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Posts Tagged ‘medicine

Forever young drug ? The pill that will keep you youthful by preventing the ills of old age

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Miracle cure? the pill could prevent many of the ills of old age A ‘forever young’ drug that allows people to grow old gracefully could be available in just ten years, a leading scientist said last night.

Professor Linda Partridge, an expert in the genetics of ageing, said that the science is moving so quickly that it will soon be possible to prevent many of the ills of old age.

By taking a pill a day from middle-age, we will grow old free from illnesses of the body and mind such as Alzheimer’s and heart disease.

People could work for longer – or simply make the most of their retirement. Some research even suggests skin and hair will retain its youthful lustre.

Professor Partridge, of University College London, said: ‘I would be surprised if there weren’t things within ten years. If told you could take a drug that has minimal side-effects and that’s going to keep you healthy for another five or ten years and then you’ll drop off your perch without disability, most people would want it.’

Extraordinary as the professor’s prediction may seem, it is based on a host of promising scientific studies from around the world.

They have discovered key genes linked to longevity and health – and found ways of tinkering with them, at least in animals.

In one of the remarkable examples, a Harvard University doctor made old mice young again, in experiments that mirrored the plot of The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button, where the lead character played by Brad Pitt ages in reverse.

At the start of the experiment, the animals’ skin, brains, guts and other organs resembled those of an 80-year-old person.


In development: One experiment saw a professor make old mice young again

In development: One experiment saw a professor make old mice young again.

Within just two months of being given a drug that switches on a key enzyme, the creatures had grown so many new cells that they had almost completely rejuvenated.

Remarkably, the male mice went from being infertile to fathering large litters.

Other research has shown that chains of reactions in the body involving insulin and related hormones are key to health and ageing. This means that years of research into diabetes could have yielded medicines that can be reinvented as anti-ageing drugs.

Professor Partridge told the Cheltenham Science Festival that some medicines abandoned by drug companies may soon be dusted off and put to use. She said:

‘There are drugs there already, some of them are just sitting in cupboards. I’d be surprised if people don’t start taking them out.

‘The principle is for drugs that if taken from middle-age will ward off quite a broad array of diseases rather than doing things piece-meal or acting when the diseases appear.’

However, she said any drugs would have to be shown to be extremely safe before they were given to healthy people to combat ageing.



Via DailyMail


Drug makes hearts repair themselves

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Man having heart attackA drug that makes hearts repair themselves has been used in research on mice.

The damage caused by a heart attack had previously been considered permanent.

But a study in the journal Nature showed the drug, thymosin beta 4, if used in advance of a heart attack, was able to “prime” the heart for repair.

The British Heart Foundation described repair as the “holy grail of heart research”, but said any treatment in humans was years away.

Due to advances in health care the number of people dying from coronary heart disease is falling.

But those living with heart failure are on the rise – more than 750,000 people have the condition in the UK alone.

UK Heart statistics

Deaths from coronary heart disease

  • 1961 – 165,216
  • 2001 – 117,743
  • 2009 – 80,223

Estimated people living with heart failure

  • 1961 – 100,000
  • 1971 – 300,000
  • 2010 – 750,000

Source: British Heart Foundation

Wake up

The researchers at University College London looked at a group of cells which are able to transform into different types of heart tissue in an embryo.

In adults epicardium-derived progenitor cells line the heart, but have become dormant.

Scientists used a chemical, thymosin beta 4, to “wake them up”.

Professor Paul Riley, from the University College London, said: “The adult epicardial cells which line the muscle of the heart can be activated, move inward and give rise to new heart muscle.”

“We saw an improvement in the ejection fraction, in the ability of the heart to pump out blood, of 25%.”

As well as pumping more blood, the scar tissue was reduced and the walls of the heart became thicker.

Peter Weissberg, medical director of the British Heart Foundation, said he was “very excited” about the research but warned the scale of improvement seen in animals was rarely seen in humans.

HeartHowever, he argued that even a small improvement would have a dramatic impact on people’s quality of life.

“A normal heart has lots of spare capacity. In patients with heart failure it is working flat out just to sit down [and] it’s like running a marathon,” he said.

“You could turn a patient from somebody who’s gasping while sitting in a chair to somebody who can sit comfortably in a chair.”

Advance therapy

The mice needed to take the drug in advance of a heart attack in order for it to be effective. As the researchers put it, “the priming effect is key”.

If a similar drug could be found to be effective in humans, then the researchers believe it would need to be prescribed in a similar way to statins.

Professor Riley said “I could envisage a patient known to be at risk of a heart attack – either because of family history or warning signs spotted by their GP – taking an oral tablet, which would prime their heart so that if they had a heart attack the damage could be repaired.”

He said this could be available in 10 years.

The British Heart Foundation, which funded the study, said repairing a damaged heart was the “holy grail” of heart research.

The results strengthened the evidence that drugs could be used to prevent the onset of heart failure, it said.



Supercomputer diagnoses & treats diseases

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IBM’s Watson computer system, best known for defeating the world’s best Jeopardy! players, is now delivering rapid-fire answers to questions about diseases and medicines.

The company says it could be suggesting diagnoses and treatments to doctors right at a patient’s bedside in the next couple of years.

A recent demonstration showed how Watson’s diagnoses evolved as the computer was given more information about a patient, including where the patient lived.

A career in medicine: 'Watson', IBM's supercomputer, is not devouring information from medical history and text books in a bid to know everything

A career in medicine: ‘Watson’, IBM’s supercomputer, is not devouring information from medical history and text books in a bid to know everything

Beaten: Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek with contestants Ken Jennings, Watson's 'avatar' and Brad Rutter - before Watson went on to wipe the floor with them

Beaten: Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek with contestants Ken Jennings, Watson’s ‘avatar’ and Brad Rutter – before Watson went on to wipe the floor with them

When told a patient was pregnant, for example, it altered its treatment suggestion.

Watson is being fed a diet of medical textbooks and journals and taking training questions in plain language from medical students.

A doctor who is helping IBM says its database might soon include entries from blogs.

The imposing Watson first made headlines when it comprehensively beat Jeopardy! champions Brad Rutter and Ken Jennings.

Medical diagnoses: IBM says Watson will soon be able to help doctors diagnose and treat individual patients, by swiftly analysing personal data

Medical diagnoses: IBM says Watson will soon be able to help doctors diagnose and treat individual patients, by swiftly analysing personal data

Named after IBM’s former president Thomas Watson, the computer’s secret to succes is its ability to understand language and solve problems through complex algorithms.

It makes it even more evolved than Deep Blue, an IBM chess-playing supercomputer that beat world champion Garry Kasparov in 1997.

The mastermind is actually housed in two units. Each unit contains five racks and each rack has 10 IBM Power 750 servers.

Namesake: Pioneering IBM founder Tom Watson pictured in 1966. The supercomputer is named after him

Namesake: Pioneering IBM founder Tom Watson pictured in 1966 with an early computing machine. The supercomputer is named after him.

When all are linked up they are the equivalent to 2,800 powerful computers with a memory of 15trillion bytes.

Watson is a pretty noisy contraption, but most of the noise comes from two large refrigerated units used to cool the machine down.

IBM researchers have been developing Watson for almost four years.

The company spends around $6billion a year on research and development. An unspecified part of that goes to what it calls ‘grand challenges’, or big, multi-year science projects such as Watson and Deep Blue.

IBM is attempting to create computers that can mimic the human ability to comprehend and answer natural language questions.

Via DailyMail

US approves new HIV drug

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The US Food and Drug Administration on Friday approved a new drug, Edurant, to fight HIV in combination with other antiretrovirals already on the market.

Made by the New Jersey based Tibotec Therapeutics, Edurant helps block the virus from replicating and is part of a class of drugs known as non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor.

The pill is to be taken once daily with food, the FDA said.

“Patients may respond differently to various  or experience varied side effects,” said Edward Cox, director of the office of antimicrobial products in the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research.

“FDA’s approval of Edurant provides an additional treatment option for patients who are starting .”

The approval followed phase II and II trials that showed that patients who had not received previous therapy saw an 83 percent lower viral load after they took Edurant along with other antiretroviral drugs.

Side effects included depression, insomnia, headache and rash.

(c) 2011 AFP

Via MedicalXpress

HIV discovery brings vaccine closer

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HIV virusAn investigation into the activity of antibodies in HIV patients has revealed that the HIV virus can mutate in order to ‘escape’ this immune response.

Human ADCC (antibody-dependent cell-mediated cytotoxicity) antibodies – which are often present in high concentrations in HIV-infected patients – have been strongly implicated in the protection from HIV in several vaccine trials.

However, we still do not how these antibodies really work, and researchers hope that a better understanding of their processes could lead to HIV treatments that work by boosting the antibodies’ defences.

“These results show what a slippery customer the HIV virus is, but also shows that these ADCC antibodies are really forcing the virus into changing, in ways that cause it to be weaker,” said lead author Stephen Kent from the University of Melbourne in Australia.

Pinpointing mutation’s location

The term ADCC describes an immune phenomenon whereby antibodies bind to cells infected with a virus. This process activates ‘natural killer cells’ that then attack virus-infected cells.

These natural killer cells destroy infected cells by releasing cytokines, such as interferon-gamma, which are small cell-signalling protein molecules that are secreted by numerous immune system cells and cells in the nervous system.

To investigate further, the researchers analysed blood samples of HIV patients to find where the ADCC antibodies were attacking the virus. They did this by using a staining technique to detect exactly which parts of the virus – that is, which peptide segments – were stimulating the release of cytokines.

Stopping the virus taking hold

The team sequenced the patient’s own virus and found mutations at sites targeted by these ADCC antibodies. Their technique also allowed them to study how the mutations arose over time.

The assay proved additionally valuable because it can be performed on serum or plasma samples, and not cells, which makes for a much easier and less invasive procedure where patients are concerned.

The results, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciencestis month, show that ADCC antibodies force the virus into changing in ways that cause it to be weaker, said Kent.

“They also imply that if good ADCC antibodies were available prior to infection, via a vaccine, we might be able to stop the virus taking hold. This is the holy grail.”

According to co-author Ivan Stratov from the University of Melbourne, “The potential to use ADCC antibodies to kill virus infected cells (rather than just free virions) is a great advance in HIV vaccine research. And harnessing natural killer cells to combat HIV could add great potency to existing vaccine strategies.”

The team is now working on purifying and producing these antibodies in bulk quantities and testing them in a simian (primate) infection model to see if they can prevent infection – by the simian immunodeficiency virus – in monkeys.

Putting pressure on the virus

Over 40 million people around the world have acquired HIV or AIDS, according to the latest toll compiled by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and UNAIDS.

Although the disease was identified over 25 years ago, there is still no vaccine or cure but antiretroviral drugs can be used to manage the condition.

“The work … shows that these types of antibodies are initially quite effective in eliminating virus but eventually they fail because the virus mutates too quickly,” said Marc Pellegrin from the Walter & Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research in Melbourne, who was not involved in the study.

“The implications … are that our immune system, through these antibodies, is able to exert considerable pressure on the virus to the point where it must mutate to persist and survive. The corollary is that if we can boost this type of response and make it more robust and broad we can better control HIV.”

Via CosmoMag

Human Lung Stem Cell Discovered: Crucial Role in Tissue Regeneration

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For the first time, researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) have identified a human lung stem cell that is self-renewing and capable of forming and integrating multiple biological structures of the lung including bronchioles, alveoli and pulmonary vessels. This research is published in the May 12, 2011 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

“This research describes, for the first time, a true human lung stem cell. The discovery of this stem cell has the potential to offer those who suffer from chronic lung diseases a totally novel treatment option by regenerating or repairing damaged areas of the lung,” said Piero Anversa, MD, director of the Center for Regenerative Medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and corresponding author.

Using lung tissue from surgical samples, researchers identified and isolated the human lung stem cell and tested the functionality of the stem cell both in vitro and in vivo. Once the stem cell was isolated, researchers demonstrated in vitro that the cell was capable of dividing both into new stem cells and also into cells that would grow into various types of lung tissue. Next, researchers injected the stem cell into mice with damaged lungs. The injected stem cells differentiated into new bronchioles, alveoli and pulmonary vessel cells which not only formed new lung tissue, but also integrated structurally to the existing lung tissue in the mice.

The researchers define this cell as truly “stem” because it fulfills the three categories necessary to fall under stem cell categorization: first, the cell renews itself; second, it forms into many different types of lung cells; and third, it is transmissible, meaning that after a mouse was injected with the stem cells and responded by generating new tissue, researchers were then able to isolate the stem cell in the treated mouse, and use that cell in a new mouse with the same results.

“These are the critical first steps in developing clinical treatments for those with lung disease for which no therapies exist. Further research is needed, but we are excited about the impact this discovery could have on our ability to regenerate or recreate new lung tissues to replace damaged areas of the lungs,” said Joseph Loscalzo, MD, PhD, chair of the Department of Medicine at BWH and co-author.

This research was funded through grants from the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Via Human Lung Stem Cell Discovered: Crucial Role in Tissue Regeneration

Written by Nokgiir

May 13, 2011 at 4:23 am