First Drug to Slow Alzheimer’s Discovered

Scientists have discovered the first drug of its kind that appears to slow the pace of mental decline in Alzheimer’s patients.

Solanezumab, developed by the American pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly, was shown to block memory loss in patients with a mild version of the disease, making it the first medicine ever to slow pace of damage to patients’ brains.

Existing drugs, such as Aricept, can manage only the symptoms of dementia by helping the dying brain cells function, but Solanezumab attacks the deformed proteins that build up in the brain during Alzheimer’s.

Dr Doug Brown, head of research at the Alzheimer’s Society, said: “Today’s findings strongly suggest that targeting people in the earliest stages of Alzheimer’s disease with these antibody treatments is the best way to slow or stop Alzheimer’s disease. These drugs are able to reduce the sticky plaques of amyloid that build up in the brain, and now we have seen the first hints that doing this early enough may slow disease progression.”

Should further trial results be positive, it could still be up to several years before the drug would become available on the NHS. Another phase-three trial is due to report in 2016 and then the drug would need to go through regulatory approval and would need to be shown to be sufficiently beneficial to patients.

Image credit: Ann Gordon

 

Arthritis Drug Restores Skin Colour in Vitiligo Patient

Dermatologists from the Yale School of Medicine have successfully used tofacitinib, a drug used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, to reduce the effects of vitiligo.

Vitiligo is a disease which causes skin to lose its pigmentation and is commonly treated through the use of steroid creams and light therapy. These however, do not offer consistent results and so the improvements seen through the use of tofacitinib could represent a breakthrough in vitiligo treatment.

Assistant Professor of dermatology Brett King who headed the research first explored the benefits offered by the Janus kinase inhibitor (a drug which obstructs the activity of Janus kinase enzymes) to those suffering from alopecia before considering its potential as a treatment for the skin disease.

He investigated the drug’s effectiveness by trialing tofacitinib on a 53 year old woman who was experiencing the effects of vitiligo as large white patches extended over her face, hands and body.  Prior to the use of tofacitinib the area of skin affected was increasing however after two months of treatment the patient was able to observe re-pigmentation in the problem areas. Following five months of medication the white patches covering the face and hands had disappeared, leaving only a few small, white spots elsewhere on the body.

Knowledge of the way the disease affects the body combined with the researcher’s familiarity with how this already FDA approved drug works, has prompted confidence in tofacitinib’s future use as a popular treatment. This is further supported by the absence of any harmful side effects over the course of the study. Though additional research will be needed to confirm the drug’s safety, moving forward Professor King hopes to conduct a clinical trial using tofacitinib, or similar medicines such as ruxolitinib, to establish whether a JAK inhibitor could provide a successful remedy for those suffering with vitiligo.

Image credit: Nadine Mitchell

 

Wonder Drug Cures Eczema, Hair Loss & Arthritis

A newly discovered ‘wonder cream’ could help millions of patients with eczema, arthritis and a form of alopecia.

All three conditions are caused by an issue which causes the immune system to target the body’s healthy cells. Scientists looking for a way to help blood cancer patients have stumbled on a way to switch off that response.

Dr Aurore Saudemont, of the Anthony Nolan Research Institute, said: “This ­accidental discovery could offer a major breakthrough.

“These findings could eventually lead to treatments that eradicate ­symptoms of eczema, rheumatoid arthritis and even alopecia areata without causing major side effects.”

Over six millions Britons have eczema, four hundred thousand suffer crippling joint pain with rheumatoid arthritis and over a million have alopecia areata.

The Anthony Nolan experts were looking for a way to cure a complication that affects 80% of stem cell transplant patients. It happens when donated cells see existing cells as foreign and start to attack them. Researchers made a breakthrough when they found a protein in umbilical cord blood that stops a pregnant mum’s immune system attacking the unborn baby.

They studied cord blood donated by new mums, while stem cells were harvested from the umbilical cords.

Dr Saudemont added: “It is very exciting to discover that a product usually discarded could be so valuable.”

Image credit: Betsy Jons

Tapeworm Drug Effectively Treats MRSA Superbug

A study carried out by researchers at Brown University has indicated that niclosamide, a drug used to treat tapeworm, and the closely related oxycloxanide, a veterinary parasite drug, could be used to successfully treat strains of the superbug MRSA.

During the study the drugs suppressed the growth of MRSA cultures in laboratory dishes and preserved the life of nematode worms infected with the bacteria. Ninety percent of MRSA-infected worms survived and large zones of growth inhibition in MRSA culture covering the petri dish plate was cleared. Both were also found to be as effective at lower concentrations as vancomycin, the drug currently used as a last resort treatment against the superbug.

Oxyclozanide was discovered to be the more effective of the two in killing the MRSA bacteria. Niclosamide, on the other hand, successfully curbed MRSA growth however it did not completely eradicate it. Moving forward experiments on rodents are now being planned.

Potential issues have been highlighted concerning the rapid way nicolsamide is cleared from the body and the poor job it performs in working its way out of the bloodstream and into tissues. However, it has been suggested that this rapid clearance may not reduce performance and could in fact be an advantage as the toxicity of the drug may be reduced.

With noclosamide already FDA approved and featured on the World Health Organization’s list of essential medicines, there are strong motivations for investigating its use as a boost to the immune system in those that have contracted MRSA. The less toxic oxycozanide could present an even more promising treatment should it be approved for human consumption. As oxycozanide targets the cell membrane rather than metabolic pathways, it could help prevent MRSA developing resistance to the drug.

Image credit: FWC Fish & Wildlife Research Institute

The Breath Test Predicting Stomach Cancer…

A simple breath test could help predict whether people with gut problems are at high risk of developing stomach cancer.

Scientists are hoping that the early study could develop to save thousands of lives, including many of the 7,300 people diagnosed with stomach cancer in the UK each year.

The test works by detecting chemical compounds in the breath of people in an attempt to distinguish unique ‘breath prints’ in those with risky pre-cancerous changes.

Experts say if proven in large trials, it could spot patients on the brink of cancer so they can be treated earlier.

Symptoms of stomach cancer are often mistaken for other complaints and there is no effective early screening test, so is often diagnosed when it is too late for treatment to be effective.

The new test developed by Israeli scientists senses tiny changes in the level of organic compounds in exhaled breath which signal that stomach cancer is present.

More research is required to validate the test, and research involving thousands of European patients is now underway.

Image credit: Filip Bunkens

The 1000 Year Old Cow Bile & Garlic Remedy That’s Killing MRSA

Microbiologists have been amazed to find a 1000 year old Anglo-Saxon remedy has the power to kill antibiotic-resistant MRSA.

The British Library in London holds an old leather-bound volume that is known as Bald’s Leechbook, that experts say is one of the world’s earliest medical manuscripts.

Bald’s Leechbook contains not only medical advice, but also recipes for various medicines, treatments and ointments, including one for a salve that was used to treat eye infections. It is this eye ointment that proved to kill antibiotic-resistant MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus).

Scientists at Nottingham University made four separate batches of the salve using fresh ingredients – garlic, onion, wine and cow bile – as well as a control treatment using the same quantity of distilled water and brass sheeting to mimic the brewing container but without the vegetable compounds. The salve was then strained and left to set for 9 days before testing commenced.

“Take cropleek and garlic, of both equal quantities, pound them well together…take wine and bullocks gall, mix with the leek…let it stand nine days in the brass vessel…” the medieval recipe instructs.

None of the individual ingredients alone had any measurable effect, but when combined according to the recipe, the Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) populations of bacteria, were almost totally obliterated – only about one bacterial cell in a thousand survived.

Image credit: Dirk-Jan Kraan

 

Spring Clean Your CV for Summer!

As spring has arrived, what better time to give your CV a thorough spring clean!

Your CV can be a powerful tool when it comes to marketing yourself to potential employers, and is often the first step taken towards securing that all-important first interview. Follow our tips below to ensure that your CV is appealing and content rich.

 CLEANSE

  • Take out information that no longer supports your career goals. Irrelevant roles can be deleted or grouped together in an “Additional Experience” section to allow prominence of those that are more relevant.
  • Get to the point! Keep sentences short yet informative.
  • Easy-to-read and visually appealing text is preferable to densely packed paragraphs with information that ‘waffles’. Keep to the point, keep relevant.
  • Keep it uniform – use the same font throughout and use bullet points to list duties.

POLISH

  • Choose a font that is easy to read on screen, experiment with sizes (smaller for company details, for example) and use bold to highlight key information.
  • Tailor your CV to the role you are aiming for – ideally cross-reference the job description to ensure you are using appropriate keywords. Evidence is key!
  • List your job duties beneath each position. List your achievements, responsibilities and results.
  • Prioritise the order of your duties to match the requirements of the position you are applying for.
  • Work experience should be in reverse chronological order – current job first.
  • Use the past tense for previous jobs and the present tense for your current job.
  • Explain any gaps in your work history – travelling, maternity leave, education.

RECYCLE

  • Thinking of changing career direction? Returning to a previous job? Aiming for a promotion? Older experience such as previous roles, skills, achievements, training, projects etc may now be more relevant!
  • Be prepared to rework the theme and layout of your CV. You may want to re-position older details to make them more prominent, or highlight different aspects of your experience to make them appear more relevant for your current goals.
  • Obtained a new professional or personal achievement? Additional duties added to your role? Constantly updating your CV every time a relevant happening occurs within your current role or personal life will assure that your CV is always ready and up to date, should the perfect opportunity arise.

Image credit: 3dpete

The Worms Detecting Cancer…

A research group in Japan has carried out a study which suggests that roundworms can be used to accurately detect cancers in patients through odours in their urine.

The nematodes (or roundworms) used in the study were attracted to the urine of cancer patients and avoided the urine of the healthy candidates taking part. Their behaviour provides a more useful method of detection than that afforded by dogs which have also been used in cancer detection. The dog’s ability to concentrate on the task affects the accuracy of diagnosis; an issue avoided through the use of nematodes.

The researchers were able to identify five cancer-positive patients who were not recognized as such when their urine was obtained.

The group is now working to produce a screening device incorporating this method to be put to use commercially as early as 2019.  The test is painless and would allow for urine samples to be taken at home and then along to a testing site. A patient’s results could then be obtained within ninety minutes in a process which would save time and reduce medical costs.

The nematodes detected cancers at an earlier stage than conventional testing, allowing for the possibility of earlier screenings and diagnosis in the future. Earlier treatment for those testing positive could also be achieved. With the sensitivity of the test placed at 95.8% (higher than tumour-marker diagnosis tests conducted using blood samples) more accurate results may be attained.

Although this method of testing cannot detect which type of cancer a person is suffering from, researchers have succeeded in developing nematodes to react in different ways to specific cancers.

Image credit: John Donges

Bionic Eye Restores Sight…

A bionic eye implant has been used to allow Allen Zderad, a man who has been blind for the past ten years, to see outlines of people and objects for the first time since losing his vision.

Zderad suffers from a degenerative condition called Retinitis Pigmentosa that causes the cells in the retina which collect light to die. Prior to the use of the implant, he was only able to see very bright light and relied on a cane to assist his mobility.

The bionic eye implant is made by Second Sight and was given to Zderad as part of a clinical trial. It is named Retinal Prosthesis and consists of a small electronic chip that is placed at the back of the eye. This chip sends visual signals directly into the optic nerve, bypassing the damaged cells in the retina.

A set of glasses containing a tiny camera makes up the external part of the device alongside a small computer the patient wears around their waist. The camera in the glasses takes pictures replicating those gathered by the human eye and feeds the information to the computer. The images are translated into light signals which pass through a wireless transmitter to electrodes in the patient’s eye. The electrodes transmit the light signals to the brain through the rest of the retina and the optic nerve cells which remain healthy.

Zderad was given the implant as part of a clinical trial and was immediately able to reach out and take his wife’s hand as the implant was activated.  He is about to undertake a course of physical therapy which will better enable him to interpret the light signals from the implant.

Image credit: Desirae

E.Coli Fibres as Strong as Spider Silk…

Spider silk is a protein fibre spun by spiders, and is stronger than steel and tougher than Kevlar! Spiders use their silk to make webs or other structures, which function as nets to catch other animals, or as nests or cocoons to protect their offspring. They can also use their silk to suspend themselves.

Efforts to create our own spider silk have so far failed to match the real thing. Now a German research group has equalled its toughness.

Previous attempts have focussed on two molecules that provide material properties. However, Thomas Scheibel at the University of Bayreuth in Germany and his colleagues realised that this neglected two smaller molecules that help align the strands. His team spliced spider genes into E. coli, which enabled the bacteria to produce all four molecules in a bath of alcohol and water. The team then used a method called wet spinning to draw out the fibres, creating the artificial silk.

The material is not as strong as real silk, but is more elastic, so it can absorb as much energy as the real thing.

The toughness of the current fibre can be put to good use in making car airbags. “An airbag should have exactly the properties that a spider web has,” says Scheibel – strong and elastic. Current airbags, made from materials like Kevlar, are strong but not elastic, so they can reflect energy from a crash back into the driver and cause injuries. The artificial silk could solve this, provided the team can scale up production, which might be difficult, says Scheibel.

Image credit: Alias 0591