Medical Research

Regional News • Asia
Cannabis removed from Thailand's narcotics list
Cannabis removed from Thailand's narcotics list
Credit: unsplash.com / Next Green Wave

In order to allow wider use of marijuana for medical purposes, Thailand's Narcotics Control Board has voted to remove cannabis plants from the list of Category 5 narcotics.

However, growing marijuana is only allowed if a permit is granted by the FDA to ensure alignment with government agencies.

Science • Nature
DeepMind announces that their AI can predict protein folding
DeepMind announces that their AI can predict protein folding
Credit: Courtesy of DeepMind

DeepMind has presented an AI application that makes it possible to predict protein structure with high accuracy. According to John Moult, a biologist at the University of Maryland, it is the first application of artificial intelligence "that has solved a serious problem".

Independent scientists said the breakthrough would help researchers tease apart the mechanisms that drive some diseases and pave the way for designer medicines, more nutritious crops, and “green enzymes” that can break down plastic pollution.

Health
European Court of Justices classifies CBD as non-addictive substance
European Court of Justices classifies CBD as non-addictive substance
Credit: unsplash.com / Elsa Olofsson

The European Court of Justice in its current decision stated that CBD not an addictive drug in the sense of the UN Single Convention. The court argued with the current state of science that CBD has no harmful effects on human health (ECJ C-663/18 of 19.11.2020).

This decision is contrary stance of the EU Commission which argued that CBD is an addictive drug.

Health
New drug for HIV prevention
New drug for HIV prevention
Credit: unsplash.com / National Cancer Institute

Worldwide 38 million people are infected with HIV and despite the long fight against the virus and education about it, there are still 1.7 million newly infected people every year. With drugs for HIV prevention, attempts are being made to reduce this number. In clinical studies, the new drug Cabotegravir has now proven to be particularly effective.

It only needs to be injected every eight weeks instead of having to be taken daily in pills as before. Especially for women, the drug is more effective than the previously available pill Truvada, but the new drug is also more effective for men and transwomen

Health
UK study: Problems with statin drugs caused by a 'nocebo effect'

The UK study has found that debilitating problems thought to be caused by statins are seldom caused by the actual drug.

It points to a 'nocebo effect' which is causing the problems, with users believing that the drug will make them sick. The study found a stark 90% of cases may be caused by the 'nocebo effect'.

The British Heart Foundation has said the results are undeniable.

Statins are one of the most commonly prescribed drugs in the UK, with nearly 8 million prescriptions.

Health
Nearly 95% protection shown in Moderna Covid-19 vaccine
Covid-19 Vaccine Bottle Mockup
Covid-19 Vaccine Bottle Mockup Credit: Daniel Schludi

A new Covid-19 vaccine, from the US company Moderna, is nearly 95% effective, early data show. The trial involved 30,000 people in the US, with half being given two doses of the vaccine, four weeks apart.

"These effects are what we would expect with a vaccine that is working and inducing a good immune response," said Prof Peter Openshaw, from Imperial College London.

Health
Study: One in five recovered Covid-19 patients develop cognitive deficits
Study: One in five recovered Covid-19 patients develop cognitive deficits
Credit: unsplash.com / Nik Shuliahin

Researchers from Britain’s Oxford University have found that 20% of Covid-19 patients are diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder within 90 days. The study analyzed over 62,000 cases of Covid-19 in the United States and has been published in The Lancet Psychiatry journal.

Mental health specialists not directly involved with the study evaluated the findings and stated that it adds to growing evidence that Covid-19 can increase the risk of a range of psychiatric illnesses as it can affect the brain and mind. People who had recovered, including those no longer reporting symptoms, exhibited significant cognitive deficits when controlling for age, gender, education level, income, racial-ethnic group and pre-existing medical disorders.

Science
German researchers cultivate artificial midbrain as an alternative to animal experiments
German researchers cultivate artificial midbrain as an alternative to animal experiments
Credit: unsplash.com / Josh Riemer

A research team at the Max Planck Institute in Münster succeeded in growing tissue clumps using robots that resemble the human midbrain. To do this, the researchers cultivate three-dimensional organ-like tissue structures, so-called organoids, from stem cells. Using robots, the organoids can be produced completely automatically. Experiments on the organoids could, for example, be used in drug research and thus end animal experiments.

Health
Psilocybin therapy legalized in Oregon
Psilocybin therapy legalized in Oregon
Credit: By Mädi - Own work / Wikimedia Commons (Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0)

Voters have approved Measure 109 that directs the Oregon Health Authority to create a state-licensed, psilocybin-assisted therapy program over the next two years. In addition, a regulation plan for the substance should be developed by the authorities as psilocybin remains a Schedule I substance under federal rules.

The measure aims to help patients with chronic mental health issues like PTSD, depression and addiction as well as reducing anxiety for patients who are dying.

Regional News • Europe • European Union
EU's von der Leyen predicts Covid-19 vaccine for April 2021
EU's von der Leyen predicts Covid-19 vaccine for April 2021
Credit: Courtesy of Twitter

Head of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen has stated that a Covid-19 vaccine could be available in April 2021.

"The big numbers of supplies are due to start in April," so von der Leyen, adding that up to 50 million doses could be delivered monthly.

Health
Study: Covid-19 survives five times longer on skin than flu
Study: Covid-19 survives five times longer on skin than flu
Credit: unsplash.com / F Cary Snyder

Japanese researchers have found that the SARS-CoV-2 virus strain can survive for nine hours on human skin, while the flu survives 1.8 hours.

They state that "the longer survival of SARS-CoV-2 on the skin increases contact-transmission risk", though "hand hygiene can reduce this risk".

Health
Study: Commercially available air purifiers can remove 90% of the aerosols in school classes
Study: Commercially available air purifiers can remove 90% of the aerosols in school classes
Credit: unsplash.com / Taylor Wilcox

An experimental study found that installing four commercial air purifiers in a classroom reduces aerosol concentrations by 90%. The team around Joachim Curtius of the Experimental Atmospheric Research Group of the Goethe University Frankfurt used one H13 filter in each of the devices, which can filter particles in a size of 0.1 particles in a size of 0.1 µm to 0.3 µm from the air.

Respiratory viruses such as SARS-CoV2 are transmitted by droplet infection, touch and aerosols. Air filters can serve as a protective measure against aerosols that are incompletely retained by masks.

Science • Medicine
Blue illuminated ventilation tube reduces risk of infection
Blue illuminated ventilation tube reduces risk of infection
Credit: Copyright Technische Hochschule Ulm

In intensive care units, artificial respiration causes most infections with antibiotic-resistant hospital germs. In his bachelor's thesis, medical technology student Ben Sicks researched the killing of germs and pathogens by irradiation with blue LEDs and found that the blue illumination of a tube caused a 99.9% reduction in the concentration of bacteria. For this discovery he was awarded the Applied Photonics Award by the Frauenhofer Institute Jena.

Science • Medicine
Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine goes to three virologists
Michael Houghton, one of the three winners
Michael Houghton, one of the three winners Credit: Julio.frasneli.silva / Wikimedia Commons (Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 4.0)

The virologists Harvey J. Alter (USA), Michael Houghton (Großbritannien) and Charles M. Rice (USA) have received the Nobel Prize for Medicine for their work discovering the hepatitis C virus.

The Nobel Committee stated that "prior to their work, the discovery of the Hepatitis A and B viruses had been critical steps forward, but the majority of blood-borne hepatitis cases remained unexplained. The discovery of Hepatitis C virus revealed the cause of the remaining cases of chronic hepatitis and made possible blood tests and new medicines that have saved millions of lives".

Health
Germany: Berlin selected as new location for national cancer center
Germany: Berlin selected as new location for national cancer center
Credit: unsplash.com / hoch3media

A new center for the fight against cancer is to be built in Berlin. The German capital has been chosen as one of four new locations for the National Center for Tumor Diseases, as the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) announced on Wednesday. Existing locations are Heidelberg and Dresden.

The Governing Mayor Michael Müller has stated that Berlin "plays a key role in decisively advancing cancer research and developing new approaches in the early detection and treatment of cancer". The new center will have 10,000 square meters and contain research laboratories, an outpatient clinic and an information center.

Business • Health Care
Nine biopharmaceutical companies sign safety pledge for Covid-19 vaccine
Nine biopharmaceutical companies sign safety pledge for Covid-19 vaccine
Credit: unsplash.com/CDC

Nine biopharmaceutical companies have signed a safety pledge, committing to "developing and testing potential vaccines for COVID-19 in accordance with high ethical standards and sound scientific principles."

AstraZeneca, BioNTech, Moderna, Pfizer, Novavax, Sanofi, GlaxoSmithKline, Johnson & Johnson and Merck have signed the pledge just a week after the CDC's vaccine distribution plans surfaced, suggesting a vaccine would be available by as early as late October.

Business • Health Care
Pfizer and BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine gets approved for second trial

Pfizer and BioNTech's Covid-19 vaccine BNT162b2 has been approved for its Phase II/III clinical trial by German Paul-Ehrlich-Institut. If the trials prove successful, Pfizer and BioNTech will try to seek regulatory approval as early as October.

"A large, controlled Phase III study is a crucial prerequisite to prove the safety and efficacy of a vaccine. The integration of sites in Europe, and now especially in Germany, is aimed at supporting an approval in Europe," so BioNTech CEO and co-founder Ugur Sahin.

Health
French professor faces ethics complaint over controversial Covid-19 statements
French professor faces ethics complaint over controversial Covid-19 statements
Credit: Via Twitter

The controversial French professor who repeatedly defended the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine to help beat the coronavirus has been targeted by an ethics complaint that could see him face sanctions or barred from practicing, a medical association said Thursday.

The Marseille-based Didier Raoult is accused in the complaint by medical peers of spreading false information about the benefits of hydroxychloroquine.

Health
Tesla and Curevac have developed a vaccine printer
Tesla and Curevac have developed a vaccine printer
Credit: Screenshot via Twitter

Already in June 2019 the German biotech company Curevac and Tesla subsidiary Grohmann have applied for a patent for a newly developed vaccination printer.

A newly developed mobile "RNA Printer" is able to produce over a hundred thousand vaccination dosages in a few weeks. Originally developed to combat diseases like rabies and yellow fever it could potentially be used to produce a future Covid-19 vaccine given the approval for medical use of the printer and a vaccine.

Health
Researchers invent technology to purify water with sunlight in less than 30 minutes
Researchers invent technology to purify water with sunlight in less than 30 minutes
Credit: unsplash.com / Clint McKoy

With the help of metal-organic frameworks (MOFs) and sunlight, a global team of researchers has been able to purify brackish water and seawater into clean drinking water that meets the suggested quality of the World Health Organization.

According to the announcement, the new technology is more energy-efficient than current desalination processes and only uses one kilogram of MOF per day to generate 139,5 liters of clean water.

Lead author Professor Huanting Wang from the Department of Chemical Engineering at Monash University in Australia has stated that "desalination has been used to address escalating water shortages globally. Due to the availability of brackish water and seawater, and because desalination processes are reliable, treated water can be integrated within existing aquatic systems with minimal health risks".