Scientists believe that they have discovered a possible explanation for how Alzheimer’s disease spreads in the brain, according to numerous media reports.
The Guardian newspaper has particularly picked up on this exciting study emanating from Cambridge University.
Researchers believe that gene patterns which are located in specific areas of the brain may help to explain why the disease tends to emanate in certain regions before later spreading.
Such patterns were located in the areas of healthy brains which were primed to produce certain proteins.
Scientists involved in the study believe that the natural defences on which the body relies become less able to prevent protein build-up as cells age, and this becomes apparent first in the areas most genetically primed for protein overgrowth.
While this is very much an embryonic theory, it is hoped in the future that it may be possible to target particularly vulnerable areas of the brain for Alzheimer’s treatment; thus making such efforts more efficient and effective.
The study was carried out by researchers from Cambridge University and received no specific funding.
It was published in the peer-reviewed journal, Science Advances, which requires a subscription in order to access.
This was an experimental study comparing data from healthy human brains against data about which regions of the brain are affected in early-stage Alzheimer’s disease.
Researchers used data relating to 500 samples of tissue from the post-mortems of six healthy human brains, all from people aged 24 to 57, none of whom had Alzheimer’s disease.
They analysed 19,700 genes to see which affected protein expression in the brain.
Researchers found that neurones were less likely to express genes protecting against protein build-up, and more likely to express genes promoting protein growth, compared with other brain cells.
When comparing brain maps, those regions of the brain in which tissues were more susceptible to protein expression correlated well with the brain regions that first show signs of Alzheimer’s disease.
The researchers commented on their results in the study.
“Our results identify a quantitative correlation between the histopathological staging of AD [Alzheimer’s disease] and the specific expression patterns of the genes corresponding to the proteins that coaggregate in plaques and tangles.”
Findings related to immune response suggest inflammation should also be considered important, indicating that, “the vulnerability of specific tissues in AD may result from the sum of a number of factors, including genetic control of protein exprssion, natural defences against protein overgrowth, and the response of the immune system.”
This research offers an intriguing insight into one possible factor contributing to Alzheimer’s, but does not demonstrate any way of recognising who will develop the condition.
Additionally, scientists have no knowledge regarding a suitable manipulation of gene expression.
It is not even known whether protein plaques and tangles actually cause Alzheimer’s disease.
So any cure or effective treatment for the debilitating condition remains a long way off.
What can be said is that the latest research sheds light on the complex conditions which contribute to Alzheimer’s vulnerability.
Researchers from the University College London have found that abstaining from alcohol for even a relatively short period of time can have a positive impact on health.
Results from the study indicated that one month’s worth of alcohol abstention significantly reduces blood pressure and cholesterol.
Although the research involved a relatively small sample of just over 100 men and women in their forties, it is thought that this could aid understanding of the issue.
Scientists carried out the research as part of Alcohol Concern’s “dry January” campaign.
In addition to the blood pressure and cholesterol data, it is also suggested by the study that refraining from the consumption of alcohol can lower the risk of liver disease and diabetes.
According to the study – funded by the Royal Free’s hospital and charity and Islington Public Health – liver damage was reduced by 12.5 per cent and resistance to insulin came down by 28 per cent.
Subjects who did not consume alcohol also experienced weight loss.
Speaking to The Independent newspaper, Professor Kevin Moore, of the Royal Free Hospital, who was involved with conducting the study, suggested all British citizens could benefit from a month’s abstinence from the consumption of alcohol.
“When you give up alcohol [for one month]…there is a significant reduction in blood pressure, a significant reduction in cholesterol, [and] an improvement of glucose and insulin resistance which has a major impact on both maturity onset diabetes as well as the development of fatty liver disease.
“If [a clinical trial] had a drug that lowered blood pressure by the amount we’ve observed in those that stopped drinking alcohol, the company would be excited beyond belief. If they then also found it reduced cholesterol, they would be doubly excited… it’s such a good story, there’s no drugs that do that,” Moore suggested.
According to statistics compiled by the World Health Organisation, British people are along the heaviest drinkers on the planet.
However, there are still 14 nations in which the average person consumes more alcohol each week than in Britain.
Nonetheless, when the Office for National Statistics recently surveyed British people, they found that approximately 60 per cent of the population drinks every week.
The study suggests that this is putting an unhealthy burden on people’s health, coupled with the epidemic levels of obesity in society in general.
Commenting on the findings, Dr Gautam Mehta, a liver specialist who oversaw the study, stated:
“I am excited. There are some findings that will be pretty novel. It’s an important study which shows the benefit from a month’s abstinence. What we can’t say is how long those benefits are, how durable those benefits are.”
The data will be presented to the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases in two weeks time, although it is still subject to review and revision.
New research has indicated that soldiers who have served in the UK armed forces are 50 per cent more likely to develop motor neurone disease that those who have not.
The survey in question has been published in the Occupational and Environmental Medicine journal, and assesses a significance Tranche of over 57,000 armed forces veterans.
Motor neurone disease is an incurable neurodegenerative condition that attacks nerves in the brain and spinal cord.
The condition ultimately leads to progressive paralysis, and is considered extremely debilitating.
Although it is a relatively rare condition, motor neurone disease nonetheless affects 5,000 people in the United Kingdom alone.
Several previous studies carried out in the United States, where motor neurone disease is referred to as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, have linked the condition to military service in the Gulf region.
But this latest study, carried out by researchers at the University of Glasgow, examine a number of Scottish veterans who have served in the British armed forces.
All subjects of the report were born between 1945 and 1985, and that the study was sure to acquire a wide range of subjects with a diverse raft of experience.
Length of service was also subjected to alterations in order to ensure the most valid dataset possible.
The study particularly examined the rate of hospitalisation and death from motor neurone disease, and found that subjects involved had a 50 per cent higher risk of developing the disease compared with people who had never served in the armed forces.
However, no link was established to any particular deployment, and it was also found that length of service had no impact on the likelihood of developing the condition.
Although further research is required in order to understand the reasons behind the results, it has been suggested that a higher rate of smoking in the military could be partly responsible.
And although there is clearly an increased risk of developing motor neurone disease in the armed forces, researchers are still believe that veterans and serving personnel should not worry unduly about the issue.
Motor neurone disease remains an extremely rare condition, and ultimately the chances of contracting it are still pretty slim even for those serving in the armed forces.
But the results of the report do imply a need to examine the issue further with the hope of understanding the root causes of this statistical anomaly.
Commenting on the findings of the research, the lead researcher, Beverly Bergman, stated: “This is an important study which has confirmed an increased risk in military personnel. We also showed that there was a higher risk in everyone who had experienced an injury, but the risk was greater in people who had served in the armed forces.
“Because the cases occurred over such a long period of time, we are confident that there is no specific link to Gulf war service, although higher rates of military smoking may explain the increased risk. This is a very rare disease and veterans should not worry unduly.”
The London-based clinical research specialist MeDiNova has opened a new centre in London in order to meet increased demand for its services.
MeDiNova is a dedicated research company, with the principal aim of recruiting large numbers of patients within a short timeframe, providing high quality clinical trial data and maintaining high retention rates.
Based at Mount Vernon Hospital and Queen Mary’s Hospital in the UK, MeDiNova began its clinal research programme back in 1997.
MeDiNova works with a network of Physicians and GP’s to recruit suitable patients for clinical trials.
Over the last 18 years, the company has conducted over 300 clinical trials across a broad range of therapeutic areas in Phases I, II, III and IV.
The principal investigators at principal investigators MeDiNova, who collectively possess decades of clinical experience, are as follows:
Dr Mayura Deshpande MBBS MSc PG Dip
Dr Gowri Subramanian MB BCh BAO
Dr Baljit Chokkar MBChB
Dr Syed Abdus Saboor Aftab MD MBBS MRCP(UK) MRCP SCE(UK)
Finally, Dr Naren Savani MBBS LRCP MRCS DRCOG, who founded the company, acts as a Non Executive Director and Medical director to the company overseeing the clinical team.
The latest MeDiNova research centre will be named the East London Clinical Studies Centre, and is located at Blackburn House in Eastern Road, Romford.
According to the company, the newly opened clinical centre will enable MeDiNova to increase its intake of volunteers.
In particular, the company intends to research diabetes and respiratory problems in the foreseeable future, as well as providing regular monitoring for a diverse range of other conditions.
Diabetes can be considered of particular importance, as clinical evidence indicates that the number of people suffering with Type II diabetes in particular has increased exponentially in Britain over the last couple of decades.
MeDiNova also operates the North London Clinical Studies Centre at Mount Vernon Hospital in Northwood, and the South London Clinical Studies Centre at Queen Mary’s Hospital in Sidcup.
Kumar Muthalagappan, Chief Executive of MeDiNova, was of the opinion that the new centre will potentially allow MeDiNova to extend its reach to thousands more people across East and Greater London.
“As with our other two sites, the East London Clinical Studies Centre is strategically located in an area of high population density so we are able to deliver effective results on time and, together with our volunteers, really help make a difference in shaping advances in future treatments.”
The new centre will be staffed by 40 professional research investigators, with numerous fully professional doctors and nurses on hand.
MeDiNova has been noted for its close work with some of the world’s leading pharmaceutical companies, with CROs and biotech also part of its modus operandi.
In the London area alone, MeDiNova has scanned more than 12,000 people for osteoporosis over the past two years, using its DXA scanner, which measures bone mineral density.
Muthalagappan added: “The opening of our Romford clinic is part of our long-term plan to allow MeDiNova to continue progressing by increasing our resources and building on our achievements to date.
“Already we are able to conduct trials in no less than 45 areas. Over time our three sites will allow us to continue building on this offering and to reach out to potentially thousands more residents across a far wider catchment area who will be able to benefit from screening for a range of conditions including Osteoporosis, Diabetes and COPD.”
The first UK stem cell donation from a donor using Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) has taken place.
This operation has offered a lifeline to a patient suffering from cancer.
NHS Blood and Transplant specialists have been working on NGS technology for some time, and British scientists can be considered pioneers in this technology.
It is thought that more lives could be saved through reduced donor selection time in the future.
UK clinicians have already sequenced to tissue type all bone marrow donors on the British Bone Marrow Registry and all cord blood units banked since February.
In addition, scientists in Britain have recently provided the first match of this kind for a patient in Europe.
This pioneering process was considered a particular success, as the selection of the donor to the shipment of stem cells was completed in half the time normally taken for organising volunteer donor transplants.
The process will significantly improve the speed and accuracy of donor identification going forward, and in line with this it is thought that it will significantly reduce waiting times for people in need of critical stem cell transplants.
Financial benefits could also be realised, as there are hopes that the cost of data testing will be significantly reduced by this technique.
Technical aspects related to this particular innovation ensure that the matching process for donors and patients can be reduced from the existing six-week period to an estimated three weeks in total.
This halving of the waiting period can be achieved due to the fact that the availability of unambiguous allelic level HLA typing data at the donor selection stage removes the need for additional typing to confirm the HLA match between donor and patient.
NHS Blood and Transplant’s Histocompatibility & Immunogenetics team are the first and in the UK to list full-length HLA typing for all prospective donors as they join the British Bone Marrow Registry.
It is hoped that other teams in Britain will follow suit following the success of this initial operation.
Dr Colin Brown, Head of H&I at NHS Blood and Transplant’s Colindale centre, proclaimed this innovative treatment to have been a huge success, and looked forward to further development in this healthcare technology.
“It’s really encouraging that our team have been the first in the UK to provide a fully Next Generation Sequencing typed stem cell donation for a patient in need of a lifesaving transplant. This intervention will give hope to those desperately waiting for a stem cell or bone marrow transplant meaning they hopefully won’t have to wait as long for the procedure and more lives will be saved in the process. It means that donors are typed more accurately in the first instance so there is no need to wait for further testing to find a match,” Brown commented.
The British Bone Marrow Register it is a vital donor registry, owing to the fact that the overwhelming majority of stem cell transplant patients do not have a suitable related donor.
It is currently estimated that around 70 per cent of such transplant patients ultimately require an unrelated match from this critical register of voluntary donors.
The NHS Blood and Transplant aims to register 8,000 new potential bone marrow donors on the British Bone Marrow Registry during the current fiscal year.
According to a survey carried out by Workingmums.co.uk, over half of the working mothers in the UK struggle with holiday and after-school care.
It is notable that childcare was a particularly hot topic during the last general election, but the focus has been primarily on early years childcare.
And the survey noted that the focus of the government on free childcare for children aged between three and four, along with the tax-free childcare initiative, are not serving the needs of the majority of working mums.
Under the terms of this agreement, families where both parents work will be able to claim back up to 20 per cent of childcare costs, up to a maximum of £2,000 a year for each child aged under 12.
However, the Workingmums.co.uk survey indicated that older children are as much of an issue for working mothers as the younger offspring covered by the legislation.
The survey is seen as being particularly pertinent for the NHS, where a huge number of working moms are already resident.
Having interviewed 2,300 mothers across the UK, it is clear that childcare for school-aged children is a massive problem.
57 per cent of respondents indicated that this was the case for them.
In addition to those who responded to the survey, a further 14 per cent of respondents aren’t clear on whether the existing childcare plans of the government will actually be of assistance to them.
And a third are currently in receipt of tax credits, but face cuts to their existing childcare support.
It is also clear from the survey that a lack of flexible childcare available to working parents can be a serious issue for working mothers.
41 per cent of those who responded to the survey indicated that the childcare options currently available to them were insufficient in terms of flexibility.
This should be particularly of concern to the National Health Service, as this figure is particularly likely to include both those starting work early or late in the day.
Naturally, a large number of NHS workers fit these two descriptions.
With the government currently planning to make serious changes to the existing NHS culture to implement what it describes as a true seven-day working culture, there is no doubt that pressure will be placed on childcare arrangements within the NHS.
Meanwhile, the survey indicated that childcare costs is the most common barrier preventing working mothers from returning to the work environment.
Sixty-one percent of respondents indicated that childcare commitments are currently making it difficult for them to return to work. This was a small increase from the same survey last year.
The issues related to childcare costs were further underlined by the fact that 45 per cent of respondents stated that they are currently reliant on grandparents.
Although there is now more of an appetite for sharing care between both parents, it is also clear that women continue to take the main carer role within many families.
56 per cent of mums reported that they do more housework and childcare than their partners, compared to 22 per cent who say these tasks are equally shared.
Commenting on the results, Gillian Nissim, founder of Workingmums.co.uk, said: “The survey results show there are significant problems with the cost and availability of childcare and with the kind of flexible childcare options that parents are increasingly demanding. In the last general election, childcare featured prominently, yet most of the focus was on early years. Childcare for school-aged children consequently remains a particular problem and parents feel that this not being addressed by government policy.”
A team of researchers in Ohio is currently attempting to develop a so-called wonder drug that tackles both Alzheimer’s and Type 2 diabetes.
These conditions are known for sharing two destructive proteins that play a key role in the conditions and their development.
Clinical research being carried out at the University of Akron has raised expectation that a cure for the conditions could kill both birds with one stone in the foreseeable future.
With federal funding to the order of £200,000, this critical study could have global implications.
The US National Science Foundation has backed the researchers to produce an antidote to these two conditions, and the potential of a cure is certainly an exciting prospect for medicine and public health across the planet.
Recent years have seen a diabetes epidemic across the Western world in particular, with excessive added sugar in process food considered a major factor in this worrying trend.
The Daily Health Bulletin reported in March, 2011 that 280 million people worldwide (approximately 6.5 per cent of the world’s population) is diabetic.
Just months later, a study in The Lancet demonstrated that the number of adults with Type 2 diabetes has more than doubled in the last thirty years, soaring to almost 10 per cent of the world population.
And the burden on the National Health Service is also extremely well documented.
Official figures indicate that diabetes costs the NHS £1 million every hour. This amounts to a figure of over £8 billion per annum.
However, scientists working on the drug have noted that the majority of Alzheimer’s patients possess either Type II diabetes, or else are glucose intolerant.
Studies have indicated that diabetes sufferers aged 60 and over are twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s as normally adjusted individuals.
And it is believed that a chemical interaction between two destructive proteins present in both conditions plays a key role in their development, leading researchers to assert that treating them simultaneously should be feasible.
The search for one of medicine’s most valuable secrets is being led by American scientist Dr Jie Zheng.
The experienced expert in chemical and biochemical engineering believes that it will indeed be possible to treat both conditions with a solitary tablet, and that this drug could emerge by 2025.
Both Alzheimer’s and Type 2 diabetes are caused by peptide aggregates, and feature extremely similar biological and structural functions.
An abnormal accumulation of Abeta peptides is linked to Alzheimer’s, while an abnormal accumulation of human islet amyloid polypeptide or hIAPP is linked to Type 2 diabetes.
The research is particularly building on previous studies that have suggested that animals fed a diet which would leave them vulnerable to diabetes can result in their brains being crippled with insoluble protein plaques; one of the features of Alzheimer’s.
Decisions made by the General Medical Council (GMC) during investigations into doctors who have been subject of a serious complaint are “fair and consistent” according to independent research published today.
The review, carried out by researchers at Plymouth University, found that the decisions made in 187 randomly selected cases were appropriate as well as being in line with GMC guidance criteria.
“There are more than a quarter of a million doctors on our register and relatively few are subject to a GMC investigation, but we recognise that the process can be extremely stressful for anyone involved”, said Niall Dickson, chief executive of the GMC.
“While we must never lose our focus on protecting patients, we are doing all we can to reduce the stress for doctors and indeed for patients and relatives, and to make sure our investigations are fair, transparent and in line with our guidance.”
The Plymouth University research team also identified a number of areas for improvement and has given the GMC a series of recommendations which will be used to inform investigations in future.
Mr Dickson: “We commissioned this research to make sure our decision-making is fair and consistent and to see what lessons we could learn to improve our procedures. Independent evaluation is essential to ensure that we remain effective and fair.
“While the findings of this report have been positive, we accept that this will always be a controversial and sensitive area and we know there is more we can do. We will take forward the learning points identified, and we will continue to do everything we can to speed up our processes, reduce the stress of our investigations, and support those who are subject to our processes.”
Thirty-three European academic partners and five pharmaceutical companies have joined forces to launch a new €167 million project -COMBACTE-MAGNET – as part of the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI) antimicrobial resistance research programme (New Drugs 4 Bad Bugs (ND4BB)).
Overseen by the University Medical Center Utrecht, it is envisaged that COMBACTE-MAGNET will bring highly innovative studies and activities related to prevention and treatment of infections caused by multi-drug resistant Gram-negative bacteria.
With antimicrobial resistance (AMR) becoming a growing problem worldwide (antibiotic-resistant bacteria causes approximately 25,000 deaths per year in the EU), and with few new drugs making it to the market, there is currently an urgent need for new medicines to manage infections caused by resistant pathogens.
Marc Bonten, professor of molecular epidemiology of infectious diseases and head of the department of Medical Microbiology at the University Medical Center (UMC) Utrecht, said: “COMBACTE MAGNET is a new, highly innovative research programme in which academic and industrial partners are collaborating to combat the threat of antibiotic resistance for patients worldwide.”
“If no action is taken to address these issues, we risk leaving society in a situation where doctors will have few, if any, options to treat bacterial infections. To avoid a public health emergency, the entire antibiotic research community must work together to reinvigorate research into new antibiotics.”