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Promising pain relief

<p><span style="font-size: 14px;">Chronic pain is a global health burden. In Australia, it is estimated that over 3.4 million people suffer from persistent pain. Nonetheless, a lack of therapeutics has led to </span><a style="font-size: 14px;" rel="noreferrer noopener" href="https://cosmosmagazine.com/health/medicine/pain-education-could-end-the-opioid-crisis/" target="_blank">overprescription of opioids</a><span style="font-size: 14px;">, which provide only limited relief in patients with chronic neuropathic pain and can lead to severe adverse effects, </span><a style="font-size: 14px;" rel="noreferrer noopener" href="https://cosmosmagazine.com/health/medicine/opioids-and-overdose-risk/" target="_blank">including addiction and overdose</a><span style="font-size: 14px;">.</span></p> <div class="copy"> <p>Neuropathic pain is often chronic and occurs when the pain system – brain, nervous and immune system – is not working correctly. When the pain system function well, nerves fire “danger” signals to the brain when a threat is present – when your hand is touching a stove, for example. If the brain perceives the threat as dangerous – the last time you touched the stove, your finger got badly burned – it creates pain to protect the body. </p> <p>An injury, a viral infection, a disease or cancer treatment can damage the pain system leading the nerves to misfire such danger signals and the brain to misinterpret threats. The pain persists because the brain thinks the body needs constant protection.</p> <p>Opioids are the most commonly prescribed painkillers, but while they might be very effective in acute pain episodes, they are ineffective for the long-term treatment of ongoing pain and carry many severe side effects.</p> <p>In a new study <a rel="noreferrer noopener" href="https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-021-03897-2" target="_blank">published today</a> in <em>Nature</em>, Monash University researchers reported a new class of molecules that might be a safer and effective alternative to opioids.</p> <p>“The world is in the grip of a global opioid crisis, and there is an urgent need for non-opioid drugs that are both safe and effective,” said Professor Arthur Christopoulos, dean of the Faculty of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences at Monash University and author of the study.</p> <p>The researchers discovered that these molecules, called positive allosteric modulators (PAM), bind the adenosine A1 receptor (A1R), which has long been recognised as a promising therapeutic target for non-opioid drugs to treat neuropathic pain, with high precision in rats.</p> <p>By binding to A1R, the PAM regulates the increased adenosine levels in the spinal cord of rats with neuropathic pain.</p> <p>Although non-opioid analgesic agents targeting A1R had been studied before, the development of therapeutics has failed because of a lack of drug-A1R binding selectivity, which led to low efficacy and adverse effects.</p> <p>The Monash researchers used high-resolution cryo-electron microscopy to solve the structure of the A1 receptor bound to either its natural activator, adenosine, and an analgesic PAM to the atomic level. That allowed them to zoom in into the mechanism underpinning allosteric drug actions, said Associate Professor Wendy Imlach, head of the Pain Mechanisms lab at Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute and an author of the study.</p> <p>Understanding the drug-A1R binding mechanism to the atomic level could help researchers design an allosteric drug that best binds A1R.</p> <p>“This multidisciplinary study now provides a valuable launchpad for the next stage in our drug discovery pipeline, which will leverage structure-based insights for the design of novel non-opioid allosteric drugs to treat chronic pain successfully,” said Professor Christopoulos.</p> <p>While the current best scientific evidence on chronic pain treatment includes a <a rel="noreferrer noopener" href="https://cosmosmagazine.com/australia/pain-and-the-brain-closing-the-gap-between-modern-pain-science-and-clinical-practice/" target="_blank">combination of pharmaceutical and non-pharmaceutical therapies</a>, the lack of therapeutics has led to a global opioid crisis. If proved safe and effective in humans, this new class of analgesics could offer some relief to the millions who suffer from chronic pain across the world.</p> <!-- Start of tracking content syndication. Please do not remove this section as it allows us to keep track of republished articles --> <img id="cosmos-post-tracker" style="opacity: 0; height: 1px!important; width: 1px!important; border: 0!important; position: absolute!important; z-index: -1!important;" src="https://syndication.cosmosmagazine.com/?id=164905&amp;title=Promising+pain+relief" alt="" width="1" height="1" /> <!-- End of tracking content syndication --></div> <div id="contributors"> <p><a rel="noopener" href="https://cosmosmagazine.com/health/body-and-mind/non-opioid-painkillers-are-on-the-way/" target="_blank">This article</a> was originally published on <a rel="noopener" href="https://cosmosmagazine.com" target="_blank">Cosmos Magazine</a> and was written by <a rel="noopener" href="https://cosmosmagazine.com/contributor/manuela-callari" target="_blank">Manuela Callari</a>. Dr Manuela Callari is a Sydney-based freelance science writer who specialises in health and medical stories.</p> </div>

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3 things hurting your heart health

<p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Though it keeps us alive and pumps blood around our bodies, we might not think about our hearts all that much in the day to day.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">But heart conditions are quite common, especially among women, so it is important that we keep an eye on how healthy our hearts are.</span></p> <p><a rel="noopener" href="https://www.mamamia.com.au/how-to-improve-heart-health/" target="_blank"><span style="font-weight: 400;">Dr Nikki Stamp</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">, a heart surgeon, says, “A lot of women don’t know that heart conditions can impact them; we still think it’s a disease of our fathers and brothers but heart disease is the leading cause of death for women.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Luckily, there are some steps you can take to improve your heart health, including stopping some unhelpful habits.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Dr Stamp shares three things that can have a negative effect on your heart, as well as what to do to improve.</span></p> <p><strong>1. Not enough sleep</strong></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Most of us may be surprised to find out that sleep can have a huge impact on various aspects of health, including heart health.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“One thing I find people aren’t always aware of is the impact sleep can have on your heart health,” Dr Stamp says.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“Poor sleep or sleep disorders can directly hurt your heart or make it harder to do those things like eat well and exercise that are protective for the heart.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">In fact, </span><a rel="noopener" href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27467177/" target="_blank"><span style="font-weight: 400;">research</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> has found that chronic sleep deprivation can lead to high blood pressure and cholesterol, heart attacks, diabetes, obesity, and strokes.</span></p> <p><strong>2. Poor lifestyle habits</strong></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Along with poor sleep, unhelpful lifestyle habits can also play a part in worsening our heart health.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">According to Dr Stamp, most people know about this risk factor, which can include binge drinking, a poor diet, and a lack of exercise.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“I think most people are aware the things like diet, exercise and smoking are all things that can place undue stress on your heart," Dr Stamp says.</span></p> <p><strong>3. Missing your regular check-ups</strong></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">As much as getting your heart checked can seem to be a pain, but it can be incredibly beneficial.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“Having your heart checked is not difficult or painful! Simple tests like having your blood pressure checked, your blood sugar to assess for diabetes and your cholesterol can be done </span> <span style="font-weight: 400;">quickly and easily by your GP and give you a good idea of your risk of heart disease,” Dr Stamp says.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“However, if you’re not seeing your GP regularly, these checks can be missed.”</span></p> <p><strong>Things that can help</strong></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">As for what you can do to look after your heart, Dr Stamp says the key is keeping it simple.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“There’s loads of advice floating around that is complicated, ineffective and unachievable to keep you healthy,” she says.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“Move your body - anything is great, eat a diet full of veggies, fruit, whole grains and healthy oils, sleep well and give up the smokes.”</span></p> <p><em><span style="font-weight: 400;">Image: Getty</span></em></p>

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Tobacco giant angers medical community

<p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Philip Morris International has made a £1 billion bid to take over a company that makes inhalers used to treat lung disease, sparking outrage in the medical community.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The tobacco company behind the Marlboro man has made an offer to buy Vectura, a UK company that develops inhaler technology for lung illnesses.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Medical experts are concerned that the takeover could see Philip Morris profiting from the treatment of smoking-related lung diseases it has helped create.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“If they buy Vectura, Philip Morris will then be making money not only from selling cigarettes that cause lung disease, but they’ll also be making money from the technologies that treat patients who have lung disease caused by smoking,” respiratory pathologist and chief executive of the Thoracic Society of Australia and New Zealand Graham Hall said.</span></p> <p><strong>Changes to research and treatment </strong></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">As a result, many are concerned that research and the treatments doctors prescribe to patients with lung disease could change to avoid directing funds to the tobacco giant.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">For some of the 200,000 New Zealanders with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) who use Vectura inhalers, this could result in the prescription of different medications by their doctors.</span></p> <p><img style="width: 500px; height: 414.0625px;" src="https://oversixtydev.blob.core.windows.net/media/7844087/copd-diagram_160331_100539.jpg" alt="" data-udi="umb://media/e0a76635bd59443fbe1c71d6f4dcc0f9" /></p> <p><em><span style="font-weight: 400;">Image: healthflexhhs.com</span></em></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">COPD describes a group of diseases that affect the lungs, including emphysema, chronic bronchitis, and chronic asthma, which cause a progressive decline in lung health.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Up to 50 percent of smokers develop COPD to some level.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“How can we in good conscience give a treatment to a patient where the funding from that treatment will be going to the company that caused the disease to begin with?” asked Professor Hall.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“No doctor is going to want to prescribe a treatment to a patient, that they know may be funding a tobacco company.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Research into these diseases could also be at risk, as many doctors, health bodies, and journals have policies banning professionals from dealing with tobacco companies.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“Cutting-edge research would be able to be published in these journals if there was known links to Vectura if it’s acquired by Philip Morris,” Professor Hall said.</span></p> <p><strong>Australia ‘indirectly’ funding tobacco companies</strong></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Currently, Australians are prescribed any of 10 different dry powder inhalers that use technology made by Vectura.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">In 2020, 2 million scripts for different brands of these inhalers were dispensed and cost about $121 million to taxpayers, according to figures from the federal government’s Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS).</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Though most of the profits go directly to the pharmaceutical company, Vectura has licensing and royalty deals with companies that use its technology, meaning it gets some of the funds as well.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“It could be the situation where the Australian government is paying taxpayers’ funding indirectly to a tobacco company to treat patients who have lung disease caused by tobacco,” Professor Hall said.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">But, the result could put Australia in a breach of a global treaty it signed and ratified on tobacco control.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Since the inhalers are subsidised under the PBS, the government would indirectly funding Philip Morris, violating the treaty.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“It’s a UN tobacco control treaty and it’s been signed and ratified by more than 180 countries, including the UK, including Australia,” Melbourne-based GP Dr Bronwyn King said.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“One of the provisions of the treaty is that it explicitly prohibits engagement between governments and the tobacco industry.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">A spokesperson for the federal Health Department said the government was closely monitoring tobacco activities, but the </span><span style="font-weight: 400;">ABC </span><span style="font-weight: 400;">reports they were unaware of the 10 products on the PBS which used Vectura technology.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The takeover bid has already been approved by Vectura’s board, and will go before the company’s shareholders in London.</span></p> <p><em><span style="font-weight: 400;">Image: Getty Images</span></em></p>

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Vaccines lower risk of long Covid

<p><span style="font-weight: 400;">New research suggests that being fully vaccinated against COVID-19 not only reduces the risk of infection, but can make it less likely to turn into long Covid.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The new study suggests that the minority of fully-vaccinated people who get the virus are 50 percent less likely to develop symptoms lasting more than a month, when compared to unvaccinated people.</span></p> <p><strong>What is long Covid?</strong></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">For most of those who contract COVID-19, recovery takes up to four weeks. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">But some experience symptoms that continue or develop in the weeks or months after they were initially infected in what is sometimes called “long Covid”.</span></p> <p><strong>Vaccines reduce long-term symptoms</strong></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">To determine the effect of vaccines on an individual’s likelihood of developing long-lasting illness, the researchers analysed data from the UK Zoe Covid Study app, which tracks people’s self-reported symptoms, vaccination statuses, and tests.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Between December 2020 and July 2021, 1.2 million adults who received one dose and 971,504 who received two jabs tracked their health using the app and were included in the study.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The team found that 6030 (0.5 percent) of those who had received one jab later tested positive to COVID-19, while only 2370 (0.2 percent) people tested positive after receiving two doses.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">And, of the 592 fully vaccinated people who were infected and continued to provide data for more than a month, only 31 (5 percent) went on to get long Covid.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">In comparison, 11 percent of unvaccinated people in the study reported getting long Covid.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Researchers also found that some people had a higher risk of breakthrough infections - getting Covid after being vaccinated - including frail, older adults, and those living in deprived areas.</span></p> <p><strong>Why this matters</strong></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Lead researcher Dr Claire Steves said the priority for booster vaccinations should go to those with greater risks of getting sick.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“In terms of the burden of long Covid, it is good news that our research has found that having a double vaccination significantly reduces the risk of both catching the virus and if you do, developing long-standing symptoms,” Dr Steves said.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The study was published in </span><em><a rel="noopener" href="https://www.thelancet.com/journals/laninf/article/PIIS1473-3099(21)00460-6/fulltext" target="_blank"><span style="font-weight: 400;">The Lancet Infectious Diseases</span></a></em><span style="font-weight: 400;">.</span></p> <p><em><span style="font-weight: 400;">Image: Getty Images</span></em></p>

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5 breakfast myths that you didn’t know about your cereal bowl

<p><em>Molecular nutritionist Dr Emma Beckett shares 5 breakfast myths that you didn’t know about your cereal bowl.</em></p> <p><strong>Myth #1: Traditional breakfast foods are bad for you</strong></p> <p><strong>Truth: </strong>Some foods high in carbohydrate, such as wholemeal bread and breakfast cereals contain dietary fibre, which helps us to feel fuller, therefore starting the day off right. </p> <p>Breakfast cereal is a simple and convenient way to start the day and it can often provide more nutrients such as Iron, B-vitamins and fibre, than non-cereal breakfast choices. What’s better, cereal pairs well with other nutrient dense breakfast foods such as Greek yogurt, and nuts, which are a source of protein. Protein is essential in the diet as it is the most filling macronutrient that can help reduce grazing habits throughout the day. </p> <p>Some cereals, like Kellogg’s iconic All Bran and Sultana Bran, are high in fibre and have a 4.5 or even the maximum 5 Health Star rating. Cereals like this have been a popular choice for almost 100 years.</p> <p><strong>Myth #2: Processed = bad? </strong></p> <p><strong>Truth: </strong>Most food needs to go through some sort of processing for it to even be edible and digestible – processing is a broad term that includes cooking, cutting and packaging.</p> <p>For many foods it is necessary to undergo some sort of processing in order to preserve the food and prevent wastage, and to make them tasty and practical. From a nutritional perspective, key nutrients like protein aren’t necessarily lost during processing, they can sometimes be retained or made easier to access through processing. Others like B vitamins and iron may be added back if they’re lost, in a process called enrichment. Staple foods, like breakfast cereals and breads are also often fortified with extra nutrients – these foods are chosen because they are affordable, accessible, shelf stable and popular. It is also important to consider to what degree the food item has been processed, with ultra-processed items to be consumed in moderation. </p> <p><strong>Myth #3: It’s expensive to have a healthy diet</strong></p> <p><strong>Truth: </strong>According to recently published Australian research based on modelling, it is possible to improve Aussie diets while spending less money on food, choosing low-cost nutritious foods improves diet quality and can reduce a family’s grocery bill by over 25 per cent.</p> <p>It can be a misconception that healthy food is far more expensive than unhealthy and takeaway options. There are actually lots of healthy options that are cheap to buy and aren’t going to spoil quickly. Wholemeal bread and breakfast cereals are good for the budget and last for a while. <span style="text-decoration: line-through;"> </span>When it comes to buying fruit and vegetables, canned and frozen options are just as healthy as the fresh ones, and you can buy them cheap and store or freeze ahead of time. If you do your research and shop around, healthy eating really doesn’t have to be as expensive as it might seem!</p> <p><strong>Myth #4: Breakfast cereal is too sugary and has no nutritional value</strong></p> <p><strong>Truth: </strong>Australian data has shown that cereal contributes less than 3 per cent of added sugar in the diet. Many cereals contain whole grains and fibre which many people are not getting enough of. They are full of essential vitamins and minerals that are important for health and wellbeing, and are the number one source of iron in the Aussie diet, especially in children. Cereal contains a range of sugar levels, there are some sweeter ones, but most are moderately sweetened and many sweetened with added fruits which contain natural sugars. </p> <p>For example, half of Kellogg’s 55 cereals contain 2 or less teaspoons of sugar per bowl. Updating formulations have meant that they have removed over 700 tonnes of sugar and 300 tonnes of salt from Aussie diets – that’s the equivalent to the weight of around seven blue whales! </p> <p><strong>Myth #5: If it isn’t wholegrain it doesn’t contain fibre</strong></p> <p><strong>Truth</strong>: Whilst whole grain foods contain fibre, not all fibre-containing foods contain the whole grain. Fibre is found in the outer part of the grain called the bran. The bran can be removed from the grain and used in foods. Foods made with bran may not always contain whole grain but they do contain plenty of fibre. </p> <p>Two out of three Aussies are not meeting their daily fibre targets. In fact, four out of five Aussies don’t eat enough fibre to protect themselves from chronic disease! An adequate intake of fibre is between 25 and 30 grams a day for most of us. That might sound hard, but getting your daily dose is actually easy if you eat high-fibre options including fibre rich breakfast cereals, whole grains, fruits, vegetables and nuts.</p> <p>Did you know that different whole grains have different levels and types of fibres - for example whole grain brown rice and corn both have naturally less fibre compared to other whole grains such as whole grain wheat and oats, which have higher amounts of fibre. </p> <p>Just because a whole grain has less fibre doesn’t mean it’s not beneficial - it is! Whole grain is exactly as it sounds - it’s the entire whole grain kernel! Fibre is one component of the whole grain kernel and all components work together to bring health benefits. </p>

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Delta variant more infectious than Wuhan strain, study finds

<p><span style="font-weight: 400;">A new study from the UK has found that the Delta strain of COVID-19 is eight times less sensitive to vaccine antibodies than the original Wuhan strain.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The study also found that changes to the spike protein in the Delta variant improved its ability to replicate and enter cells, in comparison to the Kappa variant.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The authors say this might explain how the Delta strain has become the most dominant variation of the disease.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The study, published in the journal </span><em><a rel="noopener" href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-021-03944-y" target="_blank"><span style="font-weight: 400;">Nature</span></a></em><span style="font-weight: 400;">, compared the mutated Delta variant against the mutated Wuhan-1 variant which was used to develop the vaccines.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The team, led by Ravindra Gupta, a professor of clinical microbiology at the Cambridge Institute of Therapeutic Immunology and Infectious Disease, also analysed infections of 130 healthcare workers across three hospitals in Delhi, India, over six weeks.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Though each of the workers studied had received both doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, the researchers found that the vaccine was less effective against the Delta variant than other variants.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“By combining lab-based experiments and epidemiology of vaccine breakthrough infections, we’ve shown that the Delta variant is better at replicating and spreading than other commonly-observed variants,” Professor Gupta </span><a rel="noopener" href="https://www.cam.ac.uk/research/news/spread-of-delta-sars-cov-2-variant-driven-by-combination-of-immune-escape-and-increased-infectivity" target="_blank"><span style="font-weight: 400;">said</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Joint senior author Dr Patha Rakshit from the National Centre for Disease Control, Delhi, India, said: “The Delta variant has spread so widely to become the dominant variants worldwide because it is faster to spread and better at infecting individuals than most other variants we’ve seen.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“It is also better at getting around existing immunity - either through previous exposure to the virus or vaccination - though the risk of moderate to severe disease is reduced in such cases.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Professor Anurag Agrawal from the CSIR Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology, Delhi, India and joint senior author said the infection of healthcare workers with the Delta variant could have severe consequences.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“Although they themselves may only exhibit mild COVID, they risk infecting individuals who have suboptimal immune responses to vaccination due to underlying health conditions - and these patients could then be at risk of severe disease,” Professor Agrawal said.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">With their findings, Gupta and his colleagues say we will need to develop strategies for boosting the effectiveness of vaccines against variants of COVID-19.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“We urgently need to consider ways of boosting vaccine responses against variants among healthcare workers,” Professor Agrawal added.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“[This research] also suggests infection control measures will need to continue in the post-vaccine era.”</span></p>

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Genetic link between alcoholism and Alzheimer’s risk discovered

<p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Scientists have found a genetic overlap between alcohol use disorder (AUD) and neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">In a </span><a rel="noopener" href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-021-25392-y" target="_blank"><span style="font-weight: 400;">study</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> published in </span><em><span style="font-weight: 400;">Nature Communications</span></em><span style="font-weight: 400;">, the researchers identified several genes associated with alcoholism, including two previously linked to neurodegenerative disorders.</span></p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet"> <p dir="ltr">First of its kind study using multi-omics approach identifies large list of candidate genes associated with alcohol use disorder - study shows potential genetic link between <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/alcoholism?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#alcoholism</a>, <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Alzheimers?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Alzheimers</a> disease, &amp; other neurodegenerative disorders <a href="https://t.co/kzautcL6DN">https://t.co/kzautcL6DN</a><a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/genetics?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#genetics</a> <a href="https://t.co/nUNbvYf2L8">pic.twitter.com/nUNbvYf2L8</a></p> — Mount Sinai Genetics (@SinaiGenetics) <a href="https://twitter.com/SinaiGenetics/status/1428699409475309571?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">August 20, 2021</a></blockquote> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“Several of these genes are also associated with neurodegenerative disorders - an intriguing connection because of alcohol’s ability to prematurely age the brain,” David Goldman, a neurogenetics researcher at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) told </span><span style="font-weight: 400;">The Scientist</span><span style="font-weight: 400;">.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The scientists compared the genetic data of about 700,000 families involved in the NIAAA’s </span><a rel="noopener" href="https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/research/major-initiatives/collaborative-studies-genetics-alcoholism-coga-study" target="_blank"><span style="font-weight: 400;">Collaborative Studies on the Genetics of Alcoholism</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> (COGA), as well as data from the </span><a rel="noopener" href="https://www.ukbiobank.ac.uk/enable-your-research/approved-research/alcohol-consumption-and-brain-health" target="_blank"><span style="font-weight: 400;">UK Biobank</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">, against analyses of adult and foetal brains to determine which genes were silenced or expressed.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Though the study did identify many genes associated with alcohol use, the team focused on the two genes linked to neurodegenerative disorders: </span><em><span style="font-weight: 400;">SPI1</span></em><span style="font-weight: 400;"> and </span><em><span style="font-weight: 400;">MAPT</span></em><span style="font-weight: 400;">. </span></p> <p><em><span style="font-weight: 400;">SPI1</span></em><span style="font-weight: 400;"> produces a protein that controls the activity of immune cells, while </span><em><span style="font-weight: 400;">MAPT</span></em><span style="font-weight: 400;"> produces a protein found throughout the nervous system called tau.</span></p> <p><strong><em>SPI1</em> linked to Alzheimer’s</strong></p> <p><a rel="noopener" href="https://molecularneurodegeneration.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s13024-018-0277-1" target="_blank"><span style="font-weight: 400;">Previous research</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> has shown that </span><em><span style="font-weight: 400;">SPI1</span></em><span style="font-weight: 400;"> influenced the likelihood of a person developing Alzheimer’s disease, with some theorising that it influences the activity of microglia, immune cells that are found in the brain.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">In a </span><a rel="noopener" href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41398-019-0384-y" target="_blank"><span style="font-weight: 400;">study</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> from two years ago, Manav Kapoor, a neuroscientist and geneticist at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and the new paper’s first author, and his team found evidence that people with AUD might have an overactive immune system - and this new paper could help explain their previous findings.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The new study also found an association between the </span><em><span style="font-weight: 400;">SPI1</span></em><span style="font-weight: 400;"> gene and both heavy drinking and a diagnosis of AUD.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Though alcoholism is already associated with immune dysfunction, the team found that expression of the </span><em><span style="font-weight: 400;">SPI1</span></em><span style="font-weight: 400;"> gene was higher in some foetal brains.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Kapoor says this finding suggests that those genetically predisposed to AUD and heavy drinking are also predisposed to developing an overactive immune system.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">If this is the case, when people with particular versions of the gene drink heavily, Kapoor suggests that their immune systems could become overactivated and cause brain immune cells to alter connections between neurons.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Kapoor bases this theory on a previous </span><a rel="noopener" href="https://stke.sciencemag.org/content/13/650/eaba5754" target="_blank"><span style="font-weight: 400;">study</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> in mice that found that binge drinking activated brain immune cells, which selectively pruned certain synapses and caused the animals to display anxiety-like behaviours.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The activation of these brain immune cells could result in the pruning of connections to neurons that produce dopamine - the chemical behind the “reward” feeling we get after drinking alcohol.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">As a result, people with certain versions of </span><em><span style="font-weight: 400;">SPI1</span></em><span style="font-weight: 400;"> who start drinking regularly would “have to drink more and more to get the same level of reward”, Kapoor says.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“And their immune system will get more activated”, pruning more synapses.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“It will become a vicious cycle,” Kapoor says.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">As for </span><em><span style="font-weight: 400;">MAPT</span></em><span style="font-weight: 400;">, the gene isn’t associated with AUD, but is associated with consuming more drinks per week.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The tau protein it produces is thought to play a major role in neurodegenerative disorders including Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, frontotemporal dementia, and supranuclear palsy.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">However, it is still unclear how tau may factor into the consumption of alcohol.</span></p> <p><strong>Why this matters</strong></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Joel Gelernter, a geneticist and neurobiologist at Yale University School of Medicine, who was not involved in the study, says the study is “a really necessary step in unravelling the biology of alcohol intake and alcohol use disorder”.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Kapoor says this work could benefit people in a few ways.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">First, he believes that drugs currently in development to treat neurodegenerative disorders could be repurposed to help people in reducing or stopping drinking.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Second, it could be a way of reducing a person’s risk for neurodegenerative disorders.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“If we can identify some group of people that are more at risk of Alzheimer’s disease, we can ask them to reduce their drinking,” he says.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“That might be beneficial to them.”</span></p> <p><em><span style="font-weight: 400;">Image: Getty Images</span></em></p>

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World’s tallest athlete towering in Tokyo

<p>The world’s tallest athlete Morteza Mehrzad, who competes sitting down, is 246cm tall and he’s part of the Iranian men’s sitting volleyball team which is on track for back-to-back gold medals at the Paralympics.</p> <p>The middle-eastern nation has dominated the sport for decades — winning six of the past eight gold medals in the men’s game — but it’s the addition of Mehrzad which has made the team even more unbeatable.</p> <p>The 33-year-old is the second tallest man alive and the tallest Paralympian in history.</p> <p><img style="width: 500px; height:281.12648221343875px;" src="https://oversixtydev.blob.core.windows.net/media/7843639/tallest-athlete-2-um.jpg" alt="" data-udi="umb://media/3b9a155aa6764bbe9dc77eaf510d451a" /></p> <p>In a sport where players with a variety of ailments sit down and try to get the ball over the net which is approximately 1.15m off the floor, it’s very easy for Mehrzad.</p> <p>Iran will meet the sport’s other powerhouse Bosnia Herzegovina in the semi-finals on Thursday night in a rematch of the gold medal game in Rio four years ago.</p> <p>On that occasion, Mehrzad made the difference and Iran won the medal.</p> <p><strong>Iran’s coach asked Mehrzad to join</strong></p> <p>Iran’s coach Hadi Rezaeigarkani saw Mehrzad on a TV program about physical disorders and got in contact with him, asking him to join the team.</p> <p>He took up the sport nine years ago and made his international debut in 2016 and immediately started winning awards. He’s only improved, continuing to dominate at the Paralympics.</p> <p>Even sitting down, when Mehrzad raises his right arm, it reaches a height of 1.93 metres. When spiking — the term used to describe a forceful attacking shot to get the ball over the net — he can get his dominant hand up to 2.3m in the air.</p> <p><strong>It’s not all good news for the Iranian sports star</strong></p> <p>While it’s easy to see why Mehrzad would be happy with his progress, it isn’t all good news for the Iranian superstar.</p> <p>He suffers from acromegaly - a medical condition which arises from the brain’s pituitary gland producing too much growth hormone after the body’s growth plates have closed. By the age of 16 he was already over 1.9m tall.</p> <p>Mehrzad rarely stands up though because he seriously injured his pelvis in a bike accident as a teenager, meaning he now spends significant amounts of time either on crutches or in a wheelchair.</p> <p>His right leg has stopped growing and it’s about 15cm shorter than his left. The sad reality is that while he’s helping his teammates to win and bringing recognition to his country in Tokyo at the moment, his condition does not bode well for his long term future.</p> <p>A spokesperson for his team said: “His health is not going well. His health is currently declining because he’s getting taller. I think he’s still growing. The first time we saw him he could walk better but now he has to walk with crutches.”</p> <p>But now is a time for Mehrzad and his team to focus on the positives. Iran has won six gold medals and two silvers across the past eight Paralympics, and with Mehrzad’s help, it looks likely they’ll be heading home from these Games with some more medals as well.</p> <p><em>Image: Getty Images</em></p>

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Aspirin could be our next weapon against aggressive breast cancer

<p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Aspirin may be used in future treatments of breast cancer, with doctors saying it can make hard-to-treat tumours more responsive to anti-cancer drugs.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">A new trial is starting in Manchester, England, with triple-negative breast-cancer patients, run by a team at the Christie NHS Foundation Trust.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The team suspects aspirin’s anti-inflammatory properties may be what boost the effectiveness of anti-cancer drugs, rather than its analgesic effect.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Though animal studies have shown encouraging results and there is some evidence aspirin may help prevent other cancers, more research is needed before it is recommended as a treatment.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Around 15 percent of breast cancers are triple negative, which is a more aggressive type of breast cancer and frequently affects younger women and black women.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Triple negative cancer tumours lack some of the receptors that other breast cancers have, which means they can’t be treated with drugs such as herceptin.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">But other treatments could work.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">In the Manchester trial, some patients will be given aspirin and immunotherapy drug avelumab before they undergo surgery and chemotherapy.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">If the trial is successful, further clinical trials could start to test the effectiveness of aspirin and avelumab on incurable secondary triple-negative breast cancer - the stage where cancer cells start to spread to other parts of the body.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“Not all breast cancers respond well to immunotherapy,” trial lead Dr Anne Armstrong said.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“Trialling the use of a drug like aspirin is exciting because it is so widely available and inexpensive to produce.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“We hope our trial will show that, when combined with immunotherapy, aspirin can enhance its effects and may ultimately provide a safe new way to treat breast cancer.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Co-researcher Dr Rebecca Lee said their findings suggest that aspirin may be preventing the cancer from making substances that weaken the body’s immune response, in turn increasing the effectiveness of certain types of immunotherapy.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“We hope aspirin can dampen down bad inflammation so the immune system can get on with the job of killing cancer cells,” she said.</span></p>

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Concern over protection of immunocompromised from COVID

<p><span style="font-weight: 400;">A UK study has found that some patients with impaired immune systems have fewer or no antibodies after receiving two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Though experts do not know what effect this will have on protection against the virus, they say booster shots may be a good idea for some immunosuppressed people.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The Octave Study saw 600 patients with cancer, inflammatory arthritis, kidney disease, liver disease, and recipients of stem cell transplants have their blood tested to detect their levels of antibodies after being vaccinated.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The findings from the study, published as a pre-print in </span><span style="font-weight: 400;">The Lancet</span><span style="font-weight: 400;">, suggest that 40 percent of participants had a sub-optimal antibody response after two doses of AstraZeneca or Pfizer.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Additionally, 11 percent of those with a sub-optimal response had no detectable antibodies four weeks after receiving the second dose.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Many of these patients were taking a strong medicine called rituximab, used to treat vasculitis.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Promisingly, the remaining 60 percent of volunteers had similar antibody levels to young people, as well as optimal levels of T-cells - another type of immune cell that can destroy coronavirus cells.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“While 40 percent of these clinically at-risk patient groups were found to have a low or undetectable immune response after a double dose of the vaccine, we are encouraged that this figure isn’t higher,” said Professor Iain McInnes, the lead researcher of the Octave trial.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“However, it is possible even partial protection may be clinically beneficial, and this is something we will closely monitor.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Professor Eleanor Riley, an expert in immunology and infectious diseases at the University of Edinburgh agreed.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“As it is T-cells that are particularly effective at stopping us getting severely ill and needing hospital treatment, we would expect that the vaccine is still offering substantial protection to most of those highly vulnerable people,” she said.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Professor Charles Swanton from Cancer Research UK said: “We know the results could be worrying for those who are clinically vulnerable, but anyone undergoing cancer treatment should continue to follow the advice of their doctors and we encourage all who can to get the vaccine.”</span></p>

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New vaccine trial targets 2000-year-old virus

<p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The researchers behind the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine have started a new trial to treat a much older disease: the plague.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">In the phase-one trial, scientists at the University of Oxford will be testing a new vaccine for the ancient virus on at least 40 healthy volunteers aged between 18 and 55.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The new vaccine, which uses the same technology as the AstraZeneca jab, is being trialled to check how well the body recognises and learns how to fight the plague after vaccination.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Though the virus hasn’t been seen in most of the world since the Black Death swept through Europe in the 14th century, there are still cases in some rural areas of Africa, Asia and America.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Between 2010 and 2015, 3,248 cases of the plague were reported globally, including 584 deaths.</span></p> <blockquote style="background: #FFF; border: 0; border-radius: 3px; box-shadow: 0 0 1px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.5),0 1px 10px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.15); margin: 1px; max-width: 540px; min-width: 326px; padding: 0; width: calc(100% - 2px);" class="instagram-media" data-instgrm-captioned="" data-instgrm-permalink="https://www.instagram.com/p/CSJQK9CLXF5/?utm_source=ig_embed&amp;utm_campaign=loading" data-instgrm-version="13"> <div style="padding: 16px;"> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: row; align-items: center;"> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 50%; flex-grow: 0; height: 40px; margin-right: 14px; width: 40px;"></div> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: column; flex-grow: 1; justify-content: center;"> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; margin-bottom: 6px; width: 100px;"></div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; width: 60px;"></div> </div> </div> <div style="padding: 19% 0;"></div> <div style="display: block; height: 50px; margin: 0 auto 12px; width: 50px;"></div> <div style="padding-top: 8px;"> <div style="color: #3897f0; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-style: normal; font-weight: 550; line-height: 18px;">View this post on Instagram</div> </div> <p style="color: #c9c8cd; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 17px; margin-bottom: 0; margin-top: 8px; overflow: hidden; padding: 8px 0 7px; text-align: center; text-overflow: ellipsis; white-space: nowrap;"><a style="color: #c9c8cd; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-style: normal; font-weight: normal; line-height: 17px; text-decoration: none;" rel="noopener" href="https://www.instagram.com/p/CSJQK9CLXF5/?utm_source=ig_embed&amp;utm_campaign=loading" target="_blank">A post shared by Oxford Vaccine Group (@oxford_vaccinegroup)</a></p> </div> </blockquote> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Just two years later, </span><a rel="noopener" href="https://www.ox.ac.uk/news/2021-07-26-phase-i-trial-begins-new-vaccine-against-plague" target="_blank"><span style="font-weight: 400;">an epidemic</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> in Madagascar saw 2,119 suspected cases and 171 deaths over several months.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">With many of the regions at risk of outbreaks being in remote locations, a vaccine could be a new way to protect these communities.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Larissa, 26, studies genetics at the University of Oxford and is one of the participants who hopes she can help save lives by getting the jab.</span></p> <p><img style="width: 500px; height: 281.25px;" src="https://oversixtydev.blob.core.windows.net/media/7843432/_119964702_capture.png" alt="" data-udi="umb://media/faa0b5599bbf49738fdbc2a4e0278892" /></p> <p><em><span style="font-weight: 400;">Image: Oxford University</span></em></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“I’m lucky enough to live in a time where vaccines are being developed,” Larissa said.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“And so, when I saw that there was a study aiming at developing a vaccine against a disease that’s been around for 2000 years and has killed millions and millions of people, I didn’t hesitate, I just wanted to do my bit.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">When asked if she was worried about side effects, Larissa said she wasn’t “too concerned”.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“The vaccine that’s being assessed today is using the same platform as the Covid vaccine, which has literally been administered to millions of people around the world.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Like the Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid vaccine, the plague vaccine uses a weakened version of adenovirus - a common-cold virus from chimpanzees - that has been genetically altered so people do not get infected.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The vaccine does not contain plague bacterium, meaning recipients of the jab cannot contract the plague.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Instead, the adenovirus has additional genes that make proteins from </span><span style="font-weight: 400;">Yersinia pestis</span><span style="font-weight: 400;">, the plague bacterium.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">With these added genes, the vaccine should be able to teach the immune systems of recipients how to fend off a real infection of the plague if it needs to.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">This technique could also be used against other diseases, according to the researchers.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“We’ve already done clinical trials using similar technology against a bacterium, meningitis B, and a virus, Zika,” Dr Maheshi Ramasamy, the senior clinical researcher of the Oxford Vaccine Group, said.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“But we’re also looking to develop vaccines against new and emerging diseases such as Lassa fever or the Marburg virus.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The plague vaccine trial is expected to run for at least a year.</span></p>

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How to have moist hands and use hand sanitiser

<p>One of the effects of the pandemic is the fact our hands are looking a bit worse for wear. We’re washing them more and using a lot of hand sanitiser but there are things you can do to minimise this negative effect on your hands.</p> <p>Obviously, in comparison to the Delta virus, lockdowns and economic anxiety, irritated hands could be seen as a minor issue. But we are using sanitiser which has to have an alcohol content greater than 60 percent to be efficient. But this high alcohol content can cause skin irritation and this in turn can make conditions like dermatitis or split nails even worse.</p> <p><strong>Hand sanitiser has a strong effect</strong></p> <p>When looking at hand sanitisers specifically, Dr Michele Squire says the alcohol destroys microbes and makes the sanitiser quick-drying so it’s effective.</p> <p>But according to Dr Squire, it also dissolves the lipids which are arranged between our skin cells and leads to a reduction in our skin's barrier function.</p> <p>"With excessive use, this alters the skin's ability to regulate water loss and hold onto water, in turn leading to dehydration and dry skin, although much less so than repeated washing with soap and water" adds Squire.</p> <p>So, it's no surprise that using a moisturiser as often as you can is the best way to ensure your hands and nails stay hydrated and irritation-free. But here are a few tips to make sure you get the most out of your moisturising.</p> <p><strong>Let your hand sanitiser dry off before moisturising</strong></p> <p>When you use hand sanitiser, let it dry completely before going in with your moisturiser. <a href="https://www.facebook.com/gotoskincare/photos/a.275816065917974/1533674663465435/?type=3&amp;theater">Go-To Skincare</a> (the brainchild of Zoë Foster-Blake) recommends waiting 10 minutes.</p> <p>"Applying it straight after can neutralise the sanitiser's effectiveness," they state.</p> <p><strong>Don’t use moisturiser before you use sanitiser</strong></p> <p>Another tip is not to use moisturiser before you use sanitiser. If you apply sanitiser to recently moisturised hands, your protection is significantly reduced.</p> <p>As well, your sanitiser won't work if your hands are soiled or greasy, if you wipe it off before it's completely dry, if you don't apply it to your entire hand, and if you don't use enough.</p> <p>"You should be able to rub your hands together for about 20 seconds before it dries — and don't forget between your fingers and the back of hands!" says Dr Squire.</p> <p><strong>Fragrance-free moisturisers are best</strong></p> <p>Dr Squire suggests using a fragrance-free moisturiser after each wash to replace lipids and NMF (natural moisturising factor) components lost from dry skin.</p> <p>Talk to your local pharmacist if you're unsure of best options for your skin issues.</p> <p>Dr Squire recommends using a synthetic detergent-based soap to wash your hands. She says: "These use stearic acid to protect and moisturise skin and a mild surfactant."</p> <p>Another tip is to add a drop or two of your hydrating facial serums and oils to your hands before bed each night.</p> <p>If you combine these tips with a good moisturiser, you'll be helping your hands cope with this new regime.</p> <p><em>Photo: Getty Images</em></p> <p> </p>

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WHO flags fake COVID-19 vaccines

<p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The World Health Organisation (WHO) has seized counterfeit versions of Covishield, India’s primary COVID-19 vaccine, in both India and Africa over the last month.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">A statement from the organisation said the manufacturer, Serum Institute of India, confirmed the doses were fake.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The WHO warned that the falsified vaccines “pose a serious risk to global health and place an additional burden on vulnerable populations and health systems”.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“It is important to detect and remove these falsified products from circulation to prevent harm to patients,” the organisation said in the statement on its website.</span></p> <p><img style="width: 0px; height: 0px;" src="/nothing.jpg" alt="" data-udi="umb://media/83f5866f9c9e44c7bf039409a8424636" /><img style="width: 500px; height:177.60180995475113px;" src="https://oversixtydev.blob.core.windows.net/media/7843308/table1_n52021_en.png" alt="" data-udi="umb://media/83f5866f9c9e44c7bf039409a8424636" /></p> <p><em><span style="font-weight: 400;">The vaccines which are subject to a WHO Medical Alert in India and Uganda. Image: WHO</span></em></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">As the BBC reported, no official statement has been made by the Indian government, but local media has said the country’s health ministry is investigating the issue.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“Although we have a strong system to prevent such cases, with this development, the only thing we want to ensure is that no Indian received a fake vaccine,” an unidentified health official told the </span><a rel="noopener" href="https://www.livemint.com/science/health/who-issues-medical-alert-on-fake-covishield-vaccines-11629224524851.html" target="_blank"><span style="font-weight: 400;">Mint news website</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Covishield is the primary COVID-19 vaccine administered in India, with more than 486 million doses distributed and about 13 percent of the population vaccinated so far.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Serum has also distributed Covishield to countries in Asia, Africa, and South America.</span></p> <p><em><span style="font-weight: 400;">Image: Getty Images</span></em></p>

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A genetic mutation makes some people need less sleep

<p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Though most of us feel the consequences of missing out on a full night’s sleep, a lucky few don’t - thanks to a rare genetic mutation.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">According to a study published in </span><em><a rel="noopener" href="https://www.cell.com/neuron/fulltext/S0896-6273(19)30652-X" target="_blank"><span style="font-weight: 400;">Neuron</span></a></em><span style="font-weight: 400;">, some people who can function normally on six hours of sleep carry an altered version of a particular gene, making it the second to be associated with short sleep.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">In their previous research in </span><a rel="noopener" href="https://science.sciencemag.org/content/325/5942/866" target="_blank"><span style="font-weight: 400;">2009</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">, the team found a mother and daughter - who felt rested after about six hours of sleep at night - both had a mutation in a gene called </span><em><span style="font-weight: 400;">DEC2</span></em><span style="font-weight: 400;">.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The </span><em><span style="font-weight: 400;">DEC2</span></em><span style="font-weight: 400;"> gene codes for a protein that stops other genes from expressing. One of these genes that the protein inhibits controls a hormone called orexin, which is known to regulate wakefulness.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">In the follow-up study, the scientists studied another family of naturally short sleepers and have identified another mutation, which they estimate about four in every 100,000 people have.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The scientists engineered mice to have the same mutation and found that they slept, on average, one hour less per day than control mice without the mutation.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">For the family of humans with the mutation, they slept an average of two hours less per day than those without the mutation.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The mutated gene, called </span><em><span style="font-weight: 400;">ADRB1</span></em><span style="font-weight: 400;">, encodes a receptor for a neural signalling molecule called noradrenaline.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">In mouse brains, the cells that had this receptor were active while they were awake and quiet during deep sleep, according to the researchers.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">They propose that the mutation makes these neurons more active, which could explain why its human carriers sleep for shorter periods of time.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Though this research has been conducted on small groups, it could pave the way for the development of drugs that target these kinds of mutations or help those with sleeping disorders feel better while getting little sleep.</span></p>

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“Medical triumph”: Conjoined twin survivor gives birth

<p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Charity Lincoln Gutierrez-Vazquez, who was born attached to her twin sister from breastbone to pelvis, has had a “full circle” moment with the birth of her own child in the same hospital.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Charity and her sister Kathleen were separated by a team of nearly 30 doctors, nurses, and support staff in 2000, making national headlines when they were just seven months old.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Now, she has returned to the University of Washington Medical Centre in Seattle to give birth to her daughter, Alora.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“It feels like a full circle, since my mom had us here and everything,” Gutierrez-Vazquez said.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Dr John Waldhausen was involved in the 31-hour surgery to separate the twins, who each had one leg and shared a second, fused leg, as well as sharing several internal organs.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“This is probably about as complex and as difficult as anything we do or have done,” Dr Waldhausen said at the time.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Dr Waldhausen’s involvement in saving her and Kathleen’s life has had an impact on Charity, and he was one of the first people she told when she found out she was pregnant.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“He’s been with me through the lot,” she said.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“When you’re involved with an operation like that, you’re really hoping you can create a whole lifetime for somebody,” Dr Waldhausen said.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">But, Dr Waldhausen admits he had some concerns.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“I didn’t know if her uterus was going to allow her to carry a child,” he said.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“I didn’t know if her abdominal wall reconstruction was going to allow her abdomen to expand in such a way that a baby could grow.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">To oversee Gutierrez-Vazquez’s pregnancy and delivery, Dr Waldhausen reached out to a colleague, Dr Edith Cheng, for help.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Alora was born at nearly 34 weeks via C-section before being taken to NICU for supplemental oxygen, with doctors reporting that both the mother and newborn are healthy.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“I wouldn’t call it a miracle,” Dr Waldhausen said. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“I would call it a medical triumph.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“Charity’s case really is the full obstetrical circle,” Dr Cheng said.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“This howling girl this morning, at almost 34 weeks, that is a true triumph, to get this baby to almost term.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“This baby’s healthy.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Gutierrez-Vazquez’s twin, Kathleen, met Alora via Facetime.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“God’s really blessed me with all the doctors in my life and everything,” Gutierrez-Vazquez said.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“I think it’s important that people see we’re still doing good, and living the best life we can.”</span></p> <p><em><span style="font-weight: 400;">Image: Yahoo news</span></em></p>

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100-year-old man receives a flood of birthday wishes

<p><span style="font-weight: 400;">A man about to celebrate his 101st birthday has received a flood of cards and gifts, following an appeal from staff at the care home where he lives.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Jack Annall, from West Yorkshire in the UK, was disappointed to find out that his daughter Mary was unable to visit him from Australia for his upcoming birthday.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">To help the centenarian celebrate his birthday, care home manager Vicky Gudgin appealed for cards to be sent to Mr Annall.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">To everyone’s surprise, over 500 people answered the call from around the world.</span></p> <p><img style="width: 500px; height:281.25px;" src="https://oversixtydev.blob.core.windows.net/media/7843201/101-birthday2.jpg" alt="" data-udi="umb://media/6c77e757f5a84bb5a0f84c4c8bc16c79" /></p> <p><em><span style="font-weight: 400;">Cards have begun piling up at the aged care home. Image: BBC</span></em></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“I knew he was feeling a little bit down about not being able to see his daughter and I thought, what can we do to lift his spirits?” Mrs Gudgin said.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“I thought, let’s get the community involved and the extent it has is incredible.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Initially, Mrs Gudgin asked other care homes in the area to send cards, but her request soon saw hundreds more send their well wishes after it was shared on social media.</span></p> <p><img style="width: 500px; height:281.25px;" src="https://oversixtydev.blob.core.windows.net/media/7843200/101-birthday3.jpg" alt="" data-udi="umb://media/592f34b874ea48e38e92312653090052" /></p> <p><em><span style="font-weight: 400;">Up to 500 people have sent Mr Connell birthday messages. Image: BBC</span></em></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Mr Annall, who worked as a joiner and served in the RAF during World War Two, will be treated to a brass band concert and receive a visit from the RAF on his birthday. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">He has video calls with his daughter twice a week and is visited by his niece once a week.</span></p> <p><em><span style="font-weight: 400;">Image: BBC</span></em></p>

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Red Cross nurse accused of switching vaccines for salt solution

<p><span>Northern German authorities are contacting thousands of people and informing them to get another COVID-19 jab after an investigation uncovered that a Red Cross nurse may have injected them with a saline solution.</span><br /><br /><span>The nurse has been suspected of injecting salt solution into people's arms instead of a real dose at a vaccination centre in Friesland, a district near the North Sea Coast.</span><br /><br /><span>"I am totally shocked by this episode," Sven Ambrosy, a local councillor, said on Facebook.</span><br /><br /><span>Local authorities are in the process of contacting over 8,600 residents who may have been affected.</span></p> <p><img style="width: 500px; height:281.25px;" src="https://oversixtydev.blob.core.windows.net/media/7836313/vaccine.jpg" alt="" data-udi="umb://media/1e3453d989304150b35c9bbfb0e97893" /></p> <p><em>Image: Shutterstock</em><br /><br /><span>Saline solution is harmless, however many people who got vaccinated in Germany in March and April are elderly people at high risk of catching the deadly viral disease.</span><br /><br /><span>Sadly, the time frame that a majority of elderly people received the jab, coincides with when the nurse is suspected to have switched the vaccines.</span><br /><br /><span>Police investigator Peter Beer, told German media that there is "a reasonable suspicion of danger".</span><br /><br /><span>The nurse, who remains anonymous for now, made it clear on social media that she was sceptical of vaccines in social media posts, police investigators said.</span></p>

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WHO director general calls for moratorium on vaccine boosters

<p><span style="font-weight: 400;">As countries around the world attempt to vaccinate their populations against COVID-19, the World Health Organisation has called for a moratorium on supplementary “booster” shots, citing global inequalities in access to the jabs.</span></p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet"> <p dir="ltr">.<a href="https://twitter.com/WHO?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@WHO</a> director general <a href="https://twitter.com/DrTedros?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@DrTedros</a> is calling for a moratorium on booster shoots in wealthy countries until the end of Sept, to get more vaccine to low income countries.</p> — Helen Branswell (@HelenBranswell) <a href="https://twitter.com/HelenBranswell/status/1422909510558093318?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">August 4, 2021</a></blockquote> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The statement came hours after a San Francisco hospital began offering “supplemental doses” of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines to recipients of the Johnson &amp; Johnson vaccine.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Additionally, countries including Israel have already begun offering booster Pfizer doses to elderly people, while Germany and France are planning to administer booster doses to those who were vaccinated early on in the rollout, as well as elderly people and those with compromised immune systems.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">According to </span><em><a rel="noopener" href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/covid-booster-vaccines-europe/2021/08/03/dddf18f4-f45d-11eb-a636-18cac59a98dc_story.html" target="_blank"><span style="font-weight: 400;">The Washington Post</span></a></em><span style="font-weight: 400;">, the UK is prepared to administer booster shots from September, pending approval from national health experts.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Currently, about 29 percent of the world’s population has received one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">However, this number drops to just one percent in low-income countries, according to </span><a rel="noopener" href="https://ourworldindata.org/covid-vaccinations" target="_blank"><span style="font-weight: 400;">Our World in Data</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“I understand the concern of all governments to protect their people from the Delta variant,” WHO director general Dr Tedros Adhannom Ghebryesus said on Wednesday. “But we cannot accept countries that have already used most of the global supply of vaccines using even more of it.”</span></p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet"> <p dir="ltr">The price of vaccine inequity is the unnecessary loss of human lives - someone's parent, child, partner or friend. We have the tools and the means to deliver them to the people whose lives could still be saved. Let's use them NOW. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/VaccinEquity?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#VaccinEquity</a></p> — Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (@DrTedros) <a href="https://twitter.com/DrTedros/status/1425108886818856965?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">August 10, 2021</a></blockquote> <p><a rel="noopener" href="https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-021-02109-1" target="_blank"><span style="font-weight: 400;">An analysis</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> conducted by the organisation has found that if the 11 countries rolling out or considering rolling out booster shots were to give a third dose to everyone over the age of 50, they would use roughly 440 million doses from the global supply.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“We need an urgent reversal, from the majority of vaccines going to high-income countries, to the majority going to low-income countries,” Tedros said.</span></p>

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New ‘smart’ insulin could revolutionise Type 1 diabetes treatment

<p><span style="font-weight: 400;">For the 15 in every 100,000 people with Type 1 diabetes, living with the condition often involves balancing diet, exercise, and insulin therapy to keep blood sugar levels in a normal range.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Though there are a plethora of solutions being developed to help those with diabetes live more easily, a new approach has focused on insulin itself.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Dr Michael Weiss, a biochemist from the School of Medicine at Indiana University, has worked with colleagues to tweak the structure of insulin so it responds to the presence of a simple sugar molecule.</span></p> <p><img style="width: 500px; height:231px;" src="https://oversixtydev.blob.core.windows.net/media/7843122/image-for-release_weiss_pnas.jpg" alt="" data-udi="umb://media/411d3753b46448bb978e1922daac8560" /></p> <p><em><span style="font-weight: 400;">Image: IU School of Medicine</span></em></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The researchers have utilised a feature already built into insulin’s structure - a “hinge” that enables the molecule to function when open and keeps it stable while closed.</span></p> <p><strong>What the study found</strong></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The experiments performed by Dr Weiss and his team used the carbohydrate fructose to manipulate insulin, so that it would only be ‘switched on’ by the presence of a certain amount of sugar, causing it to activate a sample of cells derived from the liver.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Though the experiments were more confirmation that the concept would be viable than an actual treatment, it would theoretically work for an insulin shaped to activate in the presence of glucose.</span></p> <p><strong>Why it matters</strong></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Weiss envisions a future where people don’t have to worry about their blood sugar falling too low (hypoglycemia) or too high (hyperglycemia), which can result in symptoms such as delirium, convulsions, blindness, or strokes.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“The promise of this kind of ‘smart’ insulin is that it would transform diabetes care, so people wouldn’t have to worry anymore,” Weiss </span><a rel="noopener" href="https://medicine.iu.edu/news/2021/07/Synthetic-hinge-could-hold-key-to-revolutionary-smart-insulin-therapy" target="_blank"><span style="font-weight: 400;">said</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“With our invention, we envision that when the blood sugar goes too low, the hinge would close,” he explained.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Though a lot needs to happen before this invention is incorporated into treatments, it could help affected individuals be able to manage their sugar levels and improve their quality of life.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">This research was published in </span><em><a rel="noopener" href="https://www.pnas.org/content/118/30/e2103518118" target="_blank"><span style="font-weight: 400;">PNAS</span></a></em><span style="font-weight: 400;">.</span></p> <p><em><span style="font-weight: 400;">Image: IU School of Medicine, Getty</span></em></p>

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Lung cancer diagnosis on the rise in non-smokers

<p><span style="font-weight: 400;">With lung cancer coming in as the fifth most common type of cancer diagnosed in New Zealand, but ranking as the leading cause of cancer death, experts are calling for more research to help identify it in its early stages and determine risk factors in non-smokers.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">An example of a person with lung cancer, despite having never smoked, is US comedian Kathy Griffin who recently revealed she has been diagnosed with the cancer.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Because the cancer was caught early and is confined to her left lung, the 60-year-old comedian will undergo surgery to remove half of her left lung.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Following her surgery, Griffin is on the mend and keeping fans up-to-date with her recovery.</span></p> <blockquote style="background: #FFF; border: 0; border-radius: 3px; box-shadow: 0 0 1px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.5),0 1px 10px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.15); margin: 1px; max-width: 540px; min-width: 326px; padding: 0; width: calc(100% - 2px);" class="instagram-media" data-instgrm-captioned="" data-instgrm-permalink="https://www.instagram.com/p/CSSWpL7hcRz/?utm_source=ig_embed&amp;utm_campaign=loading" data-instgrm-version="13"> <div style="padding: 16px;"> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: row; align-items: center;"> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 50%; flex-grow: 0; height: 40px; margin-right: 14px; width: 40px;"></div> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: column; flex-grow: 1; justify-content: center;"> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; margin-bottom: 6px; width: 100px;"></div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; width: 60px;"></div> </div> </div> <div style="padding: 19% 0;"></div> <div style="display: block; height: 50px; margin: 0 auto 12px; width: 50px;"></div> <div style="padding-top: 8px;"> <div style="color: #3897f0; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-style: normal; font-weight: 550; line-height: 18px;">View this post on Instagram</div> </div> <p style="color: #c9c8cd; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 17px; margin-bottom: 0; margin-top: 8px; overflow: hidden; padding: 8px 0 7px; text-align: center; text-overflow: ellipsis; white-space: nowrap;"><a style="color: #c9c8cd; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-style: normal; font-weight: normal; line-height: 17px; text-decoration: none;" rel="noopener" href="https://www.instagram.com/p/CSSWpL7hcRz/?utm_source=ig_embed&amp;utm_campaign=loading" target="_blank">A post shared by Kathy Griffin (@kathygriffin)</a></p> </div> </blockquote> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Griffin isn’t alone either, with a growing number of people receiving a lung cancer diagnosis without ever smoking.</span></p> <p><strong>Not just a “smoker’s disease”</strong></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Though smoking is one of the largest risk factors for lung cancer, the proportion of those diagnosed with the disease who are “never-smokers” is increasing.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">According to Health Navigator New Zealand, one in five New Zealanders who have been diagnosed with the condition were life-long non-smokers.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">This increase in the condition has been seen in other countries with a </span><a rel="noopener" href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28132018/" target="_blank"><span style="font-weight: 400;">2017 study</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> of lung cancer patients in US hospitals finding the percentage of never-smokers increased from eight percent in 1990 to 1995, to 14.9 percent from 2011 to 2013.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Surgeon Andrew Kaufman, whose program for never-smokers at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York has treated 3,800 patients in 10 years, said: “Since the early 2000s, we have seen what I think is truly an epidemiological shift in lung cancer.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“It is well-documented that approximately 20 percent of lung cancer cases that occur in women in the US and nine percent of cases in men, are diagnosed in never-smokers,” he confirmed.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">However, the reasons why more people are being diagnosed without smoking is not well known.</span></p> <p><strong>More research is needed</strong></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Dr Marianne Weber, a senior research fellow at the Daffodil Centre, is overseeing a new study to identify potential risk factors for those who don’t smoke.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">By poring over two large population studies in Australia and China, the researchers are looking to link lung cancer to factors such as diet, lifestyle, and household air pollution.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“If we can highlight a risk profile for someone who might go on to develop lung cancer when they’re a non-smoker, that would be ideal,” Dr Weber said.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">So far, cancer doctors have found one group of people who are more at risk: women.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Worldwide, half of female lung cancer patients have never smoked, while only 15 percent of male lung cancer patients are never-smokers.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Josephine Feliciano, an oncologist at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, said that, beyond sex, “nothing stands out as a single large risk factor” for lung cancer in non-smokers.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“But air pollution, radon, family history of lung cancer, [and] genetic predispositions [all play a role],” Feliciano said.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Additionally, chronic lung infections and lung diseases such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD) seems to increase the risk of diagnosis.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“Of all the patients that present with the disease, the current survival rate is only about 17 percent,” said Dr Stirling, a senior respiratory specialist at The Alfred Hospital and leader of the Victorian Lung Cancer Registry.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“For patients with stage four disease the median survival, so that’s the time at which 50 percent of patients will succumb to the disease, is somewhere between seven and 12 months.”</span></p>

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