April 06, 2017

Breakthroughs against Cancer, Sickle-Cell Anemia and Rotavirus Disease

By Grace Carr
New Vaccine to Cure Deadly Rotavirus Disease  

A new vaccine against a diarrheal disease that kills roughly 600 children a day has worked well in a large trial in Africa and appears to be a practical way to protect millions of children in the future. The new vaccine against rotavirus – the most common cause of death from diarrhea in children under age 5 –was tested in Niger by Doctors Without Borders. The vaccine is expected to be cheaper than current alternatives and can last for months without refrigeration, making it easier to use in remote villages without electricity. The new study found that the vaccine was 67 percent effective in preventing severe episodes of rotavirus-related diarrhea. It must be approved by the World Health Organization before it can be widely distributed, but experts hail the new vaccine as a huge leap forward.

'Brewed Blood’ To Combat Sickness

From patients suffering from aplastic anemia or sickle-cell to those who’ve been injured in an accident or are simply anemic, blood transfusions are necessary all the time across the globe. Using a small sample of a patient’s own blood, scientists can now reprogram red blood cells into master stem cells and then coax them back into their red blood cell form that is unique to each patient. They can then grow the red blood cells repeatedly in the lab. Personalized blood could meet patients’ transfusions demands and reduce the effects of disease. The process could assist millions of people worldwide who need blood products. While the process has yet to be perfected, stem cell derived blood might be available for transfusions in the general population relatively soon.   

Blood Test Detects Cancer  

Researchers have developed a blood test that detects cancer and identifies where it is in the body. The breakthrough could allow doctors to diagnose specific cancers much earlier and is simple enough to include in routine annual health checks. The CancerLocator test hunts for DNA from tumors circulating in the blood of cancer patients. Tumors which arise in different parts of the body hold a distinctive ‘footprint’ that a computer can spot. The technology requires further validation, but the potential benefits to patients are huge, for the earlier the cancer is caught, the higher chance a patient has of beating the disease. Around 350,000 people are diagnosed with cancer in Britain each year, but 90% of people survive most types for at least five years if it is spotted early. Only 5 to 15% survive five years if cancer is picked up late.