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Health Flash: 8.25.21

liver protection | Good cholesterol may be even better than previously thought. Research from Washington University School of Medicine shows that one type of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) may play a part in protecting the liver. The most well known function of HDL is delivering cholesterol to the liver for disposal. The new study found that a special type called HDL3 blocks gut bacterial signals when it’s produced in the intestine. If not blocked, those signals travel to the liver where they activate immune cells and cause inflammation, resulting in damage and potentially driving liver disease.

yellow fever protection
Researchers at Saint Louis University are enrolling people in a clinical trial for a new vaccine for yellow fever. Affecting around 200,000 people annually, the disease is a flavivirus, meaning it comes from the same family as the Zika and West Nile viruses. Yellow fever is spread by Aedes mosquitoes, and there have been recent outbreaks in Africa and South America. While there is an existing vaccine for the virus, it is not safe for people with egg allergies. The new study will investigate the effectiveness of a new type of vaccine that is made without eggs or other animal products. The phase 2 clinical trial also is being conducted at nine other sites in the United States.

proton power
An important component of the Mercy Proton Therapy Center is now in place. Last month, a MEVION S250i gantry-mounted proton accelerator completed a seven-state journey to be placed at the new facility, which is currently under construction in Creve Coeur. Proton therapy uses high-energy beams of protons to precisely deliver radiation to tumors. It reduces unwanted radiation exposure to healthy tissue and has fewer side effects than traditional cancer treatments. Currently, there are only 41 proton centers in the United States, and Mercy’s is planned to open next summer.

cannabis & covid-19
There are several known risk factors associated with more severe COVID-19 infections, such as obesity, diabetes and a history of smoking cigarettes. New research from Washington University has found that cannabis use disorder (CUD) could have a place on that list. Using genetic epidemiological models, it was found that people with genetic predisposition to heavy and problematic forms of cannabis use were overrepresented in people with poor COVID-19 outcomes. More research is needed to determine if a predisposition to CUD and severe COVID-19 cases are caused by a common biological mechanism or if they are associated because of a causal process.

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