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Health Insight May 2002: Research news

  Trials of a promising new treatment for Alzheimer’s disease will begin shortly – and it might work for type 2 diabetes as well. Scientists at the Royal Free and University College Medical School in London have developed a drug which has already produced promising results in nineteen people with a rare condition called systemic amyloidosis. The forthcoming trials are especially welcome after the disappointment surrounding the recent abandonment of the trial of an Alzheimer’s vaccine developed by Elan Pharmaceuticals. That trial was halted after some patients showed signs of inflammation of the nervous system.

Scientists from Imperial College London have, for the first time, successfully changed mouse stem cells into a specific type of lung cell. This means it may one day be possible to regenerate damaged lung tissue. Although the research is not likely to result in a treatment for about a decade, scientists believe it will make it possible eventually to repair lungs that have been damaged by disease, by implanting fully functioning lung cells to repopulate damaged areas. Unlike transplantation from a donor, the cells can be developed in such a way that the body would not reject them.

A British scientist is still hopeful that cannabis extracts will relieve the symptoms of multiple sclerosis (MS). Dr William Nottcutt, a consultant in pain management at the James Paget Hospital in King’s Lynn said, ‘I have many patients on my trials coming back saying cannabis has improved their quality of life.’ However, a small Dutch study of sixteen MS patients given cannabis extract in capsule form found no apparent benefits. Dr Nottcutt said this lack of effect might be due to the way the drug was given, or the relatively low doses. He said, ‘We have been giving patients the drug through a nasal spray so we can get them up to the right dosage very quickly.’

Source: Guardian 24th May, BBC Online, New Scientist 15th May


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