Flu protection powered by llamas

Flu season is upon us, have you gotten your shot yet? You may be apprehensive because it doesn’t always work—for instance, last year’s flu vaccine was only 40 percent effective. If flu strains weren’t so diverse it wouldn’t be such an issue, which is why “mega-antibody” vaccines capable of protecting against multiple strains would be cool. Last week, researchers published a study detailing the process they used to develop one of these vaccines, which combined the fun-sized antibodies that llamas produce to make a vaccine capable of protecting mice against 59 of 60 flu strains they tested against. However, human antibodies are bigger, so they might not fit together nicely like llamas’ do. But even a vaccine that could protect against just a few strains could drastically affect infection rates. Here’s a likely delivery mechanism.

Oh, Canada okays Kush

Put on some Snoop Dogg (do we even have to say NSFW) and your favorite Bob Marley shirt, Canada is now the world’s largest legal marijuana market. Canada is the second country in the world behind Uruguay to legalize recreational use of cannabis, but unlike Uruguay, it won’t have to deal with the financial restrictions of using US dollars to sell the stuff. The safe regulatory environment means Canada will likely turn into the world’s center for agricultural research into the plant, on everything from increasing the potency of its compounds, to the genetic sequencing of its different varieties like “CBD God Bud” and “Cold Creek Kush.” If you want to get in on the reefer madness and make the trip up to the Great White North for some weed tourism, just make sure you do your own research beforehand.

An aspirin a day could bring the doctor your way

major study in the US and Australia that looked at healthy 70+ year-olds found no real medical benefit to a daily aspirin regimen. You may be aware that aspirin is prescribed for patients who have already experienced a heart attack or stroke. Thing is, that stuff will make your stomach bleed, so there’s no point in putting your stomach through a possible Carrie situation if you can avoid it. Not only did the study of over 19,000 find no cardiovascular benefit, but according to study coauthor Dr. Anne Murray “there was an increase in the rate of death.” Yikes. If you still want to reduce your risk of stroke, check out Harvard Health’s 7 things you can do to prevent a stroke.

Not playing by your own rules

The well-known oncology researcher José Baselga has resigned his position as Chief Medical Officer at Memorial Sloan Kettering after an NYT/ProPublica investigation showed he failed to disclose millions in payments from pharma and healthcare companies in dozens of his research articles. The payments themselves aren’t at issue, it’s the fact that he didn’t make his ties explicitly known. Which is kinda funny since those financial reporting rules were set by the American Association for Cancer Research while he was president of the group. Critics say Baselga’s fall illustrates the bigger problem of the revolving door between academic research and industry, as well as a general laziness towards enforcing ethical standards from the academic community. Expect a rush of researchers who ‘forgot’ to include their financial ties in previous papers to quietly go add those in.

Plaque attack

Treating Alzheimer’s has been a major issue for researchers, considering clinical trials that aim to treat the condition fail at a rate of 99.6 percent. Anything shown to remotely help will lead to big investments, as Biogen and Eisai learned on Thursday when they released positive results on their IND BAN2401. It’s not just a big deal because it could lead to a treatment, but also because it provides evidence we’ve figured out how the condition works. We think Alzheimer’s progresses from amyloid plaque accumulating between neurons, disrupting cell communication. The drug candidate doesn’t clean the plaque up, but it does clean up the cell clusters that form the plaque. Let’s hope this avenue of research provides more answers so we don’t end up spending $1 trillion on the condition by 2050.

Who owns your health data?

Big topic for a short article but here’s the skinny… you receive a scan for some legitimate reason in the course of receiving health care. Scientists and companies use your images—stripped of all personally identifying information—in the development of artificial intelligence that is able to diagnose disease. These people and companies make gobs and gobs of money. Are you owed compensation because their commercial product could not have been developed without using “your” scans? This is somewhat different—it could be argued—than the famous case of Henrietta Lacks, whose live cells were used and commercialized. (By the way, she also got no money.) These are just scans. Ones and zeros, right? Here is a more complete report from NPR, with modern-day cases. Let InsightCity know what you think in this week’s FastPoll™.