April 25, 2017

New medical research and technology: malaria vaccine, at home DNA tests, smart gut pills and more

After Decades of Work, a Malaria Vaccine Is Here

Ghana, Kenya, and Malawi will begin piloting the injectable vaccine next year with young children. The vaccine, which has partial effectiveness, has the potential to save tens of thousands of lives if used with existing measures. The vaccine, developed by pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline, will be tested on children five to 17 months old to see whether protective effects shown in clinical trials can hold up under real-life conditions. The vaccine has taken decades of work and hundreds of millions of dollars to develop. Kenya, Ghana, and Malawi were chosen for the vaccine pilot because all have strong prevention and vaccination programs but continue to have high numbers of malaria cases, WHO said.

Scientists uncover the possible cause of Multiple Sclerosis (MS)

Scientists may be one step closer to discovering a cure for the debilitating lifelong condition multiple sclerosis (MS). Researchers have shown MS sufferers have high levels of a certain protein in their brain cells, which is virtually nonexistent in healthy people. This protein alters the cells' energy supply, triggering the disabling symptoms.The finding may enable scientists to create protein-targeting treatments for the incurable disease.

Scientists at the Universities of Exeter and Alberta analysed human brain tissue samples.  They discovered high levels of a protein, known as Rab32, in MS patients. Rab32 is thought to cause the part of the brain cell that stores calcium to get too close to the cell's so-called energy supplier. This causes miscommunication within the cell, leading to brain cell damage. Although it is established that MS occurs due to nervous system damage, the cause of this was less clear. 

FDA Approves At-Home DNA Tests For Ten Diseases

The Food and Drug Administration approved the first home DNA tests Thursday that let people find out if they have a genetic risk for certain diseases. The FDA decision allows home DNA test company 23andMe to directly market its gene tests for 10 diseases, including Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, celiac disease and some rare blood diseases. “It is important that people understand that genetic risk is just one piece of the bigger puzzle”

Harvard study breakthrough on genetics of parenting behavior across species

Why is it that some species seem to be particularly attentive parents while others leave their young to fend for themselves? For years, scientists have believed one of the major drivers is experience — an animal raised by an attentive parent, the argument goes, is likely to be an attentive parent itself.

A Harvard study is challenging that idea, and breaking new ground by uncovering links between the activity of specific genes and parenting differences across species...the study found not only that different genes may influence behaviors in males and females, but also that the gene for the hormone vasopressin appears to be closely tied to nest-building behavior in parenting mice.

Guts and glory for RMIT smart pills

Researchers at RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia, have successfully completed phase one human trials of ingestible capsules that have the potential to revolutionize the prevention and diagnosis of gut disorders and diseases. The ingestible smart capsules (the size of a vitamin pill)  journey through and measure gas levels in the gastrointestinal tract. The ingestible technology has demonstrated several thousand -times more sensitivity to gut gases than alternative techniques.

"Currently, one of the only methods for diagnosing gut disorders, such as mal-absorption of carbohydrates, irritable bowel syndrome and inflammable bowel disease, is to measure hydrogen concentrations in the breath," Kalantar-zadeh said. "However, breath tests are mired by a lack of sensitivity and specificity and are unable to provide the necessary gold standard for diagnosis."

Co-inventor Dr Kyle Berean said: "Ingestible sensors also offer a reliable diagnostic tool for colon cancer, meaning that people won't have to undergo colonoscopies in future."  Smart pills are harmless and there is no risk of capsule retention," Berean said. An added advantage is that the capsules can be synched with smartphones, meaning results are easily accessible by users and doctors online.
Posted by Jill Fallon at April 25, 2017 11:40 AM | Permalink