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

1. FDA approves first drug for Parkinson's in a decade

The US FDA has approved the first new drug in a decade for Parkinson's disease. The drug, called Xadago, is developed by Italy-based Newron Pharmaceuticals approved for use when a patient's regular medicines are no longer effective.

The drug was tested in two six-month clinical trials that saw 1,200 participants taking a standard treatment of levodopa.

According to the FDA, the addition of Xadago to levodopa, decreased symptoms such as involuntary muscle movement. The same patients also had better control of movement, compared to the groups that were given levodopa and placebo pills.

Side effects can include involuntary movement, nausea, falls, insomnia and hallucinations. Serious but less common risks included hypertension, falling asleep during daily activities, hallucinations, retinal pathology, confusion, and serotonin syndrome when used with antidepressants, opioids or MAOIs.

2. 80,000 EpiPens recalled due to faulty mechanism

More than 80,000 EpiPens have been recalled across multiple countries due to a faulty mechanism. This might cause them to fail to work in an emergency, Mylan announced this week.

The recalled devices include those distributed in Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and a number of European countries, but not in the United States, said a Mylan spokesperson. The EpiPens were found to be faulty in two cases, although the company did not specify whether any injury resulted from the failure.

The recalled pens may contain a "defective part" that "may result in the device failing to activate or requiring increased force to activate," according to the company's statement. Patients can trade in their recalled auto-injector for a new one for free.

3. FDA-approved synthetic cartilage as a new treatment for arthritis

The FDA has recently approved a new treatment for a common kind of arthritis to replace damaged cartilage to cushion painful joints. The synthetic cartilage is made of the same material as a contact lens and acts as a cushion or shock absorber between the two bones - much like an original cartilage does.

The results have so far been positive, with 91% of patients reporting less pain. However the treatment is only being used in the big toe in the US, whereas doctors in Europe are already using it in the knees and thumbs.

"This is a revolutionary type of product that potentially is a lifelong solution to a lot of patients to maintain motion and decrease the pain that they're suffering from," Selene Parekh, a professor of orthopaedic surgery at Duke University.

The procedure is also performed on an outpatient basis and has a shorter recovery time than fusion.

4. Spider venom a potential drug to prevent brain damage from strokes

The protective molecule was discovered by chance as researchers sequenced the DNA of toxins in the venom of Hadronyche infensa, the Darling Downs funnel web spider. Photo creidt: Mark Baker/Reuters
The protective molecule was discovered by chance as researchers sequenced the DNA of toxins in the venom of Hadronyche infensa, the Darling Downs funnel web spider. Photo creidt: Mark Baker/Reuters

Scientists from the University of Queensland discovered that the venom of the funnel web spider could be a potential source for a drug to ward off brain damage caused by strokes, even when administered hours later.

The harmless ingredient found in the venom could become the first drug that is able to protect against the loss of neurons that strokes can cause. The molecule, called Hi1a, was discovered by chance when the DNA of toxins in the venom of the spider was sequenced.

The structure of the molecule was similar to two copies of another brain cell-protecting chemical attached together. Studies on rats proved to be positive when a single small dose of Hi1a protected neurons from induced strokes.

The researchers are hoping to start human trials in the next two years after the molecule is tested to work in all cases of strokes and the method of deliveries have been verified. In the latest study, the compound was infused directly into the brain, but nasal delivery works as well.

5. Mobile mental health app made by teens, for teens

Four high school students have created a mobile app to help teenagers talk about being bullied and gain easier access to counselling. The app, called For Me, was originally a school project, but the UK's National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children's (NSPCC) Childline adopted the project.

"I hope that young people now realise they have somewhere to go," Laura Hindle, one of the creators said. The app has a private "locker" area where users track their daily mood and pen their thoughts down. It also allows users to chat with a counsellor. The team is now looking to create an adult version as the app limits the age to 19 years.

"Problems don't stop once you become an adult - they're around your workspace - wherever you are," Laura explains. MIMS

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