SUGAR UNDER SUSPICION

Pregnant women who consume sugar excessively have been found to produce children at greater risk of suffering from allergies and allergic asthma. Researchers at Queen Mary University of London

and Bristol University reported increased risks of 38% for allergies and 101%
for allergic asthma. The culprit may be fructose, causing a post-natal allergic immune response leading to allergic lung inflammation. Professor Seif Shaheen said: “Given the high consumption of sugar in the West, we will certainly be investigating this hypothesis further.”

IMMUNITY TWEAKED

A vaccine has been developed to re-educate natural defences to ignore proteins that excite a violent allergic reaction in some patients but are harmless to most. In

mice, peanut proteins mixed with a nano- emulsion composed of purified soybean oil, detergents and water primed the immune system to respond to infection and eventually recognise peanut proteins as non-threatening. Dr Jessica O’Konek reported: “By redirecting the immune responses, our vaccine not only suppresses the response but prevents the activation of cells that would initiate allergic reactions.” The researchers, at Michigan University, are now investigating how long protection would last.

PATCH FOR DIABETICS

A patch replacing finger-prick tests for monitoring diabetics’ glucose levels has been produced at Bath University. The graphene-based device, adhering to the skin without piercing it, incorporates mini-sensors that draw glucose into tiny reservoirs to be measured. Readings could even be sent to a smartphone app. Clinical trials are planned. At Waterloo University, Canada, scientists have developed a radar device using artificial intelligence to read glucose levels. They are now working on miniaturising the technology, hoping to incorporate the device into a smartwatch and market it in five years.

HEART PIONEERS

A pioneering technique using stem cells from a patient’s blood, instead of bone marrow, to regenerate damaged tissue after a heart attack is said to have had “unprecedented” results. The specific
stem cells injected into the heart led to the growth of healthy new cardiac tissue and blood vessels, reported the French international biotech company CellProthera, which developed the procedure. Professor David Newby, of Edinburgh University, who led the UK participation in the joint British-French project, predicted: “This is a potentially life-changing therapy for a significant number of patients.”

WALK FASTER

Slow walkers in middle age appear twice as likely to die from heart-related causes
as brisk ones. Researchers from Leicester and Loughborough Universities and local hospitals reached their conclusions after studying 420,727 volunteers for more than six years. Of these, 1,654 died from cardiovascular disease. Professor Tom Yates observed: “We also found that self-reported walking pace was strongly linked to an individual’s objectively measured exercise tolerance, further suggesting walking pace is a good measure of overall physical fitness.”

DRINKS THAT CLEAN UP

A little alcohol can reduce inflammation and clear brain toxins, including proteins that characterise Alzheimer’s disease, report researchers at Rochester University, New York state. They calculated that in mice the cerebrospinal fluid that mops up brain waste can do its job better if just over a pint of beer or the equivalent is consumed daily.

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