Brad McCarty • June 15, 2018

The Friday Roundup is a collection of five stories that you need to know about each week. From policy, to innovations, look to us to keep you up to date on what’s happening in the healthcare industry.

Gene Therapy Reverses Rat Paralysis

A team at King’s College London has discovered a gene therapy breakthrough that could offer promising future results for humans. The early-stage research showed that scientists were able to use gene therapy to reverse spinal cord paralysis in rats.

The challenge with most therapies is that scar tissue blocks the new nerve connections from forming. By using gene therapy to modify the instructions of the spinal cord genes, researchers were able to cause the same scar tissue to be broken down instead. Two months after the therapy began, the rats were able to use their front paws once more.

A Bloodless Test for Malaria

A 24 year old Ugandan man named Brian Gitta has won the Royal Academy of Engineering’s Africa Prize for his device that detects malaria without the use of a blood test. He developed the device, which uses a beam of light projected through the user’s finger, after a traditional test failed to diagnose his own malaria.

The Matibabu device works similarly to a pulse oximeter, clipping onto the finger. However, it is then able to read changes to the color, shape, and concentration of red blood cells. All of these factors are influenced by malaria. The majority of malaria-related deaths in the world occur in Africa, and Gitta’s team hopes to one day be able to better detect malaria across the continent.

Vitamin D May Protect Against Colorectal Cancer

Some time in the sun may be just what the doctor ordered. Or at least 600 IU’s of vitamin D from your food. A large, international study has provided the strongest evidence yet that vitamin D could in fact protect you from colorectal cancers. Further, the study shows that a deficiency of vitamin D may increase the risk of the cancer occuring.

In both men and women, deficiencies were associated with a 30 percent increased risk of colorectal cancer, according to epidemiologist Marji McCullough. The study included nearly 13,000 participants across the United States, Europe, and Asia. Interestingly, the study did show that beyond the adequate dosing for cancer prevention, there were no additional benefits provided with higher doses.

Old Dogs Teach Humans New Tricks

Specifically old, fat dogs. In a Hungarian study, researchers have found that overweight dogs have a lot in common with overweight humans. This includes the dogs being unwilling to settle for lesser quality food. When provided with two bowls of food, overweight dogs eventually stopped going to the second bowl which contained a lesser-quality kibble.

In results published in the Royal Society Open Science Journal, the behavior of the dogs is noted to closely align with that of humans. Humans often see food as a reward, and therefore are less willing to settle for something that is less desirable to them. Likewise, because the food is seen as a reward, humans can tend to want to overeat in order to continue feeling rewarded.

CRISPR Tech Raises Cancer Concerns

Gene therapy continues to be a pervasive topic in medicine, but STAT reports that editing cells may increase the risk of triggering cancer cells according to two studies published on Monday. Novartis and Sweden’s Karolinska Institute both found that edited cells have the potential to see tumors, leaving them as a potential source of cancer at a later time.

CRISPR Therapeutics CEO Sam Kulkarni has confirmed that the results are plausible, although he goes on to say that they likely only apply to one of the ways in which CRISPR edits genomes. “It’s something we need to pay attention to, especially as CRISPR expands to more diseases. We need to do the work and make sure edited cells returned to patients don’t become cancerous.”

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