Stem Cell and Fertility Research

According to a British newspaper researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, USA and Saitama Medical University, Japan have carried out research looking for the existence of ‘oogenial stem cells’ (OSCs) with exciting results. These are specialised cells that scientists thought might develop into ‘oocytes’, which can, in turn, develop into mature eggs or ‘ova’. This discovery of stem cells in human ovaries means that it may be possible to produce an unlimited supply of eggs.

The discovery of human OSCs raises questions about whether new fertility treatments could be developed using their unique properties. However  the research is at such an early stage that we are currently unable to understand if it can be safely used to help patients. It should also be noted that there are many reasons why both men and women may experience fertility problems and even if the findings from this study could one day be put into clinical use, it is unclear how many infertile couples would benefit.

Heroine Vaccine Almost There?

Researchers at the Mexican National Institute of Psychiatry say they have successfully tested a vaccine to reduce the lethal drug addiction on mice and are preparing to test it on humans.
The vaccine, which has been patented in the US, makes the body resistant to the effects of heroin, so users would no longer get a rush of pleasure when they smoked or injected it.
Institute's director Maria Elena Medina said, "It would be a vaccine for people who are serious addicts, who have not had success with other treatments and decide to use this application to get away from drugs."
Mice were given access to deposits of heroin over an extended period of time. Those given the vaccine showed a huge drop in heroin consumption, giving the institute hope that it could also work on people.

Government Accused of Stalling Life Saving Cancer Drugs

National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice), which assesses the cost-effectiveness of new treatments has been accused of stalling the introduction of new cancer drugs in order to save money.

Prof Jonathan Waxman, of Imperial College London, who founded the Prostate Cancer Charity said, "In my view, Nice has over-regulated and proscribed drugs that offer real advances to people with cancer. In my particular area of specialisation, which is prostate cancer, we have had two new drugs become available over the last year and a half which offer real benefits for patients. I would argue that they have been disallowed – banned – by Nice on the basis of an assessment which is not a true financial costing of the worth of the drugs. We are going to have a situation in the UK where drugs are not available for our patients. It is a disaster. Someone just needs to sort this out."

A Department of Health spokesman said: "The government has increased spending on health, which includes new drugs, and thousands more patients are getting access to the most advanced treatments. The government has not changed any assessment processes relating to cancer drugs. Furthermore, drug companies need to look hard at the high costs they are asking of the health service for their latest treatments."

Prostate Cancer Charity

Drug Combo To Fight Pancreatic Cancer

According to the BBC News researchers from the Cancer Research Institute in Cambridge have created a drug combination to fight pancreatic cancer.An existing chemotherapy drug called gemcitabine has been combined with an experimental chemical called MRK003 and is thought to be able to block the actions of a protein called ‘gamma secretase’ that plays a range of roles in the body. To test the effectof this combination they gave the mixture to mice genetically engineered to develop pancreatic cancer. They found that that the mice survived 26 days with the combination treatment, compared with just nine when given an inactive dummy drug.

Following the success of the animal trials, Cancer Research UK reports that a human trial of gemcitabine combined with another gamma secretase blocker are now underway.
Pancreatic cancer is the fifth most common cause of cancer death in the UK, and patients with metastatic disease (where the cancer has spread) survive between two and six months on average.

Dame Judi Dench In Battle To Save Eyesight

The actress spoke candidly about her condition which is a disease of the retina that causes a progressive loss of eyesight, and said she can no longer see faces in front of her. Macular degeneration causes a progressive loss of eyesight.
She said, "I can't read scripts any more before because of the trouble with my eyes and so somebody comes and reads them to me, like telling me a story."
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of sight loss in the western world. The result is the loss of the centre of the visual field due to damage to a part of the retina called the macular, most commonly affects people over 50 and affects almost 240,000 people in the UK.
The disease can take two forms, either "dry", the most common kind which affects the eyes gradually, or "wet", which comes on quickly.
But she said she was determined not to let the condition beat her.
She added: "You get used to it. I've got lenses and glasses and things and very bright light helps. I can do a crossword if it's bright sunshine, but if a cloud comes out the next minute I can't see anything."

New Nasal Spray To Combat Norovirus

Researchers are predicting that within 5 years the spray which contains dummy virus cells grown in tobacco plants will be available to the public. The spray could offer protection from the winter vomiting bug for between six months and two years.
The bug is highly contagious and is most potent at this time of year, causing diarrhoea, vomiting and flu-like symptoms which last for two to three days.

Due to the transmissible nature of the virus (from person to person), it is especially rife in hospitals and care homes as well as other crowded settings like schools, army barracks and cruise ships.
Although not normally dangerous, the condition can be deadly to very young and elderly patients

111 NHS Helpline Raises Misgivings

Last October the Government announced the launch of the free 111 number. This would make the NHS a 24/7 service and allow patients full time access.
The telephone help line is intended to be a single point of contact for non-emergency care outside normal surgery hours, and also enabling people to book appointments with GPs. It is hoped that the new service will reduce the instances of patients waiting for doctors to call them back and wasted trips to A&E. 
The timeline for the national roll out is set for 2013. This has led the BMA to raise serious misgivings about the time frame stating that trials already in existence around the country are  experiencing significant issues. Due to this they are asking for a slow down of the roll out, giving the necessary time to assess the service and tackle problems in a timely and professional manner.

Dr Laurence Buckman, chairman of the BMA's GP committee said: "If there isn’t a pause then the Government could end up implementing something which doesn’t work to the benefit of all patients, which could unnecessarily overburden the ambulance service and GP surgeries, reduce the quality of existing out-of-hours services and ultimately cost the taxpayer a lot of money."
Last month nine serious incidents took place at the pilots, including patients being told to contact their GP despite the need for "a higher level of care".
Anne Milton, the Public Health Minister, responded to the letter by saying: "The BMA supports the principles of the NHS 111 service - it will benefit patients by improving access to NHS services and ensuring they get the right care at the right time.
"We will consider the BMA's concerns. We agree that any long-term decision should be made with full approval from local commissioning groups. They should be fully engaged with the approach to delivering NHS 111."

Researchers Find Protein To Combat HIV

A study carried out by global scientists has shown that some body cells are able to repel attacks from HIV by starving the virus of DNA. The researchers found that a protein called SMADH1 was able to help certain immune system cells resist the HIV virus by breaking up the building blocks of DNA, called dNTPs. The HIV virus spreads by initially constructing DNA segments from dNTPs. This DNA is then inserted into our normal DNA sequence, tricking the body into making HIV particles and spreading the infection.
The SAMHD1 protein appears to restrict HIV infection by reducing levels of dNTPs needed for it to initially make DNA segments. 

 However, HIV targets a type of immune cell called a ‘T cell’ that has low levels of SAMHD1 and high levels of dNTPs. Also there are complications regarding the ability to translate this finding into a therapy as many cells, including T cells, are continually dividing and therefore need dNTPs to replicate their own genetic material.

So it remains to be seen whether this useful insight can be harnessed without having a negative outcome on the vital processes of the body.

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Human Brain Cells Grown in Lab

Scientists at the University of Cambridge have for the first time generated crucial types of human brain cells in the laboratory by reprogramming skin cells. Inevitably this could speed up the hunt for new treatments for conditions such as Alzheimer's disease, epilepsy and stroke.

Until now it has only been possible to generate tissue from the cerebral cortex.This is the area of the brain where most major neurological diseases occur, by using controversial embryonic stem cells, obtained by the destruction of an embryo.

Initially brain cells grown in this way could be used to help researchers gain a better understanding of how the brain develops, what happens when it is affected by disease and it could also be used for screening new drug treatments.Eventually they hope the cells could also be used to provide healthy tissue that can be implanted into patients to treat neurodegenerative diseases and brain damage.

Dr Rick Livesey, who led the research at the University of Cambridge's Gurdon [corr] Institute, said: "The cerebral cortex makes up 75% of the human brain, is where all the important processes that make us human take place. It is, however, also the major place where disease can occur.
"We have been able to take reprogrammed skin cells so they develop into brain stem cells and then essentially replay brain development in the laboratory.
"We can study brain development and what goes wrong when it is affected by disease in a way we haven't been able to before. We see it as a major breakthrough in what will now be possible."

BMA's Proposal To Meet Chronic Shortage Of Organ Donors

A new report from the BMA shows how they intend to tackle the chronic shortage of organ donors. It states that patients could be kept alive solely so they can become organ donors, hearts could be retrieved from newborn babies for the first time, and body parts could be taken from high-risk donors.

It is reported that almost 1,000 people are dying from the lack of suitable organ donors.

The BMA wants a debate regarding the use of an ethically questionable practice called "elective ventilation", in which patients diagnosed as dead using brain stem tests are kept alive purely to enable organ retrieval.

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DVT Research New Findings

The American College of Chest Physicians (ACCP) have published advise in the medical journal CHEST detailing risk factors for DVT and measures to diagnose and prevent DVT.

They researched a range of risk factors for the development of DVT in long-distance travellers. These included the use of oral contraceptives, sitting in a window seat, advanced age, dehydration, alcohol intake, pregnancy and sitting in an economy seat compared to business class.
The reviewers conclude that developing DVT or pulmonary embolism from a long-distance flight is generally unlikely, but that the following factors increased people’s risk:
previous DVT or pulmonary embolism or known ‘thrombophilic disorder’
recent surgery or trauma
advanced age
oestrogen use, including oral contraceptives
sitting in a window seat
They conclude that long-distance travellers sitting in a window seat tend to have limited mobility, which is responsible for their increased risk of DVT.

3D Printer Jaw Created

Using leading laser manufacturing techniques, doctors and metal experts were able to build up layers of titanium to form a custom jawbone implant for an 83-year-old woman. This has been labelled the world’s first “3D printer-created jaw”. The metal jawbone was then inserted into her lower jaw, replacing a large section of bone that was destroyed by a chronic infection.

This process is still in its infancy but allows scientists the scope to devise ways to produce whole organs, which are either “printed” by sandwiching layer after layer of living cells on top of each other or created by building scaffolds for cells to grow on.

3D printing involves using computers to knit together layers or particles of materials to form a new 3D structure. This process is called “selective laser melting”. During the process, heat-producing lasers are focussed on a bed of metal powder so that particles are precision-fused to form a 3D structure