In a field where roughly 99 percent of experimental treatments have failed in clinical trials, one drug company thinks they finally cracked the code. In other public health news, gene editing offers hope for those with sickle cell disease, astronauts’ exposure to radiation could create major cognitive issues, a study finds 14 million kids may be exposed to toxins in their schools and more.
Scientists at Eli Lilly are racing to wrap up a clinical trial on a drug that could be the first major advance in treating Alzheimer’s in more than a decade — or a crushing reminder of why the memory-destroying disease has bedeviled researchers for so long. This is the third time Lilly has tested the drug in large-scale trials. The first two tests flopped. But the company, which has spent about $3 billion on Alzheimer’s research over 25 years, believes it has finally identified the patients most likely to benefit from its therapy. (Garde, 10/13)
The promise of a revolutionary gene-editing technology is beginning to be realized in experiments aimed at curing sickle cell disease. Scientists reported Wednesday that they used the CRISPR-Cas9 system to correct a tiny genetic mutation that causes the blood disease, which affects millions of people around the world. (Netburn, 10/12)
This is your brain in space — and it does not look pretty. Scientists studying the effects of radiation in rodents say that astronauts’ exposure to galactic cosmic rays could face a host of cognitive problems, including chronic dementia. The UC Irvine-led study, published in Scientific Reports, adds to a growing body of research on the harmful effects humans may reckon with as they venture out longer and deeper into space, whether on trips to Mars or potentially beyond. (Khan, 10/12)
One-third of all public schools in the United States could be contaminated with toxic PCBs, according to a new report from Sen. Edward Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat. The report could be the most comprehensive investigation into the presence of this toxic substance in public schools since they were first used in classrooms across the United States more than 70 years ago. It found that up to 14 million American children could be exposed to PCBs, or polychlorinated biphenyls. The report estimated that it could cost upward of $52 billion to rid schools of this cancer-causing chemical. (DesRoches, 10/12)
Exercise may aid in weight control and help to fend off diabetes by improving the ability of fat cells to burn calories, a new study reports. It may do this in part by boosting levels of a hormone called irisin, which is produced during exercise and which may help to turn ordinary white fat into much more metabolically active brown fat, the findings suggest. (Reynolds, 10/12)
Retaining the ability to get up and about easily — to walk across a parking lot, climb a set of stairs, rise from a chair and maintain balance — is an under-appreciated component of good health in later life. When mobility is compromised, older adults are more likely to lose their independence, become isolated, feel depressed, live in nursing homes and die earlier than people who don’t have difficulty moving around. (Graham, 10/13)
Researchers at Stanford University and Microsoft just came out with a study that found that “Pokémon Go” significantly increased physical activity levels for die-hard players — many of whom were not active before they started playing the wildly popular game. In fact, engaging in the scavenger-hunt-type game led to a more than 25 percent increase in players’ activity levels over 30 days. That, researchers estimated, adds up to an extra 41 days of life expectancy for players ages 15 to 49 who keep up their addictive habit of searching for and catching virtual Pokemon characters as they walk around with their mobile phone game. (Shah, 10/12)