Health Watch, by Brian Collett
A link between stress and type 2 diabetes has been recorded by researchers at University College London. People with high levels of the stress hormone cortisol in the evening were found more likely to have developed the condition, but the researchers said the reasons were unclear. The British Heart Foundation part-funded the work after other studies showed that excess cortisol could predict heart disease.
A breath analysis could take over from the finger-prick test for type 1 diabetes. Cambridge University scientists discovered breath levels of the chemical isoprene rose with hypoglycaemia, giving an early diabetes diagnosis, though why this happens is unknown. They investigated because dogs’ much sharper sense of smell appears to recognise isoprene levels. Dr Mark Evans said: “[Isoprene] provides a scent that could help us develop new tests for detecting hypoglycaemia and reducing the risk of potentially life-threatening complications for patients living with diabetes. It’s our vision that a new breath test could at least partly
– but ideally completely – replace the finger- prick test.”
A five-year project, the largest ever supported by the Motor Neurone Disease Association, will examine biomarkers unique to the condition to observe its progress in different patients. The researchers want to understand the variations and assess the effectiveness of the drugs used in the hope of achieving earlier diagnosis and better targeted drug treatments. The project, known as A Multicentre Biomarker Resource Strategy in ALS, or AMBRoSIA, will involve 900 patients and 450 controls at centres in London, Oxford and Sheffield.
HALF-HOUR EBOLA TEST
A compact smartphone-sized device has been developed to detect Ebola infection in about 30 minutes. It conducts the test on a small blood sample showing whether the Ebola RNA is present and in what concentration. The on-the-spot test, replacing the time- consuming process of sending samples for laboratory examination, results from joint research by academic centres in Germany, the Czech Republic and China.
SPRAY FOR BURNS
A gun that sprays stem cells over a burn has been found to give 200 times more coverage than traditional methods using a syringe. The SkinGun, produced by a New York biotechnology company, uses stem cells from patients’ own skin and can be applied within 90 minutes of hospital admission. Research on the device, already found to accelerate recovery, is continuing at the Berlin-Brandenburg Centre for Regenerative Therapies.
MRSA HIT BY SPONGE
A drug derived from a sea sponge is being researched as an MRSA treatment. Scientists at Alabama and South Florida Universities found a compound
from the sea sponge killed 98.4 per cent of MRSA cells. The compound, named
darwinolide, appeared to work because it penetrates the MRSA biofilm that repels antibiotics. Professor James McClintock said darwinolide had “interesting properties” and might eventually lead to drugs against other biofilm-protected pathogens.
A wearable artificial kidney may replace today’s cumbersome dialysis process.
No adverse effects were reported in initial trials at the University of California, Los Angeles, but carbon dioxide bubbles formed in the dialysis solution. The researchers are therefore redesigning the device and hope to make it easy to operate by patients at home.