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Gut neurons help our immune system control inflammation

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neurons, immune system

Neurons present in our gut play a key role in protecting intestinal tissue from over-inflammation, says a new research from the Rockefeller University.

The immune system exercises constant vigilance to protect the body from external threats — including what we eat and drink.

“Our work identifies a mechanism by which neurons work with immune cells to help intestinal tissue respond to perturbations without going too far,” said assistant professor Daniel Mucida who led the research.

Different populations of macrophages are among the many types of immune cells present in intestinal tissue.

Using a 3D imaging technique, the researchers looked in depth at the differences between the two key macrophage populations.

In addition to variations in how the cells look and move, they noticed that intestinal neurons are surrounded by macrophages.

When Mucida and colleagues analysed the genes that are expressed in the two macrophage populations, they found that lamina propria macrophages preferentially express pro-inflammatory genes.

In contrast, the muscularis macrophages preferentially express anti-inflammatory genes and these are boosted when intestinal infections occur.

“We came to the conclusion that one of the main signals to control infection seems to come from neurons,” Mucida noted.

The researchers also observed that the muscularis macrophages are activated within one to two hours following an infection.

“We now have a much better picture of how the communication between neurons and macrophages in the intestine helps to prevent potential damage from inflammation,” Mucida added.

The findings, published in the journal Cell, can have treatment implications for gastrointestinal diseases such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

Wefornews Bureau

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Legal marijuana products too strong for pain relief: Study

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New York, March 28 : More than 90 per cent of the legal marijuana products offered in medical dispensaries are much stronger than what clinical studies have shown that doctors recommend for chronic pain relief, according to new research.

“We know that high-potency products should not have a place in the medical realm because of the high risk of developing cannabis-use disorders, which are related to exposure to high THC-content products,” said the study’s lead author, Alfonso Edgar Romero-Sandoval from Wake Forest School of Medicine in the US.

Several studies showed that levels of up to five per cent tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) – the main psychoactive compound in marijuana that provides pain relief as well as intoxication – were sufficient to reduce chronic pain with minimal side effects.

The goal of the study, published in the journal PLOS ONE was to evaluate the advertised THC and cannabidiol (CBD) content of legal cannabis products to determine their suitability for medicinal use and to compare the potency of the products offered in medical and recreational programmes.

The researchers recorded the concentrations of THC and cannabidiol (CBD) – the non-euphoric compound in marijuana – in all plant cannabis products provided by legal dispensary websites and compared them between or within the states in the study: California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington.

A total of 8,505 cannabis products across 653 dispensaries were sampled.

The researchers found that most of the products offered in the medical dispensaries in the study had more than 10 per cent THC and that many had 15 per cent or more, the same as what is available in products at recreational dispensaries.

“This is problematic because between 60 per cent and 80 per cent of people who use medical marijuana use it for pain relief,” Romero-Sandoval said.

The higher the concentration of THC the greater risk, not only for developing dependency but also for developing tolerance more quickly, which means higher and higher concentrations might be needed to get the same level of pain relief, the study said.

“Better regulation of the potency of medical marijuana products is critical. The FDA regulates the level of over-the-counter pain medications such as ibuprofen that have dose-specific side effects, so why don’t we have policies and regulations for cannabis, something that is far more dangerous?,” Romero-Sandoval said.

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Eat plant-based diet, avoid dairy products to prevent asthma

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New Delhi, Suffering from asthma? Read this carefully. Following a plant-based diet can help prevent and manage asthma, while dairy products and high-fat foods raise the risk, a new study suggests.

Asthma is a common chronic condition in which the airways become narrow and inflamed–sometimes leading to difficulty with breathing, coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath.

“Asthma can make people more vulnerable in the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak and this research offers hope that dietary changes could be helpful,” said study researcher Hana Kahleova from Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine in the US.

For the findings, published in the journal Nutrition Reviews, the research team examined the evidence related to diet and asthma and found that certain foods–including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and other high-fibre foods–can be beneficial, while others–such as dairy products and foods high in saturated fat–can be harmful.

The researchers highlight a study finding that when compared to a control group, asthma patients who consumed a plant-based diet for eight weeks experienced a greater reduction in use of asthma medication and less severe, less frequent symptoms.

In another study, asthma patients adopted a plant-based diet for a year and saw improvements in vital capacity–a measure of the volume of air patients can expel–and other measures.

The authors suggest that a plant-based diet is beneficial because it has been shown to reduce systemic inflammation, which can exacerbate asthma. Plant-based diets are also high in fibre, which has been positively associated with improvements in lung function.

The researchers also highlight the antioxidants and flavonoids found in plant foods, which may have a protective effect.

The review also found that dairy consumption can raise the risk for asthma and worsen symptoms.

According to the researchers, one 2015 study found that children who consumed the most dairy had higher odds of developing asthma, compared with the children consuming the least.

In another study, children with asthma were placed in either a control group, where they made no dietary changes or in an experimental group where they eliminated dairy and eggs for eight weeks, the researchers said.

After eliminating dairy, the experimental group experienced a 22 per cent improvement in peak expiratory flow rate–a measure of how fast the children were able to exhale–while children in the control group experienced a 0.6 per cent decrease.

High fat intake, consumption of saturated fat, and low fibre intake were also associated with airway inflammation and worsened lung function in asthma patients.

“This groundbreaking research shows that filling our plates with plant-based foods–and avoiding dairy products and other high-fat foods–can be a powerful tool for preventing and managing asthma,” Kahleova said.


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White House is fast tracking COVID-19 vaccine development: Here’s how

“Even before you know something works, at risk, you have to start producing it, because once you know it works, you can say, great, it works so now give me another six months to produce it.”

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PRESS CONFERENCE-COVID-19
Anthony Fauci, director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

New York, March 27 : Dr. Anthony Fauci, Americas top infectious diseases doctor on the White House coronavirus task force, signalled a dramatic shift in the way Covid-19 vaccine development is going to get fast tracked so that precious time is not lost between green-lighting the drug itself and time to market.

Despite the speedier process, the likely timeline of vaccine delivery is still being pegged at 12-18 months.

“I’m not changing any of the dates that I mentioned,” Fauci said.

Explaining the thinking behind the policy shift, Fauci said, “Even before you know something works, at risk, you have to start producing it, because once you know it works, you can say, great, it works so now give me another six months to produce it.”

Fauci told reporters that there are a “couple of handfuls” of vaccines at different stages of development at this time.

Phase One trials, currently on, will drag all the way into the summer of 2020, Fauci said. Next come the Phase Two and Phase Three trials which will likely lead to what Fauci calls the “efficacy” signal.

“If in fact it does work, we hope to rush it to be able to have some impact on (the virus) recycling in the next season,” Fauci said, referring to the possibility that Covid-19 becomes a seasonal infection.

Fauci said the White House task force is working with the private sector to hard code this change in policy which can shrink the time between vaccine approval and delivery to America’s healthcare system.

“The best way to get the best drug as quickly as possible is to do a randomized control trial, so that you know is it safe and effective. If it’s not effective, get it off the board and go to the next thing. If it is effective, get it out to the people that need it”, Fauci said.

Fauci indicated that he will be circling back throughout April on all the drugs that are going into randomized controlled trials.

Fauci struck a cautiously upbeat tone saying he feels “confident” that the US will find a solution based on all the knowledge now available on the virus

“We will have some sort of therapy that gives at least a partial if not a very good protection in preventing progression of disease,” Fauci said.

(Nikhila Natarajan can be contacted at @byniknat)

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