to 'stabilize' rather than 'reverse' the disease - and has better outcomes for patients whose disabilities are not severe. The Imperial study is the largest trial to date of autologous hematopoietic stem cell transplantation - or AHSCT - widely considered the most promising treatment for MS.

Is this the 'master switch' that prevents Parkinson's disease? Scientists discover key gene that stops brain cells from dying

Researchers from the University of Leicester found that a gene known as ATF4 plays a key role in the onset of Parkinson's in fruit flies. Acting as a switch, ATF4 helps to control the energy stations of cells - known as mitochondria - including neurons. The discovered gene boosts the energy of neurons, preventing their destruction.  This groundbreaking discovery could help to prevent or delay Parkinson symptoms.  Dr Martins said: 'Studying the roles of genes such as ATF4 in human neurons could lead to tailored interventions that could one day prevent or delay the neuronal loss seen in Parkinson's.' 

This comes after groundbreaking research in December found that Parkinson's disease may start in the stomach. Scientists from California Institute of Technology found the first ever conclusive link between gut microbes and the development of Parkinson's-like movement disorders in mice.

Studies: Cooling Caps Help Chemo Patients Keep Hair Up to two-thirds of breast cancer patients kept more than half their hair.

Cooling caps are affixed to patients' heads before, during, and after chemo; a machine cycles cooling liquid through the caps. While researchers aren't exactly sure how the caps prevent hair loss, one theory is they restrict blood vessels in the scalp, reducing the amount of chemo that reaches the hair follicles. About half of breast cancer patients say hair loss is the most daunting part of chemo, and 8% say they would turn down chemo in order to keep their hair. One breast cancer survivor who used a cooling cap says it has psychological benefits. She tells the Times that losing their hair makes people "think they're sicker than they actually are.

Would YOU want to hold your heart? Texas hospital lets transplant patients clutch their removed organs after surgery

Normally, hospitals dispose of surgically-removed organs after testing them and taking records. However, Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas, Texas, has launched an unusual scheme called the 'Heart-to-Heart' program. It has offered more than 70 people the virtually unheard-of opportunity to see their ailing body part, and to hold it, before it is stored for further study. It all started with Dr William C Roberts, a cardiac pathologist at Baylor, who has been storing every removed heart to study for further study since he joined the institution in 1993.  The patients are overcome with emotion when they hold their own hearts in their hands.

 Holding Hearts

Posted by Jill Fallon at February 24, 2017 11:32 AM | Permalink