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Unraveling the Mystery of How Antidepression Drugs Work: Scientific American

Unraveling the Mystery of How Antidepression Drugs Work: Scientific American | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
New insights into how selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors work suggest they reverse inhibited nerve regeneration and connectivity that may underlie depression

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Depression strikes some 35 million people worldwide, according to the World Health Organization, contributing to lowered quality of life as well as an increased risk of heart disease and suicide. Treatments typically include psychotherapy, support groups and education as well as psychiatric medications. SSRIs, or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, currently are the most commonly prescribed category of antidepressant drugs in the U.S., and have become a household name in treating depression.The action of these compounds is fairly familiar. SSRIs increase available levels of serotonin, sometimes referred to as the feel-good neurotransmitter, in our brains. Neurons communicate via neurotransmitters, chemicals which pass from one nerve cell to another. A transporter molecule recycles unused transmitter and carries it back to the pre-synaptic cell. For serotonin, that shuttle is called SERT (short for “serotonin transporter”). An SSRI binds to SERT and blocks its activity, allowing more serotonin to remain in the spaces between neurons. Yet, exactly how this biochemistry then works against depression remains a scientific mystery.In fact, SSRIs fail to work for mild cases of depression, suggesting that regulating serotonin might be an indirect treatment only. “There’s really no evidence that depression is a serotonin-deficiency syndrome,” says Alan Gelenberg, a depression and psychiatric researcher at The Pennsylvania State University. “It’s like saying that a headache is an aspirin-deficiency syndrome.” SSRIs work insofar as they reduce the symptoms of depression, but “they’re pretty nonspecific,” he adds.

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Gene linked to long life also protects against mental decline in old age

Gene linked to long life also protects against mental decline in old age | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
Discovery gives scientists hope of developing a therapy that could slowdown the progression of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia

People who carry a mutated gene linked to longer lifespan have extra tissue in part of the brain that seems to protect them against mental decline in old age.

The finding has shed light on a biological pathway that researchers now hope to turn into a therapy that slows the progression of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.

Brain scans of more than 400 healthy men and women aged 53 and over found that those who carried a single copy of a particular gene variant had a larger brain region that deals with planning and decision making.

Further tests on the group found that those with an enlarged right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (rDLPFC), as the brain region is known, fared better on a series of mental tasks.

About one in five people inherits a single copy of the gene variant, or allele, known as KL-VS, which improves heart and kidney function, and on average adds about three years to human lifespan, according to Dena Dubal, a neurologist at University of California, San Francisco.

Her latest work suggests that the same genetic mutation has broader effects on the brain. While having a larger rDLPFC accounted for only 12% of the improvement in people’s mental test scores, Dubal suspects the gene alters the brain in other ways, perhaps by improving the connections that form between neurons.

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Scientists extend telomeres to slow cell aging | KurzweilAI

Scientists extend telomeres to slow cell aging | KurzweilAI | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it

Scientists at the Stanford University School of Medicine have developed a new procedure that uses modified messenger RNA to quickly and efficiently increase the length of human telomeres, the protective caps on the ends of chromosomes that are associated with aging and disease.

Treated cells behave as if they are much younger than untreated cells, multiplying with abandon in the laboratory dish rather than stagnating or dying. Skin cells with telomeres lengthened by the procedure were able to divide up to 40 more times than untreated cells.

The procedure will improve the ability of researchers to generate large numbers of cells for study or drug development and may lead to preventing or treating diseases of aging, the scientists say.

Telomeres are the protective caps on the ends of chromosomes, which house our genomes. In young humans, telomeres are about 8,000–10,000 nucleotides long. They shorten with each cell division, however, and when they reach a critical length, the cell stops dividing or dies. This internal “clock” makes it difficult to keep most cells growing in a laboratory for more than a few cell doublings.

‘Turning back the internal clock’

“Now we have found a way to lengthen human telomeres by as much as 1,000 nucleotides, turning back the internal clock in these cells by the equivalent of many years of human life,” said Helen Blau, PhD, professor of microbiology and immunology at Stanford and director of the university’s Baxter Laboratory for Stem Cell Biology. “This greatly increases the number of cells available for studies such as drug testing or disease modeling.”

A paper describing the research was published in the FASEB Journal. Blau, who also holds the Donald E. and Delia B. Baxter Professorship, is the senior author. Postdoctoral scholar John Ramunas, PhD, of Stanford shares lead authorship with Eduard Yakubov, PhD, of the Houston Methodist Research Institute.

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So is cancer mostly 'bad luck' or not?

So is cancer mostly 'bad luck' or not? | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
News reports that most cases of cancer are the result of bad luck dominated headlines at the start of the year - but they now appear to have been incorrect.
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Scientific team sounds the alarm on sugar as a source of disease

Scientific team sounds the alarm on sugar as a source of disease | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
Is sugar making us sick? A team of scientists at the University of California in San Francisco believes so, and they're doing something about it. They launched an initiative to bring information on food and drink and added sugar to the public by reviewing more than 8,000 scientific papers that show ...
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Scientists sequence genome of longest-lived mammal

Scientists sequence genome of longest-lived mammal | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
Scientists at the University of Liverpool have sequenced the genome of the bowhead whale, estimated to live for more than 200 years with low incidence of disease.
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Yoga as a potential therapy for cardiovascular disease and metabolic syndrome | KurzweilAI

Yoga as a potential therapy for cardiovascular disease and metabolic syndrome | KurzweilAI | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it

(Credit: iStock) A systematic review of 37 randomized controlled trials showed promising evidence for the ability of yoga to improve cardiovascular and-

A systematic review of 37 randomized controlled trials showed promising evidence for the ability of yoga to improve cardiovascular and metabolic health, but found no significant difference in the effectiveness of yoga versus aerobic exercise.

Yoga showed significant improvement in body mass index, systolic blood pressure, low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, and high-density lipoprotein cholesterol; and significant changes in body weight, diastolic blood pressure, total cholesterol, triglycerides, and heart rate. ‘

“Despite the growing evidence on the health implications of yoga, the physiological mechanisms behind the observed clinical effects of yoga on cardiovascular risk remain unclear,” the researchers say, adding that “there’s a need for larger randomized controlled studies that meet explicit, high quality methodological standards to ascertain the effects of
yoga” in improving modifiable risk factors of  cardiovascular disease and metabolic syndrome.

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) and metabolic syndrome are major public health problems in the USA and worldwide. Metabolic syndrome is defined as having at least three metabolic risk factors — increased blood pressure, high blood sugar level, excess body fat, and abnormal cholesterol levels — and greatly increases chance of future cardiovascular problems. CVD and metabolic syndrome share many of the same modifiable risk factors, such as physical inactivity, the fourth leading risk factor of global mortality, the researchers note.

The study, by researchers at Erasmus MC, Harvard Medical School, and Harvard School of Public Health, was published (open-access) in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology.

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Special K, a Hallucinogen, Raises Hopes and Concerns as a Treatment for Depression

Special K, a Hallucinogen, Raises Hopes and Concerns as a Treatment for Depression | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
Some see ketamine as an effective drug for some patients, and others see it as a dangerous hallucinogen that has not been studied enough.

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It is either the most exciting new treatment for depression in years or it is a hallucinogenic club drug that is wrongly being dispensed to desperate patients in a growing number of clinics around the country.

It is called ketamine — or Special K, in street parlance.

While it has been used as an anesthetic for decades, small studies at prestigious medical centers like Yale, Mount Sinai and the National Institute of Mental Health suggest it can relieve depression in many people who are not helped by widely used conventional antidepressants like Prozac or Lexapro.

And the depression seems to melt away within hours, rather than the weeks typically required for a conventional antidepressant.

But some psychiatrists say the drug has not been studied enough to be ready for use outside of clinical trials, and they are alarmed that clinics are springing up to offer ketamine treatments, charging hundreds of dollars for sessions that must be repeated many times.

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Nanotube film could replace defective retinas

Nanotube film could replace defective retinas | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it

A promising new study suggests that a wireless, light-sensitive, and flexible film could potentially form part of a prosthetic device to replace damaged or defective retinas. The film both absorbs light and stimulates neurons without being connected to any wires or external power sources, standing it apart from silicon-based devices used for the same purpose. It has so far been tested only on light-insensitive retinas from embryonic chicks, but the researchers hope to see the pioneering work soon reach real-world human application.

Some neurons are genetically-predisposed to be sensitive to light. An emerging field called optogenetics uses light to stimulate and control those neurons, with applications not only in vision but also in gene therapy, brain mapping, reducing pain sensitivity, treatment of neurological disorders such as epilepsy and Parkinson's disease, and even mind control.

The researchers sought to develop an optogenetics approach to restoring vision. They combined semiconductor nanorods and carbon nanotube film and found that the resultant system stimulated neurons in light-insensitive embryonic chicks at day 14 of their development when illuminated with violet light for 100 ms.

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Protein that wakes up the brain could provide target for Alzheimer's prevention

Protein that wakes up the brain could provide target for Alzheimer's prevention | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it

In recent years, research has linked sleep problems to Alzheimer’s disease. This relationship involves a neurotransmitter called orexin that awakens the brain from sleep and has been shown to be heightened in moderate to severe sufferers of Alzheimer’s. New research conducted at Washington University in St Louis suggests that removing the orexin protein in mice enables them to sleep longer, which could serve to hinder development of the disease.

One of the ways that the orexin protein and sleep loss can lead to Alzheimer’s is through enabling the development of brain plaques. These build up before and during the onset of Alzheimer’s and correlate with the development of symptoms like memory loss and disorientation, leading scientists to believe that halting their buildup may go some way to combating the disease.

Putting this theory to the test, the researchers used mice that were genetically engineered to possess elevated amyloid beta, the protein that helps to make up brain plaques. By breeding these mice with other mice lacking the orexin protein, the researchers found the offspring had less sleep problems and developed around half as many plaques.

Mice with no orexin slept for around an hour extra during twelve-hour observation periods, while mice with orexin were more lively. Conversely, when the researchers heightened orexin levels, the mice stayed awake for longer and grew more plaques. Another noteworthy finding was that manipulating orexin levels in a section of the brain unrelated to the mouse's ability to sleep had no bearing on levels of plaque.

In recent years, research has linked sleep problems to Alzheimer’s disease. New research shows that removing orexin in mice, a protein that regulates arousa...
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X Challenge winner diagnoses diseases in minutes from a single drop of blood

X Challenge winner diagnoses diseases in minutes from a single drop of blood | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it

For the last two years, the US$2.25 million Nokia Sensing X Challengehas lured entrants from around the globe to submit groundbreaking technologies that improve access to health care. A panel of experts have awarded this year's grand prize to Massachusetts-based DNA Medical Institute (DMI), whose hand-held device is capable of diagnosing ailments in minutes, using only a single drop of blood.

The DMI team were selected from 11 finalists. Among them were Swiss team Biovotion, whose wearable computer monitors vital signs such heart rate and breathing, along with the US-based Eigen Lifescience team, whose low-cost, portable device is capable of testing for Hepatitis B in less than 10 minutes. But it was DMI's Reusable Handheld Electrolyte and Lab Technology for Humans system (rHealth) that impressed the judges most.

"Our expert judging panel reviewed a very exciting group of sensing technologies, all with the potential to address a wide array of diagnostic and personal health needs,” said Dr. Peter H. Diamandis, chairman and CEO of X Prize, the foundation behind the competition. “DMI’s rHealth system embodies the original goal of the Nokia Sensing X Challenge, to advance sensor technology in a way that will enable faster diagnoses and easier, more sophisticated personal health monitoring.”

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The Rise of All-Purpose Antidepressants

The Rise of All-Purpose Antidepressants | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
Doctors are increasingly prescribing SSRIs to treat more than just depression

Antidepressant use among Americans is skyrocketing. Adults in the U.S. consumed four times more antidepressants in the late 2000s than they did in the early 1990s. As the third most frequently taken medication in the U.S., researchers estimate that 8 to 10 percent of the population is taking an antidepressant. But this spike does not necessarily signify a depression epidemic. Through the early 2000s pharmaceutical companies were aggressively testing selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), the dominant class of depression drug, for a variety of disorders—the timeline below shows the rapid expansion of FDA-approved uses.

As the drugs' patents expired, companies stopped funding studies for official approval. Yet doctors have continued to prescribe them for more ailments. One motivating factor is that SSRIs are a fairly safe option for altering brain chemistry. Because we know so little about mental illness, many clinicians reason, we might as well try the pills already on the shelf.

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Scientists grow miniature human stomachs from stem cells

Scientists grow miniature human stomachs from stem cells | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
Miniature stomachs, known as gastric organoids, will help in study of ulcers and could be used in future to repair patients’ stomachs
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Massive Study Reveals Schizophrenia's Genetic Roots

Massive Study Reveals Schizophrenia's Genetic Roots | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
The largest-ever genetic study of mental illness reveals a complex set of factors

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Schizophrenia is a distressing disorder involving hallucinations, delusions, paranoia and agitation. It affects around one in 100 people in the U.S., with symptoms usually first appearing between the ages of 16 and 30. Its causes have long been debated, particularly regarding whether genetics plays a role. It is known to be highly heritable, but small sample sizes and other methodology hurdles stymied early attempts to discern a genetic link.

Now the biggest-ever genetic study of mental illness has found 128 gene variants associated with schizophrenia, in 108 distinct locations in the human genome. The vast majority of them had never before been linked to the disorder. This finding lays to rest any argument that genetics plays no role.

The study, published in July in Nature, is the result of a collaboration among more than 300 scientists from 35 countries, named the Schizophrenia Working Group of the Psychiatric Genomics Consortium. The researchers compared the whole genomes of nearly 37,000 people with schizophrenia with more than 113,000 people without the disorder, in a so-called genome-wide association study (GWAS). Genetic material, or DNA, is made up of a sequence of molecular pairs, thousands of which string together to form genes. The GWAS involves tallying known common mutations in these pairs, in people with and without a condition. Variants that show up significantly more often in people with the condition are said to be “associated” with it. The GWAS “potentially provides a more comprehensive view of the biological players in disease than previous genetic studies,” says Benjamin Neale of the Broad Institute in Cambridge, Mass., one of the study's lead authors.

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Targeting specific astrocyte brain-cell receptors found to boost memory in mice | KurzweilAI

Targeting specific astrocyte brain-cell receptors found to boost memory in mice | KurzweilAI | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it

Gladstone Institutes researchers have uncovered a new memory regulator in the brain that may offer a potential treatment to improve memory in Alzheimer’s disease using a drug that targets those receptors.

They found in their research* that decreasing the number of A2A adenosine receptors in astrocyte brain cells improved memory in healthy mice. It also prevented memory impairments in a mouse model of Alzheimer’s disease.

The findings were published Monday (Jan. 26) in Nature Neuroscience.

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Global ENIGMA consortium cracks brain’s genetic codes for aging | KurzweilAI

Global ENIGMA consortium cracks brain’s genetic codes for aging | KurzweilAI | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it

In the largest collaborative study of the brain to date, about 300 researchers in a global consortium of 190 institutions identified eight common genetic mutations that appear to age the brain an average of three years.

The discovery could lead to targeted therapies and interventions for Alzheimer’s disease, autism, and other neurological conditions.

Led by the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California (USC), an international team known as the Enhancing Neuro Imaging Genetics through Meta Analysis (ENIGMA) Network, pooled brain scans and genetic data worldwide to pinpoint genes that enhance or break down key brain regions in people from 33 countries.

This is the first high-profile study since the National Institutes of Health (NIH) launched its Big Data to Knowledge (BD2K) centers of excellence in 2014. The research was published Wednesday, Jan. 21, in the peer-reviewed journal Nature.

“Our global team discovered eight genes that may erode or boost brain tissue in people worldwide,” said Paul Thompson, Ph.D., Keck School of Medicine of USC professor and principal investigator of ENIGMA. ” Any change in those genes appears to alter your mental bank account or brain reserve by 2 or 3 percent. The discovery will guide research into more personalized medical treatments for Alzheimer’s, autism, depression and other disorders.”

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Daily avocado diet may cut cholesterol - Futurity

Daily avocado diet may cut cholesterol - Futurity | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
New research suggests that adding an avocado to a cholesterol-lowering diet amps up its heart-healthy effects.
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'Game-changing' antibiotic find

'Game-changing' antibiotic find | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
The decades-long drought in the search for new antibiotics to tackle drug-resistant infections could be over, after a breakthrough by US scientists.
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Most cancer types 'just bad luck'

Most cancer types 'just bad luck' | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
Most types of cancer can simply be put down to bad luck rather than risk factors such as smoking, a study suggests.

A US team were trying to explain why some tissues were millions of times more vulnerable to cancer than others.

The results, in the journal Science, showed two thirds of the cancer types analysed were caused just by chance mutations rather than lifestyle.

However some of the most common and deadly cancers are still heavily influenced by lifestyle.

And Cancer Research UK said a healthy lifestyle would still heavily stack the odds in a person's favour.

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The Health Benefits of Being Cold-How keeping cool can lead to weight loss

The Health Benefits of Being Cold-How keeping cool can lead to weight loss | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it

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When you first put on the ice vest, you will feel cold. Not intolerably cold, but cold enough to make you think, What am I doing with my life? Or, at least, as numbness spreads across your shoulders and down your back, There must be better ways to lose weight. And there are. But as an adjunct to those better ways, the vest carries some unlikely promise.

The sturdy Han Solo–style garment is loaded with ice packs, and it’s inspired by a theory gathering momentum among scientists: namely, that environmental thermodynamics can be harnessed in pursuit of weight loss. The basic idea is that because your body uses energy to maintain a normal body temperature, exposure to cold expends calories. The vest’s inventor, Wayne B. Hayes, an associate professor at the University of California at Irvine, claims that wearing it for an hour burns up to 250 calories, though his data are very rough. A little more than a year ago, he began selling the vest, which he calls the Cold Shoulder, out of his Pasadena apartment. Name notwithstanding, people won’t ignore you when you wear it.

Ken K. Liu, a principal at a hedge fund in Los Angeles, has been wearing the vest under his suit jacket on and off for about a year. He told me that some people’s first reaction to the unwieldy getup is “What the hell are you doing?” As soon as Liu explains the concept, though, many of them say it sounds like a good idea. Others still think it’s “stupid”—as did my colleagues, when I wore one—but Liu has not been deterred. Each morning while his coffee is brewing, he takes his vest out of the freezer and dons it without shame. Liu was never “fat,” by his estimation, but he says he did carry a few extra pounds that he had trouble dropping, despite exercise and attention to diet. The Cold Shoulder closed that gap.

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Lab-grown bones will save patients from having their own bone harvested if they need a graft

Lab-grown bones will save patients from having their own bone harvested if they need a graft | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
Nina Tandon’s EpiBone biotech company is working on growing bones using a patient’s own cells
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Med diet 'keeps us genetically young'

Med diet 'keeps us genetically young' | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
Eating a Mediterranean diet might be a recipe for a long life because it appears to keep us genetically younger, say researchers.

Following a Mediterranean diet might be a recipe for a long life because it appears to keep people genetically younger, say US researchers.

Its mix of vegetables, olive oil, fresh fish and fruits may stop our DNA code from scrambling as we age, according to a study in the British Medical Journal.

Nurses who adhered to the diet had fewer signs of ageing in their cells.

The researchers from Boston followed the health of nearly 5,000 nurses over more than a decade.

The Mediterranean diet has been repeatedly linked to health gains, such as cutting the risk of heart disease.

Although it's not clear exactly what makes it so good, its key components - an abundance of fresh fruit and vegetables as well as poultry and fish, rather than lots of red meat, butter and animal fats - all have well documented beneficial effects on the body.

Foods rich in vitamins appear to provide a buffer against stress and damage of tissues and cells. And it appears from this latest study that a Mediterranean diet helps protect our DNA.

Telomeres

The researchers looked at tiny structures called telomeres that safeguard the ends of our chromosomes, which store our DNA code.

These protective caps prevent the loss of genetic information during cell division.

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One kiss 'shares 80 million bugs'

One kiss 'shares 80 million bugs' | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
A small study by Dutch scientists suggests a single 10-second kiss can transfer as many as 80 million bacteria.

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A single 10-second kiss can transfer as many as 80 million bacteria, according to Dutch scientists.

They monitored the kissing behaviour of 21 couples and found those who kissed nine times a day were most likely to share salivary bugs.

Studies suggest the mouth is home to more than 700 different types of bacteria - but the report reveals some are exchanged more easily than others.

The research is published in the journal Microbiome.

Continue reading the main story“Start Quote

French kissing is a great example of exposure to a gigantic number of bacteria in a short time”

Prof Remco Kort Lead researcher
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Chip lets scientists see how cancer spreads - Futurity

Chip lets scientists see how cancer spreads - Futurity | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
A new lab chip is giving researchers an unprecedented look at how cancer cells spread.

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A new lab chip is giving researchers an unprecedented look at the complex process that spreads cancer from its birthplace to other parts of the body.

By showing scientists precisely how tumor cells travel, the tool may help them plot new strategies for preventing metastasis, which leads to more than 90 percent of cancer deaths.

The work is published in the journal Cancer Research.

“There’s still so much we don’t know about exactly how tumor cells migrate through the body, partly because, even using our best imaging technology, we haven’t been able to see precisely how these individual cells move into blood vessels,” says lead researcher Andrew D. Wong, a graduate student in materials science and engineering at Johns Hopkins University.

“Our new tool gives us a clearer, close-up look at this process.”

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Google is developing a cancer and heart attack-detecting pill

Google is developing a cancer and heart attack-detecting pill | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
New ‘nanoparticle’ pill could detect signs of disease before it becomes a problem for pre-emptive treatment, monitored by a wrist-worn device. By Samuel Gibbs
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Could liposomes be the answer to our antibiotic crisis?

Could liposomes be the answer to our antibiotic crisis? | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it

The WHO says we are headed for a post-antibiotic era, in which common infections and minor injuries which have been treatable for decades can once again kill...

 

It’s no secret we are facing an antibiotic crisis. Overuse has caused widespread antibiotic resistance, leading the World Health Organisation to declare we are "headed for a post-antibiotic era, in which common infections and minor injuries which have been treatable for decades can once again kill." Scientists from the University of Bern have developed a new non-antibiotic compound that treats severe bacterial infections and avoids the problem of bacterial resistance.

We have a lot to thank antibiotics for. Before the discovery of penicillin 90 years ago pneumonia, tuberculosis, or even an infected cut could be fatal. And today, many of our routine surgical procedures are dependent on the ability to fight infections with antibiotics.

However, up to half of antibiotic use in humans and much of antibiotic use in animals is unnecessary or inappropriate according to the Centers for Disease Control, and this overuse is the single most important factor leading to antibiotic resistance.

Although there have been many developments over the years, such as antibiotic "smart bombs", the difficulty has been eliminating bacteria without also promoting bacterial resistance. This has created a need to strive for non-antibiotic approaches, including "ninja polymers" and more natural treatments like raw honey and natural proteins.

This latest non-antibiotic compound developed by Eduard Babiychuk and Annette Draeger from the Institute of Anatomy, University of Bern, and tested by a team of international scientists, was created by engineering artificial nanoparticles made of lipids, "liposomes" that closely resemble the membrane of host cells.

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