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R&D News in brief

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

Dementia risk technique
A group of researchers in Sweden say they have developed a simple technique to predict the risk of dementia. Scientists at the Ageing Research Centre in Stockholm used data from a population-based study of 1,409 people in midlife and again 20 years later, to scan for evidence of dementia. The team studied several midlife risk factors such as body-mass index, cholesterol levels, smoking and physical activity. According to the findings, which were published in The Lancet Neurology, an individual's chance of developing future dementia was associated with high age, low education, high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, and obesity.

AIDS therapy coming too late
Too few HIV/AIDS patients are being put on drugs soon enough, scientists have warned. The findings of the Antiretroviral Therapy Cohort Collaboration, published in The Lancet, are based on an analysis of data on more than 22,200 HIV positive people in Europe and North America who started treatment between 1995 and 2003. Professor Matthias Egger, of the University of Bern, Switzerland, said there was widespread consensus that patients should start treatment when their CD4 cell count, a measure of immune system response, fell below 350 or if the person was unwell or showed symptoms of illness. The study found that the current median CD4 cell count when starting treatment is about 200. While combinations of AIDS drugs have shown to reduce mortality and progression to AIDS by about 80-90 per cent, tuberculosis has become a deadly co-infection in patients. ìTen years on these treatments still work as well as they did initially but there is a change in terms of TB becoming more important,î said Professor Egger.

Ketamine treats depression, says study
Ketamine, the anaesthetic that has gained notoriety as a recreational drug, can relieve symptoms of depression, according to scientists from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). In a study published in the Archives of General Psychiatry, researchers injected 17 depression sufferers with either a very low dose of ketamine or a placebo. Lead researcher Dr Carlos Zarate Junior said that within 110 minutes, half of the patients given ketamine showed a 50 per cent decrease in symptoms. By the end of day one, 71 per cent had responded to the drug, 29 per cent of whom were nearly symptom free. However, the researchers have stressed that ketamine would need to be altered so it would lose its hallucinatory side-effects.

30th September 2008

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