Home-grown human skin for drug testing

by Admin 25. April 2014 09:56

Scientists have grown human skin that could be used as a ‘cost-effective’ alternative to animal drug testing.

A team of British scientists have successfully grown human skin from human stem cells and claim it could be used as a cost-effective alternative to testing cosmetics and drugs on animals.

While human skin has been grown in a lab previously, the team from King’s College London have produced skin with a permeable barrier, more closely resembling ‘real’ skin and thus more useful in testing.

Dr Dusko Ilic, lead researcher on the project, said: “This is a new and suitable model that can be used for testing new drugs and cosmetics and can replace animal models. It’s cheap, it’s easy to scale up and it is reproducible.”

The scientists also hope the artificially created human skin could be used to explore skin conditions such as eczema and itchthyosis.

Researcher Dr Theodora Mauro said: “We can use this model to study how the skin barrier develops normally, how the barrier is impaired on different diseases and how we can stimulate its repair and recovery.”

The research, which was published recently in the journal Stem Cell Reports, has been welcomed by The Human Society International, which works to protect animals in research. 

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Quintiles and Biogen share clinical brains

by Admin 25. April 2014 09:29

Quintiles and Biogen have entered into a five year strategic partnership to optimise clinical development processes by sharing expertise.

Under a new agreement, Quintiles and Biogen Idec will share expertise and resources in a bid to improve clinical development processes and help develop innovative treatments and therapies.

The five year agreement, which has already come into play, involves a dedicated team from Quintiles working alongside Biogen on their design, planning and execution of current studies. The pair hope the collaborative effort will improve clinical efficiency, with a particular focus on transparency, quality, innovation and operational excellence.

Tom Pike, chief executive officer of Quintiles, said: “Our partnership with Biogen Idec exemplifies the ongoing evolution of drug development collaboration and reinforces the increasingly important role that biopharmaceutical service providers such as Quintiles have in these efforts.”

Biogen will use Quintiles technology and systems in the development of its ongoing portfolio, with Alfred Sandrock, group senior vice president, Development Sciences and chief medical officer, Biogen Idec, praising Quintiles’ “depth and breadth of experience, which we believe will enhance the design, planning and operational elements of our clinical programmes.”

He added that it was “important for us to identify a strong clinical development partner to complement our focus on developing innovative therapies for the treatment of neurodegenerative, hematologic and autoimmune diseases”.

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Novartis and photographer partner for World Meningitis Day eBook

by Admin 24. April 2014 12:42

Novartis, photographer Anne Geddes, the Confederation of Meningitis Organisations, and charities around the world have collaborated on an eBook featuring inspirational images of meningococcal disease survivors around the world in honour of the sixth annual World Meningitis Day.

The Protecting Our Tomorrows: Portraits of Meningococcal Disease campaign project aims to raise public awareness of this rare but potentially deadly disease and the importance of vaccination in helping to prevent it. The eBook will be available for free download exclusively on iBooks® today, April 24.

The eBook is the culmination of a worldwide project launched in 2013, aiming to raise awareness of this rare but aggressive disease that can leave its victims with lifelong complications such as brain damage, learning disabilities, hearing and limb loss. Ms Geddes travelled the world to meet the 15 project participants from eight countries and take their portraits. 

Ms Geddes said: "Through a series of what I believe are inspirational photographs of meningococcal disease survivors and families impacted by the disease, this project celebrates the survivors' triumphs and honours those who've tragically lost their lives," said Ms. Geddes. "Through these images, I hope parents feel empowered to understand the disease's impact and know the options available to them."

Andrin Oswald, Division Head, Novartis Vaccines, said: "Novartis has developed vaccines which helped to significantly reduce the incidence of some of the most common and serious strains of meningococcal disease across the world.

“Much more can and should be done to make sure every child at risk gets vaccinated. This is the mission of our company…working together with the many patient groups, physicians and public health officials who are as determined as we are."


(Image c. Anne Geddes)

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Eating veg “doesn’t make kids happier” breakthrough government study finds

by Admin 24. April 2014 10:58

Eating a bit of chocolate and watching telly makes children happier than getting their daily quota of greens and doing jigsaws with their mums, according to a new government-funded study.

Children allowed to eat the occasional sweet and watch Cartoon Network are in general more satisfied with their lives than children who are brought up to consider an extra carrot stick a treat and TV as the root of all evil.

The study, funded by the Department of Health, found that the children of smug parents who look down on those parents with a flatscreen in the living room and boast about having no television set in their sustainably designed eco-hobbit home generally score lower for “well-being” than their square-eyed counterparts who have occasional access to chocolate buttons. 

A major Government-funded study of the factors which improve children’s happiness and reduce worry found that self-satisfied parents who serve their children with needlessly expensive organic purple sprouting broccoli, samphire or celeriac sourced from the local farmer’s market (in season only) at every meal are actually creating a life of dissatisfaction and ennui for their offspring, making them slightly less happy overall, although it does score smugness points in chats with lesser parents at the school gates.

The report, compiled from data gathered from almost 13,000 seven-year-old children, also found evidence that those who have feckless parents who sometimes give them "unhealthy" treats such as sweets or access to a television, enjoy happier and more fulfilling childhoods than those who are expected to engage in regular craft activities or stare out of the window after school thinking about ice cream. 

“My friend Matthew hasn’t even got a telly and he’s fed-up all the time,” said Tom, seven. “And his mum puts boiled eggs and asparagus in his lunchbox.”

The study also found that lots of children like running around and jumping, finding that those who like PE are happier in general. Incredibly, this also includes children who sometimes like sitting on the sofa and watching Adventure Time while eating popcorn.

The study, carried out by analysts at NatCen Social Research and funded by the Department of Health, concluded that deprivation, an unhappy family life and problems at school were more likely to make children feel unhappy or worried than a biscuit and a bit of telly.

Jenny Chanfreau said that it cannot be claimed that eating greens will make children happier overall. “This is not to say that eating healthily isn’t good for you," she said. "It is just not linked with happiness as reported by seven year-olds.”

The report found that moderation, rather than complete prohibition of enjoyable things, was linked with higher general well-being in seven-year-olds.

“Being happier and lacking worry does not mean never having sweets, snacks and television," the report concluded. 


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Millions wasted in Northern Ireland on medicines

by Admin 24. April 2014 10:39

Northern Ireland patients could ‘help save the health service millions’ by cancelling unwanted prescriptions, said a health boss.

The chair of Belfast Commissioning Group has urged patients to be more careful with their medicines after estimations suggest £18m was wasted last year on unused prescriptions.

Dr Terry Maguire, who leads the group responsible for commissioning health services in Belfast, said 38.7m prescriptions were dispensed last year in Northern Ireland at a cost of £400m. Of this, £18m was spent on prescriptions that were never used – money that could be better directed to enhancing patient services.

“If everyone played their part by cancelling unwanted prescriptions and only ordering what they need, it would help save the health service millions,” said Dr Maguire.

“Spending on medicines is important but we need to ask ourselves if it would be better to spend this money in other ways, such as improving how we use medicines and services that stop people becoming ill in the first place?”

 The cost of medicines per patient in Northern Ireland is currently £224, £40 more than Scotland and £60 more than England.

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Mothers' milk could be key to healthier hearts

by Admin 24. April 2014 09:49

New research has revealed that breastfeeding may be more effective at cutting the risk of heart disease than statins.

The study, conducted at Northwestern University in Illionois and published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, observed almost 7000 adults over 15 years, and compared adult C-reactive protein (CRP) levels with their birth weight and their parents’ breast feeding choices. CRP levels were 20 per cent lower in people who had been breastfed for at least three months and were almost 30 per cent lower in those breastfed for at least a year. 

Statins, currently prescribed to over seven million people in the UK considered at risk of cardiovascular disease, have been shown to reduce CRP by around 15 per cent.

The study compared siblings who were breastfed with those who were not to rule out other family factors that may have affected the results.

Lead study author Thomas McDade, professor of anthropology at Northwestern University, said: "This is a major public health issue…I hope this paper will draw attention to this as an important social policy issue and help women to breastfeed their babies.” 

Raised CRP levels are associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes in later life. It is believed that breastfeeding may help shape the immune system as it develops, reducing low-level inflammation in later life and reducing the risk of heart attack and stroke.

Current Department of Health guidelines recommend exclusive breastfeeding up to the age of six months, although only one in four mothers are still breastfeeding at when their child is six-weeks-old.

Julie Ward, Senior Cardiac Nurse at the British Heart Foundation, said: “This study goes further by suggesting that the longer you breastfeed your baby the healthier your child will be in later life.

“However, parents of smaller babies and mothers unable to breastfeed should not worry about things they can’t control. By teaching children about healthy eating and making physical activity fun from a young age you can inspire healthy habits to protect their hearts as they grow up.”

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Breast cancer drug too dear for NHS

by Admin 23. April 2014 13:47

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has turned down a breast cancer drug for use on the NHS because of the high cost.

The Herceptin-style drug, which can prolong lives by up to six months, is to be blocked from routine NHS access under draft guidance issued by NICE because it is too expensive.

In draft guidance now open to consultation, NICE places the blame for the decision on the drug manufacturers, Roche, who are asking for a high comparable cost of more than £90,000 per patient. Nice says that the drug does not work well enough to justify the price, which it says costs tens of thousands of pounds more than existing second-line treatments for this cancer, and called on Roche to rethink the high price during the consultation period.

The drug is already being paid for through the government’s Cancer Drugs Fund. However, the veto by NICE means that expensive cancer drugs may again no longer be available to women with advanced breast cancer once the fund ceases to exist at the end of March 2016. 

The new pricing scheme for the NHS is intended to be in place by spring 2016, however Nice will still assess whether a drug is worth the price the drug manufacturer is charging.

According to Roche, Kadcyla is a new drug that does not cure breast cancer, but in trials it has been shown to extend life by a median of 5.8 months, compared with use of the current drug combination of lapatinib plus capecitabine.

NICE chief executive Sir Andrew Dillon said: "We had hoped that Roche would have recognised the challenge the NHS faces in managing the adoption of expensive new treatments by reducing the cost of Kadcyla to the NHS.”

In a statement issued by Roche, Professor Paul Ellis, a consultant oncologist at King's College, London, who worked on the drug trials, said: "The drug tackles the disease in a different way to any other breast cancer medicine and provides women with valuable extra time with their families and loved ones – time that you cannot put a price on.”


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Artificial pancreas study breakthrough

by Admin 23. April 2014 11:28

An artificial pancreas study has been hailed as a breakthrough for British children with type 1 diabetes. 

The University of Cambridge-devised artificial pancreas promises to dramatically improve quality of life of people with type 1 diabetes, which typically develops in childhood. In a world first, children have successfully been entrusted to use pioneering artificial pancreas technology all by themselves at home overnight - without the supervision of expert researchers. 

The breakthrough trial, written about in the journal Diabetes Care, comes as type 1 diabetes charity JDRF reveals that UK people living with the condition are experiencing a "shockingly high" average of 10 hypos a week, making the need for an accessible, user-friendly artificial pancreas more urgent.

The latest trial, coordinated by the University and funded by JDRF, has shown for the first time that unsupervised use of the artificial pancreas overnight can be safe - while also providing tangible benefits. All previous artificial pancreas trials, in hospitals and in home environments, have required strict supervision from researchers. 

Participants, all aged between 12 and 18, saw improved blood glucose control during the trial and experienced fewer nights with hypoglycaemic episodes, generally known as hypos.  A hypo occurs when the blood glucose level of someone living with type 1 diabetes falls dangerously low. Without proper treatment, it may cause unconsciousness and can lead to death.

Principal researcher on the trial, Dr Roman Hovorka from the University of Cambridge, said: "The study is an important stepping stone for the wider use of an artificial pancreas. We have shown that overnight home use is feasible and beneficial - allowing people to live their life more freely.

"The artificial pancreas is expected to transform the treatment of type 1 diabetes and we have proven that this promise holds. The success of this trial means that larger and longer studies are already in the pipeline."

Karen Addington, UK Chief Executive of JDRF, said: "Type 1 diabetes is a challenging and complex condition that requires constant management every day.  At JDRF we remain focused on improving lives until we find the cure."


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Are we becoming nicer people?

by Admin 23. April 2014 11:22

A drop in the number of injuries from violent incidents arriving in A&E departments suggests the nation is getting less violent.

According to recent figures obtained from NHS hospitals in England and Wales, the number of injuries from violent injuries arriving in A&E has dropped for another year, the fifth consecutive year the figure has plummeted in the health service.

In 2013, the number of violence-related injuries arriving in English and Welsh A&E departments was down by 12%, with 235,000 less patients being treated after violent attacks as compared to the previous year. This coincides with long-term evidence suggesting a falling rate of violent crime in England and Wales.

The topic was investigated by a team from Cardiff University by analysing data from 117 emergency departments, walk-in centres and minor injuries units across England and Wales. The researchers welcomed the trend as good news for citizens and public services.

Professor Jonathan Shepherd, lead author of the report, said: “Continuing, substantial decreases in serious violence are welcome for citizens, communities and in combating the fear of crime.”

“They also decrease the costs of violence to health services and the criminal justice system and reduce pressures on hard-pressed Accident and Emergencies late at night and at the weekend.”

The changes reflect the general evidence that violence is decreasing in Western countries, although the authors remain unsure as to the cause of the decline in Wales and England. One suggestion is that the rising cost of alcohol may have played a part in reducing binge drinking and therefore reducing alcohol-fuelled incidences of violence.  

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GSK & Theravance announce COPD phase III study

by Admin 23. April 2014 10:43

GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and Theravance (THRX) have announced the start of a phase III efficacy and safety study of a combination treatment of the inhaled corticosteroid (ICS), fluticasone furoate and long-acting beta2 agonist (LABA), vilanterol (FF/VI). 

The study will evaluate the contribution of the ICS component on lung function, in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Positive results from this study will help support a potential filing of FF/VI for the treatment of patients with COPD in Japan.

The study is a 12-week, multicentre, randomised, double-blind, parallel-group study to evaluate the efficacy and safety of FF/VI 100/25mcg once daily compared with VI 25mcg once daily, administered via the Ellipta inhaler. Patients included in the study will have a history of COPD with at least one exacerbation in the year prior to screening and will demonstrate current symptoms of COPD. The study seeks to enrol approximately 1580 patients from across 250 study centres worldwide, including approximately 350 patients from centres in Japan.

The FF/VI phase III clinical development programme in patients with COPD contained data from six studies in over 6000 COPD patients. Specific Japanese patient efficacy data were only available from two six-month efficacy studies.  In these studies the contribution of FF 100mcg to the combination, on lung function, did not achieve statistical significance. 

GSK chose to withdraw the COPD file in Japan while designing an additional study, as there were insufficient data to support the efficacy of the combination and its components in this specific patient group. Demonstration of a statistically significant contribution of FF 100mcg to the combination on lung function needs to be shown in this study, with a trend demonstrating a positive benefit in the Japanese patients sub-group, being pivotal for the approval of FF/VI 100/25mcg for treatment of COPD in Japan.  

FF/VI strengths of 100/25 mcg and 200/25 mcg were licensed by the Japanese Ministry of Health Labour and Welfare for the treatment of asthma under the trade name Relvar® Ellipta® in September 2013. FF/VI is not licensed in Japan for the treatment of patients with COPD.

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