A protein controls a type of glaucoma

Exfoliation glaucoma is a rare type of glaucoma, and now scientists have evidence that that it can be controlled by a specific protein, according to Life Sciences.

The National Eye Institute granted $440,000  to Dr. Yutao Liu and his colleagues, so that they could further explore the relationship between the gene and proteins. Liu’s ultimate goal is to find a better treatment for this particular type of glaucoma, which is more aggressive and more difficult to treat than the primary open angle glaucoma, says Liu, vision scientist and human geneticist in the Department of Cellular Biology and Anatomy at the Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University.

“Variants of this gene are associated with the disease in every population we have studied worldwide,” Liu says. He adds that his team found out that the expression of LOXL1 elevated consistently early in the disease in every population.

High levels of the LOXL1 protein clog outflow tracts of the eye’s aqueous humor and are a constant in all of those patients. Still, there is conflicting laboratory evidence about the role of the gene because neither removing or overexpressing it accumulates the protein or increases high pressure inside the eye, at least in mics.Liu and his team are now looking at lncLOXL1, which regulates the gene’s expression.

Liu has so far discovered that the gene and lncLOXL1 correlate in both gene variations that the scientists have seen in the human populations tha my they have studied. They also have seen that as disease progresses, the gene’s expression goes down even as the protein rises, typically by about age 60.


Health officials warn of new STD that could morph into a superbug

British public health officials are warning that Mycoplasma genitalium, a bacterial infection known as MGen, could soon become immune to antibiotics, writes Peter Hess for Inverse. This occurrence would vault MGen into the growing class of bacteria that have developed resistance to antibiotic drugs, known as a superbug.

The bacterium, lurking in humans’ urinary and genital tracts, is transmitted through sexual intercourse. Infected women can experience pelvic inflammation and cervical inflammation, while men can experience inflammation of the urethra. However, sometimes the infection will not cause any noticeable symptoms, which would allow an infected person to transmit the disease without realizing they’re doing so. The British Association for Sexual Health and HIV (BASHH) issued guidelines for handling MGen in light of the emerging threat. BASHH officials explain that MGen typically responds to treatment with azithromycin, a common antibiotic. Still, in some cases, officials warn that the bacterium has shown resistance to drugs like moxifoxacin.

In the US, the CDC reports that while cases of MGen are higher than Neisseria gonorrhoeae (gonorrhea), it’s still relatively uncommon in the states. BASHH provided doctors with recommendations for treating patients in order to reduce the chance of developing antibiotic-resistant bacteria. They advised physicians to spread out doses of azithromycin over multiple days to help ensure that the entire population of pathogenic bacteria is obliterated, Hess writes. This method follows from research finding that the use of antibiotics for shorter periods of times can sometimes promote resistance. As with any sexually transmitted disease, the best course to follow is using a condom to mitigate the risk.


Doctors may find it difficult to detect heart attack symptoms in women

Physicians have long recognized that heart attack symptoms are more difficult to diagnose in women than in men. Recent research suggests that patients treated by female doctors may be less likely to pass away than those treated by male doctors may.

They published the study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and it remains an exploratory project because it raises more questions than answers as to what explains this possible gender gap. “I think what’s critical to emphasize is the importance of understanding the diversity of the patient community and ensuring that the physician pool is diverse as well,” said Brad Greenwood, the study’s main author of University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management.

More than 17 million people around the world die each year from cardiovascular disease according to the World Health Organization. Major signs and symptoms of heart attack in men and women include chest pain or discomfort, nausea, feeling light-headed or exhausted, pain or discomfort in the jaw, and shortness of breath.

Studies show that young women usually tend to experience many more of those non-chest pain symptoms than men do. This makes it difficult to detect their heart attacks.

The researchers analyzed differences in the patient’s outcomes and survival when they saw either a male or female emergency department physician. They inferred gender based on each physician’s name.

According to their findings, gender concordance reduced the probability of death by 5.4 percent. The researchers also found that women treated by male doctors were least likely to survive.






Is shock therapy a usable treatment again?

Shock therapy or more scientifically known as ECT (electroconvulsive therapy). Psychiatrists don’t like the term “shock therapy” because othe stigma surrounding it, which they say prevents the large majority of severely depressed patients from even trying it.

It might be surprising to learn that despite its misuse in the past, ECT is now considered one of the most effective treatments for people who haven’t been helped by antidepressant medication. In just the U.S., there’s more than 5  million Americans suffering from depression so crippling that it leads many people to kill themselvesy

Dr. Sarah Lisanby says that “One of my patients explained it to me saying that: “It’s not that I want to die. It’s that living is too painful.”

Dr. Sarah Lisanby works at the National Institute of Mental Health in Maryland, and is developing new ways to help the more than 35 percent of depressed patients who don’t get better with medication.

Dr. Sarah Lisanby added: “Imagine feeling severely depressed, and then you try medication after medication, and those treatments, even though you’re doing everything the doctor told you, the treatments are failing you. It’s not uncommon for someone to have tried 20 or 30 different medications by the time that they come to see me.”

A big issue facing doctors is indeed the stigma surrounding this controversial treatment. It has been suggested by doctors that popularizing a different name would help convince more patients to try this technique. It’s unknown exactly what will happen going forward, but it‘s an interesting topic to follow.



HEALTH HND_Disease Science TECH_Technology

CRISPR shows promise for treating muscular dystrophy

Researchers from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center have used the gene editing technology CRISPR to cure muscular dystrophy in dogs, which suggests the technology could one day be ported over to humans.

In the study, the team used CRISPR on four beagles bred with the gene that triggers the disease and found that the technology is able to correct the genetic defect.

Muscular dystrophy comes about through mutations in the dystrophin gene, which codes for a protein that allows normal muscle function. That causes large problems in humans, including weak muscles, as well as heart and respiratory failure.

In the study, the team corrected the mutated dystrophin gene in the dogs by using CRISPR to splice out the dangerous section. They directly injected CRISPR technology into two of the dogs through their muscles and two of the dogs through their bloodstream to see how it affected different parts of the body.

The injections caused the canines’ muscle cells throughout their body to create healthy dystrophin protein at anywhere from 3 percent to 90 percent of the normal levels eight weeks after the procedure. That is significant because even raising those levels 15 percent of normal levels in people would completely change their lives and enable them to function.

This study is important, not just for muscular dystrophy treatment, but also because it is yet another example of CRISPR helping to fight a human disease. That furthers its potential and reveals that, despite setbacks, the technology could be a big help in the future.

While the results of the study came from a few dogs, they do show a lot of promise. The next step is to conduct studies on larger animals and see how their cells respond.

“We are going for a cure, not a treatment,” explained study co-author Eric Olson, a researcher from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, according to TIME. “All of the other therapies so far for Duchenne muscular dystrophy have treated the symptoms and consequences of the disease. This is going right at the root cause of the genetic mutation.”

The new study is published in the journal Science.


Algorithm connects patients to anti-depressants

Researchers from McLean Hospital completed a study that planned to determine which people with depression are best suited for antidepressant medications, according to Science Daily. Their findings were published in Psychological Medicine on July 2, 2018, and led to the development of a statistical algorithm that identifies patients who may best respond to antidepressants, before they begin treatment.

Christian A. Webb, PhD, director of the Treatment and Etiology of Depression in Youth Laboratory at McLean Hospital, is one of the study’s coauthors, so are Diego A. Pizzagalli, PhD, director of McLean’s Center for Depression, Anxiety and Stress Research. Webb explained how their work: “Personalized Prediction of Antidepressant v. Placebo Response: Evidence from the EMBARC Study,” went from data derived from a large and recently completed multi-site clinical trial of antidepressant medications called Establishing Moderators and Biosignatures of Antidepressant Response in Clinical Care (EMBARC).

Webb and his colleagues developed an algorithm predicting that approximately one-third of individuals would receive benefits from antidepressant medications similar to placebo. In the study, participants were randomly assigned to a common antidepressant medication or a placebo pill.

Webb said that the results were like previous clinical trials in that “we found relatively little difference in average symptom improvement between those individuals randomly assigned to the medication vs. placebo. For the one-third of individuals predicted to be better suited to antidepressants, they had significantly better outcomes if they happened to be assigned to the medication rather than the placebo.”

Webb said that he will work further with his team on the subject.

Business HEALTH HND_Disease

McDonald’s salads potentially infected with a parasite

There is an outbreak of intestinal illnesses linked to salads from McDonald’s, according to CBS News. Public health officials are investigating an outbreak of intestinal illnesses in Illinois and Iowa that has affected dozens of consumers who ate salads from McDonald’s.

Illinois has reported 90 such cases since mid-May. The parasite in question that had been linked to the salads is the cyclospora parasite, it had more than 20 of those cases, and it involved patients who ate salads at McDonald’s restaurants. Iowa has recorded 15 such cases since late June.

Cyclospora can cause stomach cramps, nausea and flu-like symptoms a week or more after the consumption of food or liquid contaminated with this parasite. So far it isn’t known to lead to anything more serious.

“If you ate a salad from McDonald’s since mid-May and developed diarrhea and fatigue, contact a health care provider about testing and treatment,” Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, said in a statement on the agency’s website.

While finding a link to salads sold at McDonald’s in about a quarter of the Illinois cases, the state’s health department is also looking into other possible sources for the contamination, Shah added.

McDonald’s is working with officials in the two states and has temporarily stopped selling salads at the restaurants that were identified as possible sites for the contamination, according to a company spokesperson, that also added that McDonald’s will also be switching lettuce suppliers. Hopefully, this outbreak won’t lead to any deaths and that it won’t spread to any other states.


Professor received grant to a study an Ebola-like virus

Dr. Christopher Basler, a professor in the Institute for Biomedical Sciences at Georgia State University, director of the university’s Center for Microbial Pathogenesis and a Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar in Microbial Pathogenesis, has received a two-year, $419,100 federal grant to study a virus similar to Ebola, according to Life Sciences.

Basler and his co-investigator Dr. Thomas Geisbert of the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston will use the grant from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases of the National Institutes of Health to study Reston ebolavirus.

“This is a virus that resembles Ebola virus, but what makes Reston virus interesting and unique is that whereas Ebola virus, formally Zaire Ebola virus, is typically very deadly in people, Reston virus does not make people sick, but it can still be deadly in some monkeys,” Basler said. “Reston is a virus for which there have been a number of documented human exposures, but people have never gotten sick. The virus is of interest in that respect.”

There are actually five different species of the Ebola virus, and they have similar genomic structures. That said, they are clearly distinct from each other. Ebola and Reston belong to the five species.

Reston seems to come from a different geographic location than other similar viruses. It appears to originate from the Philippines and China, Ebola originated in Africa. Presumably, Ebola and Reston  evolved from a common ancestor, but for some reason, Reston has existed in a different place and seems to be less effective at infecting humans.


Scientists created new vaccine to fight malaria

Researchers from Yale have created a vaccine that protects against malaria in mice, with the same in humans the next step, according to Life Sciences. The study was published by Nature Communications.

Malaria is the second leading cause of infectious disease worldwide and took more than 500,000 lives since 2013. There is currently no completely effective vaccine. In a previous study, senior author Richard Bucala, M.D. researched a unique protein produced by malaria parasites: Plasmodium. It suppresses memory T cells, the infection-fighting cells that respond to threats and protect the body against reinfection.

The research team used two mouse models of malaria to test the effectiveness of a vaccine using PMIF in order to combat malaria. One model actually had early-stage liver infection from parasites carried by mosquitos and the other had a severe late-stage blood infection. In both models, the vaccine protected against reinfection. By the end of the research, the researchers transferred memory T cells from the immunized mice to healthy mice that were never exposed to malaria. Those mice were also protected.

The research proved that PMIF is critical to the completion of the parasite life cycle because it ensures transmission to new hosts, said the scientists, noting that it also demonstrates the effectiveness of the anti-PMIF vaccine.

“If you vaccinate with this specific protein used by the malaria parasite to evade an immune response, you can elicit protection against re-infection,” said Bucala. “To our knowledge, this has never been shown using a single antigen in fulminant blood-stage infection.”

HEALTH HND_Disease TECH_Technology

E-cigarettes may damage DNA

Vaping damages DNA and may increase a person’s risk for cancer, according to new data set to be presented at the American Chemical Society’s annual meeting.

This finding comes from researchers at the University of Minnesota, who took saliva samples from five e-cigarette users before and after they smoked for 15 minutes. Once they collected the samples, the team analyzed the material for chemicals believed to damage DNA.

That revealed all participants had higher levels of the DNA-damaging compounds formaldehyde, acrolein, and methylglyoxal in their saliva after vaping. In addition, they had more DNA damage than non e-cigarettes users as well.

Though such damage does not always lead to serious problems, it can allow cancer to develop.

“E-cigarettes are a popular trend, but the long-term health effects are unknown,” said study co-author Romel Dator, a researcher at the University of Minnesota, according to Newsweek. “We want to characterize the chemicals that vapers are exposed to, as well as any DNA damage they may cause.”

However, despite the new findings, the team says that vapers should not switch to traditional cigarettes. It is more that both are potentially dangerous and could lead to problems down the line.

Little is known about the effects of vaping, but studies like this one show that it is not completely safe.

While there needs to be more research to prove that vaping causes cancer, the damaged DNA uncovered in the study suggests that more research should be conducted on that link.

“Comparing e-cigarettes and tobacco cigarettes is really like comparing apples and oranges,” said project leader Silvia Balbo, a researcher at the University of Minnesota, according to Medical Xpress. “The exposures are completely different. We still don’t know exactly what these e-cigarette devices are doing and what kinds of effects they may have on health, but our findings suggest that a closer look is warranted.”