News Bites brings you 5 weekly news in bite-sized form.

1. Novartis proves targeting inflammation could reduce incidence of heart diseases

Novartis has released results from a 10,000-patient study, proving that its inflammatory biologic drug, canakinumab, reduces cardiovascular risk in heart attack survivors.

This also validates a long-standing theory: targeting inflammation could play a critical role in reducing the incidence of heart diseases. The full data will not be released until August but has many cardiologists and pathologists excited as the challenge of choosing the right target has finally been overcome.

The inflammatory pathway is highly complex; therefore, scientists were always puzzled on whether to intervene upstream or downstream. If a drug disturbs the inflammatory process in the wrong way, the potential side effects could be troubling.

Experts are also cautioning that the drug may follow same paths as cholesterol-lowering PCSK9 inhibitors that have been recently approved and are performing poorly in the marketplace.

2. Microneedle patch could replace flu vaccines

A successful phase 1 clinical trial has shown that a dissolvable microneedle flu patch is "well tolerated" and safe for possible use.

The patch that is equipped with 100 microneedles to deliver a vaccine when pressed onto a patient's arm, was the product of a collaboration between Emory University School of Medicine and the Georgia Institute of Technology.

The microneedles are minuscule; and therefore does not cause as much pain as a traditional flu shot. Nonetheless, they were associated with itchiness at the injection site that lasted two to three days, in the trial.

Immediately after the vaccination, 96% of adults reported no pain, whereas only 82% who received the traditional flu shot reported no pain. A 28-day follow up saw about 70% of participants who received the patch vaccine prefer the patch over a traditional flu shot or intranasal vaccinations.

Immune responses to the patch and the traditional flu shot were similar. The researchers are hoping to do more research to make the patch available to public as it could be useful in an outbreak, reducing public health costs and reducing the need for bins to dispose syringes or the need for a cold chain to store vaccines.

3. Inserting plastic film into the gut could cure or control diabetes

Inserting a plastic film into the stomach could cure or control diabetes, researchers from the King's College Hospital and University College Hospital in London and City Hospital in Birmingham suggest.

Patients taking part in the trials have found that their diabetes had disappeared or become much milder after the operations.

"About 50% of patients are diabetes-free after these procedures," said Francesco Rubino, professor of metabolic surgery at King's.

The rest of the patients saw major improvements of blood sugar control and reduction of their dependence on insulin or other medication. The treatments stem from a new perspective of the causes of diabetes ̶ Rubino and his colleagues believe the gut is a key player.

They hope this simple gut operation would help reduce the toll diabetes takes on the NHS budget ̶ £10 billion a year.

4. New microscope allows surgeons to completely remove breast tumours

A new microscope developed by scientists and engineers at the University of Washington could help surgeons remove breast tumours completely as it can effectively scan tumours and examine cells in three dimensions under 30 minutes.

The researchers hope that by providing pathologists with 3-D data, the accuracy of a patient's diagnosis can be improved. This could also reduce the number of women who must undergo repeat surgeries to remove cancer cells that were missed in the first surgery.

The microscope uses a sheet of light to visually "slice" through and capture an image of a tissue sample without destroying it. This ensures that the tissue can be preserved for further testing or research.

The team hopes to work on speeding up the optical-clearing process that allows light to penetrate biopsy samples more easily, optimising their 3-D immunotstaining processes and develop algorithms that can process vast amounts of 3-D pathology data.

5. Tick saliva could pave way for a range of new drugs

The saliva from ticks could potentially stop the inflammation of the heart, leading to myocarditis and heart failure, researchers from Oxford University suggest.

The team says that ticks are a "gold mine" for new drugs and could be used to treat other diseases, such as stroke and arthritis. However, research has so far been done in the lab.

Proteins in tick saliva have been found to prevent inflammation by neutralising chemokines in the host. Chemokines are released in the heart during myocarditis, causing inflammation to the heart muscle.

There are also over 3,000 proteins in tick saliva, depending on the tick species; therefore researchers are hoping their "bug to drug" pipeline will lead to new treatments for a range of other diseases. MIMS

Read more:
News Bites: Preeclampsia may be linked to babies' DNA, Vaccine can lower "bad" cholesterol and heart attacks
News Bites: Implanting pig cells into brains to slow down Parkinson's Disease, Aspirin may lower breast cancer risk
News Bites: Blood-flow-reversal technique reduces risk of stroke, Uterine fibroids does not increase risk of miscarriages