Tri-Specific Antibodies Treating HIV Infection

The medicine industry is booming, thanks to new technologies like bendable batteries and injectable bandages. While these new discoveries can treat cancer and repair organs, some researchers are working on improving older remedies. The US National Institutes of Health and Sanofi have combined antibodies into tri-specific antibodies targeting HIV infection.

“They are more potent and have greater breadth than any single naturally occurring antibody that’s been discovered.” [said Dr. Gary Nabel of Sanofi.]

“We’re getting 99% coverage, and getting coverage at very low concentrations of the antibody,”

HIV strains mutate faster than immune systems can adapt, making resistance almost futile. Animal trials saw a 100% success rate in monkeys, while human trials will begin next year.

“Combinations of antibodies that each bind to a distinct site on HIV may best overcome the defences of the virus in the effort to achieve effective antibody-based treatment and prevention.”

Further testing may prove the usefulness of tri-specific antibodies in other fields. The battle against HIV is far from over, but it’s safe to say we’re getting there, one antibody at a time.

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Pediatric Cancer Drug Displays 93% Success Rate

Breakthroughs in cancer research such as gene-altering treatments and the discovery of nanomachines have made waves in the past few years, persistently leading humanity through not-so-tiny victory after not-so-tiny victory in a battle between human and disease that has spanned decades. Just this month, a drug specifically targeting a fused gene found in several cancer types resulted in a 93% response rate among children.

“In some cancers, a part of the TRK [tropomyosin receptor kinase] gene has become attached to another gene, which is called a fusion. When this occurs, it leads to the TRK gene being turned on when it’s not supposed to be and that causes the cells to grow uncontrollably. What’s unique about the drug is it is very selective; it only blocks TRK receptors,” said lead author Dr. Ted Laetsch, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics.

Most drugs that are already known and used to cure cancer usually target a particular location or organ in the body. According to the researchers at UT Southwestern’s Simmons Cancer Center, Larotrectinib is the first cancer drug designated for people with TRK fusions, or the fusion of two genes in the cancer cell, regardless of whether their cancer is in the lung, colon, or other areas.

“…none of the patients with TRK fusions had to quit the study because of a drug-induced side effect. Equally important, the response was long-lasting for most patients.”

The TRK fusions tend to occur mostly in certain types of pediatric cancer. This implies that, despite also being 75% effective in adult cancers, Larotrectinib is a bigger breakthrough in pediatric cancer research. This is a hopeful and life-giving discovery for children, or the people most capable of giving us hope in our own lives.

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Why We Need to Celebrate the Smallpox Vaccine

In light of brilliant breakthroughs like gene alteration for genetic disorders, nanomachines to cure cancer cells, minimally invasive treatment procedures for epilepsy — no, the smallpox vaccine doesn’t seem like a big deal. It obviously isn’t a new medical discovery. In fact, last May 8 commemorates the fact that the world has been free of the illness for 38 years. But the reason we need to celebrate it is precisely because of the many successes that followed the 1980s smallpox eradication. And the need to counter the threats to these successes.

William Foege, former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has written a book in 2011 called House on Fire where he explains just how he made it possible. He and other health workers wiped out smallpox — “by dreaming, being savvy in politics and unafraid to break the rules, and devising the brilliant ring vaccination strategy.”

Foege and his colleagues found that instead of using the vaccine on entire populations, it was more effective to distribute it among the demographic most at risk, which were the contacts of the infected. After being proven true in the smallpox case, this strategy on immunization was replicated on the prevention of other diseases or viruses such as measles, polio, malaria, HIV/AIDS, Ebola, and others. Some have been nearly wiped out as well, while the incidence rates of some have significantly dropped.

However, a few decades later, people now face a dilemma. What about the now-debunked finding that vaccine causes autism? The anti-vaccine movement discredits the milestones of smallpox eradication and immunization. Does the use of vaccine actually pose more risk than benefit to humans? Well, it might be time to look back at history for answers regarding the progress of human health. William Foege, the man who developed the global strategy for vaccination, is still fighting for truth.

“I think vaccines are really the foundation of public health . . . By the early 1980s, [many of] our vaccine diseases had gone down to close to zero . . . So things were going quite well until Andrew Wakefield did his Lancet article [suggesting there’s a link between the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine and autism] . . . He specifically said the MMR vaccine was the problem. He was disbarred in England because of the falsifications of his [data].”

Turns out, the research linking vaccines to autism is completely bogus that Wakefield even lost his medical license. But that hasn’t stopped parents all over the world from being paranoid. Foege understands that parents are only “trying to do the right thing,” but in doing so, they forget the risk of disease and focus on a completely false risk of the vaccine. This seems to make the anti-vaccine movement more of a health education issue, as people are just clearly misinformed.

38 years after smallpox eradication and other successes, vaccination has become a social problem more than a scientific one. In some countries, the public health debate even results in violence. But globally, more often than not, it results in the slower prevention and elimination of certain diseases. But Foege is still hopeful.

“I think we’re at the beginning of an eradication era — because of vaccines — and as we learn more and more about logistics, cold chains, how to develop vaccines that don’t require refrigeration, don’t require using needles and syringes, I think the future is very bright for disease eradication . . . You have to believe a disease can be eradicated . . . you have to put up with all the frustrations . . . you stick with your vision of what the last mile is.”

True enough, a disease can be eradicated. Smallpox is a testament to that. So celebrate the fact that you were born after it’s gone. Celebrate the fact that it led to much slimmer chances of measles in your lifetime. Now more than ever, we need to celebrate this feat, so that decades of medical history — thus, strong leads to medical progress — will not go down the laboratory drain.

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Less Invasive Epilepsy Treatment at Sourasky

Finding minimally invasive treatment procedures for significant illnesses have been the preoccupation of some of today’s medical breakthroughs, as exemplified by the research and development of light-activated methods in cancer treatment using nanomachines.

In Sourasky, minimally invasive procedures using advance laser and MRI technologies have been conducted in the treatment of epilepsy patients who are not responsive to medication. Offered in the neurosurgery department by Prof. Yitzhak Fried, Dr. Ido Strauss, and director of epilepsy service Dr. Firas Fahoum, it is the first time the procedure is being performed outside the US.

“If in the past we had to consider surgery in cases where the patient did not respond to medication, we can now make do with a minimally invasive procedure that is almost as successful as open surgery,” explained Strauss.

What made this possible is Laser Interstitial Thermal Therapy (LITT) technology. A small optic fiber is inserted into a small hole in the skull, and is then connected to a device called the Visualase system. While this is happening, an MRI scanner monitors brain temperatures and the size of the ablated tissue. Compared with open surgery, this procedure is more keen on preserving the areas of the brain proximate to the ablated issue and responsible for other bodily functions.

“Today, we know that the source of the disorder that causes epileptic seizures is found in neural networks in the brain and that the attacks can be prevented by proper medical treatment,” explained Fahoum. “In most cases, patients are given medication to try to control the seizures. But if this doesn’t help, it is necessary to consider neurosurgical intervention, in cases where the area where the seizures begin is located and surgically removed. But seizures come as a surprise and may cause cumulative damage to the cognitive and mental functioning of the patients along with physical injuries when they fall to the ground.”

The use of LITT, Visualase, and MRI technologies provides a less invasive procedure to the other surgical options such as nerve pacemakers and neuromodulation, as well as the removal of the seizure’s focal point. Moreover, the therapeutic option also provides easier recovery and may even be offered to children with epilepsy.

Hopefully, it is time we have more and more medical breakthroughs of less and less invasive treatment procedures.

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Australia To Soon Eliminate Cervical Cancer Disease

After decades of rigorous clinical trials, it seems cancer may be seeing a slow and steady downfall. With the help of nanomachines and Hollywood stars, the planet’s top killer may finally be hitting the breaks. In Australia, anyway. With infection rates of cervical cancer having plummeted to 1%, the land down under may welcome the end of the epidemic in just 40 years.

“That’s contingent on a high coverage of vaccine. Australia is really in the lead here, [there’s been] really good coverage through the school-based free vaccine program.

“For example, the genital warts the vaccine protects against, already we’ve seen a reduction of over 90 per cent — that’s huge.”

Owing to new DNA screening tests and the national immunization program, cases will likely drop annually by the thousands. Improved Gardasil vaccines will roll out later in the year, to counter a 930-woman 2018 statistic.

“In the Pacific-Oceania and Asian region we have about half of the cases of cervical cancer in the world. We have a big job to do, but we have the tools to beat it,” [professor Suzanne Garland] said.

Considering a one-in-every-two-minute death globally, Australia is definitely onto something groundbreaking.

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Infection-Fighting Antibiotics Found In Dirt

As new medicine continues to break ground, healthy life hacks are bringing to light the strangest ingredients. From avocado husks to curry powder, the spectrum of power foods seems never-ending. The fact of the matter is — there are no limitations. In a recent study, a team at the Rockefeller University (literally) unearthed a previously undiscovered antibiotic in soil samples.

Tests show the compounds, called malacidins, annihilate several bacterial diseases that have become resistant to most existing antibiotics, including the superbug MRSA.

With over 700,000 people falling victim to drug-resistant diseases a year, the discovery is a huge sigh of relief. Gene sequencing proved the antidote’s ability to cure skin wounds. However exciting, the wait is going to be a long one.

Dr. [Sean] Brady said: “It is impossible to say when, or even if, an early stage antibiotic discovery like the malacidins will proceed to the clinic.

“It is a long, arduous road from the initial discovery of an antibiotic to a clinically used entity.”

In the meantime, stick to moisturizer, people — flower pot dirt won’t do you any good.

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A Curry Bowl Might Boost Your Memory And Mood

Where medicine fails, food steps in. Due to its cancer-fighting properties, consumers and labs alike are investing in avocados. Schools are offering vegan menus to students who want to pursue a healthier and more variant lifestyle. In 2018, power snacking hasn’t nearly come to an end. Proven to improve memory retention and mood, curcumin, a vital ingredient in curry, is taking over as a new trend.

“Exactly how curcumin exerts its effects is not certain, but it may be due to its ability to reduce brain inflammation, which has been linked to both Alzheimer’s disease and major depression,” said Dr. Gary Small, director of geriatric psychiatry at UCLA’s Longevity Center.

Subjects on curcumin performed better in memory tests by a significant 28%. However, the limited study involved only 40 participants. UCLA hopes to repeat the experiment with a larger control group as well as study genetic risks.

“These results suggest that taking this relatively safe form of curcumin could provide meaningful cognitive benefits over the years,” Small concluded.

For those not too keen on the spice of curry bowls, turmeric tea may just get the job done.

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Liquid Biopsy Can Detect 8 Variations Of Cancer

In the past years, cancer treatments have flourished in abundance and effectivity. Experimental medications such as personalized vaccines and gene altering have made for smoother recoveries. At any rate, discovering such conditions remains tricky, if not for a simple blood test. The new method can detect eight common but evasive cancers.

“The sort of ultimate vision is that at the same time that you are getting your cholesterol checked when you are getting your annual physical, you will also get your blood screened for cancer,” said lead study author Joshua Cohen.

The test, CancerSEEK, sifts through cancer compounds that allow for early detection. It can even pinpoint cancers without current screening tests — that is, ovarian, stomach, esophageal, liver, and pancreatic. The process is a melting pot of new technologies such as artificial intelligence and algorithms.

“The test needs to be validated in a large-scale study that would evaluate tens of thousands of healthy individuals to confirm the sensitivity and specificity,” Cohen said.

Though CancerSEEK’s accuracy levels for early testing remain at 60%, it’s a step up from having no means of diagnosis to begin with. It’s a slow and steady affair that will hopefully, one day, win the race.

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CRISPR Increases HIV Resistance In Animals

Thanks to gene editing, we’ve seen much progress in hard-to-treat conditions. Sufferers of both muscular dystrophy and leukemia are experiencing a new variety of treatment options. Now, thanks to CRISPR, a renowned gene editing tool, researchers have increased HIV resistance in animals.

minor proportion of people harbor a homozygous mutation in CCR5—a gene that encodes a receptor found on immune cells—that thwarts HIV’s attempts to get inside the cells. In an attempt to mimic this natural resistance, researchers mutated CCR5 in human fetal liver hematopoietic stem/progenitor cells (HSPCs) and showed that the cells could block HIV infection after transplantation into mice.

Don’t let the medical jargon fool you — while the procedure may be complicated, the concept itself is a lot simpler. By replicating a naturally occurring genetic mutation, T-cells become more resistant to viruses. But results were slow, and researchers were patient, to say the least.

“The long-term reconstitution and secondary transplantation were time-consuming. It took us more than one-year monitoring of the mice to confirm the gene editing is robust in long-term HSCs,”

The study may not have been the first to incorporate gene editing, but it is the first to use CRISPR. We may not have engineered a complete cure (after all, we’ve only targeted mice), but finding one wouldn’t seem too improbable.

Moral of the story? Take risks. Sponsor a child genius. Our future depends on them.

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Smart Belt Helps Parkinson’s Patients Stay On Balance

Parkinson’s is truly a difficult and debilitating disease. There is no known cure, but researchers have made some promising attempts. The use of pig brain cells promotes nerve cell growth and repair. Now, a smart belt and simple phone app may address loss of balance.

The Smarter Balance System takes the form of a special belt that is lined with vibrating actuators. These actuators provide customized rehab programs that map users’ movements in real time using a series of dots which appear on their smartphone displays.

In essence, the wearable acts as a virtual physical therapist. Exercises aim to improve postural stability and patients’ general confidence in completing simple tasks. Overall, the device is a pretty neat assistant.

Data collected by the system is then uploaded to an online server so that it can be analyzed by doctors and physical therapists, who can then adjust the regimen as required.

We have yet to hear word on when the Smarter Balance System will be commercially available. Until then, things continue to look up for patients of all sorts, thanks to wearable technology.

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