In the news this month:
News in profile: The GOOD news from 2020
– A range of medical breakthroughs that you may have missed last year
– ‘Pandemic’ is the word of the year
Medical research news
– A new class of antibiotics may have been discovered
– Great deals for the new year
– Introducing our new COVID-19 Test and Related Products shop
News in profile
The good medical news that you may have missed in 2020!
2020 was a bleak year from a health perspective with all sorts of medical news overshadowed by the pandemic.
To try and take a more positive perspective, The Daily Mail has produced an overview of the medical breakthroughs which happened during the year and which we may have all missed amidst the negative news stories.
Here are some of the positive developments from 2020:
Treatment for Achondroplasia
A treatment has been developed for Achondroplasia (a condition which is also known as dwarfism). A new drug called vosortid blocks signals from a faulty gene, to allow for normal bone growth. This means that children with this condition can avoid the serious and frequent surgeries which are needed to help promote movement throughout their lives.
Scientists now understand that many diseases are caused by genetic abnormalities, so finding a way to map and understand our genome is vitally important for medical science.
Until now, children have not been screened for genetic abnormalities at birth, meaning that conditions can go undiagnosed for some time. Scientists have now developed a DNA test which can potentially be given to all babies to help identify and treat genetic conditions, particularly rare ones, earlier in life.
A natural hormone called calcitonin exists in the upper chambers of the heart. Scientists have discovered that individuals who suffer from a condition called atrial fibrillation (which can lead to heart attack and stroke) have less of this hormone present in their hearts.
People with atrial fibrillation have scarring in their cardiac tissue which affects signalling and can cause an erratic heartbeat leading to blood clots and stroke.
It is believed that treating the heart with added calcitonin could prevent the damage from occurring. The next step will be to identify the best way to top-up the hormone.
Risk of dementia from head injury
A serious blow or injury to the head at any point in life can increase the risk of developing dementia.
The UK Dementia Research Institute has used a new technique called ‘diffusion tensor imaging’ on a high tech MRI machine to understand how brains are damaged by injury, years before any symptoms may emerge.
Rapid treatment after injury can help to prevent further damage rather than waiting for problems to emerge years later.
Deepmind is a UK based Artificial Intelligence company owned by Google. The company has managed to solve what is known in medical science as the ‘protein folding problem’ with a program called Alphafold.
Proteins are present throughout the body and have many functions. They all fold up on a specific way which is vital to help them do their jobs. Mis-folding proteins cause a variety of medical conditions and diseases including Alzheimer’s and some cancers.
Alphafold has been designed to analyse two thirds of proteins to see how folding can go wrong. This will allow scientists to develop treatments and drugs which can address the mis-folding and prevent the resulting medical problems.
This is a truly revolutionary discovery which could lead to major medical developments over the next ten years.
A blood test which can spot cancer
A group of scientists from the US and China (led by Professor Kun Zhang from the University of California) has developed a blood test called PanSeer which can screen blood for the DNA which indicates a developing cancer, years before the disease emerges. This type of test is called a liquid biopsy.
During the testing of the blood a computer algorithm is used to determine whether the DNA has potentially come from a tumour. A trial involving 600 people was carried out in China and identified some who went on to develop cancer.
The test will initially be used for people with specific cancer risk factors but it is hoped that over time it can be developed into a standard health test which everyone can have.
Swab to help premature babies
Premature babies can face a range of health challenges so avoiding premature births is important.
Doctors have developed a simple swab test which can identify those women most likely to experience premature labour. The swab measures a protein called foetal fibronectin which acts like a glue to stick the foetal sac to the lining of the womb. When labour is about to occur large amounts of the protein are released into the birth canal.
The research was carried out by Tommy’s London Research Centre at Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospital. Scientists discovered this when researching twins – who are often delivered early.
Identifying raised levels of the protein can allow medics to prepare the baby for delivery with steroids and other treatments, or prevent early labour if possible.
Bowel cancer survival rates
And finally…. Two new drugs; Encorafenib and Cetuximab have been approved for use by patients with a specific form of bowel cancer with the genetic mutation BRAF.
Bowel cancer is Britain’s second most deadly cancer. Previously it was a disease which mainly affected older people but increasingly younger people are developing it. BRAF is a particularly aggressive form of the disease and although the drugs do not cure the cancer they have been found to nearly double survival time – meaning that people can manage the disease – sometimes for years.
‘Pandemic’ is the word of the year
No one was anticipating the unprecedented events of 2020 and many of the words related to COVID-19 have now entered common usage in a way that we would never have imagined.
Dictionary.com has recently announced that its word of the year was:
Searches for this word spiked by 13,500% on 11th March when the World Health Organisation (WHO) announced the pandemic. And month on month it was 100% higher than it had been in the past.
The definition of the word is:
” A disease prevalent throughout an entire country, continent, or the whole world; epidemic over a large area.”
The origins of ‘pandemic’ come from both Greek and Latin. In Greek ‘pandemos’ means common or public and the Latin ‘demos’ means people.
Let’s hope that this year’s word will turn out to be something completely different!
Medical Research News
Scientists have discovered a new type of antibiotic
Scientists have discovered a new class of antibiotics which may help to solve the problem of antibiotic resistant infections. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has listed antimicrobial resistance as one of the top ten threats to human health worldwide. The list of dangerous bacteria continues to grow and it is believed this could cost 10 million lives per year by 2050.
The antibiotics that we use at the moment attack a range of different bacterial elements such as the cell membrane or metabolic pathways but some bacteria have mutated to prevent this, making them difficult to manage.
A recent research project to look at alternatives was carried out by a team from the Vaccine & Immunotherapy Center of the Wistar Institute and the Wistar Institute Cancer Center.
The researchers wanted to look at ways to use the human immune system to help attack bacteria and they focused on targeting an enzyme called IspHa. This can be found in a metabolic pathway which is absent in humans but which is vital for cell survival in pathogenic bacteria. The objective was to find a way to allow molecules to attack and penetrate inside the bacteria which they did with success. The team showed that the IspHa inhibitors were able to stimulate the immune system even more effectively than current antibiotics when tested in preclinical trials. The process was also found to have no negative effect on human cells.
The research is a long way from creating an actual medicine but it very promising for the future development of treatments to manage antibiotic resistant bacteria.
Great deals for the new year
Have you seen our recent blog on the great deals that we have available in our online shop to celebrate the new year?
We love to provide our customers with the very best value, so take a look at some of our discounts which are all in the blog.
Products on offer include a range of useful hand and surface wipes so now is a great time to stock up!
*NEW* COVID 19 Shop
We are delighted to offer a comprehensive range of products to help people deal with the daily challenges of the pandemic including wipes, masks and gels.
We have now gathered all of these products together in our COVID 19 Test and Related Products shop for easy online purchase.
Need more information?
Please get in touch with us if you have any questions about our product or stock.