Health and Medical News and Resources

General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

BBC – Future – Health – Worm therapy: Why parasites may be good for you

BBC – Future – Health – Worm therapy: Why parasites may be good for you.

From the 22 April 2013 article

Early trials suggest a host of allergies and autoimmune ailments could be treated with worm therapy, or infection with live worm-like parasites. But will it ever reach the clinic?

Jim Turk initially put his symptoms down to stress. The self-described “health nut” who was in training to run marathons suddenly found himself unable to jog for more than a couple of minutes before coming to a gasping, staggering halt. His speech began to slur. Turk, then in his early thirties, blamed the combined pressures of juggling a full-time job, studying for a master’s degree and his parenting responsibilities. When he collapsed in the middle of a baseball field one sunny afternoon in 2008 while coaching his son’s team, he realised it was time to seek help.

At the hospital, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans revealed plaques peppered throughout Turk’s brain and spine. The diagnosis was obvious: multiple sclerosis, the autoimmune condition in which the body eats away at its own nerve cell casings. The cure: not known yet.

A month later, Turk saw an ad on the news seeking multiple sclerosis patients to try out an unusual new treatment at the University of Wisconsin, in his hometown of Madison. Patients were being asked to infect themselves with live pig whipworm eggs to see if the parasites alleviated any of their symptoms or slowed the spread of telltale brain and spine lesions. “I’ve always had a research interest so I decided to put my money where my mouth is,” Turk says. “Plus I was terrified and didn’t know what to do.”

When Turk arrived at the clinic, John Fleming, a professor of neurology, presented him with a vial of clear liquid. “It tasted a little bit salty but otherwise it was just water,” says Turk. “I couldn’t see the eggs or anything.”

For the next three months, he and four others visited the lab every two weeks to swallow doses of 2,500 parasite eggs. At the start of the trial, MRI scans showed patients had an average of 6.6 active lesions – scars on the protective layer around nerve cells that disrupt the transmission of electrical messages in the brain and spinal cord. By the end of the study, that number had dropped to two. Two months after discontinuing the worm treatment, the lesions rebounded to an average of 5.8. “The beauty of this is that the number of new lesions is really an objective, brutally honest answer,” Fleming says. “It’s not proof, it’s not definitive, but at least it’s promising.”………..

 

 

May 2, 2013 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , | Leave a comment

Are Cancers Newly Evolved Species?

Staining chromosomes with different dyes highlights the orderly nature of the normal human karyotype (left), that is, humans have precisely two copies of each chromosome with no leftovers. A bladder cancer cell (right) has extra copies of some chromosomes, a few missing normal chromsomes, and a lot of hybrid or marker chromosomes, which characterize cancer cells. (Credit: Image courtesy of University of California – Berkeley)

From the 26 July 2011 Science Daily article

Cancer patients may view their tumors as parasites taking over their bodies, but this is more than a metaphor for Peter Duesberg, a molecular and cell biology professor at the University of California, Berkeley.

Cancerous tumors are parasitic organisms, he said. Each one is a new species that, like most parasites, depends on its host for food, but otherwise operates independently and often to the detriment of its host.

In a paper published in the July 1 issue of the journal Cell Cycle, Duesberg and UC Berkeley colleagues describe their theory that carcinogenesis — the generation of cancer — is just another form of speciation, the evolution of new species.

A molecular biologists has long believed that cancer results from chromosome disruption rather than a handful of gene mutations, which is the dominant theory today. That idea has led him to propose that cancers have actually evolved new chromosomal karyotypes that qualify them as autonomous species, akin to parasites and much different from their human hosts.

“Cancer is comparable to a bacterial level of complexity, but still autonomous, that is, it doesn’t depend on other cells for survival; it doesn’t follow orders like other cells in the body, and it can grow where, when and how it likes,” said Duesberg. “That’s what species are all about.”

This novel view of cancer could yield new insights into the growth and metastasis of cancer, Duesberg said, and perhaps new approaches to therapy or new drug targets. In addition, because the disrupted chromosomes of newly evolved cancers are visible in a microscope, it may be possible to detect cancers earlier, much as today’s Pap smear relies on changes in the shapes of cervical cells as an indication of chromosomal problems that could lead to cervical cancer.

Read the article

July 27, 2011 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , , | Leave a comment

   

%d bloggers like this: