Team McCallum

R&D for Lifetime of Life

Stem cell era?

Yesterday the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) re-approved the first human trial using embryonic stem cells. The trial had been approved in January 2009, then a glitch halted it in August 2009, and now it has been re-cleared.

The trial is a safety pilot, involving 10 patients with complete spinal chord injuries, giving almost no chance of any recovery unless the treatment works, as it has done in tests on rats.

The embryonic stem cells are turned into a type of cell that should help the damaged sheath around nerves to repair, allowing the nerves to carry at least a limited signal again.

Another embryonic stem cell trial in humans still awaiting FDA approval involves an eye degeneration disease that causes serious vision loss.

Adult stem cells – those taken from a particular indivual then used in the same patient – have been used with success for some time.

By coincididence, yesterday it was also announced that Prof Paolo Macchiarini had transplanted the windpipes of 2 young adults in Florence, Italy.

Both had been suffering from cancer of the throat, which before this procedure had no treatment. Adult stem cells are used to regrow tissue around the windpipe, removing the risk of rejection. Both patients are in good condition following operations in early July.

Prof Macchiarini had previously carried out a similar procedure in Spain 2 years ago.


July 31, 2010 Posted by | Cancer, FDA, Inspiration, News, Paolo Macchiarini, Science, Sight, Stem cells | Leave a comment

Diet drug Contrave?

Prof Frank L Greenway has reported on the findings of the largest clinical trial of Contrave in The Lancet today.

It appears to work – but ….

Contrave is a special mix of two existing drugs – naltrexone and buprion.

The combination works in two ways – it cuts appetite – and it works in the brain’s reward centre to reduce impulse eating.

The dropout rate in the 56 week trial was 50%. This was claimed to be normal – around 30% of those on Contrave had nausea while the placebo controls typically gave up due to poor weight loss.

Those completing the trial lost around 8% of the bodyweight.

In an editorial on this, Dr Arne Astrup was cautious. Both component drugs were known to increase blood pressure, and the trial results did not report an improvement in blood pressure or ‘good’ cholesterol.

Contrave should be considered for approval by the US Food and Drugs Administration in October.

July 31, 2010 Posted by | Arne Astrup, Cholesterol, Contrave, Frank L Greenway, High blood pressure, Obesity, Weight management | Leave a comment

Calcium supplements & heart attacks.

Dr Ian R Reid has reported on a meta-analysis study, in the British Medical Journal, that found that calcium supplements are associated with a 30% greater risk of heart attacks.

The team looked at 11 studies where calcium supplements were tested without vitamin D. These studies mainly investigated calcium supplements in osteoporosis treatment. None of the studies specifically investigated calcium supplements v heart attacks.

Dr Reid was interested because – calcium supplements give only a small benefit in osteoporosis treatment yet are widely used – dietary calcium appears to protect the cardiovascular system – yet calcium supplements appear to make the cardiovascular system worse – according to other studies.

So he pooled results from 11 studies covering nearly 12,000 people, looking only at those where vitamin D was not used, as vitamin D has been shown to have a protective effect on the heart.

Dr Reid and colleagues concluded “Calcium supplements (without coadministered vitamin D) are associated with an increased risk of myocardial infarction. As calcium supplements are widely used these modest increases in risk of cardiovascular disease might translate into a large burden of disease in the population. A reassessment of the role of calcium supplements in the management of osteoporosis is warranted.”

July 30, 2010 Posted by | CVD - cardiovascular disease, Diet, Health, High blood pressure, Ian R Reid, Minerals, Osteoporosis, Success, Vitamin D | 1 Comment

Western diet v ADHD.

Dr Wendy J Oddy has found that Australian teenagers eating a Western diet have more than double the risk of ADHD compared to those eating a healthy diet.

The study looked at 1,800 14 year olds, who have been followed since birth as part of a long term study called the Raine Study.

The diagnosis of ADHD was reached using the International Classification of Diseases revision 9 definition, the standard used in Australia (and the UK). The US uses DSM-IV, which is reckoned to produce a diagnosis rate about 3 to 4 times more often.

A “healthy” pattern is a diet high in fresh fruit and vegetables, whole grains and fish. It tends to be higher in omega-3 fatty acids, folate and fibre. A “Western” diet has more takeaway foods, confectionary, processed, fried and refined foods. This is higher in total fat, saturated fat, refined sugar and sodium.

An ADHD diagnosis was associated with a diet high in takeaway foods, processed meats, red meat, high fat dairy products and confectionary.

The researchers speculated on possible causes, suggesting a lack of omega-3 or more additives in the Western diet.

In June 2009, Dr Oddy reported a similar linkage between more general behavioural problems in the teenagers and a Western diet.

July 29, 2010 Posted by | ADHD, Child Health, Diet, Mediterranean diet, Omega-3, Success, Wendy H Oddy | 1 Comment

Diabetes drugs v fractures.

Dr William H Herman has published a study of the association between popular drugs for diabetes 2 and the risk of bone fractures.

The team looked at nearly 800 cases of fractures in patients with diabetes and compared against over 2,500 diabetic patients without fractures.

The drugs checked were both in the thiazolidinedione class (TZDs) – pioglitazone (Actos) and rosiglitazone (Avandia).

In men who took both loop diuretics (water tablets) and TZDs, there was an increased risk of fractures. This risk did NOT show up in men who were taking TZDs only.

In postmenopausal women, taking TZDs was associated with an increased risk of fractures, and in this case, the risk was dose-dependent.

The results for Actos and Avandia were similar, suggesting this is a feature of TZDs.

According to Dr Herman “Physicians should be aware of this risk and weigh the benefits and risks of therapy when they initially prescribe or renew prescriptions for TZDs.”

July 29, 2010 Posted by | Actos, Avandia, Diabetes, Gender, Health, Pioglitazone, Rosiglitazone, Success | Leave a comment

Teen weight fate.

Prof Philippa J Clarke compared those already overweight at the end of high school v those of normal weight, following over 5,000 of them until they were aged 40.

At the end of high school, the normal weight people had an average BMI of 22 (just below the middle of the average range) while those overweight had an average BMI of 26 (only just into the overweight range).

By age 40, the ‘overweight teen’ group had more than 3 times the risk of a chronic health problem than the ‘normal weight’ group, even though the latter now averaged a BMI of 27.

The ‘overweight teen’ group were also 76% more likely to be on welfare or unemployment.

The researchers also noted that the chances of being persistently overweight were reduced when teens earned better grades in high school, even after controlling for socioeconomic status.

July 28, 2010 Posted by | BMI - body mass index, Health, High blood pressure, Learning, Medical conditions, Philippa J Clarke, Success, Weight management, Work | Leave a comment

Alcohol v arthritis?

Dr James R Maxwell compared nearly 900 patients with 3 or more years of rheumatoid arthritis against 1,000 controls to find out the impact of alcohol.

Non-drinkers were more than four times as likely to have rheumatoid arthritis compared to those drinking alcohol on 10 or more days per month.

Further, all measures of disease severity decreased as the frequency (number of days per month) of alcohol consumption increased.

Those who never drank alcohol were 2.3 times as likely to have rheumatoid arthritis as those who did drink, whatever the frequency.

One bug in the study is that rheumatoid sufferers treated with popular drug methotrexate (Rheumatrex, Trexall) are advised to limit alcohol consumption.

So the sufferers in general showed lower patterns of alcohol consumption than non-sufferers. For example, non-drinkers made up 37% of sufferers but only 11% of non-sufferers.

July 28, 2010 Posted by | Alcohol, Arthritis, Health, James R Maxwell, Success | Leave a comment

Relate to survive.

Analysing 148 studies, Dr Julianne Holt-Lunstad found that social relationships were as important to survival in research studies as quitting smoking, and more important than obesity or being physically inactive.

The 148 studies involved over 300,000 people, average age 64, followed for an average of 7.5 years. Being in a strong social relationship increased the chance of survival by 50%.

The finding remained consistent across age, gender, initial health status, cause of death, and follow-up period.

According to the authors, there are two models to explain how social relationships may influence health. In the first, social connections ease the negative effects of stress. In the other, social relationships directly affect cognitive, emotional, behavioural and biological functioning.

July 28, 2010 Posted by | Activity, Aging, Exercise, Health, Julianne Holt-Lunstad, Obesity, Relationships, Social networks, Success | Leave a comment

Log in, weigh less.

The Weight Loss Maintenance Trial was research to evaluate how best to keep weight off after initial loss.

For the first 6 months, participants were helped to lose weight in weekly meetings. Those who lost at least 9 lbs then joined the next phase, lasting two and a half years, in which participants were split into 3 groups – one getting further personal contact, one getting support by Internet and a control group without further intervention.

Kristine L Funk has just reported what happened with the Internet group, numbering 350 participants.

The website provided diet and exercise advice tailored to the individual, with progress logging tools, an interactive forum, frequent updates and a mechanism to encourage people to log on and record their weight.

65% of the group stayed for the entire duration.

Those showing the best performance, in terms of least amount of weight regained, were those who logged in most and used more features of the site than just recording weight.

People who logged in consistently kept off around half of the 19lbs average they had lost in the first 6 months. But in infrequent users, this dropped to just 3 pounds kept off.

July 27, 2010 Posted by | Diet, Exercise, Internet, Kristine L Funk, Obesity, Success, Weight management | Leave a comment

Circumcision cuts HIV.

Three trials of circumcision v HIV in male heterosexuals in Africa were so successful that they were stopped after 18 to 24 months, in order to allow the control males to decide if they wished to be circumcised. At that time, the reduction in the risk of HIV was about 60%.

Nearly half of the controls then chose to be circumcised.

Prof Robert Bailey reported yesterday, (to the International AIDS Conference in Vienna), on a follow-up of one large group for an extra four and a half years.

Although no longer valid as a clinical research study, the findings show that the benefits remain. The HIV risk in those circumcised is still 60% lower than those not.

July 26, 2010 Posted by | Health, HIV, Robert Bailey, Success | 1 Comment