Meet Antonio

World Diabetes Month
Antonio is a 49 years young resident of New York City, living with type 2 diabetes. He was diagnosed a little over three years ago after a routine check-up with his primary care physician.
While Antonio wasn’t expecting the diagnosis, it wasn’t a complete shock either, as he had lost his mother to diabetes.
Continue reading “Meet Antonio”

Parkinson’s Awareness Month

M3 Global Research is currently recruiting patients with Parkinson’s to participate in usability testing for a new device used in conjunction with a smart phone (both provided) in the United States and in Germany. We’re offering generous compensation to the patients taking part and also the physicians referring them. If you are a member of the M3 Global Research panel, contact M3_US_support@eu.m3.com to find out if you qualify. If you are a patient who is not a member and wish to participate, please register by clicking here if you are in the USA and here if you are in Germany. You will then receive an invite by email.

Around seven to 10 million people worldwide live with Parkinson’s disease, a condition that currently has no cure. For this year’s WordParkinson’s Day, Parkinson’s UK, a charity that works towards finding a cure and improving life for everyone affected by the condition, has launched the campaign #UniteForParkinsons. It aims to give voice and platform to the Parkinson’s community by featuring their experiences in a world-wide campaign video and encouraging others to do the same. Watch it here:


Complexity of Parkinson’s ‘massively underestimated’ in the UK

In a survey to mark World Parkinson’s Day (Wednesday 11 April), Parkinson’s UK has discovered that 78% of the public massively underestimate how many symptoms of Parkinson’s there are. Although most people are aware of visible symptoms like tremor, Parkinson’s can also come with more than 40 less well-known symptoms such as sleep issues, anxiety and hallucinations. Shockingly, more than a third (37%) thought there were fewer than ten symptoms of Parkinson’s and more than 41% thought there were fewer than 30.

The charity is warning that this lack of awareness means that people with Parkinson’s often feel they need to hide their symptoms in public, or don’t want to go out at all due to being incorrectly judged or mocked. Previous findings from the charity have uncovered:

  • A quarter (25%) have had symptoms mistaken for drunkenness
  • 11% have been laughed at because of their symptoms
  • More than a third (34%) feel they would be judged if they were out in public
  • Almost a third (32%) don’t feel like their symptoms are socially acceptable

These symptoms are merely the tip of the iceberg, it warns, and do not reflect what people with Parkinson’s most want addressing. In a recent project carried out by the charity to identify priorities to focus on for improving everyday life, tremor came 26th on a list of what people with Parkinson’s want research to tackle.

Artificial intelligence to help develop new Parkinson’s treatments

Parkinson’s UK is actively involved in research, and recently one of its research proposals has won the BenevolentAI Award. The project demonstrated how AI technology could solve specific research challenges in Parkinson’s.

There have been no major breakthroughs in Parkinson’s treatments in the last 50 years. Current treatments revolve around medication that works by restoring the level of dopamine in the brain or mimicking its actions; deep brain stimulation (DBS), a type of surgery where electrodes are implanted deep inside specific parts of the brain, but which is not suitable for every patient; and physical therapies such as physiotherapy, speech and language therapy and occupational therapy, that are important in the management of the condition.

Parkinson’s UK’s proposal will use BenevolentAI platform’s capabilities to reason, deduce and suggest entirely new treatments for Parkinson’s. The aim is to identify at least three currently available medicines that can be repurposed to address Parkinson’s, and two brand-new ways to treat the condition with new drugs. Read more about the project: Artificial intelligence to help develop new Parkinson’s treatments.

*All rights belong to Parkinson’s UK. We would like to thank the charity for sharing this content with us.

Today is World AIDS Day

World AIDS Day

World AIDS Day is an opportunity each year to show solidarity and support to our friends, family, and community members worldwide who are living with HIV, and to commemorate those we have lost. Since the identification of the virus in 1984, we have lost over 35 million people, making it one of the most widespread pandemics in history. Research shows that we are getting closer and closer to a cure every day.

M3 stands with those who are affected on this day, and has gleaming hope for the future in healthcare treatments.

To show our support, we’d like to share the article below with you. Written by Thumbi Ndung’u, programme Director for the Sub-Saharan African Network for TB/HIV Research Excellence, the article provides some important insights into how the virus spreads and how this knowledge in turn can be translated into effective vaccines.

Four big insights into HIV/AIDS that provide hope of finding a vaccine

HIV remains one of the continent’s most intractable health challenges. Tremendous progress is being made to understand the virus, the immune mechanisms that contribute to its control and for new antiretroviral drugs and vaccines to be developed to treat and prevent HIV.

But much remains to be done to overcome the health and economic devastation of the epidemic. African researchers have been performing cutting-edge research to contribute to addressing these problems. The sub-Saharan African Network for TB/HIV Research Excellence has been at the forefront of this research and has provided some important insights into how the virus spreads as well as the immune mechanisms that enable some people to control the virus without antiretroviral drugs.

This knowledge could be translated into effective vaccines or other novel interventions to prevent the spread of the virus or achieve a functional cure where people are able to live without antiretroviral drugs at least for a while.

Although the goals of a vaccine or cure remain elusive, the research being done makes these goals appear increasingly likely.


Immune systems are critical

A major plank of our research, in collaboration with others, has been around understanding what mechanisms the body uses to control HIV – particularly in the early phase of infection.

Our research shows that within a few weeks of becoming HIV infected, almost all people have a very robust immune response through cells known as cytotoxic T lymphocytes, or killer CD8 T cells. These cells are able to partially suppress HIV.

But when most people are exposed to the virus, their immune systems are mostly skewed to respond to regions of HIV that are highly variable. This allows the virus to easily change to escape immune recognition.

The killer CD8 T cells produced during the acute phase are also highly defective. They become exhausted and die off easily, which enables the virus to persist.

But we’ve discovered an interesting twist. Some people have a genetic makeup that facilitates development of very good CD8 killer T cell immune responses. These rare individuals can control the virus without antiretroviral drugs. These are also a few people who appear to control the virus without using CD8 killer T cells, and we are in hot pursuit of the mechanisms that control the virus in such individuals.

This ground-breaking research is vital because understanding how the immune system is able to control the virus – either by killer T cells or other mechanisms – could lead to effective HIV vaccines or cures.

HIV evades or adapts to immune pressure

Our work has shown that HIV is very adept at evading the body’s immune responses to the virus. The main way it does this is by developing mutations that enable the virus not to be recognised by a person’s immune system. At the same time it continues to replicate and reproduce itself.

Our work shows that although this immune escape is common, in some cases the virus develops mutations that cripple it, making it unable to continue replicating efficiently.

We have identified some of the regions of virus that are vulnerable that cripple the virus if it is targeted by the immune system. These regions of viral vulnerability could be included in HIV vaccines so that the body makes an immune response against these regions of the virus ensuring that the immune system cripples the virus. This may be an effective way to make an HIV vaccine or achieve natural control of the virus in those already infected.

But that’s not the end of the story. There’s a further complication because we’ve also discovered that the virus can acquire new mutations that restore its ability to replicate efficiently. But we think that there may be ways to block or limit escape. The viral regions of vulnerability that we have identified could be good candidates for vaccines designed to disable virus replication.

Genetic and viral factors matter

There is a lot of variability in HIV disease progression.

Without antiretroviral therapy, most HIV infected people develop full blown AIDS within 10 years. But some people succumb more rapidly, within two years. There is also a rare group of individuals known as elite controllers who have been shown to live with HIV for more than 20 years with almost undetectable viral load and without developing AIDS.

Our group and others have shown that variability in disease progression can be explained by differences in genetic factors that govern the immune response.

Some people are naturally equipped with better genetic makeup that enables them to develop a very good immune response that can fight off the virus and control it. But in almost all cases, a robust and good immune response eventually leads to immune escape in the virus, which means that the virus acquires changes that enable it to hide from the immune system.

But some of these mutations can cripple the virus.

People infected with HIV but with superior immune responses – or with a virus that has been crippled by the immune system end up living long healthy lives without antiretroviral drugs.

This kind of knowledge is very useful for the potential development of vaccines.

The influence of viral genetic factors

One of the defining characteristics of the HIV/AIDS epidemic is that there are multiple genetic strains (known as subtypes or clades) that are unevenly spread throughout the world.

We have demonstrated that some regions of HIV differ in biological activity according to HIV subtypes, and these differences are consistent with reported differences in rates of disease progression.

For example, our work shows that there are characteristics in the Gag region (a specific part of the HIV virus) that make subtypes B and D able to replicate more efficiently than subtypes A and C, which may explain why subtypes B and D are associated with faster disease progression compared to A and D in some population-based studies.

Paradoxically, it appears that the subtypes that replicate less efficiently such as A and C are more successful in infecting more people, perhaps because infected people live longer with these viruses.

The work helps to explain how HIV affects the rate of disease progression in individuals and how in general epidemics spread and change over time. This kind of knowledge is important for predicting the spread of epidemics and how to combat outbreaks so that they do not cause massive suffering as has been the case with HIV and viruses such as Ebola.

 


Thumbi Ndung’u, Programme Director for the Sub-Saharan African Network for TB/HIV Research Excellence (SANTHE), University of KwaZulu-Natal

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

 

MOVEMBER: Prostate cancer

Movember is an annual event involving the growing of moustaches during the month of November to raise awareness of men’s health issues, such as prostate cancer, testicular cancer, and men’s suicide.

Movember-Foundation-Logo

At M3 we wanted to use this opportunity to share with you a very interesting article published by the Queen’s University Belfast about the world’s largest research study using a diagnostic test developed by Almac Diagnostics. The goal is to understand better the biology of prostate cancer tumours, which could lead to a transformation in how prostate cancer is diagnosed and treated.

 

Transforming prostate cancer treatment

Whether a prostate cancer patient has a slow-growing or aggressive tumour will affect the type of treatment required. It is only through understanding the type and genetics of the particular cancer tumour that clinicians will be able to put an effective treatment plan in place.

Lead researcher, Dr Suneil Jain from the Centre for Cancer Research & Cell Biology at Queen’s University Belfast explains: “Current diagnosis of prostate cancer involves biopsies, scans and blood tests to determine how aggressive the cancer is and subsequently to develop an appropriate treatment plan. Doctors repeatedly report that these tools aren’t always effective in determining how aggressive the cancer is, which can mean it is difficult to decide on the best treatment for an individual patient.”

Global Personalised medicine company Almac Diagnostics has developed a gene expression biomarker, known as Metastatic Assay, which aims to quickly diagnose the type of prostate cancer. The test analyses the genetics of the tumour enabling clinicians to understand the type of tumour, whether it is a slow-growing or aggressive and if the latter, to what extent.

Researchers at Queen’s University Belfast led the world’s largest study of this kind, using Metastatic Assay on prostate biopsies from 248 patients who had previously been treated for prostate cancer. The research findings, published in Annals of Oncology, found the diagnostic test to be more effective than the standard clinical tests.

Professor Richard Kennedy, Global VP and Medical Director at Almac Diagnostics and McClay Professor in Medical Oncology at Queen’s University Belfast commented: “The assay has now proven to be superior to conventional clinical tests at predicting aggressive disease in two independent studies, the first of which used surgical tissue, while this study used tissue taken from needle biopsy. We believe it will play an important role in identifying men who may benefit from treatment intensification.”

Treatment options available to prostate cancer patients include radiotherapy, chemotherapy, brachytherapy and hormone therapy. Although radiotherapy is often used to effectively treat patients with prostate cancer, 20- 30% of patients can relapse within five years.

Dr Jain explains: “The relapse of many prostate patients could be avoided through undergoing more intensive treatment including higher dosages of radiotherapy. There are also potential side-effects associated with administering more intensive treatment so a test that enables us to deliver the right treatment to the right patient would be extremely beneficial in clinical practice.”

The project was funded by Prostate Cancer UK and the Movember Centre of Excellence, a joint venture between Queen’s University Belfast and academic colleagues in Manchester.

Dr Iain Frame, Director of Research at Prostate Cancer UK said: “This research could provide clinicians with the answers they need to identify which cancers are likely to spread and give men peace of mind that the decision they make regarding their treatment is the right one. It’s still early days but it’s great to see how the work taking place at the Movember Centres of Excellence has the potential to bring about real change for men. We look forward to further results.”

 

All rights belong to the Queen’s University Belfast.

Movember logo belongs to the Movember foundation.

OCTOBER 11: World Obesity Day

World Obesity Day

New figures indicate the annual cost of treating the consequences of obesity will reach US$1.2 trillion globally by 2025.

11th October is World Obesity Day and is marked in 2017 for the third time. It was launched to stimulate discussion and support practical actions to help people achieve and maintain a healthy weight and reverse the global obesity crisis.

The World Obesity Federation along with global health leaders, including The Lancet and the World Health Organization, shine a spotlight on staggering costs and continued impact of obesity, including new data showing the continued increase in childhood obesity and the financial consequences of untreated obesity at all ages.

New World Obesity Federation data demonstrates how investing in the prevention, early intervention and treatment of obesity is a cost-effective action for governments and health services. Investment can also help to achieve the 2025 targets set by the World Health Organization to halt the rise in obesity and to achieve a 25% relative reduction in mortality from NCDs.

healthy weight

Untreated, obesity is responsible for a significant proportion of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) including heart disease, diabetes, liver disease and many types of cancer. The global annual medical cost of treating these serious consequences of obesity is expected to reach US$1.2 trillion per year by 2025 .

The World Obesity Federation is using World Obesity Day, 11th October, to urge governments, health service providers, insurers and philanthropic organisations to prioritise investment in tackling obesity.  This means:

1) Investing in treatment services to support people affected by obesity

2) Early intervention to improve the success of treatment and

3) Prevention to reduce the need for treatment.

For more information, access the World Obesity Day website.

*All rights belong to the World Obesity Federation. We would like to thank the World Obesity Federation for sharing this content with us.