Saturday, November 12, 2011

Vaccine that could end the misery of acne for millions of teenagers

Rodent study only so far

It is a condition that blights the lives of millions of teenagers and young adults. Now scientists have made a breakthrough in the hunt for something of a medical holy grail – a treatment for acne. A vaccine which promises to halt a key cause of the unsightly and painful condition could be available within as little as five years, they say.

The breakthrough approach is a departure from current treatments, which mostly rely on antibiotics to ‘blitz’ the bacteria that cause spots.

The medicines can upset the skin’s natural balance and leave some sufferers at risk of scarring. Scientists at the University of California at San Diego are working in partnership with the world’s biggest vaccine company, Sanofi Pasteur, to create the jab.

Rather than focusing on eliminating the main acne-causing bacteria, P-Acnes, it aims to neutralise a ‘troublemaking protein’ produced by the germs and key to the formation of spots. Acne is caused when the skin’s sebaceous glands produce too much sebum – the skin’s natural moisturiser – clogging the pores.

The protein then starts killing skin cells, causing the body to try to fight back with inflammation, flooding the area with white blood cells. The result is sore pimples.

The experts, carrying out tests on the skin on the ears of mice, created antibodies which home in on the protein and ‘turn it off’. Mice given doses of bacteria treated with the antibodies developed much less inflammation than those given untreated bugs. The animals’ immune systems can also be stimulated to produce their own antibodies, the study found.

More than eight out of ten teenagers suffer from spots, and the global market for acne medications is estimated at about £1.87billion a year.

While vaccines are usually used to prevent illnesses, the jab would be instead be used as a treatment. It is too early to say how often it would need to be used.

Dr Harald Gollnick, of the Global Alliance to Improve Outcomes in Acne, says it may be available within five to ten years.

Despite the range of treatments currently available, acne leaves 20 per cent of sufferers with scarring.

The strongest, Roaccutane, can make skin sensitive and has been linked to birth defects and depression.

Consultant dermatologist Dr Susannah Baron, of the BMI Hospital in Canterbury, said: ‘Acne affects so many teenagers at a very difficult stage of life. A vaccine that potentially targets inflammation could prove very helpful.’


The revolutionary cell jab that could halt arthritis for millions

Another rodent study

A revolutionary jab made from stem cells found in tummy fat could soon stop osteoarthritis in its tracks.

The breakthrough provides hope for the eight million people in the UK who suffer from the incurable condition and could potentially save thousands from needing joint replacement surgery.

Dutch and French researchers found injecting stem cells harvested from a patient’s own waistline protects joints against crippling damage. It appears to be the closest experts have come to halting the disease using stem cells.
How the treatment works

The therapy works by stopping destruction of cartilage – the ‘shock absorber’ tissue inside which gets ground down by osteoarthritis – and by protecting ligaments.

A single dose of stem cells extracted from adipose tissue – fat which accumulates around the stomach – more than halved damage to knee joints in mice.

The findings, revealed at the American College of Rheumatology in Chicago, could mark a turning point in the search for a treatment. Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis in the UK.

It can inflame and damage any joints, but occurs mostly in the knees and hips. Some joints become so severely worn down they require surgery.

As well as older age, risk factors include being overweight, a family history of the condition and sports-related injuries.

Many sufferers rely on anti-inflammatory painkillers to ease their suffering, but these can damage the stomach if used long-term. About 60,000 people a year end up needing a knee replacement.

Significantly, adipose tissue is relatively easy to access and is thought to be the most abundant source of adult stem cells in the body.

According to some estimates, it contains 40 times more stem cells than bone marrow. Scientists are already using these fat cells in the search for cures for cancer, heart disease and spinal injuries.

Researchers at Radboud University in the Netherlands, and the National Institute of Health and Medical Research in France, injected adipose stem cells into the joints of mice with arthritic knees.

The cells, known as mesenchymal cells, have the capacity to grow into a variety of body tissues.

Some mice received the jab seven days after osteoarthritis first set in, others 14 days after – which would translate into a few weeks or months in humans.

When it was given sooner, the jab cut destruction of cartilage by 54 per cent compared with those injected with a dummy jab. After six weeks, they had half the amount of ligament damage.

The jab also slowed a process called synovial activation, where the soft membrane around the joint becomes inflamed, in some cases by as much as 30 per cent.

British experts and charities including Arthritis Care last night welcomed the latest research.

Robert Moots, professor of rheumatology at the University of Liverpool, warned it was not yet certain how stem cells will behave in human joints. But he added: ‘It is the strongest clue yet that stem cell treatments could make a big difference.’


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