Nanotech, obesity, and total smoking ban
- Monday, 23rd December 2013
- News of the Week
Nanotech versus cancer
A new research review, co-authored by a UCLA professor and published online in Science Translational Medicine, offers insight into nanomedicine-based approaches against cancer and the regulatory issues that must be addressed for its clinical approval. Nanomedicine is broadly defined as the application of tiny materials and devices, measuring one billionth of a meter, in the diagnosis and treatment of disease. Although cancer remains the second leading cause of deaths in the U.S., nanomedicine has become a novel tool in the war on cancer. Preclinical trials have demonstrated that nanomaterials improve drug delivery, enabling researchers to target tumors while sparing healthy tissue. Nanotechnology additionally renders difficult-to-find cancers easier to detect by enhancing the sensitivity of magnetic resonance imaging. Dr Dean Ho, the paper’s co-author and professor of oral biology at the UCLA School of Dentistry, said: “It is important to address regulatory issues, overcome manufacturing challenges and outline a strategy for implementing nanomedicine therapies — both individually and in combination — to help achieve widespread acceptance for the clinical use of cancer nanomedicine.” Dr Ho further notes that nanomedicine regulation remains in its earliest stages, but the clinical use of existing nanoparticle drugs, such as the protein-modified breast cancer drug Abraxane, represents a promising start.
No link between HIV prevention pill Truvada and increased sexual risk behaviour
There is no link between HIV-prevention pill Truvada and increased sexual risk behaviour, a recent UCSF study has found. The antiretroviral drug Truvada is the first and only medication approved by the FDA for HIV prevention, with a 2012 study finding that taking the drug regularly reduced risk of HIV infection by over 90 percent. However, questions about the drug’s real-world efficacy remained a concern. A phenomenon called ‘risk compensation’ was a primary concern; this is a behavioural effect in which individuals adjust their behaviour in response to a perceived level of risk. In this case, it was anticipated that recipients of Truvada may increase their sexual risk behaviours. This new research, carried out by Gladstone Institutes’ investigator Robert Grant, MD, MPH, has found evidence to the contrary. The multi-year study enrolled nearly 2500 men and transgender women across several countries, and monitored behaviour when given the drug or placebo. According to Grant, their results suggest that HIV prevention strategies do not result in risk compensation, instead providing “an opportunity for participants to actively engage in and reduce their risk of HIV infection”. Jeffrey Crowley, distinguished scholar at the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law at Georgetown University and former director of the White House Office of National AIDS Policy, added that “This study reinforces the importance of drugs like Truvada as one component of a comprehensive plan for supporting people living with HIV”. The research is published in the online journal PLOS ONE.
New link between obesity and early decline in kidney function
Healthy kidneys are vital for the functioning of heart and brain as well as for regulating overall metabolism. A study from UCSF of nearly 3000 individuals indicate a link between obesity and development kidney disease. The individuals in the study averaged 35 years of age and were divided into four categories of Body Mass Index: normal weight, overweight, obese, and extremely obese. All participants had kidney function in the normal range although the high BMI individuals were at lower end of that range. The kidney function of all individuals declined with time but the decline of higher BMI individuals were much greater and more rapid. This study published in the American Journal of Kidney Diseases shows that the effects of obesity on kidney health are measurable even before its other symptoms appear. According to the author Vanessa Grubbs “When we accounted for diabetes, high blood pressure, and inflammatory processes, the body mass index was still a predictor of kidney function decline, so there was something unique about just being too large that in and of itself affected kidney function even before the onset of frank kidney disease.”
Total smoking ban works best
Increasing awareness of the negative effects smoking and risks of secondhand smoke over the last couple decades has led to legislative efforts to improve public health by reducing tobacco consumption. The effectiveness of such smoking ban policies in influencing smoking behaviors among current California smokers was analyzed by scientists at the University of California, San Diego and is published this week in Preventive Medicine. The researchers report that banning smoking entirely within homes or cities greatly increases the odds that current smokers will decrease or even stop their tobacco consumption. The study surveyed over 1700 California residents who currently smoke and found that smoking bans in homes reduced smoking in females and adults 65 years and older. City smoking bans led to successful quitting behavior in males, but not females. Yet partial bans were not associated with reduced consumption or cessation. These results reveal that not only do total smoking bans protect nonsmokers from risks of secondhand smoke, but that these bans also encourage smokers to quit. This research affirms the effectiveness of total smoking bans in efforts to improve public health by reducing tobacco consumption at both individual and societal levels.
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