Health Flash

Health Flash: 11.7.18

hope for depression
A new national study led by researchers at Washington University reveals that people with depression experience an improvement in quality of life when treated with nerve stimulation. As many as two-thirds of the 14 million  Americans with clinical depression aren’t helped by the initial antidepressant they are prescribed, and up to one-third don’t respond to similar subsequent treatments. The FDA approved vagus nerve stimulation for treatment in 2006. Stimulators send regular, mild pulses of electrical energy to the brain via the vagus nerve. Published in The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, a study included 600 patients with depression that could not be alleviated by four or more antidepressants, taken separately or in combination. Researchers compared patients who received vagus nerve stimulation with those who received other treatments, including antidepressant drugs, psychotherapy, transcranial magnetic stimulation and electroconvulsive therapy. The subjects were evaluated in 14 categories to assess their quality of life. In 10 of the measures, those with vagus nerve stimulators had significant gains.

targeted cancer treatment
Researchers at the University of Missouri’s Bond Life Sciences Center have created a specialized drug delivery method that could be used to target cancer cells. Most therapeutic cancer drugs are not able to discriminate between cancer cells and healthy cells, killing both and resulting in harsh side effects. The research team is developing ‘smart’ molecules that can bind with receptors on the surface of cancer cells. Nucleic acid ligands, or aptamers, can be trained to target molecules with high selectivity, and a cancer-associated receptor can be used as a marker so they recognize malignant cells. By using fluorescent nanostructures, the team was able to show that the aptamers correctly bonded with only their intended targets. The next step is determining if the aptamers can be loaded with therapeutic molecules. The study is published in Nature Communications.

multiple sclerosis drug
With multiple sclerosis (MS), patients endure a gradual decline of brain function, and available treatments have a limited impact on slowing the decline. A phase two clinical trial has shown that the investigational drug ibudilast slows brain shrinkage, which is associated with more severe neurological symptoms. In a study published in The New England Journal of Medicine, researchers are encouraged by the positive preliminary results. The trial, known as the SPRINT MS study, involves 255 patients at 29 clinical sites, including Washington University. MRI scans revealed that the brains of the patients given ibudilast atrophied at a slower rate than those given a placebo. Future research will examine whether the drug slows the progression of disability in MS and whether the reduced brain shrinkage affects other issues. SPRINT MS is a major collaboration among neurologists through NeuroNEXT, a National Institutes of Health-sponsored program to streamline phase two neurological clinical trials.

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