Health Flash

Health Flash: 4.21.21

insight into clogged arteries | High cholesterol is the most commonly known cause of atherosclerosis, a hardening of the arteries that increases the risk of heart attack and stroke. Now, researchers at Washington University School of Medicine have identified a gene that may play a role in coronary artery disease independent of cholesterol level. The gene, SVEP1, makes a protein that plays a role in the development of arterial plaque. In mice, those missing one copy of SVEP1 had less plaque than those with both, and selectively removing the protein from arteries also reduced the risk of atherosclerosis. The study looked at human data and found that genetic variation similarly determined the level of the protein, with an increased presence indicating a higher chance of plaques developing.

covid-19 variants
There is evidence that the U.K. and southern California variants of COVID-19 are present inSt. Louis County. They were found due to testing from the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services and the University of Missouri sewer shed testing. These strains are more infectious, and it is estimated that 70% of new infections being diagnosed in the U.S. can be attributed to them. As of early April, 25% of the county’s population had been vaccinated. The region currently is experiencing a drop in COVID-19 testing numbers, but that is combined with a slight uptick in cases.

helping patients
Mercy Hospital has opened a new space designed to treat adolescent and young adult cancer patients, ranging in age from 15 to 30. The Mercy Cardinals Young Adult Cancer Program is the first of its kind in the St. Louis region, and it offers state-of-the-art medical care and resources to help address the emotional, financial, educational and career disruptions that a cancer diagnosis creates. The disease in young adults is biologically different than in older people, and it has been shown that many of these patients respond better to pediatric style therapies. The new program will provide young adults a dedicated space to receive treatment that is separate from those used to treat babies and young children.

zika and brain cancer
It may be difficult to imagine an upside to a deadly virus, but a study from Washington University School of Medicine found that the Zika virus can help destroy aggressive brain cancer in mice and ward off recurrence for at least 18 months. The virus helps boost the immune system, drawing immune cells to the tumors, including cytotoxic T cells, which are specialized for killing cancerous cells. In mice, injecting Zika into tumors drastically increased the rate of survival: from 10% to 63% in one cancer cell line and from 0% to 37% in another. These findings could help create effective immunotherapy for glioblastoma, the most common and aggressive form of brain cancer.

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