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

 

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 essay writing uk 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 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

 

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

First Antibiotic for 30 YEARS Discovered

Scientists have created the first new antibiotic in 30 years – and say it could be the key to beating superbug resistance.

The new antibiotic is extracted from soil bacteria and can kill a huge range of disease-causing microbes, with scientists claiming it appears to be as good, or even better, than many existing drugs with the potential to work against a broad range of fatal infections such as pneumonia and tuberculosis.

Laboratory tests have shown the new antibiotic, teixobactin, can kill some bacteria as quickly as established antibiotics and can cure laboratory mice suffering from bacterial infections with no toxic side-effects.

Studies have also revealed the prototype drug works against harmful bacteria in a unique way that is highly unlikely to lead to drug-resistance – one of the biggest stumbling blocks in developing new antibiotics.

With fears that the world is running out of effective antibiotics given the rapid rise of drug-resistant strains of superbugs, this development could represent a huge boost for medicine. Clinical trials could begin in two years.

Image credit: marlo

Superfast Clotting Agent Could Save Lives

A graduate from Polytechnic Institute of New York University (NYU) has invented a plant-based gel that can stop bleeding and seal serious wounds in just 15 seconds, and hopes his invention will soon be used by the military, paramedics and even vets to save lives.

VetiGel works by using a plant-based haemophilic polymer made from polysaccharides that grab onto the blood and form a mesh that seals over the wound, without any need to apply pressure.

In a medical emergency, a first responder could simply apply the gel from a syringe-shaped applicator with no preparation required, and the bleeding will stop, which means that this could be a viable replacement for plasters and bandages today.

The idea of a liquid bandage has been thought of before, and some are already on the market. However, those bandages are for superficial cuts to the skin. They won’t help with bullet wounds or if an internal organ is cut during surgery.

The gel is the brainchild of Joe Landolina, 21, the founder and CEO of Suneris, who came up with the concept when he was just 17 in 2010.

“I was always interested in science and my grandfather owned a winery, so from a really young age I learned how to work in a chemistry lab and had a love for chemistry.”

“As I was playing around, I stumbled upon two polymers that when you mix them together, they become a solid mass. That was the Eureka moment for me.”

Image credit: Juan de Dios Santander Vela

How Green Glowing Veins Could Make Blood Donation Easier…

The world faces a shortage of blood for lifesaving transfusions, and if you’ve ever given blood, you have likely experienced the discomfort of having a nurse struggle to find your vein. Now, however, a device has been created that shows a glowing map of our veins could make the whole process a lot easier, and trials of the technology have already begun in Australia.

The technology works by beaming harmless near-infrared light at your arm. Our veins contain a lot of deoxygenated haemoglobin, and because this is absorbed by infrared light, it creates an image of exactly where your veins are under the skin.

Importantly, the device can be used anywhere. It’s already used widely in hospitals and pathology clinics around the world to make it easier for patients to have blood taken, but now it’s also going to help those willing to donate blood.

While this technology is already used globally in clinical settings to assist practitioners in taking blood samples, it’s now being trialled on blood donors in Sydney by the Australian Red Cross. It’s hoped that reducing anxiety by quickly and easily finding veins without the painful prodding will make donors more likely to return. 300 first time donors and 600 returning donors between the ages of 18-35 will be included in the trial.

The Australian Red Cross is the first blood bank service in the world to trial this technology, and has already started using it in its Sydney clinics.

Watch the video of the device in action here - New Technology for the Blood Service

Image credit: Australian Red Cross

Stem Cell Treatment Successfully Restores Sight

Patients with macular degeneration are having their sight partially restored using human embryonic stem cells. This marks the first medium-term demonstration of the safety of embryonic stem cells, with implications for a host of other conditions.

Stem cell science is promising to replace everything from hearts to kidneys, with some hopes for diseases like MS as well. However, debate has raged over whether treatments should involve human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) or adult pluripotent stem cells from the patient themselves. The debate is partly about whether the use of hESCs is ethical, but there are also questions of safety.

Many attempts to use ESCs in animals have produced tumours, and rejection by the immune system can also be a problem. So the fact that 18 patients have had hESCs implanted without negative effects an average of 22 months later is big news.

Half the patients have Stargardt’s macular dystrophy and the other half have atrophic age-related macular degeneration, two of the most common causes of blindness in the developed world. Doses of 50,000-150,000 cells were applied. By treating one eye in each patient and leaving the other untouched, the researchers had the perfect control to establish the extent to which any changes were the result of the transplanted cells.

Ten of the patients experienced noticeable improvement in the visual acuity of their treated eye, while seven remained the same and only one got worse. On the other hand, none of the untreated eyes showed any improvement, although the researchers admit that one cannot rule out placebo effects since “both examiner and patient were aware of [which] eye underwent surgery.”

The Goggles Helping Surgeons to ‘See’ Cancer

Cancer is commonly treated with drugs and radiotherapy, or by cutting the infected cells out. The latter option is not always successful as it’s often impossible to tell where the tumour ends and healthy tissue begins. To try and combat this, surgeons often remove tissue surrounding the tumour, but cancerous cells often remain, necessitating further surgery.

Now, a new goggle technology is under development in the US, which is allowing surgeons to differentiate cancerous and healthy cells in the human body – leading to cancerous cells being fully removed in one operation.

Patients are being injected with a dye before surgery. This dye has a peptide attached to it that allows it to seek out and bind specifically to cancer cells.

The dyed cancer cells emit light at a wavelength that cannot be seen by the human eye, but can be detected by a sensor in the goggles worn by the surgeons.

So far this new goggle technology has only been trialled on patients suffering from skin and breast cancer. However, the dye has been shown to bind to breast, prostate, lung and colon pancreatic cancers, and has even been shown to detect pre-cancerous cells.