ZIKA TRIALS THIS YEAR
Two potential Zika vaccines tested in mice have given complete immunity to the virus for at least two months. American military researchers and Harvard academics hope to conduct human trials this year. They had had success with a vaccine containing gene parts from a strain recently found in Brazil, and another from a purified inactivated strain newly identified in Puerto Rico. However, Professor Peter Openshaw, president of the British Society for Immunology, said DNA vaccines tested satisfactorily in mice had a “sorry history of not working in humans”. He said: “I would have greater confidence in the classical inactivated vaccine working in humans.”
INSULIN PILL TESTED
An insulin pill has reduced night-time blood glucose in type 2 diabetics. Insulin by mouth is generally ineffective because it is neutralised by digestive enzymes, but Oramed Pharmaceuticals, a small Israeli company, had good results by using high doses with a protective coating. Oramed is continuing tests. If the pill works, it could become a multi-billion-pound product as it would replace injections. Last year an insulin patch inside a polymer-covered capsule was successfully tested in rodents at the University of California Santa Barbara (Health Watch, April 2016).
SKIN GIVES SIGHT
The skin of a 70-year-old patient with blind spots due to wet age-related macular degeneration has been used to improve her sight. Skin from the arm was reprogrammed into stem cells, which were then transformed into eye cells. These cells were transplanted into the back of the eye. The cells survived for more than a year and restored some vision. The results were reported by Japanese specialists to a meeting of the American Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology.
TOO MUCH SLEEP
Low-grade inflammation has been observed in people who sleep more than 10 hours nightly, not just those sleeping fewer than six, as seen in previous studies. The inflammation was found similarly in overweight, depressive and diabetic patients.
The project, covering the health and lifestyles of 2,682 middle-aged men, was part of an ischaemic heart disease risk factor study that has been running at Eastern Finland University since 1984.
THE MOP-UP MOLECULE
A compound has been discovered to eliminate damaged cells in many tissues and organs that harm adjacent cells and cause chronic inflammation closely linked to age-related diseases. Mayo Clinic researchers used a cell-permeable molecule to clear these senescent cells in mice. The formation of tumours, the deterioration of organs and inflammation in fat, muscle and kidney tissue were reduced, and the median lifespan in the mice increased by up to 35 per cent. Dr Darren Baker said: “If translatable [to humans] ... a drug could efficiently and quickly eliminate enough [senescent cells] to have profound impacts on healthspan and lifespan.”
FAST BUG DIAGNOSIS
Software has been developed at Oxford University to analyse the DNA of an infection promptly so that appropriate antibiotics can be administered early. The researchers say early diagnosis and treatment are vital to counter antibiotic resistance resulting from bacteria DNA mutations – petri dish tests can take months. The software, now being trialled, should become continually more sophisticated as it can be updated in response to new mutations.