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The Update

 Issue no.17, February 2021

The Update is a monthly digest of all that is interesting, exciting and new in the world of medicine and medical science, presented in a curated and convenient package.

1.  Active Component of Honeybee Venom Can Rapidly Kill Two Types of Breast Cancer 

Carefully Targeted Melittin from Honeybee Venom
  • For the first time, researchers at the at the Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research in Perth, Australia, and the University of Western Australia, have investigated the effect of melittin and honeybee venom on a range of breast cancers, including two of the most aggressive and hard-to-treat types. The scientists report their work in the journal NPJ Precision Oncology.
  • They have discovered that honeybee venom and its active component melittin is particularly toxic against triple negative breast cancer and HER2-enriched breast cancer, two of the most aggressive types of breast cancers.
  • Melittin works in two ways: within 20 minutes of administration, it blocks the passing of chemicals which help cancer cells grow and divide; within 1 hour it starts punching holes in the outer membranes of cancer cells with no effect to normal cells.
  • Most recently, the scientists have discovered that melittin is also effective against a wide range of cancers.
Read more

2. Paralyzed Mice Walk Again After Treatment with Cytokine

Hyper-IL-6 Enables Functional Recovery after Spinal Cord Crush
  • German researchers at Ruhr-University Bochum have enabled mice paralyzed after spinal cord injuries to walk again, re-establishing a neural link hitherto considered irreparable in mammals by using a designer protein injected into the brain.
  • "The special thing about our study is that the protein is not only used to stimulate those nerve cells that produce it themselves, but that it is also carried further through the brain" the team's head Dietmar Fischer told Reuters.
  • The treatment involves injecting carriers of genetic information into the brain to produce a protein called hyper-interleukin-6. As the name suggests, it is a synthetic version of a naturally occurring peptide, which has been tweaked to stimulate nerve cell regeneration.
  • In the study, the team tested hIL-6 on mice that had sustained a complete spinal cord crush, resulting in loss of function in both hind legs. They packaged the genetic instructions to produce hIL-6 into a common viral vehicle, and injected these into the sensorimotor cortex of the mice. 
  • The protein was then distributed via branching axons to more distant, inaccessible parts of the central nervous system that are essential for movement, where it triggered regeneration. Within a few weeks the mice regained function in their hind legs, even after just a single injection.
  • It should be noted that all the research to date has involved animal models of spinal cord injury. Many years of further work will be necessary to develop and test a safe, effective treatment for humans.
Read more

3. Biomarkers Predict Time Needed to Recover from Concussion

Plasma Biomarker Concentrations Associated With Return to Sport Following Sport-Related Concussion in Collegiate Athletes
  • A collaborative study conducted by scientists from the National Institutes of Health, Department of Defense (DOD) has identified blood biomarkers that could help predict which athletes need additional time to recover from a sports related concussion.
  • In this study, 127 male and female collegiate athletes who had sustained a sports-related concussion were tested at several time points: shortly after injury, when their symptoms resolved, and one week after returning to play.
  • Using an ultrasensitive assay that can detect minute amounts of protein, the researchers tested blood serum from these athletes and identified two blood proteins that were associated with the length of time needed by the athletes to return to play.
  • Amounts of these two proteins, tau protein and glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP) were found to be significantly different in athletes who needed less or more than 14 days to return.
  • These current results highlight the potential role of biomarkers in tracking neuronal recovery, which may be associated with duration of return to sport (RTS) following a sport-related concussion (SRC).
Read more

4. A Potential Vaccine for Multiple Sclerosis is Now Within Sight on the Horizon 

mRNA Vaccines Show Promise in Treating Multiple Sclerosis
  • The mRNA technology is quickly revolutionizing the vaccine space. Researchers in Johannes Gutenberg University of Mainz and BioNTech, makers of the successful Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, are now showing that a mRNA vaccine could also work in multiple sclerosis. 
  • Multiple sclerosis occurs when the immune system is mistakenly attacking the protective myelin sheath that covers the nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. 
  • Some existing treatments control the disease by systemically suppressing the immune system but they leave the patients vulnerable to infections. Scientists hypothesize that the vaccine specifically targets the MS-related proteins without compromising the normal immune function. 
  • By wrapping up the genetic information coding for self-antigens causing MS in fatty substances, the vaccine evades triggering a systemic inflammatory immune response until it reaches the target cells, lymphoid antigen-presenting cells, and produces the antigen protein.  In treated mice, this blocked all clinical signs of MS, prevented disease progression and restored motor functions. 
  • COVID-19 has shown us that mRNA vaccines are quick to design and can virtually code any autoantigen. The researchers are now even suggesting the use of a combination of mRNAs to enable the control of more complex autoimmune diseases. 
Read more

COVID-19 Update: Surrender Is Not an Option
In a series of 41 episodes covering the entire story of COVID-19, the Centre of Infectious Disease Research and Policy focuses on a specific area of interest within the topic of COVID-19 every week. They also showcase webinars and media briefings on the most recent update of the pandemic. 
This week, Dr. Osterholm and host Chris Dall discuss in their latest podcast the issue of opening schools, updates on variants of concern, and more news on vaccines and their distribution. 
Listen Here
Recent RAKMHSU Publications;year=2020;volume=68;issue=3;spage=669;epage=672;aulast=Jhancy )
In this paper, Ammar Al Homsi, Fatema Chowdhury, Samiha Hossain, and Reshmen Ahamed (MBBS Interns) with the help of Dr. Malay Jhancy (Pediatrics Department), outline a rare occurrence of Van der Knaap disease in the neonatal period. Van der Knaap disease is a rare disease, and its prevalence was said to be less than 1 in 1,000,000. 
The study is a case report, conducted in Ras Al Khaimah, UAE. It was published in Neurology India, Publication of the Neurological Society of India, in July 2020.
Copyright © 2020 RAK Medical & Health Sciences University, All rights reserved.

For comments and corrections, please contact the authors:
Nour Kamal Saba'neh - 
Science & Technology Officer
Mira Osman - Member, Committee on Science & Technology
Ruba Hassan - Member, Committee on Science & Technology
Abdullah Ahmed Tariq - Member, Committee on Science & Technology
Rim Ashraf -  Member, Committee on Science & Technology 
Zaki Emad - Member, Committee on Science & Technology

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