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TT24 Education Newsletter

Updated: May 26

Stay up to date with news from the Personalised Medicine world!


Welcome back to the Trinity edition of our Education Newsletter series! We hope your term is going well, and good luck to everyone who has exams coming up. This month we take a look at links between nutrition and cancer, gene therapy for hearing loss, and anti-ageing medication. As always, please reach out to us if you have a story you'd like us to include in the next edition.

 

New in Personalised Med


New links between nutrition and cancer via modulation of the gut microbiome composition


The interaction between the gut microbiome and tumour microenvironment has been an active area of research over the last few decades, and more correlations are being made between the presence of certain microbes in the gut and risk of cancer. The composition of the gut microbiome is heavily influenced by diet and nutrient status. A recent study in tumour-bearing mice has reported a link between high-fat diet and cancer progression. The showed that the high-fat diet-related gut microbiome was enriches in the genus Desulfovibrio, and produced leucine which promoted tumorigenesis via the gut-bone marrow-tumour axis. Another study has reported a link between vitamin D bioavailability and anticancer immunity, with higher levels of vitamin D seeming to improve response to cancer immunotherapy and natural anticancer immunity via enriching Bacteroides fragilis population in the gut microbiome.


Read more on high-fat diet and cancer here.

Read more on vitamin D and cancer here.


2 clinical trials for gene therapy to restore hearing in children with autosomal recessive deafness 9 show success


Autosomal recessive deafness 9 is a congenital hereditary disorder caused by mutations in the OTOF gene, resulting in bilateral hearing loss. There are currently no standard treatments available for the condition, but clinical trials are underway for using viruses to deliver a copy of the OTOF gene to affected children. Opal, an 18- month-old child from Oxfordshire, is the youngest and first British patient to receive the experimental treatment - within 4 weeks of receiving the treatment she was reported as responding to sound, a promising sign that there is hope for the treatment to potentially be curative.

 

Read more about this here.


 

Deep Dive: Can we use anti-cancer therapies to slow ageing?


As a society we have an obsession with stopping ageing. From anti-ageing cosmetic products that claim to make you look “forever young”, to diets that miraculously “boost your slowing metabolism”, social media is rife with advice on how to slow ageing. Majority of this advice is unsubstantiated - but what if there was actually an evidence based method of staying young and in our prime? The answer, it seems, may lie in repurposing drugs that are already in use as treatments for cancer.


Ageing is a biological process with many underlying changes occurring at cellular and systems levels. One of the changes is that the proportion of senescent cells in the body increases over time. The concept of senescence was first described by Hayflick and Moorhead in 1961 - they discovered that there is a limit to the number of times a human cell can divide after which it accumulates enough DNA damage and telomeres become sufficiently short that it must either die or become senescent. These senescent cells activate pathways to resist apoptosis, but remain arrested in the cell cycle. It is suggested that evolutionarily senescence may play a role in protecting the body from diseases like cancer as it prevents proliferation of highly mutated cells. While this may be true, it is now known that senescent cells release pro-inflammatory cytokines and have autocrine, paracrine and endocrine activities that contribute to age-related conditions including increased frailty, slower cognition and worsening kidney function.


Drugs such as dasatinib, a tyrosine kinase inhibitor used for treatment of leukaemia, target the Bcl-2 anti-apoptotic pathway, therefore having a senolytic effect. A study using a murine model of Alzheimer’s disease showed that mice treated with dasatinib had reduced brain inflammation and improved memory compared to those treated with placebo. This supports the link between senescence and age-related disease, and provides a potential preventative therapy. The good thing about senolytic drugs is that they target cells after they have undergone the molecular changes to enter senescence rather than inhibiting the process of senescence itself, so the evolutionary advantage of senescence as protection against cancer is still retained.


Read more here.


 

Infographic of the Month


A team at University of Oxford’s Centre for Human Genomics conducted a genomic study looking for inversions, a type of DNA variant where the sequence is in the correct place but is flipped back-to-front. The group identified 47 inversions, and linked these to various conditions including Rhett syndrome, Lynch syndrome and impaired limb development.

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