Every day it seems that medical researchers have come up with a breakthrough in the diagnosis or treatment for a serious illness or condition. Clinical trials and tests are going on all the time to find a cure for diseases that kill or debilitate thousands. The media is quick to inform us of these breakthroughs.
Just this week we have learned of a woman who detected her husband’s Parkinson’s by the change in his scent and we have been told that the risk of getting skin cancer can be calculated by counting the number of moles on our right arm.
Newspaper headlines advise that arthritis can be cured by a simple drug.
Scientists have discovered what they believe has the potential to prevent the onset of an aggressive and hard-to-treat form of rheumatoid arthritis.
The study saw a team of immunologists from Cardiff tread new ground in describing how an immune system protein – interleukin-27 – regulates the inflammatory process in rheumatoid arthritis. This process causes the characteristic symptoms of swollen and painful joints.
Understanding this process, they say, will enable doctors to divide patients into different sub-groups based on the often greatly varying patterns of disease, which is influenced by how much protein is present in each patient’s joints.
Handing hope to the millions of sufferers in the UK, the new study suggests that a “probiotic pill” – one containing live bacteria – can radically reduce blood glucose levels.
In experiments researchers discovered that using a pill containing common bacteria found in the human gut can shift the control of glucose levels from the pancreas to the upper intestine.
It is believed that this “rewiring” of the body could revolutionise treatment for diabetes – both Types 1 and 2 – and potentially one day offer the possibility of a cure.
An aspirin a day could double survival chances of cancer sufferers according to some research.
The research carried out in Holland found that 75 per cent of patients taking the drug daily were still alive five years after being diagnosed with several forms of cancer.
This includes bowel, stomach, pancreatic and throat cancer. When compared to the survival rate for those not on aspirin – 42 per cent – it really is an astonishing figure.
Martine Frouws led the research involving 14,000 adults by the Leiden University Medical Centre.
Professor Nadir Arber, a spokesman, added: “Aspirin may serve as the magic bullet because it can target and prevent ischaemic heart disease, cancer and Alzheimer’s disease, the three major health catastrophes in the third millennium.”
The news comes less than a month after UK scientists found being overweight can more than double the risk of developing colon cancer.
It goes without saying, however, that the use of aspirin should be exactly as directed on the label, or as prescribed by a doctor.
Researchers have found evidence of fungal infections in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease. The research was published in Nature Scientific Reports on 15 October 2015.
The team from Spain studied the brains of 11 people who had lived with Alzheimer’s disease and compared them to 11 healthy people who had died at a similar age. They investigated different regions of the brain, looking for evidence of fungal infection. They found evidence of fungal cells in nerve cells in several regions of the brain that become damaged in Alzheimer’s disease. They also found evidence of fungus in the cells that make up blood vessels, in people who had lived with Alzheimer’s disease, compared to those who did not have the disease.
Dr Laura Phipps, at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said:
“This very small study suggests that fungal cells may be present in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s. We are funding ongoing research but the best current evidence suggests that eating a healthy and balanced diet, not smoking, staying physically active and keeping fit, can all help reduce the risk of dementia.”
Another much vaunted area of medical research is looking at the increasing use of stemcells to cure disease especially in heredity conditions, but for the layman, at present, this is a potential benefit that is still in its embryonic stage.
It is good to know that all the research has the power to improve our health and longevity but as so much reporting is in its early stages, it may not be our generation who benefits from these discoveries.
In fact, some announcements may be more dangerous than beneficial as there is strong evidence from several much larger studies that HRT can cause some types of cancer.