A stick-on patch for hay fever could relieve symptoms all day long.
The patch, which is changed daily, contains a drug called emestadine, a medicine that’s already used in tablet form to soothe sneezing and runny noses, as well as in drops for watery, red eyes.
The drug works by blocking the release of histamine — a chemical produced by cells as part of the allergic response to pollen.
The idea is that delivering it through the skin would make it more effective, as it allows the drug to seep into the bloodstream at a constant level.
The drug works by blocking the release of histamine — a chemical produced by cells as part of the allergic response to pollen
This keeps symptoms under control throughout the day.
Around 13 million people in the UK have hay fever, caused by pollen, a fine powder released by plants.
In those affected, the body mistakes harmless pollen as a threat and so pumps out high levels of the chemical histamine to try to rid it of the perceived threat. It is this response, rather than the pollen itself, that causes the symptoms of hay fever.
These can include a runny nose, itchy eyes and even asthma attacks brought on by inflammation in the airways triggered by the histamine.
Most people who have hay fever rely on over-the-counter anti-histamine tablets.
But part of the problem is that in tablet form, the active drug is delivered all in one go.
This means that, after a few hours, the effects wear off and symptoms start to worsen again.
Now, a Japanese firm has developed a 24-hour patch that delivers the antihistamine emestadine to the bloodstream constantly.
Delivering medicines through a skin patch is often preferable for treating a chronic condition — such as hay fever — because it means less of the active drug is needed, as it won’t be broken down by the stomach.
Around 13 million people in the UK have hay fever, caused by pollen, a fine powder released by plants
The problem is that many drugs which can be easily absorbed in tablet form through the stomach and into the bloodstream are made of molecules that are too big to penetrate the skin in order to reach the blood vessels underneath.
Now, Hisamitsu Pharmaceutical has reformulated emestadine into smaller particles that can get through the skin. It then added the new formulation to a patch that is designed to release the drug at a constant rate throughout the day.
Earlier this year, the results of a trial involving more than 1,200 people with hay fever were published in the journal Allergology International. Patients were given patches to stick to their skin once daily for two weeks.
The results showed the patch significantly reduced symptoms throughout the day.
The patch is currently in late-stage trials and could be available in the UK within three years.
Professor Anthony Frew, a specialist in allergy and respiratory medicine at the Royal Sussex County Hospital in Brighton, said research shows the patch is just as effective as tablets, and could be a more convenient alternative for many patients.
He says: ‘Essentially, this is a transdermal [through the skin] delivery system for antihistamines, which gets a good concentration into the body. Its effectiveness is comparable to oral antihistamines, which is good.’
■ MEANWHILE, scientists at the University of Michigan in the U.S. may have developed a nasal vaccine that cures peanut allergies for life. In a study on mice, just three monthly doses of the nose spray protected them from reactions when they were subsequently given peanuts.
The researchers said it works by preventing the activation of immune cells that would initiate allergic reaction, reported the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. Further studies are now planned.
How arthritis drug could help with type 2 diabetes
A drug used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune disorder that causes pain and swelling in the joints, may also help to lower blood-sugar levels in type 2 diabetes.
A drug used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune disorder that causes pain and swelling in the joints, may also help to lower blood-sugar levels in type 2 diabetes (file photo)
In a study at Yangzhou University in China, mice with type 2 diabetes were given leflunomide, an anti-inflammatory drug, which returned their blood-sugar levels to normal. Their cells also started responding to the hormone insulin.
The drug targets a protein that controls the insulin receptor, which is responsible for making cells take sugar from the bloodstream. This will now be tested in patients.
Tiny fan that builds up strength in weak lungs
A fan-like device that fires blasts of air into the mouth could ease breathing difficulties caused by chronic lung diseases such as emphysema.
Results from a trial of 23 patients at the University of Leicester showed that those who used the device three times a day for eight weeks experienced significant improvements in their symptoms. The hand-held, tube-shaped device has a mouthpiece that patients breathe in and out of to open and shut a valve.
The valve ‘oscillates’ as they do this, creating resistance, which, in turn, causes vibrations in the patient’s chest wall that work the lung muscles harder, and so improves respiratory fitness.
How long does it take? This week: For a cut to heal . . .
On average, a small cut to the skin will take two to five days to heal on the surface, but, underneath, the process of knitting the wound together could last for weeks or even months, says Professor Richard White, a specialist in wound healing at Plymouth University.
‘A clean cut — where you can directly press together the sides — will always heal faster than one where there is torn or missing tissue,’ he explains.
How you treat the wound can help. ‘The cells involved in healing travel faster when the skin is kept moist than if it’s left to dry out and scar,’ adds Professor White. That means covering it with a dressing or plaster.
Intriguingly, a new study by the Medical Research Council in Cambridge showed cuts that occurred at night, between 8pm and 8am, took on average 28 days to heal, compared with 17 days for those in the day.
This may be because our bodies evolved to heal fastest during the day, when injuries were more likely to occur.
More sleep could improve your love life. A study in the Journal of Sexual Medicine found if a woman slept for an extra hour, she’d have a 14 per cent higher chance of having a sexual encounter with her partner the next day. Previous studies have shown lack of sleep releases cortisol, the stress hormone, which reduces testosterone, limiting sex drive.
How to boost the power of your senses. This week: Omega-3 for dry eyes
As we age, our eyes become more prone to dryness and this can blur vision. Normally, blinking maintains the tear film — the outer oily layer that stops tears from evaporating — as a flat surface, which means we easily see through it.
But in patients with dry eyes, this film breaks up within a few seconds and looking through the ‘bumpy’ surface leads to blurred vision.
If your eyes feel itchy or gritty and your vision is no longer as sharp, a daily supplement could help (file photo)
‘Symptoms of dry eye can be reduced by the essential fatty acids in omega-3 oils,’ says Dr Nigel Best, a Spec- savers optometrist.
If your eyes feel itchy or gritty and your vision is no longer as sharp, a daily supplement could help. A study published in 2016 in the journal Cornea found taking an omega-3 supplement leads to a better tear profile in just 12 weeks.
Can ‘superblood’ beat cancer?
A new technique whereby donated red blood cells are modified to form ‘superblood’ could help to treat rare diseases, as well as cancer and autoimmune disorders such as lupus.
The cells are edited so that they carry specific proteins the body lacks, causing a particular disorder or disease.
Because red blood cells do not carry genetic material — unlike white blood cells and stem cells — scientists believe that it makes the process less risky than other treatments which involve modifying cells that are then prone to rejection.
‘Superblood’ research is being led by the U.S. company Rubius Therapeutics, which is currently planning human trials.
Music during an op eases children’s pain
Playing music to young patients during surgery can reduce their pain afterwards, suggests a new study from Afyon Kocatepe University in Turkey.
In a study of 50 children having their tonsils removed, half were played gentle music throughout (all the patients had a general anaesthetic).
The results, published in the journal Medical Principles and Practice, showed that the children exposed to music rated their pain as less severe.
Soothing music is known to lower pulse rates, reduce stress and curb anxiety, even when people are given anaesthetic drugs.
Good cholesterol link to infections
Our levels of ‘good’ cholesterol may determine how susceptible we are to infectious diseases such as gastroenteritis and pneumonia, according to a study in the European Heart Journal.
Researchers at the University of Copenhagen and Copenhagen University Hospital in Denmark analysed data from 100,000 people and found that those who had either very low, or very high, ‘good’ HDL cholesterol levels were at a greater risk of being hospitalised, and even dying from, an infectious disease.
The results were surprising, as high HDL levels are usually seen as healthy for hearts.
Exactly why it might be linked to infection is unclear, though HDL has been shown in animal studies to have a role in immune function.
Eating plenty of wholegrains can cut the risk of heart problems even if you’re obese, say U.S. researchers. They assessed the diets of 22 obese men and measured the stiffness of their arteries. The journal Nutrition reports that those who ate the most wholegrains had the lowest aortic stiffness. It’s thought that fibre may be protective.
Did you know?
Contrary to common belief, white spots on your nails aren’t a sign of calcium deficiency, says Dr Susan Mayou, a consultant dermatologist at London’s Cadogan Clinic. They are probably due to minor damage to the nail. Trauma to the finger just below the nail’s ‘half moon’ can affect the nail matrix beneath the skin. Even a manicure may result in white spots.