SciTech

Health Line

Hepatitis C response aided by genetics

During treatment for hepatitis C, patients undergo a 48-week course of the antiviral drugs interferon and ribavirin. This treatment is much more successful in Americans of European descent than in African-Americans.
A team at Duke University has discovered that the reason for the treatment’s varying effectiveness is not due to differing access to health care.
The team, led by David B. Goldstein and John McHutchison, uncovered a DNA coding site that is close to the gene for a special kind of interferon, known as interferon-lambda-3.
Some people have DNA unit T’s on both copies of the genome (one from each parent), C’s on both copies, or one T and one C.
People with the CC allele respond much better to the standard hepatitis treatment than people with the TT allele. Because the CC allele is more common in Europeans than in Africans, this explains part of the difference in response to the treatment between the two races.

Source: New York Times

Heroin cures heroin addiction

Researchers from Canada, led by Eugenia Oviedo-Joekes, reported that out of 226 heroin addicts in Montreal and Vancouver, 54 percent of those who got oral methadone stayed away from drugs and continued treatment for a year. However, 88 percent who received diacetylmorphine shots stayed on treatment and did not take drugs for the same period of time.
Diacetylmorphine is an active ingredient in heroin. Those who got the shots also cut back on illicit drugs by 67 percent, compared to 48 percent of those who got the oral treatment (methadone). The shots were given in a proper medical setting which, researchers claim, can lower risk of overdose and seizures.

Source: Reuters

Swine flu spreads to birds

Officials in Chile reported that swine flu has now started infecting birds. Experts claim that there is nothing to worry about, as the turkeys that have been infected have only shown mild symptoms. None of the birds have died and the virus does not appear to have mutated into a more deadly form.
Until now, the H1N1 virus has proved to be highly infectious but not more deadly than the seasonal flu. However, experts worry that the virus may combine with the avian flu virus, giving rise to a more deadly form of the disease.

Source: Associated Press

New drug targets cancer stem cells

Researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Broad Institute have discovered a new compound that can destroy breast cancer stem cells, which have previously resisted treatment and are thought to be the cause of recurrent cancers.
The scientists believe that this compound could be effective against cancer stem cells for different types of cancer.
Cancer stem cells are difficult to destroy and are also difficult to study in a laboratory. The group stabilized the cancer stem cells in order to study them and tested them with 16,000 chemical compounds, narrowing down to the one compound that was effective in killing them.

Source: Los Angeles Times