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Fortnightly Medical News Round-Up: From Electrical Bandages to an Experimental Blood Test

Let’s dive into the wonderful world of medical science once again.

It’s that time! Join me as I take a look at the latest medical news.

A study shows how electrical bandages can heal chronic wounds faster.

A hand is shown against a black background with a bandage covering the palm.

Paving the way for better chronic wound care, electrical bandages have come to be known for their great healing properties. But what about them makes them so great? To find out, we need to dive a little deeper into what defines this type of bandage and what defines a chronic wound.

What is an electrical bandage?

Belonging to a particular type of therapy called electroceuticals, electrical bandages are meant to treat chronic wounds.

How?

They do so with the help of a device that’s attached to them. When the bandage is applied to a chronic wound, this device emits electrical impulses. These impulses then eliminate the bacteria found in the chronic wound.

What is a chronic wound?

So, electrical bandages are great at cleansing chronic wounds from infection. But what exactly are chronic wounds?

These types of wounds are typically non-healing ones. The reason for this is that they usually have skin infections coupled with biofilms. And these biofilms form from small groups of microorganisms, which can also include bacteria. These groups are usually held together by fat and protein substances. And both these groups and substances can end up creating a protective barrier for the bacteria.

This protective barrier makes it difficult for traditional treatments like antibiotics to heal chronic wounds. But that isn’t the case for electrical bandages.

Why?

No one’s sure. But researchers at The Ohio State University have discovered new clues that may explain why these bandages have better luck at healing chronic wounds.

When using an electrical device with silk, the university researchers found that the two items created the antimicrobial chemical hypochlorous acid. This chemical was shown to penetrate the biofilm barrier and kill the bacteria inside without harming the healthy skin nearby.

To learn more, you can take a look at a plain English summary here and read through the original study here.

Pregnant women at risk for late preterm delivery may have a new cost-effective treatment.

A pregnant women in all black is standing against a white background.

For years, it has been standard to treat women with prenatal steroids if they were at risk of giving birth before their 34 weeks of pregnancy. After all, this treatment helps fetal lungs mature quickly enough to survive the birth.

Despite the benefit this treatment offers babies, researchers did not initially consider it necessary for women who were going to give birth to their babies during the later part of their preterm stage. But the Maternal-Fetal Medicine Units Network conducted a 2016 randomized trial that proved that there might be a benefit to doing otherwise.

After analyzing this past trial, the journal JAMA Pediatrics has found even more evidence to support that study’s findings. The journal’s analysis showed that late preterm babies from mothers who had been given the prenatal steroid betamethasone had fewer complications with their lungs. And they also had less of a need for respiratory treatments.

With such benefits, women who give birth to late preterm babies could see their medical costs go down.

For more specific information on the benefits of betamethasone, see the original study here. You can also see a plain English version here.

UC Berkeley neurobiologists develop a therapy that could improve sight and delay vision loss.

An open eye is staring.

Over 3.4 million Americans at the age of 40-years-old or older have to deal with vision difficulties. It’s a tough situation to be in that could lead to minor instances of needing to hold reading materials at a farther distance or more severe cases of losing vision entirely.

Sadly, there’s no cure for vision difficulties. But, luckily, neurobiologists at UC Berkeley believe they have discovered a therapy that can at least help.

Conducting a study on mice, the neurobiologists have found that the mice’s eyes, and presumably human eyes as well, have an issue with noise similar to how our ears deal with tinnitus. This noise reduces how well the mice with the genetic condition retinitis pigmentosa can see.

The neurobiologists believe that there may be a drug candidate that could reduce this visual noise to clarify the remaining vision so that people with age-related macular degeneration and other related poor vision conditions can prolong their useful vision and even delay total blindness.

The neurobiologists’ study summary can be seen here.

People unable to take typical cholesterol-lowering drugs may finally have an alternative.

A person in doctor's attire is holding the hand of someone offscreen over a white counter with a folder.

It’s well-known that typical cholesterol-lowering drugs, also known as statins, have side effects that not everyone can tolerate. More specifically, side effects like muscle pain or bad interactions with other medications can pose too great a problem for some. So cholesterol-lowering medications like rosuvastatin aren’t always ideal.

To counter this issue, the New England Journal of Medicine has tested the effectiveness and efficiency of bempedoic acid — a new oral medication that has yet to be approved in Europe. According to the journal’s findings, this medication works like typical statin medications. So, like those medications, bempedoic acid can block an enzyme key to the body’s cholesterol production. And it does so effectively. But unlike your average statin, this medication was shown to be tolerated by most patients.

The medication isn’t out just yet, but when it does come out, if your well-being depends upon it and you live in the United States, you might want to consider checking to see if it’s available at an online international and Canadian pharmacy referral service like Canada Med Pharmacy. This service helps Americans connect with licensed pharmacies from outside the United States, where prescriptions are often offered at more affordable rates.

To find out more about bempedoic acid and its findings, read the New England Journal of Medicine’s research summary here.

An experimental blood test makes it easier to diagnose fibromyalgia.

A needle is taking out a vial of blood.

For a long time, there was no specific way to diagnose fibromyalgia. But now, researchers from The Ohio State University have given us a reasonable way to identify the condition.

According to their study in the Journal of Biological Chemistry, researchers have proven that they can detect fibromyalgia reliably within blood samples. Using the technique vibrational spectroscopy, the researchers measured the level of molecules within each sample and came to discern a clear pattern that set fibromyalgia apart from other conditions.

It’s not a cure, but at the very least, those suffering from fibromyalgia will soon be able to avoid undergoing a number of general tests just to find out what condition they have.

You can see the abstract for the fibromyalgia study here.

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.