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R&D news in brief

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

Vaccine to target obesity in development
Scientists in the US say they have developed a vaccine that prevents weight gain in rats. In a study by the Scripps Research Institute in California, three synthetic vaccines that recognise different parts of the hormone that stimulates hunger, ghrelin, were developed. When injected into rats, two of the vaccines were found to bind to the active form of ghrelin, inducing antibodies against the hormone and thereby blocking its action. A reduction in weight gain occurred despite the rats eating and drinking normally. ìThis is a promising bit of science,î said lead researcher, Professor Kim Janda.

Cannabis treatment can worsen symptoms, says study
Research detailed to the Federation of European Neuroscience Societies has found that cannabis extracts may worsen the symptoms of conditions such as epilepsy and Alzheimer's rather than have a beneficial effect. Vincenzo Di Marzo, of Italy's National Research Council, said that while boosting the level of one natural cannabinoid, andandamide, in rats initially appeared to protect the animals from memory loss and nerve degeneration, if the rise was prolonged, the effects could be damaging. Meanwhile, Beat Lutz, of the University of Mainz in Germany, found that andandamide is normally produced by the body during an epileptic seizure to produce a calming effect. However, he found that boosting levels could actually worsen seizures.

LABAs can cause asthma attacks, says expert
Long-acting beta-agonists (LABA), commonly prescribed for the treatment of asthma, may actually cause sever asthma attacks and even death, according to an editorial in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine. According to Dr Vassilis Vassiliou, of Cambridge University, the drugs should not be used on their own, and are safe only when used in conjunction with a steroid inhaler. ìWe are seeing an increasingly worrying trend where chronic asthma sufferers, mainly children, are being treated solely by LABA drugs,î he told The Times. The LABA class of drugs includes GlaxoSmithKline's Serevent, which is recommended for severe forms of asthma because its effects are long-lasting and it can be taken twice a day.

30th September 2008

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