Monday, November 29, 2021

Study: Red light in morning may protect fading eyesight

In published an article in which claiming that: A weekly dose of deep red light in the morning may protect fading eyesight as people age, British researchers say.

"Using a simple LED device once a week recharges the energy system that has declined in the retina cells, rather like recharging a battery," according to Glen Jeffery, lead author of a small, new study.

In previous work, the researchers found that daily three-minute exposure to long-wave deep red light switched on energy-producing mitochondria cells in the retina, giving a boost to naturally declining vision.

In this new study, the investigators wanted to assess the effect of a single three-minute exposure once a week, and whether exposure in the morning or afternoon made a difference.

The study included 13 women and seven men, aged 34 to 70, who had no eye disease and normal color vision. The participants were exposed to three minutes of 670 nanometer LED deep red light in the morning between 8 a.m. and 9 a.m.

Their color vision was tested again three hours after that exposure, and 10 participants were also tested one week after exposure.

On average there was a "significant" 17% improvement in color vision, which lasted a week. Some of the older participants had a 20% improvement that lasted a week, the findings showed.

When the same experiment was conducted in the afternoon, there was no improvement in color vision, according to the University College London study.

"We demonstrate that one single exposure to long-wave deep red light in the morning can significantly improve declining vision, which is a major health and well-being issue, affecting millions of people globally," Jeffery, a professor at the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology, said in a university news release.

"This simple intervention applied at the population level would significantly impact on quality of life as people age and would likely result in reduced social costs that arise from problems associated with reduced vision," he added.

Jeffery said the technology is "simple and very safe." He also believes an easy-to-use device can be made available at an affordable cost to the general public.

"In the near future, a once a week tahree-minute exposure to deep red light could be done while making a coffee, or on the commute listening to a podcast, and such a simple addition could transform eye care and vision around the world," he said.

The results were published this month in the journal Scientific Reports.

More information

The U.S. National Institute on Aging has more about aging and your eyes.

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Curious Kids: how do birds make their nests?

In published and claiming that I'd like to learn more about how birds build their nests. What causes the twigs stick together and how do they know how to weave them together? – Miguel, ten years old, lives in Brisbane.

The first thing to know is not all birds make nests. For example, emperor penguin fathers carry their precious egg on their feet (to keep it off the frozen ground).

Some birds, such as cuckoos, will lay their eggs in someone else’s nests. Others lay them on the ground among leaves or pebbles, or on cliffs with very little protection.

For the birds that do build nests, there is one main goal: to keep their eggs and chicks safe.
Many places to build a nest

Many birds also make their nests in tree hollows, including parrots. That’s just one reason it’s important to not cut trees down!

Meanwhile, kookaburras use their powerful beaks to burrow into termite nests and make a cosy nest inside. And the cute spotted pardelote will dig little burrows in the side of earth banks – with a safe and cosy spot for its eggs at the end of the tunnel.

Some birds, such as brush turkeys, spend months building huge mounds on the ground which can heat up from the inside. The male turkey makes sure the ground is exactly the right temperature inside the mound, and then lets the female lay the eggs inside. He’ll take big mouthfuls of dirt surrounding the eggs to check it’s not too hot or cold.
What materials do they use?

Birds construct many different types of nests. There are floating nests, cups, domes, pendulums and basket-shaped nests. They can be made out of sticks, twigs, leaves, grasses, mosses or even mud.

Magpie-larks (also called “peewees”), apostlebirds and choughs make mud bowl nests that look like terracotta plant pots. To do this, they gather mud and grasses in their beaks and shake it around to mix it with their saliva. They can then attach it to a branch and build upwards until the nest is complete.

In fact, bird saliva is a really strong and sticky material to build nests with. Birds will often mix saliva and mud to make a type of glue. And some swiftlets make their nests entirely out of solidified saliva. People will even eat these nests in bird’s nest soup!

Willie wagtails use another type of glue - sticky spiderwebs. They “sew” grasses together using spider webs and the webs help keep the nests strong against wind and water, too. They have to perfect the technique of gathering the spiderweb though, otherwise it can get tangled in their feathers.

Magpies and crows, both common visitors to our gardens, are also clever nest builders. Not only can they expertly layer their sticks into a bowl, but they also use many human-made materials in their nests. You might find them using fabric, string or a wire to hold a nest together.

Some birds such as red kites have even been seen “decorating” their nests with human rubbish. And Australian babblers line the inside of their nests with a thick wall of kangaroo poo, followed by soft fluff, to keep their chicks warm.
The building process

To actually weave the nests, birds will usually create a base by layering sticks or twigs in the place they want it. Then they use their beaks and feet to weave a chosen materials through, to hold the sticks in place.

They can pull strips of material with their beaks over and under, just like weaving a rug. They can even tie knots! Nests can take a really long time to make, so they’re often reused year after year. Weaver birds are so good at weaving, they can build complex nests that cover entire trees and have several chambers.

To summarise, birds are really intelligent animals. They use their intelligence, along with their beaks and feet, to find the most clever ways to make nests with whatever materials are available. And they get better at this by learning from others, such as their parents or peers.

Sugar could help repair artificial human joints

Research Sources:- +

A sugar-containing polymer coating could one day help repair artificial joint implants, like hip replacements, when they are damaged through wear and tear, according to new research.

An international team of chemists and engineers, including Durham and York universities, UK, and Tsinghua University, China, has developed the technique for easily repairing low-friction surfaces.

Taking their inspiration from the way cartilage works to lubricate joints in humans, the team has found that rings of sugar can help a polymer latch on to surfaces and repair damage.

Publishing their findings in the journal Chem, they say their discovery could eventually be used in medical implants to extend the life-span of artificial joints.

A graphical representation of the repairing surface coating and microscope images
 showing a repaired area in green. Credit: Dr Paul McGonigal & Chem

They hope the coating could also eventually be used to reduce friction-caused energy waste in mechanical systems, making them more efficient.

While cartilage can be restored by human bodies if it becomes damaged, artificial surfaces are not normally repaired so easily.

The research team found that if the polymer coating they have created is rubbed from a surface during use then a sugar ring in its structure allows it to reattach easily.

The coating created by the research team then mimics the way cartilage works to lubricate human joints.

Cartilage uses water to make a slick surface that minimises wear and tear. In the same way, the new coatings coax a layer of water to the surface, making it slippery and protecting the surfaces as they are knocked or rubbed.

Senior author Dr. Paul McGonigal, Associate Professor in the Department of Chemistry, Durham University, UK, said: "Our sugar-containing coating gives us an appealing new way of patching up damage to low-friction surfaces.

"Hip and knee joints in our bodies stand up to decades of wear and tear thanks to the cartilage being repaired and replaced constantly. We have made materials that work in a similar way, but that are compatible with artificial joints.

"The components of our coatings are biocompatible, which makes them exciting prospects for use in medicine.

"We could also imagine developing a range of these materials that work in very different environments. Avoiding and repairing the damage caused by friction is equally important to ensure that cars and other machinery last for a long time."

The polymer coating has two major parts. Firstly, it has a long molecular chain with positive and negative charges to hold on to a water layer—using an effect similar to static electricity. Secondly, a sugar ring is attached to one end of the chain. This ring anchors itself to a surface by docking with specific molecules, called adamantanes.

By treating titanium metal with these adamantane structures, the researchers showed that the polymer coating becomes attracted to the surface. The weak, non-permanent links that form are key to the repair process.

Co-author Dr. Yulong Sun, a researcher in Dr. McGonigal's laboratory at Durham University, spent time investigating the low-friction surfaces with Ph.D. research student Yixin Wang and Prof Hongyu Zhang in Tsinghua University's Department of Mechanical Engineering.

Dr. Sun said: "Repair mechanisms are key to making materials that last a long time.

"Nature's low-friction materials regenerate when they are damaged, but until now, we haven't had good repair mechanisms for artificial systems. To tackle this challenge, we need chemists and engineers to cooperate to design advanced coating technology."

The researchers added that for now this type of repair requires more polymer coating to be dissolved in the water surrounding a surface, but they believe it will not be long until the coatings are improved to avoid the need for this extra material to be present.

Research co-author Dr. Alyssa-Jennifer Avestro, a Dorothy Hodgkin Research Fellow at the University of York said: "This is dynamic yet selective chemistry, which looks like it could be an effective way to undo the negative effects of mechanical wear on joints and other surfaces.

"If our protective coating layer is worn off, it is restored again without needing our intervention, thanks to targeted molecular recognition."


Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Study: Coffee increases activity

It also appears to have an impact on heart rate and sleep.

In According to a study that tracked the health consequences of caffeinated coffee in real time, it may have a mix of short-term benefits and drawbacks.

Researchers observed 100 volunteers for two weeks in a randomised controlled trial and discovered that on days when they drank coffee, they walked more steps per day than on days when they didn't. There was also a link between drinking more coffee and having fewer instances of one form of irregular cardiac rhythm.

But on days they drank coffee, participants had more incidents of another type of abnormal heartbeat. They also slept less.

“These results highlight the complex relationship between coffee and health,” said study author Dr. Gregory Marcus, associate chief of cardiology for research and endowed professor of atrial fibrillation research at the University of California, San Francisco.

“More physical activity, which appears to be prompted by coffee consumption, has numerous health benefits, such as reduced risks of Type 2 diabetes and several cancers, and is associated with greater longevity,” Marcus said in a news release. “On the other hand, reduced sleep is associated with a variety of adverse psychiatric, neurologic and cardiovascular outcomes.”

The research, which is considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal, was presented at the American Heart Association’s virtual Scientific Sessions.

“Coffee is the most commonly consumed beverage in the world, yet its health effects remain uncertain,” Marcus said. Most long-term observational studies have suggested multiple potential benefits of drinking coffee, but he called this “the first randomized trial to investigate the real-time, physiologic consequences of coffee consumption.”

Study volunteers wore continuous recording monitors to track heart rhythm and blood sugar levels. Wrist-worn devices tracked physical activity and sleep. The participants’ average age was 38; 51 percent were women, and 48 percent were white.

Over two weeks, they were randomly assigned to either avoid or drink coffee for no more than two consecutive days each. Coffee and espresso consumption were tracked in real time via a “time stamp button” on the heart monitor. Participants completed daily questionnaires to detail how much coffee they drank.

Compared to days when participants did not drink coffee, coffee consumption was associated with more than 1,000 additional steps per day, 36 fewer minutes of sleep per night, and a 54 percent increase in episodes of a type of abnormal heartbeat that originates in the lower heart chambers, called premature ventricular contractions. More frequent abnormal beats from the lower chambers increase the risk of heart failure, Marcus said.

Each additional cup of coffee was associated with nearly 600 more steps per day and 18 fewer minutes of sleep a night. But episodes of an abnormally rapid heart rhythm that arise from the upper heart chambers, called supraventricular tachycardia, were 12 percent less frequent for each additional cup.

Researchers had screened participants’ DNA to look for genes that may affect caffeine metabolism. They found people with genes associated with faster caffeine metabolism exhibited more abnormal heartbeats originating in the lower chambers of the heart when more coffee was consumed. The slower a coffee drinker metabolized caffeine, the more sleep they lost.

Sunday, November 21, 2021

Late diagnosis of tumours in children collateral damage of COVID-19, doctors say

Lack of in-person visits with family doctor a factor in diagnosis, treatment delays

Dr. Sheila Singh is used to explaining complex medical situations in simple terms. The pediatric neurosurgeon at McMaster Children's Hospital in Hamilton says that lately, she's seeing too many oranges and grapefruits and fewer ping pong balls.

That's not good, and it could signal that the COVID-19 pandemic has delayed the diagnosis of many pediatric diseases, sometimes with devastating results.

"You can imagine a tumour that's the size of a ping pong ball, it's easier for me to work around and remove it," she said. "But if that ping pong ball-sized tumour grows to the size of an orange or a grapefruit, the tumour has grown to a size where it's much more difficult now to deal with."

Singh told Dr. Brian Goldman, host of White Coat Black Art, that she is now seeing two to three times more oranges and grapefruits than before the pandemic. In other words, the tumours have been left to grow much longer due to delays in diagnosis.

Singh says she believes the delays in diagnosis have been caused by patients staying away from hospitals because:
They are afraid of catching COVID-19.
There is a lack of in-person visits with their family doctor.
There is an anchor bias to look for COVID-19 symptoms to the detriment of flagging other serious diseases.

"There's no doubt there will be collateral damage," she said, "and some of that will be death and poor outcomes from diseases that could have had better outcomes."

Singh says she remembered a recent patient, a young girl who had a tumour that typically grows in one place in the brain. "This little girl came in and this tumour was actually in four places in her brain. And let me put it this way, two out of those four places I'd never seen this brain tumour in before." Instead of doing one surgery, Singh had to do several risky and difficult operations.

As a pediatric doctor, Singh says that it has been heartbreaking to see some of the children whose cancers have progressed much further than the pre-pandemic norm. "I feel like I've been practising in a Third World country. I have seen disease that has spread so far that it's almost like cases I've read about in rural India. It's been quite difficult and alarming."

Pediatric cancer specialists at CHEO, formerly the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario, in Ottawa also saw fewer patients coming in the early days of the pandemic, when parents said they feared going to the hospital.
Early signs of widespread diagnosis delays

Early research suggests that later diagnosis of illness in children due to the pandemic may extend to other serious illnesses, not just cancer. In a study published earlier this year in the medical journal Pediatric Diabetes, researchers in Alberta found that more children are being treated for diabetic ketoacidosis, a serious and potentially fatal complication of diabetes.

The authors suggest that parents may have been reluctant to access medical services because of fear of COVID-19 and that "increased virtual visits resulted in reduced face-to-face contact with health-care providers and may have contributed to the under-recognition of the severity of illness."

Dr. Patrick McDonald says he remembers the challenges of the lockdowns. For much of the pandemic, McDonald headed up the pediatric neurosurgery division at B.C. Children's Hospital in Vancouver. In the early days of COVID-19, "I think all of us struggled with the issue [of] how do we make sure that families know that they can still access care. It might be a little more challenging, and we might have to do it initially by phone."

He said that "it's a legitimate concern that people might not be able to or might not be accessing care in a timely fashion."
Push for more in-person care

In October, the Ontario Ministry of Health and the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario issued a letter that encouraged doctors to resume in-patient visits over virtual appointments.

"The standard of care is often difficult to meet in a virtual care environment," the letter stated. "In-person care is essential for certain conditions and services or where physical assessments are necessary to make an appropriate diagnosis or treatment decision."

That's particularly true when examining a young patient, Singh stressed. "There's so much room to miss a diagnosis when you're staring at a child on a screen."

One of the common symptoms of a brain tumour in a child is macrocephaly, a technical term for an enlarged head, which Singh said can be a challenge to identify during a virtual visit.

"Depending on the angle at which you're looking at a child, you might not even notice how big their head is or even be alarmed about it, whereas if that child walked into a room, it'd be the first thing you'd notice about them."

McDonald says he believes that it may be another year before the full impact of delayed diagnosis due to COVID-19 is really understood. When the data does emerge, he stressed that we need to carefully examine what happened to understand why people may not have sought out the care their children needed.

"There may be another pandemic, and we want to make sure that we learn appropriate lessons for what we did right and what we did wrong in providing adequate care," he said.

In the meantime, Singh offered two pieces of advice to parents. First, she said, "It's safe to go to your hospital." And second, "I would really encourage parents not to accept a virtual visit as being a proper way to diagnose your child."

Singh stressed that when parents are concerned about their child, an in-person physical examination is imperative to receive a proper diagnosis.


Friday, November 19, 2021

Using PET scans to better treat cancer patients

CU Cancer Center member Sarah Milgrom, MD, studied the scans’ effectiveness in predicting recurrence in children, adolescents, and young adults with Hodgkin lymphoma


The PET (positron emission tomography) scan, an imaging technique that employs a little amount of radioactive sugar to detect metabolically active areas within the body, is one of the key tools that oncologists use to stage malignancies.

CU Cancer Center member Sarah Milgrom, MD, recently conducted research to study if PET scans can help to predict recurrence in Hodgkin lymphoma. She used the images to measure the lymphoma volume for each patient at the time of diagnosis, then followed the patients over time to find out whether the initial metabolic tumor volume was associated with the risk of the cancer coming back. Her findings, which led to her being selected for a Young Investigator Award from the Children’s Oncology Group, can help cancer doctors more accurately predict patients’ risk of recurrence, which, in turn, may help them to choose the most appropriate treatments.

We talked with Milgrom about her research and what it means for patients.

Q: How do PET scans work?
A: Prior to the scan, a small amount of a radioactive sugar is injected into a vein. This sugar, or radiotracer, collects in areas of the body that are metabolically active, since they take up a lot of sugar. Then, the PET scanner creates detailed pictures of the body, showing areas that have absorbed large amounts of the radiotracer. PET scans are used commonly in many types of cancers, including Hodgkin lymphoma. Hodgkin lymphoma cells take up more sugar than normal cells, so they are detected by PET scans. In this way, PET scans can pinpoint the locations of the lymphoma within the body.

Q: What was your hypothesis regarding PET scans in your study on metabolic tumor volume in children and adolescents with intermediate-risk Hodgkin lymphoma?

A: We wanted to see if the volume of disease in a patient’s body at the time of their diagnosis was associated with their risk of recurrence after treatment. For this study, we looked at patients with intermediate-risk Hodgkin lymphoma who were treated on a Children’s Oncology Group (COG) study. We only included patients who received the same chemotherapy and radiation treatment regimen. We used PET scans to measure the lymphoma volume for each patient at the time of diagnosis, and we explored whether the initial metabolic tumor volume was associated with the risk of cancer recurrence.

Q: What were your findings?

A: We found that a higher volume of lymphoma at diagnosis was associated with a greater risk of recurrence after treatment. Importantly, metabolic tumor volume was associated with the risk of recurrence even when we controlled for other important variables like stage, bulk, and response to chemotherapy. These are the risk factors that are used currently to select the appropriate treatment for patients. This means that metabolic tumor volume might add prognostic information on top of standard risk factors, so it could be used to help select the best treatment for patients.

Q; What will this research mean for patients going forward?

A: In the future, it is possible that measures of baseline metabolic tumor volume will be used to select the most appropriate treatment for patients with intermediate-risk Hodgkin lymphoma. This could lead to improved patient outcomes.

Q: You did a similar study in children with high-risk Hodgkin lymphoma. How did that one work?

A: That study included patients who were treated on a different COG protocol that was for patients with high-risk Hodgkin lymphoma. On that protocol, patients received different treatments, depending upon how quickly their disease responded to chemotherapy. Patients whose disease had responded very well after the first two cycles of chemotherapy were called “rapid early responders,” and they received less intensive therapy than patients whose disease had not responded as well at that time (“slow early responders”). Again, we used PET scans to measure the initial lymphoma volume for each patient to explore whether that volume was associated with the risk of cancer recurrence. First, we evaluated the entire group, and then we looked at the rapid early responders and the slow early responders separately.

Q: What were your findings in the study on high-risk patients?

A: We found that total lesion glycolysis — a measurement that considers the total body volume of disease as well as its metabolic activity — was significantly associated with the risk of recurrence in the total cohort. When we looked at the rapid early responders and the slow early responders separately, however, we had a very interesting finding. Total lesion glycosis was associated with the risk of recurrence in rapid early responders, but not in slow early responders.

Rapid early responders with a low baseline tumor burden experienced excellent outcomes with less intensive therapy; however, rapid early responders with a high baseline tumor burden experienced poor outcomes that were even worse than those of slow early responders. This suggests that patients with a high upfront tumor burden may benefit from intensified therapy, even if they achieve a rapid early response.

Q: What will your research on high-risk Hodgkin lymphoma mean for patients going forward?

A: PET-based measures of initial disease burden may help us to predict patients’ risk of recurrence. That, in turn, may help us to select the best treatment for patients with high-risk Hodgkin lymphoma.

Q: Will using PET scans to measure initial disease burden change anything about the way doctors care for cancer patients?

A: Currently, quantitative PET parameters are not used in routine clinical management. One reason is that it takes a lot of time and effort to make the measurements. An active area of research is the optimal approach for obtaining these measurements easily and quickly. Once these technical aspects have been worked out, I think that PET-based volumetric parameters will become the routine measure of baseline disease burden that contribute to risk-based treatment strategies in Hodgkin lymphoma.

Thursday, November 18, 2021

Study: Abortion care hurdles, considerations by Ohioans

University of Cincinnati doctoral candidate Orlaith Heymann is a researcher passionate about examining how people navigate institutional policies and cultures, particularly in contentious social fields such as sex education and abortion.

My scholarship centers on themes of stigma and work in medical contexts and especially how people navigate social institutions like medicine, school and work. For example, my research examines health and well-being in schools and workplaces, sex education as a stigmatized profession and cultural myths of abortion care," says Heymann, an award-winning doctoral student researcher in UC's Department of Sociology and lead author of a recent study on abortion.

The study, titled "Selecting an Abortion Clinic: The Role of Social Myths and Risk Perception in Seeking Abortion Care," examines what strategies Ohioans used for selecting an abortion clinic and is published in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior.

"We theorized that people's paths to abortion care would be constrained by time, cost and travel because we know these factors can make obtaining abortion care difficult and sometimes impossible, but there are all kinds of other reasons people select a particular abortion clinic," says Heymann.

What the study found is that people don't always choose the least expensive or closest option for abortion care but also considered other factors: Previous positive or negative personal experiences with providers, online reviews and name recognition and clinic type. Proximity was also an important factor, but could be a deterrent for some, out of fear of being recognized.

These factors helped people evaluate perceived clinic "safeness" and navigate the risks they associate with abortion care, such as uncertainty about comfort, safety, privacy and legality, says study co-author Danielle Bessett, an associate professor of sociology and faculty affiliate of both UC's Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies and the Medical Scientist Training Program.

Most abortion research and advocacy, Bessett says, "has focused on the distance to an abortion clinic because we know that the time and cost of long-distance travel will make it harder for people to get timely care or to get care at all."

The study also identifies social myths associated with abortion care. Social myths about abortion may include the belief that abortion is inherently dangerous, dirty or scary. These myths shape how people evaluate clinics when selecting a facility.

The findings, researchers say, are applicable in other health care contexts: That perceptions of neighborhood desirability and safety may shape choices about health care facilities across different types of care.

With abortion laws changing in some states and many clinics closing, Bessett says that people seeking care will not only have to travel farther, at higher cost, but also may not be able to rely on familiar strategies like personal networks and past experiences to establish where they will feel comfortable getting care.

"Regulations that limit abortion accessibility and contribute to clinic closure can make seeking abortion care feel like an uncertain process. Even when people had few options to choose from, carefully evaluating those options helped them to feel some control," says Heymann.

Heymann's research is well recognized, including grant support from the National Science Foundation, a national scholar award from PEO International, grants from UC's Kunz Center for Social Research, the Taft Research Center and the Graduate Student Government Association, as well as fellowships from the Taft Research Center and Graduate School at UC.

Additional co-authors include Tamika Odum, Ph.D., associate professor of sociology, University of Cincinnati, Blue Ash College, and Alison Norris, MD, associate professor, Ohio State University College of Public Health and College of Medicine.

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Could new drug devimistat halt spread of triple negative breast cancer?

A NEW cancer study in Glasgow could pave the way to a treatment to stop the growth of an aggressive form of breast cancer which is more common in younger women.

Scientists from the city's Beatson Institute for Cancer Research are set to investigate whether the drug devimistat could be used in patients with triple negative breast cancer.

More than 700 women a year in Scotland are diagnosed with this rarer form of the disease, but current treatment options are mostly limited to a combination of surgery, chemotherapy, and radiotherapy.

Younger women and black women also make up a disproportionate share of diagnoses.

It is thought that devimistat - which is already being explored as a possible therapy for pancreatic cancer and relapsed leukaemia - could target protein molecules known as PDH, which encourage breast cancer cells to spread other parts of the body where the disease becomes incurable.

The novel approach will be tested on mice in a trial funded by Breast Cancer Now.

Professor Sara Zanivan, who will lead the research, said it has the potential to "halt the growth of triple negative breast cancer".

She added: “We know that breast cancer cells communicate with other non-cancer cells nearby, which helps breast cancer tumours grow and survive.

"It’s really important that we continue to increase our understanding of this activity, as it may uncover much needed new ways to treat the disease."

Prof Zanivan previously discovered that the cancer-associated fibroblasts (CAFs) found in triple negative breast cancer can support cancer cell growth by making high amounts of PDH.

CAFs are a type of non-cancer cell found in large numbers inside breast tumours which can generate molecules that influence the behaviour of cancer cells - for example, encouraging them to grow or to migrate to other organs.

The new study will explore how PDH in particular helps triple negative breast cancer cells to spread, and whether devimistat can be used to attack it.

Friday, November 12, 2021

Paralysed mice walk again after a single injection

The therapy, which the researchers hope to trial in humans, harnesses ‘dancing molecules’ to communicate with the body’s cells.

A new therapy, developed by researchers in the USA, has successfully reversed paralysis and repaired severe spinal cord injuries in mice. The animals regained the ability to walk only four weeks after a single injection of the treatment.

“Our research aims to find a therapy that can prevent individuals from becoming paralysed after major trauma or disease,” said Prof Samuel I Stupp of Northwestern University, who led the study. “For decades, this has remained a major challenge for scientists because our body’s central nervous system, which includes the brain and spinal cord, does not have any significant capacity to repair itself after injury or after the onset of a degenerative disease.”

When the therapy is injected, the liquid immediately forms a network of nanofibres matching the structure around the spinal cord. The difficulty then is in communicating with the body’s cells.

“Receptors in neurons and other cells constantly move around,” said Stupp. So, as well as mimicking the structure of tissue around the spinal cord, the therapy is finely tuned to match the motion of the cellular receptors. This means that the molecules of the therapy are likely to come into contact with the moving receptors more often.

“The key innovation in our research, which has never been done before, is to control the collective motion of more than 100,000 molecules within our nanofibres,” he said. “By making the molecules move, ‘dance’ or even leap temporarily out of these structures, known as supramolecular polymers, they are able to connect more effectively with receptors.”

Then, once the molecules have connected with the receptors, they send two signals which kickstart the repair process. One talks to the axons, the ‘electrical cables’ that send signals to the brain, prompting them to regenerate. The other signal prompts cells to multiply, which can lead to blood vessels regrowing. As a result, the tissue will have a supply of blood, which is critical for repair. It is hoped that this second signal could help neurons to survive after injury.

A section of damaged spinal cord treated with the therapy. The regrown blood vessels are shown in red © Samuel I. Stupp Laboratory/Northwestern University

Other effects of the treatment include scar tissue being reduced and myelin, the insulation that surrounds axons, being reformed. Within 12 weeks of the injection, the materials in the therapy biodegrade into nutrients which are absorbed by cells. The therapy then completely disappears from the body with no reported side effects.

The researchers hope to begin human trials as soon as possible. “We are going straight to the FDA [the United States Food and Drug Administration] to start the process of getting this new therapy approved for use in human patients, who currently have very few treatment options,” said Stupp.

They also believe that this process of fine-tuning molecules to the motion of cells and receptors can be applied to treating other conditions.

“The central nervous system tissues we have successfully regenerated in the injured spinal cord are similar to those in the brain affected by stroke and neurodegenerative diseases, such as ALS [motor neuron disease], Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease,” Stupp said.

Mouth-breathing: Why it’s bad for you and how to stop

Dentists may be first to diagnose patients who mouth breathe  Peer-Reviewed Publication ACADEMY OF GENERAL DENTISTRY For some, the phrase &q...