HCF Fit and Well : Summer 2012-13
FIT&WELL 5 The development of new drugs that remove excess iron from ner ve cells in the brain could one day offer hope to people diagnosed with Alzheimer's or Parkinson's. People suffering from these diseases experience an accumulation of iron in the damaged regions of their brain. Researchers at the Mental Health Research Institute in Australia have identiﬁed an essential brain protein – tau – that helps remove the excess iron. The latest research shows this iron build-up and damage is more likely to occur when there is a drop in the normal level of tau proteins in tissues. Ner ve cells grown in a laboratory proved that tau carries another important protein, called APP, to the surface of nerve cells where it then removes the excess iron. Researchers say this latest discovery paves the way for the development of new drugs to manage Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. Alzheimer's is the most common form of dementia in Australia, accounting for 50 to 70 per cent of all cases, while approximately 19 new cases of Parkinson's are diagnosed every week. Removing iron to treat Alzheimer's Most people suffer headaches from time to time. Survey findings indicate one in three people experience a headache once a month and one in 10 once a week or more often. This common condition rarely has a serious medical cause but, if you have regular headaches, pinpointing what might trigger them can prove elusive. "Headaches can range from tension-type headaches through to debilitating migraines," explains NPS MedicineWise Clinical Adviser Dr Philippa Binns. "Your doctor can identify your headache type and how to treat you if they have a complete picture of your headache experience." This includes providing information about when your headaches occur and what treatments work for you. This is where keeping a record can help. "If you are suffering from regular headaches there may be certain environmental or lifestyle factors that are triggering their onset," she says. A headache diary noting details such as your symptoms, the area of your head affected, frequency and other factors that may contribute to their onset can help you and your doctor work out how to treat or prevent headaches. "This can include things like avoiding triggers, reducing stress and using pain-relief medicines appropriately," says Dr Binns. NPS MedicineWise publishes a Headache Diary that can be ordered through or downloaded from its website at nps.org.au/conditions/headache Around 275 Australians develop diabetes every day and it's estimated that 3.3 million Australians will have type 2 diabetes by 2031. Almost half of diabetes sufferers develop diabetic retinopathy, an eye disease caused by damage to the blood vessels in the retina. Left untreated it can eventually lead to vision loss and blindness, but 30 to 50 per cent of diabetics don't have regular eye check-ups. To combat this, a new diabetic retinopathy screening service -- RetPath -- has been developed at the Centre for Eye Research Australia. People with diabetes can access the free eye screening when they attend an appointment to have their blood tested. The screening consists of a questionnaire, vision test and retinal photography, and works by detecting early changes in eye health. "Through regular eye examinations and adequate diabetes management nearly all vision loss associated with diabetic retinopathy is preventable," says RetPath Project Manager Melanie Larizza. DIABETES TEST ON EYES Green tea vs. skin cancer HEADACHE HEADS-UP Powerful drugs based on the healing properties of green tea could soon be developed to help fight skin cancer. Scientists at the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, have found an ingredient in green tea that caused 40 per cent of skin cancer tumours to disappear in a recent research study. The key ingredient -- epigallocatechin gallate -- was piggybacked on proteins that carry iron through the blood and are easily absorbed by tumours. Previously the ingredient had been given via intravenous drip, but this method did not deliver enough epigallocatechin gallate directly to the tumours. After one month of the targeted treatment 40 per cent of skin cancer tumours disappeared and an additional 30 per cent shrank. "When we used our method, the green tea extract reduced the size of many tumours every day, in some cases removing them altogether," says Dr Christine Dufes of Strathclyde Institute of Pharmacy and Biomedical Sciences. "This research could open doors to new treatments for what is still one of the biggest killer diseases in many countries."