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Vitamin D decreases lung disease flare-ups

Vitamin D supplements can reduce lung disease flare-ups by over 40 per cent in patients with a vitamin D deficiency, show a clinical trial by the Queen Mary University of London.
Flare-ups are when a COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) patient’s usual symptoms (coughing, excess mucus, shortness of breath, tightness in chest) get worse and stay worse, sometimes resulting in hospitalisation.

“Our research has shown how an inexpensive vitamin supplement can significantly reduce the risk of flare-ups for patients who are vitamin D deficient, which could have a major public health benefit,” said lead author Adrian Martineau, professor at the University. This is the first clinical trial to investigate the impact of vitamin D supplementation on severity and duration of COPD symptoms.

The trial included 240 patients with COPD in and around London. Half of the patients received vitamin D supplements and the other half received an equivalent placebo.
Patients with a vitamin D deficiency benefited dramatically from taking the supplements but the striking reduction in flare-ups was not seen among patients who had a higher vitamin D status at the start of the trial. However, researchers did find vitamin D supplementation modestly reduced the severity and duration of flare-up symptoms in all patients in the vitamin D group.

Drug to help reduce harmful side-effects of ‘binge drinking’

Scientists have recently developed a compound that can help reduce harmful side-effects of ‘binge drinking,’ which may also pave way to treat Alzheimer’s and other neurological diseases that can damage the brain.

The key to the breakthrough was a compound developed by Professor Mike Page and colleagues at the University of Huddersfield which has been named ethane-beta-sultam.

This is a taurine ‘pro-drug,’ an effective form of medication that easily enters the blood stream before it has been processed by the body into its active form.  It is difficult for drugs to get into the brain because of the ‘blood-brain barrier’, the natural defence mechanism that protects the brain, but which also presents a formidable obstacle to the medicinal treatment of neurological illness.

The brain scientists based at universities in Louvain in Belgium, Florence in Italy and Huddersfield and London in the UK, have discovered that when ethane-beta-sultam is administered to rats on a ‘binge drinking’ regime, it reduces the brain cell loss and inflammation that normally result from bouts of  heavy binge drinking, leading to symptoms such as decreased memory.  

These effects can cause long-term damage, particularly to teenagers, whose brains are still in the process of development. Many issues surround the prospect of a drug that masks the effects of binge drinking.

Page said that if people accept that alcohol abuse was going to continue, then it might be sensible for society to try and treat it in some way.

Chinese medicinal plant likely to treat obesity, diabetes

A component of a flowering plant used in traditional Chinese medicine thwarts the development of obesity, type 2 diabetes and hepatic steatosis, a new study has informed.

According to the study, a component found in the plant, Glycyrrhiza uralensis, may inhibit the development of metabolic disorders by stopping the activation of NLRP3, a protein involved in the disease process. The researchers identified isoliquiritigenin as having the ability to attenuate high-fat, diet-induced obesity, type 2 diabetes and hepatic steatosis in mice.

Kiyoshi Takatsu, a researcher at the Department of Immunobiology and Pharmacological Genetics in the University of Toyama, Japan, said that identification of small compounds that inhibit the NLRP3 inflammasome is required to design effective therapeutics and develop new herbal medication for those diseases.

Scientists stimulated mouse macrophages with different inflammasome activators in the presence of isoliquiritigenin, before activating NLRP3 inflammasome, which was examined by measuring IL-1beta production in the culture supernatants. For the study, three groups of mice were used. The first group of mice was fed a normal diet and the second group of mice was fed a high-fat diet. The third group of mice was fed a high-fat diet supplemented with 0.5 percent isoliquiritigenin.

High-fat diet feeding for 20 weeks induced obesity, type 2 diabetes and hepatic steatosis in mice, but supplementation of ILG markedly improved these disorders. Finally, supplementation of isoliquiritigenin inhibited high-fat diet-induced IL-1beta production in adipose tissue.

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