Pulse 122: Daily Aspirin. Yes or No?

8 October 2019
Giulio Prisco

Aspirin

Researchers at Columbia, Harvard, and Boston University have reported evidence that nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like aspirin may lessen the adverse effects of air pollution exposure on lung function. The researchers found that the use of any NSAID nearly halved of the effect of ambient particulate matter (PM) on lung function, with the association consistent across all four weekly air pollution measurements from same-day to 28 days prior to the lung function test.

Taking a daily aspirin is often recommended to prevent heart disease and stroke, but now Canadian researchers and family physicians are recommending that, if you've never had a heart attack or stroke, you likely should not be taking aspirin to prevent them. The researchers reviewed three large, randomized, placebo-controlled studies published in 2018 that showed the risk of major internal bleeding associated with taking an aspirin a day is higher than any preventative benefits. 

Other interesting news in medicine and health sciences:

Advance in DNA-based cancer immunotherapy. Scientists at National University of Singapore have invented a novel transfection method to deliver DNA into immune cells with minimal stress on these cells. This new technique, described in a research paper published in Advanced Therapeutics, is expected to boost DNA-based cancer immunotherapy by significantly improving the process of generating high-quality genetically modified immune cells.

New CRISPR delivery method permits killing specific bacteria. Researchers at University of Western Ontario have developed a new way to deliver the DNA-editing tool CRISPR-Cas9 into microorganisms in the lab, providing a way to efficiently launch a targeted attack on specific bacteria. The new delivery system, described in a study published in Nature Communications, uses bacteria's natural ability to replicate - called bacterial conjugation - to deliver CRISPR to specific bacteria, in order to alter its DNA and kill it.

Engineered bacteriophages can be programmed to overcome multidrug resistance. In a new study published in Cell, MIT biological engineers have shown that they can rapidly program bacteriophages to kill different strains of E. coli by making mutations in a viral protein that binds to host cells. Bacteriophages kill bacteria through different mechanisms than antibiotics, and they can target specific strains, making them an appealing option for potentially overcoming multidrug resistance. The new engineered bacteriophages are also less likely to provoke resistance in bacteria, the engineers found.

Printable electronics for smart tattoos and personalized biosensors. Electrical engineers at Duke University have devised a fully print-in-place technique for printable electronics that is gentle enough to work on delicate surfaces ranging from paper to human skin. This can be accomplished without additional steps to bake, wash, or powder-coat materials. The advance, detailed in two research papers (1, 2) published in ACS Nano and Nanoscale, could enable technologies such as high-adhesion, embedded electronic tattoos and bandages with patient-specific biosensors.

New drug could possibly treat heart attacks. Researchers at University of Guelph have invented a drug that could possibly treat heart attacks. Administered within hours of an attack, the potential drug would prevent scarring that can lead to heart failure. A study published in Communications Biology reports that the researcher used a drug that targets a key component of the cellular clock mechanism. The medication disrupts expression of genes that trigger adverse immune responses after a heart attack. When mice were given the drug after a heart attack, they were found to have less inflammation and improved cardiac repair.

Engineered T cells extend leukemic immunotherapy to solid tumors. Scientists at Tel Aviv University have found that a form of immunotherapy used to treat the blood cancer leukemia may be effective in treating other kinds of cancer as well. A study published in Journal of Clinical Investigation suggests that a form of leukemic immunotherapy known as chimeric antigen receptors (CAR) T-cell therapy may also be effective in killing solid tumor cells coated in specific antibodies. The engineered T cells developed by the Tel Aviv scientists have shown efficacy in attacking solid tumors.

New technique delivers sight-saving gene therapy to the retina. Johns Hopkins Medicine researchers have developed a way to deliver sight-saving gene therapy to the retina. If proven safe and effective in humans, the technique, outlined in a research paper published in Journal of Clinical Investigation, could provide a new, more permanent therapeutic option for patients with common diseases such as wet age-related macular degeneration (AMD), and it could potentially replace defective genes in patients with inherited retinal disease.

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