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Chickens could protect against malaria, say researchers

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Chickens could protect against malaria, say researchers

Health Watch, by Brian Collett


Living close to chickens could defend humans from malaria-transmitting mosquitoes. Researchers from the Swedish Agricultural Sciences University and Addis Ababa University found the mosquitoes were repelled by the smell of a compound in the feathers and therefore kept well away from the chickens.


A painkiller as powerful as morphine but without the tendency to cause motor impairment, respiratory depression and addiction, has been created at Tulane University, New Orleans. The drug – an engineered version of endomorphine, a naturally occurring peptide – targets the same pain-relieving opioid receptor as morphine. It has been tested successfully on rats, and human clinical trials are expected in 2018.


A reformulated soluble aspirin that passes directly into the brain to kill tumour cells has been produced at Portsmouth University. The aspirin, combined with two as yet unannounced ingredients, breaks through the blood-brain barrier, which consists of tightly packed endothelial cells lining the capillaries in the central nervous system and prevents most substances from crossing into the brain. The drug was tested on glioblastoma cells taken from patients.


Are patients with wintertime viral infections such as flu more likely to carry high numbers of meningococcal bacteria and become more infectious? Researchers at Oxford and Bristol universities are investigating the link after earlier studies showed that many adolescents carried the bacteria in their throats in January and February, possibly after catching winter bugs. They are therefore considering whether flu vaccination could reduce the spread of the bacteria, which cause meningitis
and septicaemia.



Blocking a newly discovered protein has been found to promote weight loss. Brown and beige fat cells, which burn fat to produce body heat – in contrast to white fat cells, which store energy, leading to weight gain – were decreased when attached to the protein Gq. The opposite happened when Gq proteins were disabled in mice and in cultured human cells. Researchers at Bonn University hope the process will combat obesity but warn that the work is still early-stage.


Spiny protrusions on neurones in the brain enabling goal-driven behaviour may offer clues to alcoholism control. Scientists at the Texas A&M College of Medicine found that protrusions named D1 led mice to consume more alcohol, but others called D2 were the receptors that stopped them from requiring more drinks after they had already had too many. Professor Jun Wang hoped the results would ultimately produce a solution but said they did not yet provide a direct method of treating human alcoholism at a neurological level.


A molecule in body cells has been discovered that may be used against all RNA viruses. A team at Washington University in Seattle have produced a compound to target the molecule RIG-1 so that it detects viral RNA and marshals immune response components to suppress the replication of infectious viruses, including those causing Ebola, hepatitis C and dengue fever. The team has conducted tests successfully in cells and in mice and is now exploring dosage in other animals. Human trials are expected within five years.

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