What's the buzz

Fresh hope for migraine sufferers

A new study has suggested that Candesartan is just as effective as more the commonly prescribed propranolol when it comes to preventing migraine attacks.

The researchers also found that candesartan may work for patients who get no relief from propranolol.

Professor Lars Jacob Stovner, leader of Norwegian National Headache Centre, who also led the study, said that this gives doctors more possibilities.

Candesartan is already in use by several doctors as a migraine prophylactic, but the NTNU follow-up study, which confirms the study from a decade ago, provides the proof that the drug actually works.

More than 20 percent of migraine patients report that they feel better even when they are given a placebo. But blind tests show that candesartan works preventively for another 20 to 30 percent of patients. The hope is now that candesartan will be even more commonly prescribed.

The NTNU study was a triple blind test, which means that neither patients nor doctors nor those who analyzed the results knew whether the patients had been given placebo or real medicine, Stovner said.

Researchers tested both candesartan and propranolol. In all, 72 patients took part of the study this time, the same number as ten years ago. These patients were normally affected by migraine attacks at least twice every month.

The patients used each treatment (candesartan, propranolol or placebo) for 12 weeks, and also underwent four weeks before start and between the treatment periods without any medication at all. 

Protein breakthrough brings HIV vaccine closer to reality

A team of researchers has determined the structure of a key part of the HIV envelope protein, the gp41 membrane proximal external region (MPER), which previously eluded detailed structural description.

The research by scientists at Duke University will help focus HIV vaccine development efforts, which have tried for decades to slow the spread of the virus.

“One reason vaccine development is such a difficult problem is that HIV is exceptionally good at evading the immune system. The virus has all these devious strategies to hide from the immune system,” author Bruce Donald said.

One of those strategies is a dramatic structural transformation that the virus undergoes when it fuses to a host cell. The envelope protein complex is a structure that protrudes from HIV’s membrane and carries out the infection of healthy host cells.

Scientists have long targeted this complex for vaccine development, specifically its three copies of a protein called gp41 and closely associated partner protein gp120.

The authors said they think about a particular region of gp41, called MPER, as an Achilles' heel of vulnerability.

Leonard Spicer, senior author of the study said that the attractiveness of this region is that, it is relatively conserved and has two particular sequences of amino acids that code for the binding of important broadly neutralizing antibodies.

Soon, pill that could boost women’s sexual desire 

Scientists are now testing a drug that could boost women’s desire for sex and also help them lose weight.

The pill, which is being developed with the help of the people behind Viagra, could be on bedside cabinets by the end of next year, News.com.au reported.

With four in ten women saying that their sex life has lost its sizzle at some point, and Viagra already making over 2.5 billion dollars a year, drug companies have long tried to create a female version.

But the strong psychological base to women’s libido means they have struggled to find the right product.

Mike Wyllie, one of the team who created Viagra, believes the latest drug being developed by British firm ORLIBID could succeed where others have failed.

The drug, which acts on the brain to increase desire, is a synthetic version of melatonin, a hormone usually associated with tanning.

Melatonin also has a role to play in libido - and appetite. Drug companies have long known that melatonin affects sex drive, but have struggled to find a way to package it in a pill, not a jab.

The new tablet form is more convenient and has fewer side-effects. The pills could cause nausea, and regulators will have to be satisfied that they are not addictive.However, it is thought that women could actually need fewer pills as their treatment progresses.

The company plans to carry out three worldwide studies to measure the effects on women. If they show it to be safe and effective, the drug could be on sale in the UK by the end of 2015.

Taken 15 minutes before sex, the tablets could boost libido for more than two hours. Studies of a jab with a similar formula showed it led to satisfying sex more often.And while the pills are designed to increase sexual desire, they may also curb appetite.

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