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Health Watch - September 2018

Clinical news

Health Watch - September 2018


The world’s first human clinical trial is
being conducted to observe the effects of medicinal cannabis on chronic insomniacs. The cannabis compound THC will be administered with another, known as CBN, a product of THC oxidation and a particularly sedating cannabis derivative. Researchers at Western Australia University will run the year-long project with the biotechnology company Zelda Therapeutics. Professor Peter Eastwood said: “A small dose of medicinal cannabinoid may be effective for treating chronic insomnia and have fewer side effects than current drug treatment options.”


An artificial womb to carry premature infants at 23 to 28 weeks has been tested on lambs with encouraging results. The device encases infants in an amniotic fluid bag and the heart pumps blood through the umbilical to an oxygenator, delivering oxygen and removing carbon dioxide like a placenta. The premature lambs showed normal growth, brain function and development, opened their eyes and grew wool. Dr Alan Flake, who led the study at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, said: “If we can develop an extra-uterine system to support growth and organ maturation for only a few weeks, we can dramatically improve outcomes.” The device must be reduced by two thirds in size as human infants are smaller. Its use in hospitals could be a decade away.


Does poor light shrink the brain? Michigan State University researchers exposed rats
to dim lighting for four weeks and found they lost about 30% of the capacity of the hippocampus, the learning and memory centre. Four weeks’ bright lights improved the performance of another group of rats. The dim light had greatly reduced the neurotrophic factor, a peptide that keeps the hippocampus healthy. The researchers thought the peptide orexin, which influences various brain functions, could be affected after light enters via the eyes. They proposed that if injected orexin countered the effects of dim light, it might help patients with eye problems.


Statins have been shown to be safe for small children with inherited high cholesterol. A study at University College London found statins did not stunt children’s growth and did not cause liver or muscle damage. Professor Steve Humphries said children with familial hypercholesterolaemia begin accumulating fatty plaque in their arteries before they are ten but statins can prevent and reverse the build-up. The findings were “incredibly reassuring”.


Drugs are being tested on cells from Parkinson’s disease patients to select suitable treatment. Researchers at Cambridge University are turning skin cells into nerve cells with a virus containing reprogramming factors in order to study their malfunctioning. They will then observe which drugs correct the problems to find ways of slowing the disease.


A high fruit intake, particularly citrus fruit, is reported to lower the risk of endometriosis. Researchers found citrus fruit cut the risk by 22%, possibly partly thanks to pro-vitamin A nutrients. Cruciferous vegetables, however, were observed to raise the risk by 13%, though the reasons were unclear. The team, at seven centres, including Johns Hopkins and Harvard Universities, had studied 2,609 endometriosis patients.

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Clinical news