Lab Report

PUBLISHED : Monday, 02 December, 2013, 12:50pm
UPDATED : Monday, 02 December, 2013, 12:50pm

Nanoparticles could spell the end for injections

Researchers in Boston have engineered a nanoparticle that can be delivered orally and be absorbed through the digestive tract. The research could allow patients to take a pill instead of having an injection - making it more likely that patients will adhere to their treatment.

The researchers, from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Brigham and Women's Hospital, coated nanoparticles with antibodies that unlocked receptors on the surfaces of the cells lining the intestine, allowing the nanoparticles to pass into the bloodstream.

The research published in Science Translational Medicine used the particles to deliver insulin in mice, but the researchers say the technique could be used to carry any drug that can be contained in a nanoparticle.

The researchers hope to apply the same principles to design nanoparticles that can cross other cellular-level barriers, such as the blood-brain barrier, which prevents many drugs from reaching the brain.

Oxygen starvation therapy shows promise in treating spinal injuries

Exposing patients recovering from spinal cord injuries to short periods of oxygen deprivation may improve their mobility, says a study in Neurology.

Participants who were able to walk were exposed to hypoxia, that is they were oxygen deprived. They breathed through a mask for about 40 minutes a day for five days, receiving low levels of oxygen for 90-second periods, followed by 60 seconds of air with ordinary levels of oxygen.

The participants were divided into two groups: one group received the treatment and the other a placebo of normally oxygenated air. Two weeks later, the groups were swapped over.

After the hypoxia therapy, all participants improved their walking speeds over 10 metres by an average of 3.8 seconds.

Link between cholesterol and breast cancer

A cholesterol by-product that functions similarly to the hormone oestrogen in fuelling the growth and spread of the most common type of breast cancer has been identified.

Science says researchers at the Duke Cancer Institute identified the enzyme 27HC as driving the growth of breast cancers in mice and tumour cells, offering the first explanation for the link between high cholesterol and breast cancer.

"The worse the tumours, the more they have of the enzyme," says lead author Erik Nelson, a post-doctoral research associate at the university.

The researchers say there may be a simple way to reduce the risk of breast cancer by keeping cholesterol in check, either with statins or a healthy diet.