A new flu patch and an update on olive oil

Medical Minutes

A painless microneedle patch for the flu

Researchers have now come up with a dissolvable vaccine patch for combating influenza. It has been tested in a large number of volunteers and it fared well. A team of investigators has found that delivering the flu vaccine via a dissolvable microneedle patch appears to be safe and preferred over conventional injection in a new phase 1 trial involving 100 people.

The study is the first randomized trial to test a self-administered, dissolvable microneedle patch vaccine in humans. The researchers found that the microneedle patch could be safely self-administered by participants. Analysis of the patches also found that the microneedles successfully dissolved, thereby eliminating safety risks associated with used hypodermic needles.

The study, led by Emory University and Georgia Institute of Technology, further indicated that the microneedle patch leads to a robust immune response similar to conventional intramuscular injection. However, larger trials are warranted to further investigate the immune mechanism behind the response and confirm the findings.

In the United States, even with the recommendation for universal vaccination, coverage of influenza vaccination remains below 50 percent and influenza continues to be a major cause of illness and mortality, resulting in up to 48,000 deaths per year.

Vaccination by microneedle patch could improve vaccination coverage because the patch can be stored and distributed without refrigeration and may be safely self-administered by patients without the need for trained health professionals.

With this new flu vaccine, the microneedle patch is applied for 20 minutes on the wrist. Participants who self-applied the patch were given instructions via a brief audiovisual presentation. The study was primarily designed to assess safety and acceptability, but also investigated the effectiveness of the vaccine.

At 6 months, no serious side effects linked to the vaccine were reported and there were no cases of influenza. Minor reactions to the vaccine were mild and transient. At 28 days post vaccination, 70 percent of participants who had received the microneedle patch vaccine said they preferred it to the injection.

“Despite the recommendation for adults and children to receive a flu shot, many people remain unvaccinated. Dissolvable microneedle patches could potentially simplify the delivery of influenza vaccines. We found that the vaccine was stable outside the cold chain, meaning that it could potentially be stored on a pharmacy shelf,” said study investigator Dr. Nadine Rouphael, who is an Associate Professor of Medicine at Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia.

She said the patch can be safely applied by participants themselves, so it could be given at home and in the workplace. These advantages could reduce overall costs of the flu vaccine and potentially increase coverage. The findings now will need to be confirmed in larger trials.

Extra-virgin olive oil may pack power brain protection

The Mediterranean diet, rich in plant-based foods, is associated with a variety

of health benefits, including a lower incidence of dementia. Now, researchers at the Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University (LKSOM) have identified extra-virgin olive oil, a major component of the Mediterranean diet, as a specific ingredient that protects against cognitive decline.

In a study published in The Annals of Clinical and Translational Neurology, the researchers report that the consumption of extra-virgin olive oil protects memory and learning ability and reduces the formation of amyloid-beta plaques and neurofibrillary tangles in the brain, which are classic markers of Alzheimer’s disease.

“We found that olive oil reduces brain inflammation but most importantly activates a process known as autophagy,” said senior investigator Dr. Domenico Praticò, who is a Professor in the Departments of Pharmacology and Microbiology and the Center for Translational Medicine at LKSOM. Autophagy is the process by which cells break down and clear out intracellular debris and toxins, such as amyloid plaques and tau tangles.

“Brain cells from mice fed diets enriched with extra-virgin olive oil had higher levels of autophagy and reduced levels of amyloid plaques and phosphorylated tau,” Dr. Praticò said. The latter substance, phosphorylated tau, is responsible for neurofibrillary tangles, which are suspected of contributing to the nerve cell dysfunction in the brain that is responsible for Alzheimer’s memory symptoms.

In order to investigate the relationship between extra-virgin olive oil and dementia, Dr. Praticò and colleagues used a well-established Alzheimer’s disease mouse model. Known as a triple transgenic model, the animals develop three key characteristics of the disease: memory impairment, amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles.

The researchers divided the animals into two groups. One group received a chow diet enriched with extra-virgin olive oil and one group received the regular chow diet without it. The olive oil was introduced into the diet when the mice were six months old, before symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease begin to emerge in the animal model.

In overall appearance, there was no difference between the two groups of animals. However, at age 9 months and 12 months, mice on the extra virgin olive oil-enriched diet performed significantly better on tests designed to evaluate working memory, spatial memory, and learning abilities. Studies of brain tissue from both groups of mice revealed dramatic differences in nerve cell appearance and function.

John Schieszer is an award-winning national journalist and radio and podcast broadcaster of The Medical Minute. He can be reached at medicalminutes@gmail.com.

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John Schieszer is an award-winning national journalist and radio and podcast broadcaster of The Medical Minute.

  • Email: medicalminutes@gmail.com

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