Violence rife in mental health workplaces
Researchers from Deakin University, the University of Melbourne and the Victorian branch of the Health and Community Services Union (HCSU) have found that four out of five mental health workers in Victoria have been the victims of violence in the workplace. According to the study published in the International Journal of Mental Health Nursing, the researchers surveyed over 411 members of the HCSU and 83% reported exposure to violence in the past 12 months, with verbal abuse being the most common (80%), followed by physical violence (34%) and bullying (30%). Just under a third of the respondents felt psychological distress, and the more types of violence the victims were exposed to, the more often they reported distress. “The costs of absenteeism and a future reduction in workforce numbers, due to either a staff shift away from mental health or lack of willingness of the next generation of health care workers to embark on a career in this field, could be a significant productivity cost to the health system. Governments and health care providers must contemplate this prospect in the future planning for health care resources.”

Study sheds light on sudden cardiac death
Australian research into the sudden cardiac deaths (SCDs) of thousands of young Australians and New Zealanders has uncovered a genetic link, which will be used to prevent further deaths for high-risk family members. A study led by Sydney cardiologist Professor Chris Semsarian from the University of Sydney, and published in the New England Journal of Medicine, reveals a genetic link to many unexplained cases of sudden cardiac death (SCD). SCD claims the lives of two to three young Australians every week, that’s around 30,000 people each year, and in 40 per cent of cases their deaths are unexplained. A team of researchers investigated 490 cases of SCD occurring among people aged one to 35 years from 2010 to 2012. They found a cause of death in 60% of cases (292) by reviewing information from autopsies, coronial and police reports. To understand the remaining 198 unexplained cases, researchers conducted blood analysis and family screening and found one in four, or 27%, unexplained SCDs had a genetic mutation. For more on this story visit doctorportal.

Fibre crucial to food allergies
Eating a diet rich in fibre can shape the immune system to reduce allergies to substances such as peanuts, research published in Cell Reports shows. The study, led by researchers from Monash University, suggests that a simple bowl of bran and some dried apricots in the morning could prevent allergies. It also reveals how the immune system works with the good bacteria in the gut to help protect against life-threatening allergic responses. The research, performed largely by Jian Tan, a PhD student at the Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute, found that mice allergic to peanuts were protected against the allergy when fed a high-fibre diet. In particular, the fibre appears to act by reshaping the gut and colon microbiota. The study revealed that eating a high-fibre diet changes the gut microbiota, the bacteria in the gut, to protect against food allergies. The transfer of these “good bacteria” to mice without these bacteria could reduce the symptoms of food allergies. The microbiota in the gut assists the immune system in resisting allergies through the breaking down of fibre into short-chain fatty acids. This opens up a potential route for drug therapy for allergies by delivering short-chain fatty acids as a treatment.

Highly educated “brain tumour risk higher”
Highly educated people are more likely to suffer from brain tumours than those who do not progress as far in their education, a Swedish study published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health suggests. Gliomas are more common among people who are university-educated, the researchers said. They examined data from 4.3 million people in Sweden born between 1911 and 1961. They tracked them between 1993 and 2010 and found that 7100 women and 5700 men were diagnosed with brain tumours. Researchers then examined lifestyle factors including levels of education, amount of disposable income and marital status. Men with university level education, lasting more than 3 years, were 19% more likely to develop a glioma than men who only had up to 9 years of compulsory education. Among women, the risk was 23% higher for glioma, and 16% higher for meningioma. Both men and women in professional and managerial roles were more likely to suffer brain tumours compared with those in manual roles. And men with the highest levels of disposable income were 14% more likely to get a brain tumour than those with the lowest levels. For more on this story visit doctorportal.

Immune system cells may be weapon against solid cancer
Chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cell therapy, which edits a cancer patient’s T cells to recognise their tumours, has successfully helped patients with aggressive blood cancers, but has yet to show the ability to treat solid tumors. To overcome this hurdle, researchers from the US and Denmark genetically engineered human T cells to produce a CAR protein that recognises a glycopeptide found on various cancer cells but not on normal cells, and then demonstrated its effectiveness in mice with leukemia and pancreatic cancer. Their proof-of-concept study was published last week in Immunity. The cancer cell marker that the researchers identified was a specific change in protein glycosylation, that is, a unique pattern of sugars decorating a protein found on the cell surface. The researchers developed novel CAR T cells that express a monoclonal antibody called 5E5, which specifically recognises a sugar modification — the Tn glycan on the mucin 1 (MUC1) protein — that is absent on normal cells but abundant specifically on cancer cells. The 5E5 antibody recognised multiple types of cancer cells, including leukemia, ovarian, breast and pancreatic cancer cells, but not normal tissues. “This is really the first description of a CAR that can target multiple different solid or liquid tumors, without apparent toxicity to normal cells,” the authors wrote. “While it may not be a universal CAR, it is currently the closest thing we have.”

Blood flow linked to Alzheimer’s
Changes in the amount of blood being delivered to different brain areas may be one of the earliest factors associated with late-onset Alzheimer’s disease, according to Canadian research published in Nature Communications. Late-onset Alzheimer’s disease — the most common form of human dementia — is not causally associated with any unique mechanism, but rather with multiple factors which are thought to co-occur. The idea that blood flow disruptions may contribute to Alzheimer’s disease has been around since the early 1900s, and studies investigating disease progression in mice have reported early changes in brain blood flow. Using a multifactorial approach, the researchers compared brain imaging data, blood plasma and cerebral spinal fluid samples from a database of 1171 healthy and disease-affected individuals. They divided participant data based on the severity of their diagnosis — from healthy controls, to early or late mild cognitive impairment, to Alzheimer’s disease — in order to track disease progression. Out of the many factors investigated, blood flow was one of the first to show changes during disease progression, with abnormalities seen across all brain regions and time points.

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