Saturday July 4, 2020



October 16

Painless Vaccines!

Next Generation: Painless Vaccine Patch

Vaccination via tiny microneedles elicits a powerful immune response in the skin.

THE DEVICE: In the near future, your annual flu shot may not be a sharp jab in the arm but a sticky, spiny band-aid applied gently to your skin. Over the past five years, researchers at Emory University and the Georgia Institute of Technology have developed a dime-sized vaccine patch sprinkled with a hundred microscopic needles and coated with a vaccine solution. The patch, which could someday be self-administered, comes in two versions: metal or dissolvable polymer. It has successfully protected mice from influenza, and now researchers know exactly how the tiny microneedles elicit an immune response in the skin.

WHAT’S NEW: In 2011, the Emory-Georgia team demonstrated vaccine delivery via microneedle patches is often more protective than inoculation under the skin or into muscle, but they weren’t sure why. “We wanted to know what happens initially, within that acute first response, that explains why we have a better immune response later on,” said Maria del Pilar Martin, who helped develop the patch at Emory and now works for Sanofi Pasteur, the vaccine division of Sanofi, in New York.

It turns out, microneedle immunization results in an immediate and dramatic local increase in cytokines under the skin, according to a paper published by del Pilar Martin and colleagues in the January/February issue of mBio. Cytokines are proteins that recruit important immune cells, including neutrophils, monocytes, and dendritic cells, to the site of immunization. The skin immunization also resulted in a prolonged presence of antigens—viral targets of the immune cells. “That creates a constant recruitment of [immune] cells into the skin,” said del Pilar Martin.

IMPORTANCE: “It is the first real mechanistic look at how microneedle delivery of antigen through skin works,” said Thomas Kupper, chief of dermatology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, who was not involved in the study. Kupper and colleagues recently demonstrated that a population of immune cells in the skin mediate a stronger immune response than T cells in the blood stream, which also supports the idea that skin vaccine delivery may be more effective than intramuscular inoculation. As scientists understand more about the early immune responses in the skin, they can expand use of the patch by testing other antigens, in addition to influenza, and observing the immune response.

Microneedle patch immunization could simplify vaccination programs in schools and assisted living facilities because it eliminates the need for trained personnel to give the injection, the authors noted. It could also cut risks associated with the re-use of hypodermic needles, which occurs in developing countries.

NEEDS IMPROVEMENT: If the team can develop a patch that does not need to be kept at cold temperatures, as most vaccines currently are, the method will be especially valuable for developing countries. “Hopefully, that’s the future for this type of delivery method,” said del Pilar Martin. But before the patches can be made commercially available, clinical trials must verify their safety and effectiveness in humans.

The Emory/Georgia Tech team hopes to begin a phase I trial with their patch in the next year or so, but they aren’t the only group pursuing vaccine patches: TremRx, founded by Kupper and colleagues, and Intercell vaccines, based in Vienna, Austria, are also pursuing techniques to deliver vaccines to the skin. Intercell has an ongoing phase I/II trial for an H5N1 vaccine enhancement patch and a phase II trial for a traveler’s diarrhea patch.


October 14

Transplant Without Drugs?

Transplant Without Drugs?

A new method for transplanting immunologically mismatched organs may remove the need for life-long immunosuppressive drugs to prevent rejection.


Researchers at the University of Louisville in Kentucky found a way to trick the body of a mismatched organ-transplant recipient into thinking that the organ is a perfect match, in a study published this week in Science Translational Medicine.

Previous studies attempted to get the same effect by injecting some of the donor’s bone marrow, which contains new-immune-cell generating blood stem cells that would recognize the donor organ as self , into the recipient, reported Nature.After removing the bulk of the recipient’s native immune cells with radiation and chemotherapy, the donor’s bone marrow would be injected and repopulate the immune system with immune cells that would tolerate the new organs. The approach had some success in the clinic, although not all patients benefitted in the long term.

Instead of using donor cells, University of Louisville researchers created a cocktail of engineered blood stem cells, in addition to a novel type of immune cell they discovered called facilitating cells, which they plan to commercialize through a company called Regenerex.  Five of the eight recipients were successfully weaned off their immunosuppressants a year after their operations, and none of the patients had antibodies against the new organ, suggesting the organ was not being rejected.

Will the patients manage to keep their new organs without immunosuppression in the long term? “You would hope that it’s true, but it’s a little early to claim that,” David Sachs, director of the Transplantation Biology Research Center at Massachusetts General Hospital told Nature.

Source: The Scientist



October 13

Dog versus Cat



Oct 1, 2010 By Joseph Brownstein, MyHealthNewsDaily Contributor



Children who have a dog around them during their first year of life will have a milder allergic reaction to dogs if they develop dog allergies later in life, according to a new study.

Researchers at the University of Cincinnati and Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center found thatchildren who had a dog in their home during their first year of life were four times less likely to develop eczema than children who were allergic to dogs but did not have a pet dog around.

Eczema is considered to be an early signal of the severity of a child's later allergies.

The study was based on records from 636 children in a long-term allergy and pollution study. All had parents with allergies, and were considered to be at high risk for developing allergies themselves. The findings are published in the October issue of the Journal of Pediatrics.

"We found that even among people who were allergy-skin-test positive to dog, having a dog in the home...was associated with a lower risk of eczema, so there may be some protective effect from having a dog in the home," said study researcher Dr. Tolly Epstein, an assistant professor of immunology at the university.

Cats had the opposite effect. Among children with a cat allergy, those who had one around during their first year were 13 times more likely to develop eczema than those who didn't.

"There may be differences between the allergens themselves and the effect they have on the immune system," Epstein told MyHealthNewsDaily.

Others offer different explanation for the findings.

Dogs usually defecate and urinate outside the house, while cats do their business inside the home, said Dr. Leonard Bielory, an asthma and allergy specialist at New Jersey Medical School and a spokesman for the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, who was not involved with the study.

Bielory said he routinely advises his patients already suffering from allergies that having a cat may provoke worse allergic reactions than a dog because of their lifestyle.

"There is a difference in the quality of exposure to infectious agents, and other proteins people could be allergic to," Bielory said.

While the study gave some further hints about allergic reaction and sensitivity, Epstein said further study is needed. She's planning a future study that will follow up with the children as they get older, and see how they might develop other allergic diseases.

"This is just eczema...we don't know yet what's going to happen in terms of asthma and rhinitis," Epstein said.

Epstein added that while a number of factors — such as allergic reactions in parents — had been taken into account to avoid confounding the results, there could always be another factor leading to some children not having dogs around.

Until then, she said, patients shouldn't be too hasty in acquiring or getting rid of a pet.

"To make strong recommendations, we'd want to know what happens with the other allergic diseases as well," Epstein said.

But as the results stand now, Bielory said, "the concept here is that dog is a man’s best friend."

Having A Dog May Help Allergy-Prone Infants


October 11

More on salt rooms..

Alternative remedies that actually work

"A decade ago there weren't Western studies on these treatments, so most doctors dismissed them as quackery," notes Dr. Woodson Merrell, chair of the department of integrative medicine at Beth Israel Hospital in New York City. But with a flurry of research proving their potency, many MDs have been won over.

No one's saying you should give up regular meds or doctor visits. On the contrary: Many work best when combined with traditional medical care. (You should always inform your doctor if you're receiving one, to make sure it doesn't overlap with other treatments.) "The future of medicine is integrative," Merrell says. "It incorporates all the best therapies, from antibiotics to acupuncture."

The evidence behind these four may surprise you—and cure what ails you, too.

What it could do for you: Relieve pain, ease itching from eczema, help heal knee and shoulder injuries, and treat everything from migraines to asthma. Some studies suggest acupuncture could even help people lose weight, quit smoking, boost fertility, and lift depression, although the research is not as strong on those benefits.

How it works: Chinese practitioners have long revered the treatment for keeping energy flowing through the body (and warding off illness). From a Western perspective, "acupuncture is believed to stimulate the nervous system, which activates changes in the brain we're still trying to pinpoint," says Vitaly Napadow, a professor of radiology at Harvard Medical School. Practitioners insert needles into the skin at strategic points. Although you may feel small pricks, it generally doesn't hurt.

What the research says: This therapy has undergone the gold standard of scientific testing—randomized, controlled, double-blind studies—and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) deems it effective for dozens of conditions, notably pain relief.

Want to try it? Sessions (you'll need at least a few) can cost anywhere from $60 to $120, and some insurance carriers cover it. Ask your doc for a referral, or find a licensed practitioner at

What it could do for you: Curb coughs, bronchitis, and asthma, and reduce muscle, joint, and menstrual pain.

How it works: Practitioners of the 2,500-year-old Chinese treatment place heated glass cups or cones on the back or stomach, creating suction on the skin. The circulation boost supposedly reduces inflammation and unblocks congestion.

What the research says: Academic reviews conclude that there's a potential benefit, but better research is needed. Still, cupping has been used safely for thousands of years, Dr. Merrell says. Adds Napadow, "It seems to be especially helpful for clearing up colds and other respiratory problems."

Want to try it? You'll need at least three sessions at $60 to $100 a pop; that might include the cost of acupuncture, which is usually done in conjunction with cupping. Like acupuncture, it may be covered by insurance. (Pregnant women and anyone on blood thinners should avoid it.) Find a practitioner at

What it could do for you: Help you combat stress and anxiety, quit smoking, lose weight, ease GI distress, and relieve insomnia, allergies, and aches.

How it works: A hypnotherapist talks you into a trance-like state (don't worry, you stay awake!). This helps you focus on suggestions to change your behavior—and even bodily functions.

What the research says: Numerous U.S. studies—as well as the NIH—back hypnotherapy, which was first practiced by an Austrian doc in the 1700s.

Want to try it? Most people need multiple sessions at $125 to $200 each, though it's often covered by insurance, says Carol Ginandes, assistant clinical professor of psychology at Harvard Medical School. Find a licensed clinician at

What it could do for you: Ease chronic respiratory issues like bronchitis, sinusitis, and asthma.

How it works: In the 1800s, a physician noticed that Eastern European miners working in salt caves had fewer breathing problems than people who didn't. Today, "halo chambers" are common in Russian hospitals. In the U.S., you can visit salt spas featuring generators that blast out ionized salt particles. Proponents say salt can reduce inflammation and help "liquefy" mucus.

What the research says: Some Western studies support salt's powers, like one in the New England Journal of Medicine showing that inhaled saline droplets improved lung function in cystic fibrosis patients. But not all experts are convinced that the effects of a salt spa are as potent. 

"Studies haven't validated that salt rooms are effective," says Dr. Leonard Bielory, an attending physician and allergist at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick, N.J. Still, seeing is believing for doctors like Dr. Nita Desai, who runs a salt spa in Boulder: "I've seen asthma patients do treatments and go months without an attack."

Want to try it? It's worth a shot for chronic ailments when nothing else has worked. Expect 12 to 24 hour-long sessions (at $25 to $99 each) to reap the benefits. Search online for "salt spa" or "halotherapy" and make sure the place uses a generator so you get the full effect.

Read more:

October 10

Eye Allergies

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Location: Springfield, NJ
Today's Date: July 04, 2020
Station Director: Leonard Bielory, M.D
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