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

1. PPIs found to increase risk of early death

Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), or more commonly known as heartburn drugs, are commonly prescribed to millions. However, a large study suggests that it could raise the risk of dying early.

The researchers from the Washington University School of Medicine in the US, looked at medical records of more than 275,000 PPI users – and nearly 75,000 people who took another class of drugs, known as H2 blockers to reduce stomach acid.

They found a 25% increased risk of death in the PPI group compared to the H2 blocker group. They also calculated that, for every 500 people taking PPIs for a year, there is one extra death that could have been avoidable, translating into thousands of excess deaths every year.

The authors suggest that doctors should monitor their patients on PPIs as many end up taking the drugs for months or years as the doctors do not stop the patients from doing so.

2. Overcoming mental health issues through a self-assessment kit

Users suffering from mental health issues can now use a self-assessment kit developed by a graduate from London University to figure out the kind of help they need, and where they can get it from.

Mindnosis, developed by graduate designer Sara Lopez Ibanez, consists of a set of exercises that help understand emotional distress and how to feel better about it.

The first tool, named Discover, is made of six colourful triangles, whereby each represents a different area affecting the user's wellbeing. The triangles can be pasted into the Record journal along with daily thoughts and reflections.

The third element of the toolkit, named TryOut, is a set of eight activity cards that combine mindfulness, cognitive behaviour therapy techniques (CBT) and tips from peers to help users when they feel unwell.

Learn, is the fourth tool which comprises six small coloured cards that correspond with the Discover triangles – briefly explaining the different issues, while a Crisis Help sheet has information about services and help lines.

3. 3-D printed models could revolutionise heart-valve replacements

Researchers say that their 3-D-printed heart valve models (shown here) could improve the outcomes of heart valve replacements. Photo credit: Rob Felt
Researchers say that their 3-D-printed heart valve models (shown here) could improve the outcomes of heart valve replacements. Photo credit: Rob Felt

3-D printed models could enable doctors to predict how well a prosthetic heart valve will fit a patient, a study suggests. This would also reduce their likelihood of paravalvular leakage.

In TAVR surgeries, paravalvular leakages are common especially when the prosthetic valve fails to achieve a precise fit within the patient's damaged aortic valve.

Therefore the Cardiovascular Imaging Research at Piedmont Heart Institute in Atlanta US, has developed 3-D heart valve models that could better predict the fit of a prosthetic valve.

The models were created to simulate the physiological properties of heart valve tissue using a variety of different synthetic materials. Prosthetic valves were then implanted in the 3-D models and through medical imaging and computer software, the team monitored the valves in the 3-D models.

A "bulge index" was then created to predict the severity of paravalvular leakage after undergoing TAVR; the greater the bulge index score, the higher their severity of paravalvular leakage.

4. High sugar intake during pregnancy can increase risk of the children developing allergies or asthma

Women who consume too much sugary food and drinks during pregnancy may increase their children's risk of developing an allergy or allergic asthma, according to a study by Queen Mary University of London.

The researchers looked at allergies that produce respiratory and skin symptoms including dust mites, cats and grass. The team gathered data from nearly 9,000 mother-child pairs in the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parent and Children, an ongoing research project that tracks the health of families with children born between 1 April 1991 and 31 December 1992.

The amount of free sugars consumed by women during pregnancy was based on self-reported estimates in questionnaires. The team also looked at how the mothers' sugar consumption compared with allergies and asthma diagnosed in the children beginning age of seven.

Approximately 22% of the children had a common allergy, 16% had eczema, 12% had asthma, 11% had wheezing with whistling and 9% developed hay fever.

Comparing with children whose mothers consumed the least sugar during pregnancy ̶ less than 34g per day ̶ the children of women with highest sugar intake during pregnancy had a 38% higher risk of allergy diagnosis. There was also a 73% increased risk of being diagnosed with an allergy to two or more allergens and the allergic asthma risk increased by 101%.

5. Mini colons in-a-dish could allow personalised drug testing

This is a human colon organoid, with colors showing signals also found in the natural human colon. Photo credit: Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Centre
This is a human colon organoid, with colors showing signals also found in the natural human colon. Photo credit: Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Centre

Researchers from the Cincinnati Children's Hospital have developed organoids which mimic the colon to test drugs out. They have done this by manipulating cellular nutrients to turn human stem cells from the skin into colon cells.

The cells expressed several colon genes and to prove that their newly made human colon organoids were stable, they transplanted them into mice. The organoids continued to grow and mature in the mouse model.

What is also different in the team's work is that the stem cells can come from a simple blood draw and the method used, creates multiple cell types, so they could study how different cells interact within the complex layers of the colon. This could prove to be important when understanding diseases like colon cancer.

The team is now beginning to use the organoids to model inflammatory diseases such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease. MIMS

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