News of Note—A pill to prevent blood-sugar spikes; Gene testing to guide prostate cancer treatment

Diabetes blood sugar testing
Brigham and Women's researchers say they've created a pill that mimics the beneficial effects of gastric bypass surgery in patients with Type 2 diabetes. (Pixabay / stevepb)

Pill creates beneficial effects of gastric bypass surgery in Type 2 diabetes
One of the benefits of gastric bypass surgery to treat obesity is that in many patients, it improves or cures their Type 2 diabetes regardless of weight loss. Now researchers at Boston’s Brigham and Women's Hospital have created a material, contained in a pill, that mimics the glucose-lowering effects of surgery. The material, dubbed Luminal Coating of the Intestine (LuCI), temporarily coats the intestine, lowering the amount of glucose released into the bloodstream during digestion. In rats, it prevented the blood-sugar spikes that patients with diabetes frequently experience after meals. The research appeared in the journal Nature Materials. (Article)

Gene testing to ID prostate cancer patients who could benefit from immunotherapy
Scientists at the Institute of Cancer Research in the U.K. and the University of Michigan have identified a pattern of genetic changes in prostate tumors that they believe can predict which patients will respond well to drug treatments that inhibit the immune checkpoint PD-1. By studying DNA from 360 men with metastatic prostate cancer, the researchers found that tumors taken from 7% of the patients were missing two copies of the gene CDK12. These tumors also contained more immune cells than prostate cancers without the genetic trait. And in follow-up research, two out of four of the men with CDK12-linked genetic patterns responded well to Merck’s PD-1 inhibitor Keytruda, they reported in the journal Cell. (Release)

Lipid molecules may contribute to Parkinson’s development
Mutations in a gene called PLA2GA6 can cause early-onset Parkinson’s disease, though the mechanism by which the disease develops is still not well understood. A team at Baylor College of medicine knocked out the equivalent of PLA2GA6 in fruit flies and were surprised to discover that the insects had increased levels of ceramides, which are lipids that contribute to the structure and function of cell membranes. When levels of ceramides are too high, they discovered, cell membranes stiffen, leading to neurodegeneration. They confirmed their findings in neurons from vertebrates. Their observations were published in the journal Cell Metabolism. (Release)

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