Scientific breakthroughs in health

Science rules, as research comes to the rescue.

By Donna Fleming
Scientific breakthroughs in health

The world of science is a fascinating one, and it is thanks to some very clever researchers that we have various products and treatments that can improve our health. Here’s a report on some recent major scientific breakthroughs.

HIV protection
We all know that cows’ milk is a good source of calcium, and also provides vitamin D. Now, scientists think it can be used to help protect against HIV. Cows, which can’t contract the disease, may be used to produce antibodies to defend against the virus. These antibodies could then be developed into a cream which women could apply to protect themselves from contracting HIV from sexual partners.

A team from Melbourne University joined forces with scientists from a biotechnology company and found that when pregnant cows were injected with an HIV protein, the first milk they produced was packed with antibodies to protect the newborn calf from infection. These antibodies bind to HIV and stop it from entering human cells and the scientists hope to use them in a protective cream.

Jab alternative
For people who are scared of needles, getting immunised may soon be as simple as using a breath freshener. Like many modern breath fresheners that can be dissolved under the tongue, vaccines may also be able to be administered via a soluble film that is simply taken orally.

Scientists at the University of London have found this can be a highly effective way of getting certain vaccines – including those for flu and tuberculosis – into the bloodstream. It’s thought around 10% of people have a fear of injections that puts them off being immunised. As well as being less painful than jabs with a needle, oral vaccines are also safer to administer, particularly in countries where transmission of HIV is a concern.

Cancer diagnosis in 20 minutes
A groundbreaking device that can diagnose cancer in just 20 minutes is being developed by British scientists. The Q-Cancer device, known as a tumour profiler, can not only tell doctors whether patients have got cancer while they wait, but it can also work out the correct drug to prescribe for the particular form of the disease.

The device is currently being trialled in the UK and its makers hope it will be ready for use there within three years. Doctors say that accurately identifying cancer sooner may help to save and prolong lives because treatment can begin earlier. At the moment, tumour samples have to be sent to labs.

The clever device uses advanced nanotechnology to analyse the DNA in minute amounts of tissue to work out the type of cancer, its genetic makeup and how far it has developed. Its makers say it is low cost and no special expertise is needed to use it.

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