Health Flash

Health Flash: 1.18.17

» salmonella as cure
Scientists at the Cancer Reserach Center of Columbia, Missouri, and the University of Missouri have developed a non-toxic strain of salmonella to penetrate and target cancer cells. Results from this study could lead to promising new treatments that actively target and control the spread of cancer. “Salmonella strains have a natural preference for infiltrating and replicating within the cancer cells of a tumor, making the bacteria an ideal candidate or bacteriotherapy,” says Robert Kazmiercazk, a senior investigator at the CRC and post-doctoral fellow in the MU College of Arts and Science. Bacteriotherapy is the use of live bacteria as therapy to treat medical conditions, like cancer.

Tumors in mice given the strain decreased by about 20 percent compared to the control group. “The goal of this treatment is to develop a bacterial vector that can destroy the tumor from the inside out and reduce the amount of side effects in patients. The mice tolerated the treatment well,” Kazmierczak says.

» new alzheimer’s drug
An international team led by Washington University School of Medicine has selected a third drug to be tested in the quest to prevent Alzheimer’s disease. Currently being developed by Janssen Research & Development in New Jersey, the drug is designed to reduce production of a protein that causes the characteristic, memory-impairing plaque. “We are delighted with the new collaboration with Janssen,” says Dr. Randall Bateman, director of the Dominantly Inherited Alzheimer’s Network Trial Unit study, which involves people with an inherited predisposition to develop the disease at a young age. As part of the trial, three-quarters of enrollees will randomly receive the drug, a beta secretase inhibitor, while the rest will receive a placebo. Both groups will be evaluated for at least four years to determine whether the drug delays, or even prevents, the onset of the disease.

It is hoped that it also might be helpful in slowing or preventing Alzheimer’s in older adults.

» depression in seniors
Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine have launched a $13.5 million study aimed at identifying effective treatment methods for depression in seniors that is unresponsive to standard medications. One-third of the 14 million Americans who live with clinical depression don’t get relief from prescribed therapies, and more than half of older adults remain depressed after treatment with antidepressants.

The grant comes from the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute and will allow researchers to study 1,500 depressed adults over age 60 who have not responded to the SSRIs ( Prozac, Paxil, Zoloft, Lexapro, etc.) they already take. Every patient will get treatment for 10 weeks, during which they either will receive an additional drug or a substitute medication. If they no longer are considered clinically depressed, they will be released from the study and followed for a year to see if their depression remains at bay. For those who remain depressed, phase two will involve different, longer-standing medications like lithium. “Lithium can be a difficult drug to use,” says Dr. Eric Lenze, professor of psychiatry and principal investigator, “but there’s a real question about whether we’ve let a good treatment option fall by the wayside. With proper precautions, lithium may be a highly effective option.” Nortriptyline also will be offered for others who remain depressed.

» restoring vision
A small study conducted by vision researchers at Washington University School of Medicine has determined that surgery can restore sight in patients who have suffered eye hemorrhage after traumatic brain injury, even several months later. Reviewing cases in three medical centers around the world, researchers found that removing the vitreous gel between the lens and retina brought about 20/20 vision for most patients, even those who were legally blind beforehand. The patients all developed bleeding in the eye after motorcycle accidents and had other issues that needed treating first. “It was important to learn how long we could wait to operate without having a negative effect on vision,” says Dr. Rajendra Apte, the Paul A. Cibis Distinguished Professor of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences at W.U.

In a vitrectomy, the vitreous gel is removed and replaced with saline solution. Surgery removes old blood that can prevent light signals from reaching the retina.