Common Cancer Drug Could Help Reduce Autism’s Social Struggles

It has only been tried in mice thus far, yet the drug shows promise at treating a real problem of socialization.

Low doses of a compound called romidepsin might help those on the autism spectrum overcome the social challenges that define their condition.

So far it has only been shown to be effective in mice, but the mechanisms behind the drug’s activity make it a promising candidate for an autism treatment in humans – the first of its kind.

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is an umbrella term for traits that interfere with the brain’s ability to process stimuli and negotiate social cues, often making communication difficult.


Of course mice aren’t people, but since the mechanisms appear to be the same, there’s hope that the drug’s effects will be as well.

The fact it’s already FDA approved also suggests a treatment is tantalizingly on the horizon.

It’s important to keep in mind that there’s still plenty of research between this study and a publicly available treatment.

Research Into Certain Psychedelics Alleviating Mental Health Difficulties

Psilocybin mushrooms, ketamine and LSD all show interesting results at alleviating mental difficulties such as depression. The pharmaceutical industry is of course largely against this positive evidence on those drugs, but this is as their synthetic antidepressants don’t work well enough and can even have their own downsides. New approaches are needed (with microdosing perhaps) for these widespread problems of mental suffering, including different policy decisions than what’s mostly been done in the last four decades of upwards redistribution to the richest class.

In recent years, scientists have been uncovering potential therapeutic benefits of psychedelic substances like psilocybin and lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) – it looks like they can ‘reset’ the brain in people with mental health conditions.

Now a new study has revealed exactly what’s going on inside our brains when we take LSD, uncovering a connection that might explain why it relieves the symptoms of disorders such as PTSD and chronic depression.

Research led by the Center for Brain and Cognition at the Universitat Pompeu Fabra in Barcelona has discovered a process of ‘harmonising’ across areas of the brain that don’t usually work together.

Referred to by the team as ‘repertoire expansion’, it suggests psychedelic substances like LSD could be encouraging the brain to develop certain patterns of activity.

The team thinks these patterns could help compensate the disordered connections that can cause mental suffering.


For one thing, after half a century of being stigmatised as dangerous recreational drugs, it’s still slow going to build up the evidence base supporting the healing potential psychedelic pharmaceuticals.

The studies are piling up, though. Which is good news for those dealing with ill mental health.

New Potential Asthma Treatment Through New Understanding of Airway Closure

Asthma is a consequence of rising air pollution, and new approaches to the problem like this can help those who suffer from it. It’s a disease estimated to cost the U.S. economy about $80 billion a year, which is an amount equal to about $635 per U.S. family.

Houston Methodist researchers have a new explanation for what causes the lungs’ airways to close during asthma attacks that could change the lives of the 300 million people worldwide who suffer from asthma. The discovery holds promise for developing a new class of drugs that is radically different from the steroids currently used to treat it.

Led by Xian C. Li, M.D., Ph.D., and his colleagues in the Immunobiology and Transplant Science Center at the Houston Methodist Research Institute, the study is in the Feb. 5 issue of the Journal of Experimental Medicine, one of the oldest journals in medicine.

One of the key features of asthma is an overproduction of a highly sticky protein secreted by the mucous membranes of airways in the lungs, called mucin, which leads to plugging up the small airways and stopping air from traveling in and out of them. This leaves patients out of breath and, oftentimes, causes them to gasp for air.

Li and his team discovered an interaction between two molecules that can be manipulated to solve this problem. “If we can do this and develop better and more specific drugs to selectively stop super-enhancers, asthmatic patients may never have to struggle for air again,” he said.


“Finding new approaches to target and block super-enhancers may provide a new means of treatment for asthma patients that is likely to be more efficacious than the standard of care, which is now steroids,” Li said.

Cancer Immunotherapy Eliminates Tumors in Mice

It’s notable research due to the similarities humans share with mice, but it’s unclear just how relevant this improvement in immunotherapy will be.

Injecting minute amounts of two immune-stimulating agents directly into solid tumors in mice can eliminate all traces of cancer in the animals, including distant, untreated metastases, according to a study by researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine.

The approach works for many different types of cancers, including those that arise spontaneously, the study found.

The researchers believe the local application of very small amounts of the agents could serve as a rapid and relatively inexpensive therapy that is unlikely to cause the adverse side effects often seen with bodywide immune stimulation.

“When we use these two agents together, we see the elimination of tumors all over the body,” said Ronald Levy, MD, professor of oncology. “This approach bypasses the need to identify tumor-specific immune targets and doesn’t require wholesale activation of the immune system or customization of a patient’s immune .”

One agent is currently already approved for use in humans; the other has been tested for human use in several unrelated clinical trials. A clinical trial was launched in January to test the effect of the treatment in patients with lymphoma.

Significant Step Forward With Basic Cancer Detection Blood Test

Encouraging work, although there is still much that needs done for progress.

A team of researchers has taken a major step toward one of the hottest goals in cancer research: a blood test that can detect tumors early. Their new test, which examines cancer-related DNA and proteins in the blood, yielded a positive result about 70% of the time across eight common cancer types in more than 1000 patients whose tumors had not yet spread—among the best performances yet for a universal cancer blood test. It also narrowed down the form of cancer, which previously published pan-cancer blood tests have not.

The work, reported online today in Sciencecould one day lead to a tool for routinely screening people and catching tumors before they cause symptoms, when chances are best for a cure. Other groups, among them startups with more than $1 billion in funding, are already pursuing that prospect. The new result could put the team, led by Nickolas Papadopoulos, Bert Vogelstein, and others at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, among the front-runners.

Article in the British press:

Tumours release tiny traces of their mutated DNA and proteins they make into the bloodstream.

The CancerSEEK test looks for mutations in 16 genes that regularly arise in cancer and eight proteins that are often released.


Dr Cristian Tomasetti, from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, told the BBC: “This field of early detection is critical.

“I think this can have an enormous impact on cancer mortality.”

The earlier a cancer is found, the greater the chance of being able to treat it.

New “High-Tech” Dental Treatments May be Able to Repair Teeth

This is encouraging new research, although not enough of the details have been finalized yet. The advanced treatments will hopefully be low cost so that reducing human plight can take precedence over increasing corporate profits.

From fluoride toothpaste to dental sealants, science has brought all sorts of tools for fighting tooth decay — and yet 91% of Americans between 20 and 64 years of age are affected by dental caries.

But provocative new research suggests that cell-stimulating medications can “trick” teeth into repairing themselves. If these “small molecule” drugs work as well as scientists think they will, we may be on the cusp of a new era in which dental tissue and even entire teeth can be regrown.

And this is only one of several new approaches that hold promise for tooth regeneration.


Right now, when dentists spot caries, they drill out the decayed material and fill the hole with a cement-like substance called amalgam. But amalgam can fail or even fall out. That can bring more discomfort and a trip back to the dentist.

This could all change. The research shows the drugs can coax stem cells within the dental pulp — the soft material deep within teeth that’s filled with nerves and blood vessels — into regrowing enough bony tissue (dentin) to fill the cavity.

Researchers are especially excited about Tideglusib, a low-cost experimental drug with an established safety record. They think it could be fast-tracked through clinical trials for use to stop tooth decay (Tideglusib is currently being tested for use against Alzheimer’s disease).

“The dentin produced by stimulating stem cells with Tideglusib integrates itself completely within the tooth so there’s no risk of the filling coming out, which is a big problem with the current methods, which haven’t changed much in the past 100 years,” says Dr. Paul Sharpe, professor of stem biology at Kings College London and leader of the research. “There’s a big need for biology to impact upon dentistry and drag it out of the 19th century.”

So far Tideglusib has been studied only in rats, but Sharpe expects to start human trials within the next year. He hopes that it can eventually replace amalgam, which contains mercury. “Mercury works and it lasts for a long time, but having that in your mouth is a concern,” Sharpe says.


Meanwhile, scientists at the University at Buffalo in New York are exploring an even more radical way to regrow teeth. A team led by Dr. Praveen Arany, assistant professor of oral biology at the university, is testing the use of low-power laser light to stimulate tooth regeneration.


Arany has found that shining laser light directly on the remaining pulp can stimulate stem cells in the pulp to produce new dentin. This would still need to be capped, but is likely to be far more resilient.

“By regenerating the tooth so the pulp is coated in natural dentin again, it doesn’t have the same risk of material failure,” Arany says. “Our bodies have the ability to heal our tissues through their own stem cells, so figuring out how to kick-start this process is a dramatically different and more effective way of doing dentistry.”

Experimental Device Could Help People Suffering from Tinnitus

Tinnitus impairs the livelihoods of millions of people, so it’s good that there’s scientific progress in developing treatment for it.

Millions of Americans hear ringing in their ears — a condition called tinnitus — and new research shows an experimental device could help quiet the phantom sounds by targeting unruly nerve activity in the brain.

In a new study in Science Translational Medicine, a team from the University of Michigan reports the results of the first animal tests and clinical trial of the approach, including data from 20 human tinnitus patients.

Based on years of scientific research into the root causes of the condition, the device uses precisely timed sounds and weak electrical pulses that activate touch-sensitive nerves, both aimed at steering damaged nerve cells back to normal activity.

Human participants reported that after four weeks of daily use of the device, the loudness of phantom sounds decreased, and their tinnitus-related quality of life improved. A sham “treatment” using just sounds did not produce such effects.


“The brain, and specifically the region of the brainstem called the dorsal cochlear nucleus, is the root of tinnitus,” said Susan Shore, the U-M Medical School professor who leads the research team. “When the main neurons in this region, called fusiform cells, become hyperactive and synchronize with one another, the phantom signal is transmitted into other centers where perception occurs.

“If we can stop these signals, we can stop tinnitus. That is what our approach attempts to do, and we’re encouraged by these initial parallel results in animals and humans.”