What's the buzz

What's the buzz

Drug from tobacco plant to help fight HIV

Tobacco plants are being used to create a drug, which will help combat HIV.
UK regulators have approved the first clinical trial of specially designed antibodies that stop the virus passing from person to person.

At the University of Surrey Clinical Research Centre, eleven women will be treated with the topical treatment, which has been created from genetically modified tobacco plants.
It is believed that the antibodies will reduce the risk of treated women from catching the disease.

 “This is a red letter day for the field,” the Daily Mail quoted project researcher Professor Julian Ma, at St George’s, University of London, as saying. “The approval from the MHRA (Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency) for us to proceed with human trials is an acknowledgement that monoclonal antibodies can be made in plants to the same quality as those made using existing conventional production systems.

“That is something many people did not believe could be achieved,” he added.
The genetically modified tobacco plants producing antibody called P2G12 were grown in containment greenhouses at the Fraunhofer Institute in Aachen, Germany.

Metabolic syndrome increases risk of liver cancer

Metabolic syndrome, a condition associated with obesity and diabetes, significantly increases risk of developing two forms of primary liver cancer, according to a new study.
Major risk factors for hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), the most common type of liver cancer, are chronic infection with hepatitis B and C viruses and excessive alcohol consumption.

Intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma (ICC), the second most common type of liver cancer, is associated with primary sclerosing cholangitis and inflammatory bowel disease.
However, the cause of up to half of HCC and ICC remains unknown.

Metabolic syndrome comprises a group of medical conditions, which include central obesity, raised fasting glucose levels and diabetes mellitus, raised triglycerides, reduced HDL cholesterol, and hypertension.

For the present study, lead researcher Tania Welzel of  National Cancer Institute and Klinikum der JW examined the association between metabolic syndrome and development of primary liver cancers . Using the SEER-Medicare database, researchers identified individuals diagnosed with HCC or ICC between 1993 and 2005.

A 5 percent sample of individuals residing in geographic regions similar to SEER registries was selected for comparison purposes. A total of 3649 HCC cases, 743 ICC cases, and 195953 individuals without cancer were identified and met study inclusion criteria.
Analyses showed metabolic syndrome was significantly associated with increased risk of HCC  and ICC.

“Our findings show a 2-fold increased risk for HCC and a 1.56-fold increased risk for ICC in those individuals with pre-existing metabolic syndrome,” said Dr. Welzel.

The researchers said that metabolic syndrome may be the source behind a number of the idiopathic HCC or ICC cases and efforts to control the worldwide epidemics of obesity and diabetes could reduce the liver cancer burden.

Quick, accurate test to diagnose viral infections

Researchers at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev have developed a new test that can distinguish between bacterial and viral infections in as little as five hours, thereby reducing the frequency of unnecessarily prescribed antibiotics.

Currently tests take 24 to 48 hours and are not always accurate enough for a clear-cut diagnosis. Doctors often prescribe antibiotics to provide patient relief before the test comes back, without waiting for the results.

Now, the BGU group has shown it is possible to distinguish a patient’s infection as either viral or bacterial by adding luminol to a blood sample and measuring the glow. Luminol is a luminescent chemical substance used in crime scenes to locate traces of blood.

Their study clearly indicated that white blood cells that protect the body (phagocytes) react differently to viral and bacterial infections and that the glow or “chemiluminescence” (CL) can detect those distinct reactions.

“The method is timesaving, easy to perform and can be commercially available, thus, having predictive diagnostic value and could be implemented in various medical institutions,” the researchers said.  The study has been published in the Journal of Analytical Chemistry.

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