What's the buzz

What's the buzz

Botox can alleviate severe spinal headache

Botox could be instrumental in relieving terrible spinal headaches. According to the study conducted at Mayo Clinic, Botox can be used in pain management in patients suffering from incapacitating spinal headaches caused by low levels of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF).

The successful treatment also offers new insight into Botox and headache treatment generally. Remarkably, the only known way to alleviate pain, until the discovery of analgesic properties of Botox, was to lie down. Low CSF pressure headaches are caused by an internal spinal fluid leak.

The headaches are most commonly triggered by a lumbar puncture through which the CSF leaks out causing the brain to sag.

Conventional treatment is known as blood patch, which includes injecting a patch of the patient’s blood over the puncture hole.

Before she sought help five years ago from Michael Cutrer, and Paul Mathew, neurologists at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, the patient in the case study had suffered from low CSF pressure headaches for 25 years. For most of that time she only felt better while lying down, resulting in curtailment of her day-to-day activities. The patient has received Botox for three years and the results have been consistently positive.

New drug hailed as milestone in treating skin cancer

A breakthrough cancer drug has been given the go-ahead to treat late-stage melanoma.

The injectable drug Yervoy hailed as the first to prolong the lives of patients with melanoma as been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration.

The drug, known chemically as ipilimumab, only worked in a small proportion of patients studied, and on average they lived just four months longer than patients given older medications. But experts say it’s milestone in treating the deadliest form of skin cancer.

Ipilimumab is part of a group of targeted cancer medicines that harness the body’s immune system, instead of attacking the disease with outside chemicals like chemotherapy. The drug works by blocking a molecule linked to melanoma called CTLA-4, which interferes with the protective activity of white blood cells.

When the molecule is blocked, the cells behave normally and help fight off cancer.

Repeated exposure to pain relief puffer may damage liver

Repeated exposure to a widely-used anaesthetic may cause liver disease. The anaesthetic, methoxyflurane, is used for rapid short-term pain relief during brief, painful procedures, and is administered via single-dose puffers.

Formerly used as a general anaesthetic, this is no longer the case because of its toxic effects on the liver, said Kacey O’Rourke, a treating medical registrar at Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital.

Doctors are reconsidering the use of the drug after a 33-year-old woman developed acute hepatitis four weeks after beginning a series of treatments for varicose veins.
The woman was given the anaesthetic via an inhaler during three vein treatments.
“It seems the exposure to methoxyflurane in our patient was the likely cause of acute hepatitis, and it may be that repeated exposure was a contributing factor,” said O’Rourke.

“This observation has implications for the way methoxyflurane is prescribed, including its use for procedural analgesia in cases in which several procedures (and hence, repeated dosing) are required,” he added.

Invisible infrared light could soon activate heart, ear cells

University of Utah scientists may someday improve cochlear implants for the deaf and lead to devices to restore vision, maintain balance and treat movement disorders like Parkinson’s.

The scientists used invisible infrared light to make rat heart cells contract and toadfish inner-ear cells send signals to the brain. Infrared light can be felt as heat, raising the possibility the heart and ear cells were activated by heat rather than the infrared radiation itself.

Richard Rabbitt, a professor of bioengineering and senior author of the heart-cell and inner-ear-cell studies and colleagues exposed the cells to infrared light in the laboratory. The low-power infrared light pulses in the study were generated by a diode — “the same thing that’s in a laser pointer, just a different wavelength”, said Rabbitt.

The heart cells in the study were newborn rat heart muscle cells called cardiomyocytes, which make the heart pump. The inner-ear cells are hair cells, and came from the inner-ear organ that senses motion of the head. The hair cells came from oyster toadfish, which are well-establish models for comparison with human inner ears and the sense of balance.

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