Nanotechnology in Medicine
Most everybody knows about a litmus test, strips of paper impregnated with dyes that turn red in the presence of acid and blue if there is a base (alkaline). It’s a kind of chemical sensor. There are many kinds of chemicals that can similarly act like a sensor, detecting the presence of other chemicals.
Some of them would work in the human body, detecting glucose (blood sugar) for example, but the problem has always been using them in a way that is effective to read but not harmful. In short, most biochemical sensors have a delivery problem.
Part of the nanotechnology revolution was the development of nanoparticles, small shapes mostly of carbon that are no more than 1/100,000th of the thickness of human hair, i.e. about 1 nanometer in size. Carbon nanotubes are the most common type of nanoparticle, and as the word “tube” indicates, these are incredibly tiny rods with hollow centers.
Using Nanotubes as a Biomarker
It occurred very early on to researchers that it might be possible to put something in the tubes – medicine, for example – and use the tubes to deliver the medicine to very small, very targeted locations in the body. Continue Reading
Clinical Trial Research on Links Between Inflammation and Autism
Inflammations, such as a fever or the reddish hot area around an infection, are normal responses of the immune system. In fact, inflammation is such a common defense mechanism that some of its effects sort of slipped off the research radar.
Until recently (the last five years or less), this was the case for researching links between inflammation and autism (or more accurately, autism spectrum disorder). These days the inflammation-autism link is a busy area, including some research that may seem ‘far out’ until you look at the details. One such research track uses worms, whipworms (Trichuris suis ova) to be exact.
Using Whipworms to Research Autism
Obviously, question #1 is, “What do whipworms have to do with autism?!” Like so many things in science, the answer isn’t about surface appearances but about something the worms do in the human body. They suppress the immune system, specifically the inflammatory response. Continue Reading
Clinical Trial Tests Stelara for Psoriatic Arthritis Relief
Two recent Phase III clinical trials, sponsored by Janssen Biotech, Inc. demonstrated that the drug Stelara (ustekinumab) is able to partially block joint damage and relieve symptoms caused by psoriatic arthritis for up to two years.
What is Psoriasis and Psoriatic Arthritis?
As the name indicates, psoriatic arthritis, there is a link to psoriasis. About 15% of people who have psoriasis, a disease that causes the immune system to attack the skin, will develop psoriatic arthritis. The condition can be very serious, leading to permanent damage of joints such as knees and knuckles.
At best, psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis are debilitating and painful (like the rheumatoid arthritis, which is treated with methotrexate for RA). For mild cases, treatment has often consisted of taking NSAIDS (ibuprofen, naproxen), but the trend is to use antirheumatic drugs at an earlier stage. Continue Reading
What is an Emotional Support Animal?
Animal assisted therapy has shown benefits for cancer patients and those with mental health conditions.
How’s your ESA doing? It’s a good bet you didn’t know your family’s pet(s) could also be “Emotional Support Animals.”
Here’s another related acronym, “animal assisted therapy (AAT).” This is a growing field of research and practice in the use of animals for psychological therapy.
It’s not difficult to understand the underlying beliefs about how animals can have a healthy effect on the human psyche – just hold a warm, fuzzy and purring kitten for a while.
However, when it comes to psychology, medicine, and the benefits for people with mental illness, animal assisted therapy can be more fuzzy than warm.
The Benefits of Animal Assisted Therapy
While human beings have known for centuries that relationships with animals could be beneficial, there’s a really big step from the benefits of a pet and the use of an animal to treat a serious mental condition such as PTSD, depression or autism. Continue Reading
Experts warn there will soon come a day when gonorrhea will become resistant to the drugs that treat it, and no drug will work against it.
Gonorrhea, which has effective drugs to treat it, will become resistant to those drugs and there will be no drug left. This has not officially happened yet, but all the experts say the same thing – it will.
Case in point, several months ago the U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC) warned that gonorrhea was becoming untreatable. Only two drugs commonly used against it remained effective. Now there is only one.
In a bulletin published August 9, 2012, the CDC reported that based on data collected by the national Gonococcal Isolate Surveillance Project, it no longer recommends the oral drug cephalosporin cefixime as a first-line treatment for gonorrhea infections. In short, enough cases were reported that this drug was no longer effective for the CDC to pull its recommendation. That leaves only one available drug, ceftriaxone.
So what’s going on here and what does it mean? Well, start with the fact that gonorrhea is the second most common sexually transmitted diseases affecting 62 million people each year (about 750,000 in the United States). Continue Reading
One of the most promising approaches to treat breast cancer is to target the tumor cells directly, through the use of T-DM1. This targeted therapy has two related advantages – it focuses the treatment on the cancer itself, and it reduces the side effects caused by collateral damage from the treatment.
As a prime example of how this can work are the results of a recently completed Phase III trial of the drug T-DM1.
It’s a combination of the targeted drug trastuzumab (the “T” in T-DM1), better known by the brand name Herceptin, and a very powerful chemotherapy drug called emtansine (the “DM1″ part). The drug is designed to work when Herceptin alone no longer can keep the cancer in check.
Nearly 1,000 people with advanced breast cancer were involved in the three-year trial. All of them were diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer distinguished by elevated levels of a specific protein, the human epidermal growth factor – 2 (HER-2). This protein promotes the growth of cancer cells and is found in about 20 percent of invasive breast cancers.
The drug T-DM1 (Herceptin + Emtansine) relies on the effect of trastuzumab, an antibody (immune system protein) that binds to the HER-2 protein and interferes with its ability to spur cancer cell growth. Trastuzumab is commonly prescribed as an added treatment with chemotherapy. Continue Reading
Monitoring of your medicine intake will soon be easier if the FDA approves the new ePill, or edible sensor, from Proteus Digital Health.
The title of this article is not misleading or even exaggerated. Described technically, this is about an ingestible sensor that transmits information from a stomach to a phone app. That’s right, you eat the sensors, which are about the size of a grain of sand, and they communicate to a device worn on the belly, which communicates to a telephone.
The manufacturer of these Edible Sensors, Proteus Digital Health, Inc. sought and received U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval for their new technology. Here’s how it works:
The tiny sensor devices are typically embedded in a pill. Once the pill reaches the stomach, the covering dissolves and releases the sensors. The acid found in the stomach powers the Edible Sensors when it converts chemically to energy.
This is very much like the ‘potato battery’ you might have seen in a science class, where a couple of needles stuck in a wet potato can power a light bulb. In this case, the Edible Sensors are coated with a layer of magnesium and a layer of copper, which when exposed to the liquid in the stomach, produce electricity. Continue Reading
The increased popularity of gluten free diets begs the question: Is it due to an increase in celiac disease or the latest diet fad?
Americans are known for fads. From hoola-hoops to the diet plan of the week, the country has an appetite for novelty. There is also the powerful and pervasive force of advertising that pushes candidates for popularity. It’s no wonder that sometimes it’s difficult to tell the difference between a real medical issue and a fad; case in point, the gluten free diet.
Gluten is a protein composite of gliadin and glutelin produced naturally in grains including wheat, barley, and rye. For centuries, gluten has been part of the human diet through cereals or baked goods made from these grains. A few people have an allergic sensitivity to wheat, and for them avoiding baked goods and other grain-derived products require the same kind of vigilance as people with other serious allergic reactions.
Then there is celiac disease, where people suffer from chronic diarrhea and fatigue. It’s a disease with a genetic predisposition and is triggered by a reaction to the gliadin protein in gluten. Celiac disease is an autoimmune reaction, where components in gliadin (peptides) put the immune system into action.
That causes inflammation, especially in the small intestine, which can be at a very low level for a long time as it slowly affects the ability to absorb nutrients.
It’s not fully known how widespread celiac disease may be. For example, estimates for the United States range between a few hundred thousand to over two million. Because it is often chronic, low level, and has many symptoms in common with other digestive illnesses, celiac disease does not diagnose easily. Continue Reading
Weight loss drugs Qsymia and Belviq give hope to obese patients, but questions of their effectiveness compared to diet and exercise remain.
It’s not that diet pills are a dime a dozen, although a few are close; but there are many, many of them. Few of them are actually effective, or to put it another way, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approves very few of them.
In fact, the FDA has approved no new weight loss drugs in thirteen years. Now in short order, it has approved two drugs, Qsymia (Vivus Pharmaceutical) and Belviq (Arena Pharmaceuticals).
There are important differences and similarities between the two drugs. The FDA considers both of them ‘controlled substances,’ meaning they are sold under restrictions and controls similar to narcotics. They are also drugs that work by affecting the chemistry of the brain.
Qsymia is a combination of two relatively common and FDA approved drugs, phentermine and topiramate. Phentermine, an appetite suppressant, was part of the notorious diet drug fen-phen (fenfluramine phentermine).
The ‘fen’ part turned out to cause fatal lung and heart valve problems, which caused the widely sold drug from the market. Phentermine, the safe part of fen-phen, works by triggering the brain to release norepinephrine, which in turn increases output of the hormone leptin, an appetite regulator. Continue Reading
Results of a recent TB clinical study suggests a faster, more effective drug treatment for tuberculosis is very close to realization.
A Phase II clinical trial study, published in the UK journal The Lancet, and conducted in South Africa, demonstrated an effective new combination of drugs that killed more than 99 percent of the patient’s tuberculosis bacteria within two weeks. The speed and effectiveness suggest the new regimen could improve upon existing TB treatments for not only general TB, but also drug resistant and TB/HIV co-infected patients.
Historically tuberculosis (often shortened to TB for tubercle bacillus) was a major killer that, while never eradicated, by the 1950’s seemed to be less of a health threat. Modern antibiotic TB treatments and health practices generally reduced the incidence of tuberculosis to the status of a minor disease.
That changed during the 1980s, as strains of TB appeared that were resistant to traditional antibiotics. By the 1990s, the World Health Organization again labeled TB a global health emergency. Continue Reading
The American Cancer Society estimates that 22,280 women in the US will be diagnosed with Ovarian Cancer, and 15,500 of those cases will be fatal. To raise awareness of ovarian cancer, we interviewed Dee, author of the blog Women of Teal. She is an ovarian cancer survivor, fighter, and advocate. She kindly shared her story and clinical trial experiences with JCT.
I am a wife and mother. After working as an engineer, college program coordinator, and computer teacher I did not think the focus of my life would change yet again. But in 2005, after being diagnosed with Ovarian Cancer I became a cancer survivor and research advocate.
I attended the Lance Armstrong Foundation’s Survivor Summits, became a member of my state’s Cancer Control Plan workgroup and joined a number of ovarian cancer advocacy organizations, serving on the Board of the Kaleidoscope of Hope Foundation for three years. In 2007, I began writing my blog, Women of Teal, in order to share what I have learned on this journey with others and to raise awareness of the disease, its treatments and the need for more research.
1. Would you please share with our readers how you were first diagnosed with ovarian cancer, and at what stage it was at?
I visited The Center for Cosmetic & Reconstructive Gynecology, my gynecologist for my annual exam and mentioned to her an odd pain I was having on my left side. I thought I might have just pulled a muscle. She thought we should investigate further and sent me for a transvaginal ultrasound.
The day after I had the ultrasound I was in the ER in terrible pain. The ER physician contacted the radiologist and my gynecologist, and I was scheduled the next day for an MRI. Continue Reading
Stress illness, otherwise known as Psychophysiologic Disorder or PPD, may not be a household word, but the conditions that result from it are all too common. We feature a leading expert in the field of PPD, Dr. David D. Clarke, in our JCT interview series. He was kind enough to shed some light on what PPD is and how it affects an estimated five to ten million people in the United States.
Dr. Clarke is the President of the Psychophysiologic Disorders Association (PPDA) in the U.S., and his biography and stellar qualifications follow the interview.
Dr. Clarke, could you please define the term “Stress Illness?”
The term “stress illness” describes an illness that is not linked to any disease of an organ or structure in the body, but one that diagnostic tests can’t explain. Often, people have physical symptoms that cause them discomfort or pain, but tests run by their doctor don’t show a cause for the symptoms.
Most of these patients are actually suffering from symptoms and illness caused by stress, which can be unrecognized or not readily apparent, hence the term “stress illness”, otherwise known as PPD.
How does it differ from the regular stress we experience every day?
Everyone experiences stress, but there are two main differences between regular stress and stress illness. The first is the degree and high level of stress which is producing physical symptoms such as stomach upset, headaches, and body pain on a regular basis. The second is that the person is not aware of the magnitude of the stress they are coping with because they have been living with it consistently. Continue Reading