News on Health & Science

Immune Therapy ‘Cuts Heart Risk’

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Some people with heart failure might benefit from a therapy which helps dampen their overactive immune systems.US researchers treated more than 1,000 patients, and found those with certain types of heart failure had a lower risk of death or hospitalisation.

Writing in the Lancet journal, they said large numbers of patients could benefit if bigger studies confirmed the findings.

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….Heart failure weakens the ability to pump blood around body

UK experts agreed, saying that much more research would be needed.

Our findings suggest a role for non-specific immunomodulation as a potential treatment for a large segment of the heart failure population

Houston Methodist Hospital researchers say

Heart failure is caused by a weakening of the organ’s ability to pump blood around the body.

In some cases, this has been linked to the body’s own immune system, which causes damaging inflammation in its tissues.

Up to 24,000 deaths a year in the UK are thought to be related to the condition.

The latest study, at the Methodist Hospital in Houston, Texas, tries to “damp down” the immune reaction, and hopefully reduce inflammation.

To test how well it worked, the progress of more than 1,000 patients was compared with a similar number given a “dummy” treatment called a placebo.

Immune signals

The method involved taking blood from the patients, and exposing it to chemicals designed to change some of the body’s own immune signals, and boost anti-inflammatory signals.

This kind of approach is called “immunomodulation”.

After a 22-week cycle of treatment, the patients were monitored for the next 10 months.

Among the treated group, there were 399 deaths or hospital admissions – slightly fewer than the 429 in the untreated group.

This meant that looking at all the patients together, there was either a tiny effect, or none at all, which the researchers described as “disappointing”.

However, in patients with specific types of heart failure, such as those who had not had a heart attack, the effect appeared to be more significant, with between a 25% and 39% reduction in risk.

The researchers wrote: “Our findings suggest a role for non-specific immunomodulation as a potential treatment for a large segment of the heart failure population.”

However, they conceded that a much bigger and more detailed study, involving far more patients, would be needed before the treatment could be adopted widely.

Professor Peter Weissberg, the British Heart Foundation‘s Medical Director echoed this: “The study is interesting, but it’s still early days.

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Source: BBC NEWS . 20TH. JAN ’08

News on Health & Science

Blood Group For Lower Malaria Risk


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The most common blood type in Indians seems to provide better protection against the most deadly form of malaria. British scientists have found that people with blood group O – around 38% of the Indian population – are naturally protected from some of the most severe forms of the disease, which kills around two million people annually across the globe…… ¬†& see

A team from Edinburgh University, with researchers in the US, Mali and Kenya, studied African children and found that those with this blood type were two-thirds less likely to experience coma or life-threatening anaemia conditions synonymous with severe malaria.

This discovery now brings hope of developing drugs which mimic the properties of red cells. In fatal malaria, it is often found that red blood cells infected by parasites block blood vessels which supply oxygen to the brain.

The malarial parasites arm the blood cells  surface with proteins which stick to blood vessel walls. O and B are the commonest blood group among Indians. Nearly 32% of north Indians and 38% south Indians have O blood group.

“The finding that red cells present in O group blood play the major role in preventing malaria from worsening is a significant finding for India. Blood is made of antigens or proteins, some of which show protection against certain diseases. Why that occurs has not been scientifically proven yet but statistically, they have shown significant protection rates,” blood safety specialist Dr Debasish Gupta said.

Edinburgh University’s Dr Alex Rowe, whose finding was published in the journal ‘PNAS’ on Tuesday, said, “This explains why some people are less likely to suffer from life-threatening malaria than others and tells us that if we can develop a drug to reduce rosetting and mimic the effect of being blood group O, we may reduce the number of children dying from severe malaria.”

The scientists found that malaria parasites recruit healthy RBCs to stick to the parasite, encasing the infected RBC inside a so-called rosette. It makes the blockage, and the disease, worse.

However, the team’s findings suggest that group O RBCs do not easily join rosettes as the cells surface structure prevents it from sticking. The study suggests that reduced rosetting of malaria parasites is the reason why people with group O blood are less likely to suffer severe malaria.

ABO blood group types were assessed on 567 blood samples from Malian children. We found that blood group O was present in only 21% of the severe malaria cases compared to 45% of other blood groups. Rosetting was shown to be significantly lower in parasite isolates from patients with blood group O compared to non-O blood groups,” the study said.

Source: The Times Of India