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

Collaborative research found higher survival outcomes in one type of heart failure

Recently, a study published in the European Heart Journal discovered how two distinct forms of heart failure - which were previously considered similar in prevalence and risk of death - are actually very different. Six major national specialty centres and hospitals in Singapore and New Zealand are involved in this joint 7-year study.

"Our new findings reveal that the stiff heart muscle is less common than originally thought, affecting about three out of every 10 heart failure patients, and there is less risk of dying from this type compared with heart failure where the heart is not pumping properly," explains Professor Rob Doughty, who led New Zealand’s participation in the study.

The study has shown that heart failure patients with preserved ejection fraction (HFpEF) are more likely to survive, contrary to the decade-old studies’ revelations.

"Our findings are pivotal to the understanding of occurrence, death rates and risk prediction within different classes of heart failure,'' says Professor Mark Richards, Director of Singapore's Cardiovascular Research Institute of the National University Health System of Singapore.

FDA approves at-home breast cancer risk test

Though the US Food and Drug Administration gives its approval to 23andMe’s at-home breast cancer risk test, it still cautions the usage of the kit. Photo credit: 23andMe/CNN
Though the US Food and Drug Administration gives its approval to 23andMe’s at-home breast cancer risk test, it still cautions the usage of the kit. Photo credit: 23andMe/CNN

On 6 March, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) gave its approval to a 23andMe genetic test that screens for breast cancer gene mutations. The test can only detect three out of more than 1,000 known BRCA mutations.

"While the detection of a BRCA mutation on this test does indicate an increased risk, only a small percentage of Americans carry one of these three mutations and most BRCA mutations that increase an individual's risk are not detected by this test," announces Donald St Pierre, Acting Director of the Office of In Vitro Diagnostics and Radiological Health in the FDA's Centre for Devices and Radiological Health.

Though approved, the FDA still cautions that the test should only be a first step, and the results should not be used to determine any treatment.

“I do believe lives will be saved because they have access to these tests,” says Dr J Leonard Lichtenfeld, Deputy Chief Medical Officer for the national office of the American Cancer Society. "Hopefully, though, people will understand what these tests mean, and they still will want to continue to double-check the results and their overall risks."

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New molecule can kill five types of drug-resistant superbugs

Normal cells of the Acinetobacter baumannii bacteria before (left) and after (right) treatment with the polymers. Image on right showed that the cytoplasmic substances within the bacterial cell membrane have precipitated, killing the bacteria. Photo credit: Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology
Normal cells of the Acinetobacter baumannii bacteria before (left) and after (right) treatment with the polymers. Image on right showed that the cytoplasmic substances within the bacterial cell membrane have precipitated, killing the bacteria. Photo credit: Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology

An international research team has developed a synthetic molecule that is able to kill five deadly types of multidrug-resistant bacteria with limited side effects. The findings were published in the scientific journal Nature Communications, and led by the Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (IBN) of the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) and IBM Research.

“This study illustrates the potential for this new research field we denote as ‘macromolecular therapeutics’ to create entirely new classes of treatments for multiple diseases,” says Dr James Hedrick, Distinguished Research Staff Member, IBM Research, California.

The team has found that the bacteria did not show any resistance development even after multiple treatments with the polymer.

IBN and IBM are currently seeking collaborations with pharmaceutical companies to develop the polymers into an antimicrobial treatment for patients.

Printing human skin that matches natural pigment for medical purposes

Research fellow Dr Ng Wei Long of NTU’s Singapore centre for 3D Printing, is loading a printing cartridge of bio-ink made up of bio materials, cells or a combination of both materials. Photo credit: Timothy David/The Straits Times
Research fellow Dr Ng Wei Long of NTU’s Singapore centre for 3D Printing, is loading a printing cartridge of bio-ink made up of bio materials, cells or a combination of both materials. Photo credit: Timothy David/The Straits Times

Scientists from Nanyang Technological University (NTU) have managed to print tiny 2 cm patches of human skin that looks real. These scientists are the first in the world who can match the colours found naturally on the human body.

The breakthrough is believed to have the potential to change science and medicine, including a more ethical way of testing drugs or cosmetics instead of using animals.

Even so, the “ultimate dream” is to be able to print skin for medical purposes – such as skin grafts for burn victims or diabetics – according to Dr Yeong Wai Yee, Assistant Chair (students) at NTU’s School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering.

Bioprinting provides scientists much more control over the entire process, and the ability to mimic the skin of people of different age groups. However, there must be enough “cell ink” for printing to treat major burns, explains Dr Alvin Chua, Deputy Head of the Singapore General Hospital’s skin bank unit.

"A large amount of skin cells must be grown to provide the necessary ingredients to produce big enough areas of printed skin to cover extensive burns," he says.

Second baby born via uterus transplant in US

The mother and her baby, who was born after a uterus transplant – the second case in US. Photo credit: Shannon Faulk for Baylor Scoot & White Health/Time
The mother and her baby, who was born after a uterus transplant – the second case in US. Photo credit: Shannon Faulk for Baylor Scoot & White Health/Time

A second woman in the US has given birth to a baby after a uterus transplant, following the first baby in December 2017. Both births took place at the same hospital – the Baylor University Medical Centre in Dallas.

Both women suffer from a condition known as Mayer-Rokitansky-Küster-Hauser (MRKH) syndrome, where they were born without a uterus, and believed that they would never be able to become pregnant or give birth.

“Emotionally this was the same level of intensity [as the first birth],” says Dr Giuliano Testa, the leader of the uterus transplant clinical trial at Baylor, and surgical chief of abdominal transplant for Baylor Annette C and Harold C Simmons Transplant Institute.

The first successful uterus transplants and births were performed in Sweden, where the ground-breaking trial has resulted in eight births. Baylor was the first hospital to replicate the success of that team outside of Sweden. MIMS

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Sources:
https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2018-03/nuhs-nrs030118.php
https://academic.oup.com/eurheartj/advance-article-abstract/doi/10.1093/eurheartj/ehy005/4829677?redirectedFrom=fulltext
https://mediacenter.23andme.com/press-releases/23andme-granted-first-fda-authorization-direct-consumer-genetic-test-cancer-risk/
http://money.cnn.com/2018/03/06/technology/23andme-breast-cancer-test/index.html
https://edition.cnn.com/2018/03/07/health/23andme-breast-ovarian-cancer-test-fda-approval/index.html
http://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/new-molecule-kills-drug-resistant-bacteria
http://www.ibn.a-star.edu.sg/pdf/media_release/press_133.pdf
http://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/health/ntu-scientists-print-human-skin-that-matches-natural-pigment
http://time.com/5184291/uterus-transplant-baylor-university/