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R&D news in brief

Our weekly round-up of R&D news in brief

Pill could cut breast cancer risk
Hopes have flourished that a new contraceptive free of the risk of breast cancer will be available within five years. Scientists are currently working on the new pill, which could theoretically protect against the disease, as well as treat fibroids, endometriosis, and pre-menstrual syndrome. Professor David Baird, of the University of Edinburgh, said animal tests of the pill, based on the controversial abortion pill, RU486, actually inhibited the development of breast cancer. But he added that larger studies were needed to fully assess the benefits, and potential side effects.

Brain mechanism fights Alzheimer's
The human brain possesses a mechanism in the brain that fights Alzheimer's disease, according to new research. Alzheimer's is associated with a build-up of a protein, beta-amyloid, in the brain and cerebrospinal fluid. Researchers at Purdue University, Indiana, have identified an organ called the choroids plexus, which they say acts as a ìfishnetî that captures the beta-amyloid and prevents it building up. ìThis newly uncovered pathway may help explain how normal brains balance this protein and how an imbalance caused by ageing, genetic or environmental factors may lead to or worsen Alzheimer's disease,î said lead researcher, Professor Wei Zheng.

Researchers cut side effects of renal drug
Individually tailoring the dose of azathioprine can make it safer when treating patients with the most common form of eczema, according to a new study. A University of Newcastle team said they cut the risk of side effects in patients with atopic eczema by matching doses of azathioprine to levels of an enzyme (TPMT) in the blood that can break down the drug, so patients did not receive too much. The team recruited 63 patients who had previously had a number of different treatments, including ultraviolet radiation therapy. Each was given a test to determine levels of TPMT in their blood. ìBy dosing patients according to the levels of TPMT in their bodies we didn't run into any major problems with side-effects, but the drug still worked even at lower doses,î said researcher, Dr Simon Meggitt.

30th September 2008

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