research in the news

 Research in the news reviews the latest research and development stories.

Cardiovascular Health

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Women who take an oral contraceptive as part of Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRP) for at least a year at some point in their lives are 8% less likely to suffer from any cardiovascular diseases, a recent study at Wayne State University in Michigan suggests.  The researchers analyzed data obtained from another large study entitled US Women’s Health Initiative.  Although, the initial study had found that older women on HRP had an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, the current study proposed that in younger women the contraceptive hormones estrogen and progestin may actually exert protective effects over blood vessels and prevent artery clogging, while risk in older women may simply be due to age and other health-related issues.  The researchers also found that the amount of benefit obtained was correlated with the length of time women took the contraceptives.  Lower risks of cancer, including a 20% reduction in ovarian and endometrial cancers, were also observed.  Further studies on the subject are necessary as the findings challenge a long-held belief that HRP increase risks of cardiovascular disease.

Pearson, H.  “Oral contraceptive may cut risk of heart disease.”  Nature.  Available from: http://www.nature.com/news/2004/041021/full/news041018-13.html.  Last accessed:  August 2013.

 

Cancer

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Aggressive breast cancers known as ‘triple-negative’ cancers were shown to respond favorably to proteasome inhibitor drugs like bortezomib.  The drugs act by disrupting the function of proteasomes, which are cellular components responsible for breaking down damaged and unneeded proteins.  When proteasomes are disrupted, the cancer cells cannot survive.  Bortezomib is currently successfully used to combat blood cancers like multiple myeloma.  The reported findings from a research team at Boston Children’s Hospital suggest that such proteasome inhibitors may soon also represent an effective defense against difficult breast cancers that affect mostly young women.

“Drugs that clog ‘waste disposal’ may treat aggressive breast cancers.” Medical News Today. Available from:  http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/releases/264727.php. Last accessed: August 2013.

 

Diabetes

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High doses of blood sugar-lowering medications may be more harmful to patients with type 2 diabetes than previously thought.  Many doctors traditionally recommend aggressive treatment for lowering blood sugar levels, but a recent Action to Control Cardiovascular Risk in Diabetes (ACCORD) trial has discovered that with higher doses of drugs like insulin and Avandia (rosiglitazone) more deaths occur in the diabetic population, a finding that comes shocking to doctors.  The results of the study cannot be said to be definitively conclusive.  In fact, another study has recently demonstrated a small beneficial effect of such intense therapy in reducing kidney disease.  Nevertheless, reliance on aggressive treatment of diabetes should be minimized and supplemented with weight loss and exercise strategies.

Ledford, H.  “Aggressive approach to diabetes proves harmful.”   Nature.  Available from: http://www.nature.com/news/2008/080606/full/news.2008.879.html. Last accessed: August 2013.

 

Infectious Diseases

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Researchers at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) have developed a vaccine against malaria, which has shown 100% success rate in Phase I clinical trials.  Malaria is an infectious disease that affected roughly 200 million people in 2010 alone, over ¼ of which died.  Most of the affected population was comprised of African children.  In fact, it is estimated that one child dies of malaria somewhere in Africa every minute.  Caused by the parasite Plasmodium, which is carried by mosquitos, the disease also poses a danger to tourists, business people, diplomats, aid workers, and the military living and/or working in Africa.  The pfSPZ vaccine, developed by Sanaria Inc., uses the whole parasite in its weakened form to trigger an immune response by production of antibodies and T-cells.  The early stage clinical trial did not demonstrate any negative side-effects in the subjects tested.  Challenges for the future of pfSPZ include overcoming the lengthy production process, which is based on a formulation using the whole parasite instead of separate proteins as in standard vaccine manufacturing, and the delivery method of intravenous injection, which is less convenient than standard subcutaneous vaccines.  The research group is continuing studies into dosage, length of protection, and effectiveness of vaccine against other strains of Plasmodium.

Paddock, C.  “Malaria: 100% protection in early vaccine trial.”  Medical News Today.  Available from: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/264610.php.  August 9, 2013.

 

Pain

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The FDA released a warning for the pain medication acetaminophen (paracetamol), sold commonly under the names of Tylenol and Tempra.  In very rare cases, acetaminophen has been reported to cause extreme skin reactions and long-term skin damage.  Since 1969, 107 cases of such complications have been documented, 67 of them grave enough for hospitalization, and 12 resulting in death.  The adverse effects are the symptoms of one of three disorders: the Stevens-Johnson Syndrome, Toxic Epidermal Necrolysis, and Acute Generalized Exanthematous Pustulosis.  The first two mentioned are characterized by flu-like symptoms followed by rashes, blistering, and skin damage.  Long-term complications like scarring, change of skin pigmentation, blindness, and internal organ damage are also possible.  Anyone taking acetaminophen should be aware of the small possibility of developing these side effects and are advised to discontinue the medication and seek immediate medical attention at any sign of a skin rash.

MacGill, M.  “Acetaminophen: serious skin reactions in rare cases.”  Medical News Today.  Available from: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/264351.php.  Last accessed: August 2013.

 

 

Written by Julia Yusupova

 

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