Safe T first

Yay, we get to write another article about fewer needles in the lives of diabetics! Researchers in London are working on an immunotherapy approach to slow down the progression of Type I Diabetes, which would ideally result in a future where those diabetics won’t have to inject insulin daily. The disease works by attacking insulin-producing cells, so the scientists decided to try to get the lazy part of the immune system that wasn’t stopping that—regulatory T cells—to stop playing video games and get a job! (Sorry. Too close to home?) The scientists proved the safety of this approach in a recent Phase I study, so it will be a while before anything is marketed to the general public, but we just think this immunotherapy stuff is the bee’s knees.

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This lab in the hand is worth two in the clinic

Do you find yourself saying, “Gee, I sure wish I had a mass spectrometer here so I could run these diagnostic tests now instead of going to a lab to analyze these samples?” Lucky for you, there’s an app for that. Well, there’s a device that presumably comes with an app, and for the small price of $550 it’ll turn your smartphone’s camera into a portable mass spectrometer. The spectral transmission-reflectance-intensity (TRI)-analyzer can analyze blood, urine, and saliva samples as accurately as most clinic-based instruments, and can perform the three most common types of tests in medical diagnostics. This has really cool public health implications in terms of portability and cost. Great job, University of Illinois bioengineers!

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Show me the money

The U.S. President—“Nobody knew health care could be so complicated.” *Sigh*. Sometimes it is so complicated that it is hard to even follow the money.  A recent New York Times article sheds some light on how messy things can be. The premise is that some pharmacy benefit managers and insurance companies are directing patients to take brand name products when there are approved generic options. Whatchu talkin’ bout Willis? With more biosimilars coming to market to “replace” high priced biologic medications, it’s likely that patients and advocacy groups will get vocal. If you look at the top drugs in terms of volume, the word “generic” appears in most of them and you have to get down to #39 before you see Cialis. We will leave it there for another Insight City article.

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Remember Zika?

It was all the rage a few years ago. Well, it is still out there. However, researchers at Arizona State University might have found a breakthrough that would allow your pregnant friend to travel to your destination wedding in South America. The ASU researchers are developing an injection targeting part of the Zika viral protein called DIII, which plays a key role in how the virus infects people. That’s the good news. The bad news is your wedding might have to be put on hold for a while as researchers expect to start Phase I testing in a couple years. For a look back at the terror Zika created, see this. So, until a vaccine or treatment is approved, keep the Off or Cutter handy. Help could be on the way.

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Trump: opioids a yuuuuge problem

Just days after declaring his administration would throw law enforcement resources at the opioid crisis, The Donald referred to the crisis as a national emergency. According to an article by NPR, that stops juuuust a bit short of an official declaration of emergency status, which would carry with it access to specific legal authorities and access to government coffers for a more wide-spread, wholistic approach to dealing with the crisis. The President has indicated the official designation is forthcoming. This is significant. National emergency status has historically been used for things like natural disasters (i.e., hurricanes) and communicable diseases (i.e., the Zika virus). Here’s a list of declared U.S. public health emergencies. Once official, expect states like Ohio and New Hampshire—among the hardest hit—to seek federal funds for help.

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