News Bites brings you 6 weekly news in bite-sized form.

1. CDC issues health advisory for Zika testing in pregnant women

The US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention issued a health advisory on 5 May suggesting that women who are thinking of getting pregnant and who may be exposed to the Zika virus should consider having their blood tested for Zika antibodies before they conceive.

This would provide a baseline reading would help by supplementing future Zika tests done during the pregnancy.

The CDC also suggested that pregnant women who have no symptoms of Zika infection but may have been infected should be tested with two different tests at various stages of their pregnancies - the IgM test in the first and second trimester of pregnancy and a test that looks for Zika nucleic acid in every trimester.

If an amniocentesis test is done, CDC also suggests using the Zika nucleic acid test to test the fluid.

2. GTN skin patch could revolutionise stroke treatment in a cost-effective method

A glyceryl trinitrate (GTN) skin patch, costing as little as USD0.50 could revolutionise stroke treatment and increase the chances of survival, according to researchers from the University of Nottingham.

GTN lowers blood pressure and opens up blood vessels, therefore reducing the damage caused in the immediate minutes and hours following a stroke. The small trial of 41 randomised patients found that the patch, when stuck on a patient's shoulder or back while they were transported to the hospital halved the stroke death rate from 38% to 16%.

Their recovery was charted over 12 months and early trials have proven to be very promising. If successful, the researchers say that this could revolutionise treatment for stroke patients in a cost effective method.

3. Enzyme tablet could address symptoms of gluten intolerance

Researchers from the School of Medical Sciences at University of Örebro, Sweden have developed an enzyme tablet that could allow gluten intolerance to be partly overcome. The tablet consisting of the enzyme AN-PEP, will allow gluten-sensitive individuals to consumer small quantities of gluten without experiencing bloating, diarrhoea and abdominal pain.

The small study looked at 18 gluten-sensitive volunteers who were given a porridge made with two crumbled wheat biscuits containing gluten. Different levels of dosages were found to break down gluten in the stomach and small intestine. Gluten levels in the stomach were found to lower by 85% in participants who swallowed the enzyme than those given the placebo.

The enzyme however was not tested on coeliac disease patients and the study only suggests that the enzyme can potentially reduce the side effects upon consumption of only a little gluten.

4. Testicle-to-neck transplants in rats could preserve fertility in cancer patients

Scientists from Aichi Medical University and Tokyo Medical University, have successfully conducted testicle-to-neck transplants in rats, in what is considered a breakthrough that could one day preserve fertility in human cancer patients.

The researchers have discovered that transplanting the testes to a different part of the body is 'more simple and reproducible' with the potential to reduce operation time and improve success rate.

The study looked at the difference between orthotopic testis transplantation (OTT), in which the testes were transplanted in the normal region, and heterotopic testis transplantation (HTT), which saw the testes transplanted into the neck in this case.

The unconventional HTT procedure was performed on 12 rats and this yielded a 100% success rate. The OTT procedure on the other hand only had a success rate of 71%. The HTT procedure also took a shorter average time of 60 minutes to complete compared to 154 minutes as seen in OTT operations.

The researchers say that this is a step toward better of understanding testicular immunology and hope to create better methods for people who endure medical procedures that hinder sperm production, such as chemotherapy or radiotherapy.

5. FDA approves first ALS drug in two decades

The US FDA has approved Mitsubishi Tanabe Pharma Corp's drug for the fatal neurological disorder amyotrophic lateral scelrosis (ALS) called edaravone, marking the first US regulatory approval in more than two decades.

Edaravone has been available in Japan and South Korea since 2015 and has shown that within six months of treatment in combination with top of standard-of-care, the intravenous drug reduced the rate of functional decline in patients by about a third.

The drug will cost USD1,086 per infusion and would be available in the US by August. Another promising drug for ALS is being developed by French drugmaker AB Science SA, which reported positive late-stage data on its drug, masitinib. The drug is now under European review.

6. Synthetic bone implant can produce healthy blood

Researchers from the University of California, San Diego have engineered a bone-like implant that has the capability to produce healthy blood.

Made of two main sections, an outer bone-like structure and an inner marrow, both engineered from a hydrogel matrix, the implant is hoped to help treat several blood and immune disorders without the side effects of current treatments.

The outer structure contains calcium phosphate minerals that help stem cells from the host grow into cells that build bone. The inner matrix provides refuge for donor bone marrow stem cells. When implanted into mice, the implant grew into a bone-like structure and six months later, blood cells from both host and donor circulated around the body.

However, the implant only contributes to the host's blood supply rather than replacing it, therefore it cannot be used to treat blood cancer patients. MIMS

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