Fortnightly Medical News Round-Up: Cancer Breakthroughs, Possible HIV Cure, and More!

We live in a time of incredible scientific breakthroughs.

In this post, let’s take a look at the most interesting recent health findings.

Eli Lilly releases cheaper insulin.

A victory to diabetes patients everywhere, pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly announced that it will release a lower-cost version of its insulin product Humalog®. The lower-cost version of insulin will sell at 50% of the cost of Humalog®.

This news should come as a great boon for Americans. It’s well-known how expensive pharmaceutical drugs are in the United States. Due to the expense, some Americans are even looking abroad to find affordable versions of their medication, such as through licensed international and Canadian pharmacies online.

To fill the need for cheaper medication, Eli Lilly will release Insulin Lispro (the lower-cost version of Humalog®) in vial and pen form. A single vial will cost $137.35 while a five-pack of KwikPens will cost $265.20.

Click here for the original press release.

Second patient in history is tested free of HIV thanks to stem cell treatment.

In an exciting new breakthrough, an HIV-positive patient has been tested free of the virus for 16 months following a bone marrow transplant. The transplanted tissue was from a donor with two copies of a CCR5 gene mutation. This mutation, possessed by about 1% of people of European descent, gives those who have two copies of it resistance to HIV.

However, it’s too soon to say that this patient has been “cured.” Additionally, bone marrow transplants aren’t a practical way to treat HIV in most patients. This particular patient was also suffering from chemotherapy-resistant blood cancer, so they required the transplant anyway. For most people, such a procedure would be too invasive to warrant the risk of a transplant. Instead, most patients respond well to antiretroviral drugs, a far less risky treatment.

Still, this is the second time such a procedure has proved successful. It may prove promising to future medical research into treating HIV, the virus responsible for AIDS.

This study was published in the journal Nature and summarized on the journal’s website.

We get less emotionally sensitive as we get older.

Ever wonder why your teenager is so moody all the time while your baby boomer-aged grandparent seems infinitely relaxed? Science may have just unearthed a clue.

A study published in Journal of Experimental Psychology: General found that during adolescence, our ability to sense anger and fear in others’ faces increases dramatically. As we become older adults, this sensitivity to negative facial expressions decreases. However, our sensitivity to happiness in others’ faces remains the same.

In other words, we get less sensitive to other people’s disapproval. Maybe this is why people have reported feeling the most life satisfaction at age 23 and 69.

You can find the abstract to the original study here.

More muscle mass may mean higher cancer treatment success.

A recent study conducted at Osaka University and published in Scientific Reports found a strong association between sarcopenia and the effectiveness of programmed death inhibitors (PD-1), an anti-cancer drug.

Sarcopenia is the degradation of muscle mass, a condition that can happen to cancer patients. The scientists researched the impact sarcopenia had on patients with advanced non-small cell lung cancer, and they found that those with sarcopenia had significantly less successful reactions to PD-1 inhibitor treatment.

Click here for a plain English summary of the article and here for the original research paper.

Brain region of young adults at risk of drug addiction is markedly different from that of young adults with lower risk.

This study, conducted by researchers at the University of Cambridge and Aarhus University, further supports the progressive claim that drug addiction is not merely a case of weak character. Rather, addiction is strongly associated with innate biological factors.

Impulsivity in young adulthood is strongly associated with the risk of drug addiction. In this study, researchers found another strong association: increased impulsivity in young adults and low levels of myelin in a brain region called the putamen.

Myelin is a sheath that protects a nerve cell’s axis, maximizing nerve conduction efficiency much like the plastic coating of an electrical wire. The putamen is a part of the brain that is a key component of addiction, as it sends dopamine signals that impact impulsivity.

Further research is needed to see if decreased myelination is a reliable predictor of addiction risk. Find a link to the original study here.