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20 news posts in Medicine

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28 Feb 2023

From anti-antibiotics to extinction therapy: how evolutionary thinking can transform medicine

by Liad Hollender, Frontiers science writer Image: Shutterstock Antibiotic resistance, cancer, and obesity are on the rise despite intense drug development efforts. To curb this trend, scientists release a research plan for evolutionary medicine, guiding the way for innovative biomedical therapies and more effective public health measures.  The word ‘evolution’ may bring to mind dusty dinosaur bones, but it impacts our health every day. For example, even though antibiotics were invented only a century ago, the evolution of antibiotic resistance is already a major concern. The rise in modern health problems such as obesity can also be traced back to evolutionary principles.    An article published in Frontiers in Science demonstrates how applying an evolutionary perspective to medicine can inspire new ways of preventing and treating disease.   “Evolutionary medicine holds promise to transform our understanding of why we get sick and strengthen our ability to protect human health,” said Dr Barbara Natterson-Horowitz of Harvard University and the University of California, Los Angeles. “We came together with experts across many fields to create an overarching research agenda for this field.”    “Our aim is to drive new biomedical innovations and effective public health measures, for everything from infectious disease and pandemics to cancer, […]


28 Feb 2023

‘We cannot change the human body, but we can change the environment’

by Liad Hollender, Frontiers science writer Dr Barbara Natterson-Horowitz (a cardiologist) and Prof Daniel Blumstein (a behavioral ecologist) were faculty members at the Los Angeles campus of the University of California for decades before they met. Since their serendipitous encounter in the mid-2000s at a lecture on evolution, the two have become prolific scientific collaborators. They are leading researchers in the emerging field of evolutionary medicine, which applies insights from ecology and evolution to drive biomedical innovation and public health reform.  Their most recent article, published in Frontiers in Science, brings together diverse experts to chart a research agenda of staggering scope. Their aim is to tackle major health challenges by applying an evolutionary perspective to everything from antibiotic resistance and drug-resistant cancers to obesity, diabetes, and other ‘modern’ diseases. We met with them to learn more about this disruptive field.    Evolution and medicine seem like very distinct disciplines. How are they related?    Barbara: There is a famous saying – ‘Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution’ by Theodosius Dobzhansky. But what is medicine if not the biology of the human body and mind? Viewing health through the lens of evolutionary biology helps explain why we […]

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01 Feb 2023

Medicines that modify the circadian clock might help heal scars more cleanly

by Angharad Brewer Gillham, Frontiers science writer Image/ Scientists determined that compounds which play key roles in both collagen synthesis and circadian management can be used to make wounds on cell samples heal more quickly and effectively, offering promise for treatments to prevent problem scarring in the future. Healing often leaves a scar. But the role of the scar itself in healing is often underestimated: a scar that doesn’t heal cleanly can be painful or upsetting or affect the range of movement of the affected body part. It may even require further surgical treatment. Now, scientists based at the University of California Los Angeles have found that compounds which target the circadian clock and affect the synthesis of collagen — a protein which is important for skin repair — could improve scar healing. “Our aim was to find compounds that were able to increase the rate at which dermal wounds heal while mitigating the formation of hypertrophic scars,” said Dr Akishige Hokugo, corresponding author of a study published to Frontiers in Medicine. “Scars can result in emotional distress following normal wound healing by serving as permanent reminders of the initial incident. Accounting for additional revision procedures, extended hospital stays, and […]


30 Jan 2023

Five articles you need to check out on the future of surgery

By Colm Gorey, Science Communications Manager Image: From robotic surgeons to ultra-detailed imaging technology, the field of surgery is going through rapid change. To help us understand what the latest research is in this world of dissection, Frontiers highlights just some of the top articles we’ve recently published.   The robot takeover of the workforce is nowhere more apparent than in the medical world, where many delicate surgical procedures are either aided by a robotic assistant, or in some cases performed entirely by a machine. But advances in surgery are not just limited to robotics, with new imaging technologies helping us peer inside the human body like never before. Here are five recent Frontiers articles published as part of the research topic ‘Anatomical Fundamentals of Advanced Surgical Techniques’ that may greatly influence even more breakthroughs in the future. Robotic pelvic exenteration for gynecologic malignancies, anatomic landmarks, and surgical steps: a systematic review Pelvic exenteration – a surgical operation to remove multiple organs in the pelvis – represents the last resort procedure for patients with advanced primary or recurrent gynecological malignancy, such as endometrial cancer. However, since 2009, the advent of robotic surgery resulted in a new spur to the […]

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07 Dec 2022

Could new cancer drugs come from potatoes and tomatoes?

by Angharad Brewer Gillham, Frontiers science writer Image/ Polish scientists revealed the potential for new cancer drugs to be formulated from bioactive compounds found in plants from the genus Solanum, like potatoes and aubergines. Everyone knows someone who has had cancer. In 2020, around 19m new cases — and around 10m deaths — were registered worldwide. Treatments are improving all the time but can damage healthy cells or have severe side-effects which are hard on patients; in the search for new, more targeted cancer drugs, traditional medicine offers many possible candidates. A team of Polish scientists led by Magdalena Winkiel at Adam Mickiewicz University, publishing today in Frontiers in Pharmacology, reviewed the bioactive compounds called glycolalkaloids that are found in many vegetables that are household names, like potatoes and tomatoes, to demonstrate their potential to treat cancer. “Scientists around the world are still searching for the drugs which will be lethal to cancer cells but at the same time safe for healthy cells,” said Winkiel. “It is not easy despite the advances in medicine and powerful development of modern treatment techniques. That is why it might be worth going back to medicinal plants that were used years ago with success […]

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26 Oct 2022

‘Virtual autopsy’ identifies a 17th century mummified toddler hidden from the sun

by Angharad Brewer Gillham, Frontiers science writer Image: Riderfoot/ Scientists used a ‘virtual autopsy’ to examine the mummy of a child found in an aristocratic family crypt, revealing him most probably as Reichard Wilhelm (1625-1626). Despite his wealthy background, the child experienced extreme nutritional deficiency and a tragically early death from pneumonia. A team of scientists based in Germany have examined a 17th century child mummy, using cutting-edge science alongside historical records to shed new light on Renaissance childhood. The child was found in an aristocratic Austrian family crypt, where the conditions allowed for natural mummification, preserving soft tissue that contained critical information about his life and death. Curiously, this was the only unidentified body in the crypt, buried in an unmarked wooden coffin instead of the elaborate metal coffins reserved for the other members of the family buried there. The team, led by Dr Andreas Nerlich of the Academic Clinic Munich-Bogenhausen, carried out a virtual autopsy and radiocarbon testing, and examined family records and key material clues from the burial, to try to understand who the child was and what his short life looked like. “This is only one case,” said Nerlich, lead author of the paper published today […]

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12 Sep 2022

Anti-diarrhea medication may help treat core autism symptoms

By Conn Hastings, science writer Image: There are currently no effective treatments for the core symptoms of autism spectrum disorder (ASD), such as difficulties with socializing and communicating. A new study uses a computer-based protein interaction network to identify whether existing drugs could provide a new treatment approach. The researchers discovered that a common anti-diarrheal drug may have potential in treating the social difficulties associated with ASD. Can you teach an old drug new tricks? Although drug treatments for the core symptoms of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are not currently available, could an existing drug provide a new treatment, even if it previously had no association with ASD? This was the question asked by a new study in the journal Frontiers in Pharmacology. The researchers used a computer model that encompasses proteins involved in ASD and the way they interact. By looking at how different drugs affected proteins in the system, they identified potential candidates to treat it. A commonly used antidiarrheal drug called loperamide was the most promising candidate, and the researchers have an interesting hypothesis about how it may work to treat ASD symptoms. Some of the most common symptoms in ASD involve difficulties with social interaction […]