Medical News Today: Cancer: Using copper to boost immunotherapy

An interdisciplinary group of scientists has successfully destroyed tumor cells in mice by using nano-sized copper compounds alongside immunotherapy. Importantly, the tumors did not return after the treatment ceased.

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Could copper compounds combined with immunotherapy help combat cancer?

According to the World Health Organization, cancer is the second leading cause of death worldwide — in 2018, it was responsible for approximately 9.6 million deaths.

Reducing behavioral or dietary risks associated with cancer is an important way of lowering the total number of cancer deaths; however, finding effective treatments is also crucial.

Doctors usually treat cancer with chemotherapy, but this often has significant side effects. For example, some chemotherapy medication can wipe out a person’s white blood cells, leaving their immune system compromised and open to infection.

Although chemotherapy treatment can be successful, there is always a risk that a person’s cancer might return.

Recent advances in cancer treatment include immunotherapy, which involves using a person’s immune system to fight cancer cells. However, this does not always work or may only slow down the growth of cancer, so it cannot yet replace chemotherapy.

Copper nanoparticles

In the new study on mice, the scientists combined immunotherapy with copper-based nanoparticles. This combination treatment destroyed the tumor cells without the use of chemotherapy. Most importantly, however, the tumor cells did not return after treatment ceased.

The team of scientists — from KU Leuven in Belgium, the University of Bremen, the Leibniz Institute of Materials Engineering both in Germany, and the University of Ioannina in Greece — found that tumors in mice are sensitive to copper oxide nanoparticles.

Typically, these nanoparticles are toxic when inside an organism. The scientists found that by using iron oxide to create the nanoparticles, they could control which cells the nanoparticles destroyed, leaving healthy cells unaffected. They recently published their findings in the journal Angewandte Chemie International Edition.

Prof. Stefaan Soenen and Dr. Bella B. Manshian from the Department of Imaging and Pathology at KU Leuven worked together on the study. They explain how “any material that you create at a nanoscale has slightly different characteristics than its normal-sized counterpart.” They continue:

If we ingest metal oxides in large quantities, they can be dangerous, but at a nanoscale and at controlled, safe concentrations, they can actually be beneficial.”

The scientists began by using only the nanoparticles to target the tumor cells. As expected, the cancer returned. However, the team discovered that the nanoparticles could work in conjunction with the mice’s immune systems.

“We noticed that the copper compounds not only could kill the tumor cells directly, they also could assist those cells in the immune system that fight foreign substances, like tumors,” said Dr. Manshian.

Blocking cancer’s return

When the scientists combined the nanoparticles with immunotherapy, the tumor cells died and did not return.

To confirm the results, the scientists injected the mice with new tumor cells. The mice’s immune systems immediately destroyed the new tumor cells.

The researchers believe that a combination of nanoparticles and immunotherapy could work as a vaccine for lung cancer and colon cancer, which were the two types of cancer the scientists studied.

However, they think that this technique could treat up to 60% percent of cancers, including breast cancer and ovarian cancer, that develop from the same gene mutation.

“As far as I’m aware, this is the first time that metal oxides [have been used] to efficiently fight cancer cells with long lasting immune effects in live models,” Prof. Soenen says. “As a next step, we want to create other metal nanoparticles and identify which particles affect which types of cancer. This should result in a comprehensive database.”

Results derived from animal testing do not necessarily work when it comes to humans, and to take the research further, the team intends to test the treatment on human tumor cells. If that is successful, they will conduct a clinical trial.

However, according to Prof. Soenen, there are still several hurdles along the way:

Nanomedicine is on the rise in the United States and Asia, but Europe is lagging behind. It’s a challenge to advance in this field because doctors and engineers often speak a different language. We need more interdisciplinary collaboration so that we can understand each other better and build upon each other’s knowledge.”

Source Article from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/327477.php

Medical News Today: Could a probiotic prevent or reverse Parkinson’s?

A new study using a roundworm model of Parkinson’s disease found that a probiotic bacterium could prevent, and in some cases reverse, toxic protein buildup.

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Could a probiotic be the key to treating Parkinson’s?

Misfolded alpha-synuclein proteins in the brain are the hallmark sign of Parkinson’s disease.

Many experts believe that these toxic protein clumps lead to the progressive loss of brain cells that control movement.

But the science is not clear-cut, and the underlying mechanisms that cause Parkinson’s remain elusive.

Without an effective way of preventing or curing Parkinson’s, treatment primarily focuses on alleviating symptoms.

A recent line of research has been looking into a possible link to the gut microbiome, the trillions of microbial species that populate our intestines.

Could changing a person’s gut microbiome be a way of modifying their risk of developing Parkinson’s or even serve as an effective treatment?

A group of scientists from the Universities of Edinburgh and Dundee, both in the United Kingdom, set out to investigate.

Maria Doitsidou, a fellow at the University of Edinburgh’s Centre for Discovery Brain Sciences, is the senior study author, and the team’s research features in the journal Cell Reports.

Probiotic ‘inhibits and reverses’ aggregation

For their study, Doitsidou and her colleagues used a nematode worm model that scientists had genetically engineered to express a human version of the alpha-synuclein protein.

These worms normally develop aggregates, or clumps, of alpha-synuclein at day 1 of their adulthood, which is 72 hours after they hatch.

However, when the researchers fed worms a diet containing a probiotic bacterial strain called Bacillus subtilis PXN21, they observed “a nearly complete absence of aggregates,” as they state in their paper. The worms still produced the alpha-synuclein protein, but it did not aggregate in the same way.

In worms that had already developed protein aggregates, switching their diet to B. subtilis cleared the aggregates from the affected cells.

The team then followed a set of worms through their lifespan and compared a B. subtilis diet with a conventional laboratory diet.

“The maximum number of aggregates reached in animals fed with B. subtilis was far lower than that observed on the [standard] diet, indicating that B. subtilis does not simply delay aggregate formation,” the authors explain in the paper.

B. subtilis PXN21 inhibits and reverses [alpha-synuclein] aggregation in a [roundworm] model,” they note.

Is this effect specific for B. subtilis PXN21, though? To answer this question, the team compared a number of different strains of the bacterium and found that they had similar effects.

Several pathways working together

To find out how B. subtilis is able to prevent and clear alpha-synuclein aggregates, the team used RNA sequencing analysis to compare the gene expression of animals receiving a standard diet with that of those receiving the probiotic.

This analysis revealed changes in sphingolipid metabolism. Sphingolipids are a type of fat molecule, and they are important components of the structure of our cell membranes.

“Previous studies suggest that an imbalance of lipids, including ceramides and sphingolipid intermediates, may contribute to the pathology of [Parkinson’s disease],” the authors comment in the paper.

Yet, changes in sphingolipid metabolism were not the only pathways that the researchers identified.

They also saw that B. subtilis was able to protect older animals from alpha-synuclein aggregation through both the formation of complex structures called biofilms and the production of nitric oxide. In addition, the team saw changes in the dietary restriction and the insulin-like signaling pathways.

Importantly, when the team switched animals that had first received a standard diet over to a B. subtilis diet, their motor skills improved.

The results provide an opportunity to investigate how changing the bacteria that make up our gut microbiome affects Parkinson’s. The next steps are to confirm these results in mice, followed by fast-tracked clinical trials since the probiotic we tested is already commercially available.”

Maria Doitsidou

Source Article from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/327509.php

Medical News Today: Could a probiotic prevent or reverse Parkinson’s?

A new study using a roundworm model of Parkinson’s disease found that a probiotic bacterium could prevent, and in some cases reverse, toxic protein buildup.

Parkinson's diseaseShare on Pinterest
Could a probiotic be the key to treating Parkinson’s?

Misfolded alpha-synuclein proteins in the brain are the hallmark sign of Parkinson’s disease.

Many experts believe that these toxic protein clumps lead to the progressive loss of brain cells that control movement.

But the science is not clear-cut, and the underlying mechanisms that cause Parkinson’s remain elusive.

Without an effective way of preventing or curing Parkinson’s, treatment primarily focuses on alleviating symptoms.

A recent line of research has been looking into a possible link to the gut microbiome, the trillions of microbial species that populate our intestines.

Could changing a person’s gut microbiome be a way of modifying their risk of developing Parkinson’s or even serve as an effective treatment?

A group of scientists from the Universities of Edinburgh and Dundee, both in the United Kingdom, set out to investigate.

Maria Doitsidou, a fellow at the University of Edinburgh’s Centre for Discovery Brain Sciences, is the senior study author, and the team’s research features in the journal Cell Reports.

Probiotic ‘inhibits and reverses’ aggregation

For their study, Doitsidou and her colleagues used a nematode worm model that scientists had genetically engineered to express a human version of the alpha-synuclein protein.

These worms normally develop aggregates, or clumps, of alpha-synuclein at day 1 of their adulthood, which is 72 hours after they hatch.

However, when the researchers fed worms a diet containing a probiotic bacterial strain called Bacillus subtilis PXN21, they observed “a nearly complete absence of aggregates,” as they state in their paper. The worms still produced the alpha-synuclein protein, but it did not aggregate in the same way.

In worms that had already developed protein aggregates, switching their diet to B. subtilis cleared the aggregates from the affected cells.

The team then followed a set of worms through their lifespan and compared a B. subtilis diet with a conventional laboratory diet.

“The maximum number of aggregates reached in animals fed with B. subtilis was far lower than that observed on the [standard] diet, indicating that B. subtilis does not simply delay aggregate formation,” the authors explain in the paper.

B. subtilis PXN21 inhibits and reverses [alpha-synuclein] aggregation in a [roundworm] model,” they note.

Is this effect specific for B. subtilis PXN21, though? To answer this question, the team compared a number of different strains of the bacterium and found that they had similar effects.

Several pathways working together

To find out how B. subtilis is able to prevent and clear alpha-synuclein aggregates, the team used RNA sequencing analysis to compare the gene expression of animals receiving a standard diet with that of those receiving the probiotic.

This analysis revealed changes in sphingolipid metabolism. Sphingolipids are a type of fat molecule, and they are important components of the structure of our cell membranes.

“Previous studies suggest that an imbalance of lipids, including ceramides and sphingolipid intermediates, may contribute to the pathology of [Parkinson’s disease],” the authors comment in the paper.

Yet, changes in sphingolipid metabolism were not the only pathways that the researchers identified.

They also saw that B. subtilis was able to protect older animals from alpha-synuclein aggregation through both the formation of complex structures called biofilms and the production of nitric oxide. In addition, the team saw changes in the dietary restriction and the insulin-like signaling pathways.

Importantly, when the team switched animals that had first received a standard diet over to a B. subtilis diet, their motor skills improved.

The results provide an opportunity to investigate how changing the bacteria that make up our gut microbiome affects Parkinson’s. The next steps are to confirm these results in mice, followed by fast-tracked clinical trials since the probiotic we tested is already commercially available.”

Maria Doitsidou

Source Article from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/327509.php

Medical News Today: Could a probiotic prevent or reverse Parkinson’s?

A new study using a roundworm model of Parkinson’s disease found that a probiotic bacterium could prevent, and in some cases reverse, toxic protein buildup.

Parkinson's diseaseShare on Pinterest
Could a probiotic be the key to treating Parkinson’s?

Misfolded alpha-synuclein proteins in the brain are the hallmark sign of Parkinson’s disease.

Many experts believe that these toxic protein clumps lead to the progressive loss of brain cells that control movement.

But the science is not clear-cut, and the underlying mechanisms that cause Parkinson’s remain elusive.

Without an effective way of preventing or curing Parkinson’s, treatment primarily focuses on alleviating symptoms.

A recent line of research has been looking into a possible link to the gut microbiome, the trillions of microbial species that populate our intestines.

Could changing a person’s gut microbiome be a way of modifying their risk of developing Parkinson’s or even serve as an effective treatment?

A group of scientists from the Universities of Edinburgh and Dundee, both in the United Kingdom, set out to investigate.

Maria Doitsidou, a fellow at the University of Edinburgh’s Centre for Discovery Brain Sciences, is the senior study author, and the team’s research features in the journal Cell Reports.

Probiotic ‘inhibits and reverses’ aggregation

For their study, Doitsidou and her colleagues used a nematode worm model that scientists had genetically engineered to express a human version of the alpha-synuclein protein.

These worms normally develop aggregates, or clumps, of alpha-synuclein at day 1 of their adulthood, which is 72 hours after they hatch.

However, when the researchers fed worms a diet containing a probiotic bacterial strain called Bacillus subtilis PXN21, they observed “a nearly complete absence of aggregates,” as they state in their paper. The worms still produced the alpha-synuclein protein, but it did not aggregate in the same way.

In worms that had already developed protein aggregates, switching their diet to B. subtilis cleared the aggregates from the affected cells.

The team then followed a set of worms through their lifespan and compared a B. subtilis diet with a conventional laboratory diet.

“The maximum number of aggregates reached in animals fed with B. subtilis was far lower than that observed on the [standard] diet, indicating that B. subtilis does not simply delay aggregate formation,” the authors explain in the paper.

B. subtilis PXN21 inhibits and reverses [alpha-synuclein] aggregation in a [roundworm] model,” they note.

Is this effect specific for B. subtilis PXN21, though? To answer this question, the team compared a number of different strains of the bacterium and found that they had similar effects.

Several pathways working together

To find out how B. subtilis is able to prevent and clear alpha-synuclein aggregates, the team used RNA sequencing analysis to compare the gene expression of animals receiving a standard diet with that of those receiving the probiotic.

This analysis revealed changes in sphingolipid metabolism. Sphingolipids are a type of fat molecule, and they are important components of the structure of our cell membranes.

“Previous studies suggest that an imbalance of lipids, including ceramides and sphingolipid intermediates, may contribute to the pathology of [Parkinson’s disease],” the authors comment in the paper.

Yet, changes in sphingolipid metabolism were not the only pathways that the researchers identified.

They also saw that B. subtilis was able to protect older animals from alpha-synuclein aggregation through both the formation of complex structures called biofilms and the production of nitric oxide. In addition, the team saw changes in the dietary restriction and the insulin-like signaling pathways.

Importantly, when the team switched animals that had first received a standard diet over to a B. subtilis diet, their motor skills improved.

The results provide an opportunity to investigate how changing the bacteria that make up our gut microbiome affects Parkinson’s. The next steps are to confirm these results in mice, followed by fast-tracked clinical trials since the probiotic we tested is already commercially available.”

Maria Doitsidou

Source Article from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/327509.php

Medical News Today: Catnip: What do we know about the feline drug?

The internet is rife with funny cat videos showing their reactions to a plant commonly known as “catnip.” What is catnip, does it affect all felines, is it safe for cats, and should humans use it? This Special Feature investigates these questions and more.

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Does your feline friend go crazy for catnip? In this Special Feature, we find out why — or why not.

Nepeta cataria, or “catnip,” is an herb belonging to the same plant family as mint. Although it originated in parts of Europe and Asia, the plant is now common across several continents, including North America.

Because, like regular mint, catnip proliferates easily, many cat owners grow the plant in pots as a special treat for their feline friends.

As part of the mint family, fresh catnip also smells minty, though this is not the case for the dried catnip sometimes present in commercial cat treats or toys, which may smell more like dried grass.

Why is catnip such a special treat? People who share their life with a cat will know that this plant often has a marked, and sometimes very funny, effect on these beloved animals — not unlike the effect that a mild recreational drug might have on humans.

Do all felines react to catnip? Why does this plant affect cats, exactly? Is it really akin to recreational drugs? Read on to find out.

1. Why does catnip affect cats?

In his book Intoxication: The Universal Drive for Mind-Altering Substances, psychopharmacologist Ronald Siegel estimates that around “70% of domestic cats respond to catnip,” and that those who do have reached sexual maturity. Cats reach sexual maturity at around 6 months of age.

Cats who react to catnip will sniff the plant, or any toys that contain it, and then start chewing on it. Following this, they may start rubbing their head against the plant or toy, and then roll or flip from side to side.

“Both of [my cats] love it, and it makes them go crazy,” one reader told Medical News Today. “[The female] likes to lick it, then she attacks the toy it’s on, often adopting the bunny leg attack. [The male] goes more soppy with it, often rolling around with the toy in his paws,” they said.

Although in most cases, when it does affect them, catnip stimulates cats in a pleasurable way, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals deem it “toxic to cats.” They warn that some domestic felines may experience adverse reactions after coming into contact with this plant. These effects can include vomiting and diarrhea, as well as states of sedation.

Some cats may even become aggressive when they encounter the plant. Another reader told MNT that she avoids giving her cat any catnip for this very reason. “[My cat] just gets a bit like she wants to fight me [and] starts punching my foot,” they said.

For the many cats that respond well to catnip, Siegel notes, this may be “an example of animal addiction to pleasure behavior.” Both male and female cats respond to catnip in a way that is reminiscent of sexual arousal among these felines.

Because of these similarities, some researchers have suggested that the plant may once have been a timely and natural enhancer of reproductive behaviors.

These displays have prompted naturalists to speculate that catnip once served the evolutionary function in the wild of preparing cats for sex, a natural springtime aphrodisiac.”

Ronald Siegel

He explains that the molecules that carry catnip’s scent, called terpenoids, are what causes the reaction. Catnip features a specific type of terpenoid called nepetalactones. These molecules, Siegel explains, can be toxic. However, they are usually harmless in the quantity in which they are present in catnip.

Cats absorb nepetalactones by sniffing the catnip. The molecules then bind to olfactory (smell) receptors in the nose, which send additional signals to the amygdala, which are two small clusters in the mammal brain. These are linked with both the regulation of emotions and some sexual behaviors.

2. Why do some cats not respond?

About 30% of domestic cats have absolutely no reaction to catnip. One MNT reader exclaimed that it “has no effect on [her cat] whatsoever!”

Why does catnip affects some cats but not others? The difference, Siegel argues, lies in cat DNA. Some cats inherit the “catnip sensitive” gene, while others simply do not.

“The reason for the failure of some cats to become even the least bit excited about catnip and for the exaggerated reaction of others is genetic,” he writes.

“Cats can inherit a dominant gene that guides the reaction to catnip,” adds Siegel. He adds that some studies have demonstrated that the offspring of cats sensitive to catnip are also sensitive to this plant, and that those of cats with no reaction to it also will not respond.

In addition to this, he says, some felines may become avoidant of catnip if they have had a bad experience with it.

For instance, notes Siegel, if a feline has sniffed or chewed on catnip and then injured itself, in the future, it may turn around when encountering the plant, instead of jumping at the occasion of accessing the stimulant.

3. Does catnip affect other felines?

If catnip can have a striking effect on domestic cats, does it also affect larger felines, such as lions, jaguars, and tigers?

The answer is “yes” — and it seems to act, to a much lesser extent, on other cat-like mammals that are not actually felines.

An experiment conducted in the early 1970s at what is now Zoo Knoxville in Tennessee found that lions and jaguars were “extremely sensitive” to catnip.

Some of the tigers, cougars, and bobcats at the zoo also responded to catnip, though not at all strongly. The two cheetahs on site at the time showed no interest in the plant.

Other animals have shown curiosity about catnip, though to a much lesser extent than domestic cats.

Non-felines that have shown an interest in catnip include civets, which are carnivorous animals native to Asia and Africa that look like cats but belong to a different family, called Viverridae.

4. What other stimulants affect cats?

Though catnip is by far the best known cat stimulant, researchers have noted that there are many other plants that can alter felines’ moods and behaviors.

Siegel, for instance, speaks of matatabi, or silver vine (Actinidia polygama). This is a plant native to areas of Japan and China. In an experiment at Osaka Zoo in Japan, large felines exposed to high quantities of the active substance in matatabi showed signs of intense pleasure — and addiction.

“This plant contains secondary compounds closely related in chemical structure and behavioral activity to nepetalactones,” Siegel explains.

After an initial exposure, the [large] cats became so eager for more that they would ignore whatever else they were doing — eating, drinking, or even having sexual intercourse — whenever the chemicals were made available.”

Ronald Siegel

One 2017 study confirmed that matatabi can be just as, if not more, effective than catnip when it comes to stimulating domestic cats.

The study’s authors also identified two more plants that had a similar effect: Tatarian honeysuckle (Lonicera tatarica) and valerian (Valeriana officinalis).

Almost 80% of the domestic cats in this study reacted to matatabi, and around 50% of cats also responded to Tatarian honeysuckle and valerian root.

Matatabi, the study authors also note, actually elicited a response in 75% of the domestic cats that had no reaction to catnip.

“Olfactory enrichment using silver vine, Tatarian honeysuckle, or valerian root may, similar to catnip, be an effective means to improve the quality of life for cats,” the researchers conclude.

5. Is catnip safe for humans?

Although humans tend to buy or cultivate catnip purely for the entertainment of their feline friends, some people think that the plant can have a soothing effect on their own minds.

For example, some people like to brew catnip tea, and some have even tried rolling the plant into cigarettes and smoking it. “It makes people feel happy, contented, and intoxicated, like marijuana,” an older study notes.

As a supplement, people have also used catnip to treat symptoms such as coughs or toothaches, and as a digestive aid.

Is it safe? This much remains unclear. So far, there has been little research into the effectiveness or safety of catnip when it comes to treating various conditions in humans.

Some specialists suggest that catnip can cause contractions of the uterus, so they recommend that pregnant women avoid this plant.

Given the scarcity of evidence regarding the safety of this plant, however, our readers may be better off saving it for their cats’ enjoyment — that is, if they are part of the majority that do appreciate it.

Source Article from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/327387.php

Medical News Today: Giving TB vaccine intravenously boosts efficacy

Experiments in rhesus macaques show that changing the mode of administration of an existing vaccine yields “amazing” results in the fight against tuberculosis (TB).

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Delivering the TB vaccine intravenously rather than intradermally may prove significantly more effective.

Globally, TB is one of the top 10 causes of death and the leading cause of death from infection, ranking higher than HIV and AIDS.

Approximately 10 million people across the world contracted TB in 2018, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Although most of these cases tend to occur in Southeast Asia and Africa, drug resistant TB is a “public health threat” worldwide.

There is currently only one available vaccine, which is called bacillus Calmette–Guérin (BCG). Healthcare professionals administer the vaccine intradermally; that is, they inject it directly under the skin.

However, with this mode of administration, the effectiveness of the vaccine varies significantly from person to person. But, new research suggests, administering the vaccine intravenously instead could drastically improve its efficiency.

JoAnne Flynn, Ph.D., who is a professor of microbiology and molecular genetics at the University of Pittsburgh’s Center for Vaccine Research in Pennsylvania, led the new research together with Dr. Robert Seder from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) in Bethesda, MD.

Flynn and her colleagues published their findings in the journal Nature.

The importance of T cells for TB immunity

As the authors explain in their paper, preventing and controlling TB infection requires T cell immunity. T cells are white immune cells, also called lymphocytes.

One of the major challenges of creating an effective vaccine is triggering and maintaining a T cell response in the lungs to control the infection while simultaneously triggering memory cells that can replenish the lung tissue.

With direct injection into the skin, the BCG vaccine does not produce many resident memory T cells in the lungs, explain the authors.

However, some previous studies in nonhuman primates have shown that injecting vaccines intravenously makes them more efficacious.

So, the researchers hypothesized that “a sufficiently high dose” of intravenous BCG would do the trick.

They set out to test their hypothesis and find out how to elicit a sufficient number of T cells that could protect against TB infection in rhesus macaques that were prone to the infection.

‘100,000-fold reduction in bacterial burden’

The researchers divided the monkeys into six groups: monkeys that did not receive a vaccine, monkeys that received a standard human injection, monkeys that received a stronger dose but by the same standard injection route, monkeys that inhaled the vaccine in the form of a mist, monkeys that got an injection plus mist, and monkeys that got a stronger dose of BCG but in a single intravenous shot.

After 6 months, the scientists exposed the monkeys to TB. As a result, the majority of the monkeys developed lung inflammation.

The team examined the signs of infection and the course of the disease among the different groups of macaques.

Of all the groups, those that received the vaccine intravenously had the most protection against TB bacteria. There were almost no TB bacteria in the lungs of these monkeys, whereas the monkeys that had received the vaccine the standard way had nearly as many bacteria as those that did not undergo vaccination at all.

“The effects are amazing,” says Flynn. “When we compared the lungs of animals given the vaccine intravenously versus the standard route, we saw a 100,000-fold reduction in bacterial burden. Nine out of 10 animals showed no inflammation in their lungs.”

The reason the intravenous route is so effective […] is that the vaccine travels quickly through the bloodstream to the lungs, the lymph nodes, and the spleen, and it primes the T cells before it gets killed.”

JoAnne Flynn

A ‘paradigm shift’ for TB vaccines

Flynn and team found that the T cell response in the lungs of the monkeys that had received an intravenous injection was far more active than in the other groups. They also noted that T cells were more numerous in these monkeys, particularly in their lung parenchyma lobes.

Intravenous administration “induced substantially more CD4 and CD8 T cell responses in blood, spleen, bronchoalveolar lavage, and lung lymph nodes,” write the authors.

Before moving on to humans, the scientists need to run more tests to assess the safety and practicality of this vaccine.

“We’re a long way from realizing the translational potential of this work,” Flynn says. “But eventually, we do hope to test in humans.”

Until then, the study marks a “paradigm shift” in how we develop TB vaccines to “prevent latency, active disease, and transmission,” conclude the authors in their paper.

Source Article from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/327498.php

Medical News Today: Heart health: Are women getting incorrect treatment?

Recent research suggests that ignoring sex-specific risk factors of heart disease has resulted in women having a higher risk of dying from heart failure than men.

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Differences between men and women may mean that the latter do not receive the right treatment for heart conditions.

A review published in Nature Medicine reveals an alarming failure to successfully treat cardiometabolic disorders, such as diabetes, heart disease, and stroke, in women.

The authors urge health services to consider the biological differences between men and women when treating heart disease.

The review, by Prof. Eva Gerdts, of the University of Bergen, in Norway, and Prof. Vera Regitz-Zagrosek, of the Charité Universitätsmedizin Berlin, in Germany, compares the common risk factors for both sexes.

Men and women have different biologies, and this results in different types of the same heart diseases. It is about time to recognize these differences.”

Prof. Eva Gerdts

The authors summarize the results of over 18 major studies that have explored the causal factors of heart disease in each sex.

The overwhelming finding was that women are more at risk of receiving the wrong treatment because health service professionals fail to spot symptoms or risk factors that are unique to women.

Obesity at the heart of it

Recent research has substantiated fears that the global rise in cardiometabolic disorders is linked to obesity. Meanwhile, fresh evidence suggests that obesity and associated damage to the heart occur differently in men and women.

Global figures show that obesity in women is on the rise, and as Prof. Gerdts’ review explains, women store fat differently from men. The mechanisms behind this process combine to create an increased risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

“If we see this from a life span perspective, we can see that obesity increases with age and that this trend is greater for women than men. Obesity increases the risk of having high blood pressure by a factor of three. This, in turn, increases the risk of heart disease,” explains Prof. Gerdts.

    The estrogen advantage

    The hormone estrogen works to impede metabolic syndrome by preventing connective tissue from forming in the heart. This also helps keep blood pressure stable.

    But the decrease in estrogen that occurs during menopause can increase the risk of arterial stiffening and subsequent disease.

    This helps explain an increase in hypertension among women over 60. In men, meanwhile, hypertension is more common before the age of 60.

    Lifestyle risks increase with age

    Socioeconomic status and lifestyle factors also play a role in cardiovascular risk discrepancies.

    The researchers highlight the fact that, around the world, women are more likely to experience low levels of education, low income, and joblessness, and that studies have associated each of these factors with diabetes and depression — two major contributing factors for heart disease.

    Meanwhile, the adverse effects of unhealthful habits, such as smoking — which is on the rise in women — multiply as we age. This can lead to high blood pressure, which can cause heart failure if a person does not receive treatment.

    “For women, the effects of risk factors such as smoking, obesity, and high blood pressure increase after menopause,” says Prof. Gerdts.

    What can we do?

    Prof. Gerdts hopes to incite action among the medical community; she calls for healthcare providers to place more emphasis on sex differences when treating cardiometabolic disorders.

    Heart disease remains among the most common cause of death and reduced quality of life in women. Medically speaking, we still do not know what the best treatment for heart attack or [heart] failure is in many women. It is an unacceptable situation.”

    Prof. Eva Gerdts

    The present study highlights an imbalance in available research, in an effort to pave the way for further work.

    The outlook is promising if we consider that cardiac arrest — which is more common in men — is now treatable and preventable. If the same resources and research were applied to the factors that put women at risk of heart failure, perhaps similarly effective interventions could be developed in the near future.

    In the meantime, it is important for healthcare providers to help women in high-risk groups lower their blood pressure, reduce the risk or effects of obesity, and put quitting smoking at the top of their list of 2020 goals, if necessary.

Source Article from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/327475.php

Medical News Today: Online information about probiotics often misleading

As probiotics grow in popularity, a recent study investigates the reliability of online information. They find that the majority of “top” websites provide information that lacks scientific evidence.

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Probiotics are popular, but do they cut the mustard?

As scientists have become increasingly interested in the role of gut bacteria, so have the public. In parallel with the microbiome’s rise to fame, probiotics have grown ever more popular.

Probiotics are live organisms that manufacturers add to a range of foods, most commonly yogurts. Their marketing information often contains an array of health claims, from improving digestive health to boosting the immune system.

Probiotics are now big business. In 2017, the probiotics market in the United States was worth more than $40 billion, according to the authors of the recent study.

Claims and accuracy examined

As with many products today, online sales and marketing play a significant role. With this in mind, researchers from the Brighton and Sussex Medical School in the United Kingdom and the Université libre de Bruxelles in Belgium assessed online claims about these products for accuracy.

To investigate, they collected information from top-ranked webpages in Google searches. Co-author Prof. Michel Goldman explains that “often, the public will not go past the first 10 results — these will, therefore, have a higher visibility and impact.”

First, the authors analyzed the pages for “accuracy and completeness.” Next, they checked the information against the Cochrane library, which is a database of evidence-based medical information, including clinical trials and meta-analyses.

Prof. Goldman explains their approach: “We assessed the first 150 webpages brought up by a Google search for ‘probiotics’ and recorded where they originated from and the diseases they mentioned. The scientific evidence for health benefits of probiotics against these diseases was then examined for scientific rigor.”

They published their findings in the journal Frontiers in Medicine.

Site type matters

The scientists found that the majority of the top 150 websites were news-based or commercial — 31% and 43%, respectively. Overall, news and commercial sites were the least reliable sources of information as they rarely mentioned regulatory issues or side effects for vulnerable individuals, such as those who are immunocompromised.

Of the 150 webpages, only 40% mentioned that the benefits of probiotics need more research, 35% referenced scientific literature, only 25% listed potential side effects, and just 15% mentioned regulatory provisions.

In the four categories covered above, commercial websites scored lowest. In Google’s top 10 results, the scores were higher.

The authors explain that Google’s algorithms do a relatively good job of ensuring that reliable health portals come at the top of searches: in the top 10 search entries in Google, reliable health portals took up the majority of slots.

However, as author Prof. Pietro Ghezzi explains, “the fact that there is such a large amount of commercially-oriented information is problematic for consumers who are searching for honest answers.”

Evidence is lacking

The researchers investigated specific health claims in more detail, checking these claims against the Cochrane database. Although websites make claims about probiotics treating a range of ills, the evidence is severely lacking.

To date, evidence only supports the use of probiotics to treat a handful of conditions, including infectious diarrhea and necrotizing enterocolitis in preterm infants. Even in these cases, it is necessary for scientists to do more research.

Overall, 93 of the 150 websites claimed that probiotics could enhance the immune system. In reality, as the authors explain, this “has been barely investigated in clinical trials.”

Similarly, a significant number of websites claim that probiotics might help relieve mental disorders and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. Again, scientists have carried out very little research into these topics.

In all, there were 325 specific health claims on the webpages that the scientists investigated. Scientific evidence substantiated only 23%, and 20% had no evidential support to back them up. These findings are important, as the authors explain:

In the current era where distrust in medical experts and health authorities is widespread, individual consumption of over-the-counter health products is largely guided by information collected on the internet.”

They continue, “Since probiotics escape scrutinization by regulatory authorities, it is of utmost importance to get insight into the level of trustworthiness provided by online information on their benefits and risks.”

Source Article from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/327510.php

Medical News Today: Older adults who drink tea are less likely to be depressed

Previous research has suggested that there is a link between depression and tea drinking. Now, a new study is investigating this relationship further.

two older adults drinking teaShare on Pinterest
Drinking tea may lower the risk of depression among older adults.

Depression is common among older adults, with 7% of those over the age of 60 years reporting “major depressive disorder.”

Accordingly, research is underway to identify possible causes, which include genetic predisposition, socioeconomic status, and relationships with family, living partners, and the community at large.

A study by researchers from the National University of Singapore (NUS) and Fudan University in Shanghai raises another possibility. It finds a statistically significant link between regular tea drinking and lower levels of depression in seniors.

While the researchers have not yet established a causal relationship between tea and mental health, their findings — which appear in BMC Geriatrics — show a strong association.

Reading the tea leaves

Tea is popular among older adults, and various researchers have recently been investigating the potential beneficial effects of the beverage.

A separate study from the NUS that appeared in Aging last June, for example, found that tea may have properties that help brain areas maintain healthy cognitive function.

Our study offers the first evidence of the positive contribution of tea drinking to brain structure and suggests a protective effect on age-related decline in brain organization.”

Junhua Li, lead author

That earlier paper also cites research showing that tea and its ingredients — catechin, L-theanine, and caffeine — can produce positive effects on mood, cognitive ability, cardiovascular health, cancer prevention, and mortality.

However, defining the exact role of tea in preventing depression is difficult, especially due to the social context in which people often consume it. Particularly in countries such as China, social interaction may itself account for some or even all of the drink’s benefits.

Feng Qiushi and Shen Ke led the new study, which tracks this covariate and others, including gender, education, and residence, as well as marital and pension status.

The team also factored in lifestyle habits and health details, including smoking, drinking alcohol, daily activities, level of cognitive function, and degree of social engagement.

In addition, the authors write, “The study has major methodological strength,” citing a few of its attributes.

Firstly, they note, it could more accurately track an individual’s tea-drinking history because “instead of examining tea-drinking habit [only] at the time of survey or in the preceding month/year, we combined the information on frequency and consistency of tea consumption at age 60 and at the time of assessment.”

Once the researchers had classified each person as one of four types of tea drinker according to how often they drank the beverage, they concluded:

[O]nly consistent daily drinkers, those who had drunk tea almost every day since age 60, could significantly benefit in mental health.”

13,000 study participants

The researchers analyzed the data of 13,000 individuals who took part in the Chinese Longitudinal Healthy Longevity Survey (CLHLS) between 2005 and 2014.

They discovered a virtually universal link between tea drinking and lower reports of depression.

Other factors seemed to reduce depression as well, including living in an urban setting and being educated, married, financially comfortable, in better health, and socially engaged.

The data also suggested that the benefits of tea drinking are strongest for males aged 65 to 79 years. Feng Qiushi suggests an explanation: “It is likely that the benefit of tea drinking is more evident for the early stage of health deterioration. More studies are surely needed in regard to this issue.”

Looking at the connection the other way around, tea drinkers appeared to share certain characteristics.

Higher proportions of tea drinkers were older, male, and urban residents. In addition, they were more likely to be educated, married, and receiving pensions.

Tea drinkers also exhibited higher cognitive and physical function and were more socially involved. On the other hand, they were also more likely to drink alcohol and smoke.

Qiushi previously published the results of the effect of tea drinking on a different population, Singaporeans, finding a similar link to lower rates of depression. The new study, while more detailed, supports this earlier work.

Currently exploring new CLHLS data regarding tea drinking, Qiushi wishes to understand more about what tea can do, saying, “This new round of data collection has distinguished different types of tea, such as green tea, black tea, and oolong tea so that we could see which type of tea really works for alleviating depressive symptoms.”

Source Article from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/327521.php

Medical News Today: Common foods alter gut bacteria by influencing viruses

A group of researchers has brought the idea of food as a medicine one step closer. They have identified certain common foodstuffs that alter our microbiome.

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Illustration of phage viruses attacking a bacterium.

In science today, food and gut bacteria are two topics that are guaranteed to fuel interest and debate. Both, of course, are interrelated, and a new study focuses on some subtleties of this relationship.

The lack of a healthy population of gut bacteria compromises our health; the same is true when we do not eat a healthful diet. However, scientists do not entirely understand the exact impact of specific foods on gut bacteria.

This knowledge gap is due, in part, to the unbelievable complexity of the microbiome. One factor that muddies the water is bacteriophages, or phages for short.

The phage

Phages are viruses that only attack bacteria. Within the gut, these viruses outnumber the dizzyingly numerous gut bacteria.

Each phage only attacks a specific type of bacterium, meaning that it can influence levels of gut bacteria. Phages need bacteria to live, so if bacteria are absent, the phages cannot survive.

This means that any foods that influence phages can influence gut bacteria and vice versa. For example, if the population of one type of phage increases, the bacteria that they consume will dwindle, potentially making room for another species of bacteria to multiply.

In this way, viruses can affect the overall microbiome — by pruning one species, they provide space for other species to fill.

Switching from prophage

Most phages in the gut are present in a dormant form — their DNA is integrated into the bacteria’s genome. In this form, they are called prophages.

Scientists have identified certain compounds that trigger prophages to return to their active form. When this happens, hundreds of new phages burst out of the bacterial cell, killing the host and attacking other bacteria; these compounds include soy sauce, nicotine, and some antibiotics, such as ciprofloxacin. To date, the list of phage-promoting compounds is relatively short.

It is essential to uncover which chemicals fuel phage activity. Because phages attack and kill bacteria, if we understand how to manipulate them, they could work as powerful, natural antibiotics.

A recent study set out to expand the list of compounds that induce phage activity. The scientists from San Diego State University, CA, published their findings in the journal Gut Microbes. They hope that their results will introduce the “possibility of using diet to intentionally landscape the human gut microbiome via prophage induction.”

We could actually tackle certain conditions by adjusting the foods we consume that will affect microbial diversity, which in turn will influence health and diseases.”

Research associate Lance Boling

To investigate, the researchers chose a wide range of compounds that might influence phage activity. They selected a range of bacteria from two phyla that are common in the gut: Bacteroidetes and Firmicutes. They included both beneficial and pathogenic strains of bacteria.

From 117 food compounds, they narrowed down their search to just 28. The researchers observed the growth of bacteria in the presence of each specific compound; they also observed its growth without the compound as a control. Next, they used flow cytometry, a process that is sensitive enough to detect unimaginably small virus particles.

Which foods influence phages?

Of the 28 candidates, 11 compounds produced levels of virus particles at a rate higher than the controls, which signifies that they influenced phage activity.

Some of the most significant phage boosts occurred in the presence of clove, propolis (a compound produced by bees), uva ursi (also known as kinnikinnick or bearberry), and aspartame.

The most potent prophage inducer was stevia, which is a plant-derived sugar substitute. With some species of the bacterial strains, stevia increased the number of virus particles by more than 400%.

Conversely, some foods reduced the number of virus particles; most notably, these included rhubarb, fernet (a type of Italian liquor), coffee, and oregano.

To complicate matters, some compounds boosted phage activity associated with some bacteria, but reduced phage activity related to others; these compounds include toothpaste, grapefruit seed extract, and pomegranate.

According to the authors, one of the most potent antibacterial foods was hot tabasco sauce, which “reduced the growth of all three [gastrointestinal] species, except the opportunistic pathogen P. aeruginosa, by an average of 92%.”

Tabasco contains vinegar, but when they tested vinegar alone, it only reduced bacterial growth by 71%. They believe that capsaicin — the spicy compound in chilis — may explain the additional antibacterial capabilities. However, in the experiments with tabasco, no virus particles were found, so phages are unlikely to be involved.

The future

These findings are important. Scientists now know that the microbiome can influence our physical and mental health; it can also cause inflammation and increase cancer risk. If scientists can work out how to alter the microbiome in specific ways, they can, in theory, remove or reduce these risks.

As one of the authors, Forest Rohwer, explains, “The ability to kill specific bacteria, without affecting others, makes these compounds very interesting.”

The new list of compounds is by no means exhaustive, of course, as Rohwer says, “There are probably thousands of compounds that would be useful for eliminating unwanted bacteria.”

The authors hope that scientists will continue along these lines. They also explain that scientists will need to try to figure out the molecular mechanisms that switch the phage from inactivity to activity.

Source Article from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/327486.php