February Healthcare News Roundup
<p>In this monthly healthcare news roundup, we bring you the latest updates about treatments, devices, and technologies in the medical field. This month, we take a closer look at how scientists are using contact lenses in glaucoma, how some cancers are being treated with a new drug delivery system, and how a urine test can be used to detect brain tumors. In addition, we learn how people with autism can feel more pain than non-autistic people, and how migraines may foretell pregnancy complications.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <h2>Wireless Contact Lenses To Diagnose and Treat Glaucoma&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</h2> <p>For patients with glaucoma, managing their condition can drastically reduce their quality of life. This disease is caused by increased intraocular pressure and, if left untreated, the high pressure inside the eye can damage the optic nerve, leading to vision loss in severe cases.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>Now, a research team from Pohang University of Science and Technology (POSTECH) in South Korea may have a solution for patients with glaucoma who are unable to self-monitor their intraocular pressure and self-administer their pressure-lowering medication. The team <a href="https://www.newswise.com/articles/smart-contact-lens-that-diagnoses-and-treats-glaucoma" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">developed</a> a wireless smart contact lens for monitoring and control of intraocular pressure in glaucoma.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>This special contact lens uses hollow gold nanowires, which are integrated with a flexible drug delivery system, wireless power and communication system, and an application-specific integrated circuit chip. This complex yet minuscule system is entirely biocompatible and has excellent chemical stability.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>The smart contact lens can sense changes in the patient’s intraocular pressure, and when the pressure rises too much, the drug delivery sensors are activated to release the pressure-lowering drug timolol. When the pressure stabilizes, the feedback system gives instructions to stop releasing the drug, until the next time the patient needs it.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>This technology will make personalized glaucoma treatment a reality, with maximum efficacy and minimal side effects, the researchers noted.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <h2>New Drug Delivery System for Severe, Inaccessible Cancers</h2> <p>When cancers spread to the peritoneum, usually from the ovaries or the digestive tract, patients face poor survival prognosis. This is because there is a barrier between the blood and the peritoneum, a serous membrane covering the abdominal cavity. Because of this, peritoneal cancer is hard to discover and even harder to treat.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>For drugs to cross the barrier between the blood and the peritoneum, they should be small and insoluble in water; however, they need to be soluble in water to be carried in the bloodstream in high enough quantities to be effective in treating cancer.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>To solve this problem, scientists from NaDeNo, a nanotechnology company, <a href="https://norwegianscitechnews.com/2023/01/combating-severe-cancer-with-a-new-drug-delivery-system/" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">created</a> a new and effective delivery system which makes it possible to embed large volumes of an active cancer drug in nanoparticle carriers.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>Although treatments for peritoneal cancers involve direct administration of anticancer drugs to the peritoneum, the drugs usually spend too little time in the peritoneal cavity, being quickly absorbed into the bloodstream and transported to other parts of the body. This results in lower drug concentrations in tumor cells, and a high rate of side effects.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>The new nanomedicine delivery system enables the drug to be evenly distributed in the peritoneum, by encapsulating it in tiny nanoparticle carriers. The nanoparticles are injected directly into the peritoneal cavity in a solution that ensures that they are distributed uniformly and reach all the tumors in the peritoneum.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>Although still in the initial stages of clinical development, the scientists are optimistic about the potential of the nanocarriers, not only in peritoneal cancers but for other cancers in complex locations.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <h2>Using a Urine Test To Detect Brain Tumors</h2> <p>Researchers at Nagoya University, Japan, were able to <a href="https://bioengineer.org/scientists-develop-new-device-to-detect-brain-tumors-using-urine/" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">identify a protein</a> that serves as a marker for brain tumors by using a device to test the patient’s urine. This way, they hope to reduce the need for invasive tests, as well as increase the likelihood that cancers are detected earlier, increasing the chances for treatment success.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>Although many cancers nowadays have increased survival rates with appropriate treatment, the survival rate for brain tumors has remained unchanged in the past decades, partially because they are detected late, only when neurological symptoms start to appear. By that time, the cancer is already quite large, and treatments, such as surgical removal, are not possible or not highly effective.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>The proteins studied by the Nagoya University researchers are specific to the membranes of extracellular vesicles produced by patients with brain tumors, and can thus be used as signature markers for brain tumors. Looking for these markers could mean earlier detection. Using a device composed of nanowires at the bottom of a well plate, the researchers were able to isolate and detect the proteins of interest in one simple procedure, paving the way for more effective and faster disease detection.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <h2>Contrary to Popular Belief, People With Autism Feel Pain With More Intensity</h2> <p>Because people with autism have the propensity to self-harm, the prevalent idea in the healthcare community was that these people felt less pain than those without autism. However, <a href="https://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=286012" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">new research</a> indicates that it may be the opposite.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>In a study involving 52 adults with high-functioning autism and 52 individuals without autism, the researchers tested the pain felt by the participants to evaluate the link between stimulus and response. A researcher would control the duration and intensity of stimulus using a computer, while the participant was asked to rank the intensity of the pain on a scale of 0 to 100. The results showed that people with autism hurt more and have a less effective pain suppression mechanism.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>Having a pain suppression mechanism that does not work properly may explain the tendency for self-harm: there is a physical mechanism in which “pain inhibits pain,” and people with autism may be seeking to unconsciously activate this mechanism when feeling uncomfortable.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>If we consider that 70% to 90% of people with autism suffer from sensory modulation dysfunction, which means that they have trouble ignoring or adapting to buzzing or flickering lights or humming of air conditioners or fans, we can then see how self-harm may be a form to escape the uncomfortable feelings caused by sensory hypersensitivity.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>This research has a significant impact on healthcare professionals, and the authors stated they hope the results can contribute to the advancement of personalized treatment.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <h2>Having a History of Migraines May Be a Marker of Pregnancy Complications&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</h2> <p>The <a href="https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2023/02/migraine-history-may-be-marker-of-pregnancy-risks/" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">findings of a study</a> conducted at Brigham and Women’s Hospital suggest that women with a history of migraine may benefit from increased monitoring during pregnancy, given their higher risk of complications.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>Women are more likely than men to suffer from migraine, especially between the ages of 18 and 44, and these migraines can sometimes be accompanied by aura, a type of visual disturbance. In this study, the researchers analyzed data from more than 30 thousand pregnancies, looking at pre-pregnancy physician-diagnosed migraine and migraine phenotype (with or without aura), linking this information with the incidence of pregnancy outcomes.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>The team found that women with migraine were more likely to have adverse pregnancy outcomes, including preterm delivery, gestational hypertension, and pre-eclampsia, suggesting that migraine could be a clinical marker of elevated obstetric risk.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>The researchers also found that women with migraine who reported regular aspirin use before pregnancy had a 45% lower risk of having preterm birth. Although migraine is currently not included among indications for aspirin use in pregnancy, this finding indicates its use might be beneficial.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <h2>New Bioelectronic Implantable Device May Treat Incontinence</h2> <p>A new device created by a company descended from the University of Oxford can treat incontinence using bioelectrical therapy. The first participants of the clinical trial evaluating this modern technology have already received their smart implants, which use closed-loop neuromodulation to try to restore normal bladder function.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>Using a minimally invasive surgery, the device is placed in the participants’ pelvic region, near the pudendal nerve (the nerve that directly controls continence) where it can sense, interpret, adapt, and respond to individual patient signals in real time. Using this approach, it will be possible to treat “urge incontinence,” which is the feeling of urgency to empty the bladder, and “mixed urinary incontinence,” which leads to urine leakage during activities such as coughing or lifting.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>So far, the early finding from the clinical trial indicates that it is feasible to use this surgical approach and device, making this therapy a very promising approach for the future treatment of incontinence, one of the most common medical problems in humans. The study is expected to be finalized by the end of 2023, with the results hopefully being used in larger clinical trials.&nbsp;</p> <h3>Interested in the global healthcare news?</h3> <div class="is-layout-flex wp-block-buttons"> <div class="wp-block-button is-style-fill"><a class="wp-block-button__link has-text-color has-background wp-element-button" href="https://www.trueprofile.io/member/resources/category/healthcare-news" style="color:#f5f5f5;background-color:#00497a" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">View all Healthcare News Roundups</a></div> </div>