Health and Medicine
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Dr Samantha Dolan – Investigating Facilitators and Barriers to Electronic Immunisation Registry Implementation in Tanzania and Zambia
Digital health interventions have the potential to revolutionalise the management of health information. Despite reduced costs and increased accessibility of technology across the world, the implementation of digital health technologies in low- and middle-income countries has been less than optimal. Dr Samantha Dolan at PATH and the University of Washington and her colleagues investigated the perceived facilitators and barriers to electronic immunisation registry implementation in Tanzania and Zambia, and provide important recommendations for future practice.
There are over 3,600 established cell lines from 150 different species that can be used for scientific and medical research. In two recent studies, Dr Ruth MacKinnon and her team from St Vincent’s Hospital in Melbourne used multiple molecular methods to investigate changes in the way the genes are organised in two types of these cells. They demonstrated the importance of using multiple complementary methods and found that these cells can continue to evolve in the laboratory. They also uncovered evidence of a previously unreported process called ‘centromere capture’ which may be involved in the evolution of cancer cells.
Weaning is an important time in the pig lifecycle, and changes in diet and environment can lead to unbalanced gut microbiota and pathogen colonisation. Prof. Luciana Rossi, Dr. Matteo Dell’Anno from the University of Milan, and Dr. Maria Luisa Callegari from Catholic University of Sacred Heart, have been investigating the impact on gut bacteria of adding natural compounds known as tannins to piglet food. Importantly, they found that tannins do affect the gut bacteria; with increases seen in bacteria associated with improved growth and gut health, and in particular, those that produce butyrate – a substance with proven health benefits.
Epithelial tissue is a protective layer of cells bound together into thin sheets that coat the internal and external surfaces of major body organs. The largest is the epidermis – the outer layer of the skin. This sheet-like structure is integral to its function and is maintained by a complex scaffolding network called the extracellular matrix (ECM). Dr Jacopo Di Russo and his colleagues at the Interdisciplinary Centre for Clinical Research of the University Hospital of Aachen, Germany, have recently discussed the diverse nature of the ECM and its hugely unmet potential within bioengineering.
Swimming was one of the nine original Olympic sports in 1896, and to this day, remains one of the most popular competitive and recreational sports. However, methods to track the effect of training programmes and physiological changes in swimmers have lagged behind those of other sports due to difficulties caused by the aquatic environment. Dr Ben Jones and his team from the University of Essex have used a novel underwater near infrared spectrometer to monitor the effects of a training programme on muscle oxygenation in teenage swimmers.
Humanity is facing many challenges, ranging from COVID-19 to climate change, and from natural resource depletion to social inequity. The Prince Mahidol Award Conference is an annual event held in Bangkok, where leaders and experts meet to discuss global challenges. This year, the theme was ‘The World We Want: Actions Towards a Sustainable, Fairer and Healthier Society’.
Effects of DNA Repair Mechanisms, Oestrogen and Environmental Chemicals on Risk for Breast Cancer | Dr Joseph Jerry
All women are exposed to oestrogen from puberty through menopause. Oestrogen is a natural hormone that is important for breast development and the maintenance of tissues in women but is also linked to an increased risk of breast cancer. As many as 1 in 8 women in the USA will be diagnosed with breast cancer over their lifetime, and the majority of these breast cancers are sensitive to oestrogen. Dr Joseph Jerry and his collaborators at the University of Massachusetts are studying the environmental exposures and genetic differences that alter the consequences of exposure to oestrogens.
Mechanical ventilation is a medical treatment that artificially enables the body to breathe. Despite being a potentially life-saving intervention, there are concerns it can cause damage to vital organs, such as the brain and lungs. Dr Thiago Bassi from Simon Fraser University in Canada, has undertaken a review of published studies in this field. His findings indicate a potential link between ventilator usage and cognitive impairment whilst highlighting the need for further research.
Covalent drugs are molecules that irreversibly bind to specific, targeted sites in the body. They work to inhibit the disease-causing functions of certain proteins by preventing them from interacting with other substances. This is a highly promising field of drug development and the focus of Dr Mikail Abbasov from Cornell University, New York, USA. By creating and utilising new technologies and through collaborative research, Dr Abbasov has mapped novel molecular targets for potential covalent drugs to treat ailments ranging from cancer to autoimmune diseases.
Cancer can be caused by genetic mutations or epigenetic alterations, which are changes to the way DNA is processed, rather than to the DNA itself. These changes can be brought about by obesity, and more specifically, oxidative stress and consequent reactive oxygen species. However, the molecular mechanisms by which this occurs are not well understood. Dr Aliccia Bollig-Fischer from Wayne State University School of Medicine in Michigan is studying these processes and paving the way for the development of novel cancer therapeutics.
Discovery of Neurotrophic Factor-α1 Reveals New Treatment Strategies for Stress-induced Neurodegenerative Diseases and Depression | Dr Y. Peng Loh
Stress produces numerous negative effects on the human body. Lying deep within the brain, one particularly sensitive area is the hippocampus, where chronic exposure to stress hormones can lead to the degeneration and death of neurons. Thankfully, the brain holds defence mechanisms that block some of these negative effects. Deciphering these mechanisms with the aim of better treating neurodegenerative diseases and depression is Dr Y. Peng Loh from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development in the USA.
Although obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a commonly occurring psychiatric disorder, the underlying genetic basis has until recently, remained poorly defined. Drs Christie Burton, Jennifer Crosbie, and Russell Schachar at The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) in Toronto, Canada, and Dr. Paul Arnold at the University of Calgary and The Mathison Centre for Mental Health Research & Education and their extensive network of collaborators conducted a genome-wide association study to address this key gap. These researchers are the first to empirically demonstrate that OCD and obsessive-compulsive traits have a shared genetic risk, and start to pinpoint the genetic basis of this.
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