Stress

Athletic young man rubbing muscles of lower back after jogging

Researchers have discovered a possible way to increase levels of natural opioids in the brain. The new approach involves blocking an opioid receptor that normally inactivates these molecules.

Synthetic opioids, such as fentanyl, naloxone, and morphine, are powerful pain relief medications. They can also cause dependence, are highly addictive, and potentially fatal in overdose.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, every day in the United States, 128 people die after overdosing on opioids.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that the total economic burden of prescription opioid overdose, abuse, and dependence in the U.S. was $78.5 billion in 2013. The figure includes costs investigators associate with healthcare, criminal justice, and lost productivity.

While efforts to develop a nonaddictive synthetic opioid are making progress, an international team of scientists, which the Luxembourg Institute of Health (LIH) leads, is working on a radically different approach.

They have discovered a potential way to increase levels of the body’s own opioids. These natural opioids help to relieve pain and can also alleviate stress, anxiety, and depression.

Endogenous opioids

There are three types of endogenous opioid — endorphins, enkephalins, and dynorphins. Endorphins are responsible for the ‘runner’s high’ that people can experience after vigorous exercise.

Endogenous opioids inhibit the transmission of pain signals in the central nervous system by binding to one of the four kinds of opioid receptors on nerve cells.

Synthetic opioids, such as fentanyl, bind to the same receptors, but they bind much more strongly than endogenous opioids.

LIH, in collaboration with scientists at the University of Bonn in Germany and the University of Liège in Belgium, has now identified a fifth opioid receptor that behaves differently.

The researchers believe that one of the functions of the receptor known as ACKR3 is to regulate or “fine-tune” levels of opioids in the brain.

In laboratory experiments with nerve cells, they discovered that when opioids bind to ACKR3, the receptor “scavenges” them, dragging them inside the cell.

The researchers believe that by removing opioid molecules and preventing them from binding to the other four receptors, ACKR3 indirectly increases pain signaling.

“Interestingly, we found that ACKR3 does not trigger the distinctive chain of molecular signaling events that results in painkilling effects,” explains Max Meyrath of LIH, who is co-first author of the study.

“Instead, ACKR3 functions as a ‘scavenger’ that sequestrates the opioids that would otherwise bind to the classical receptors.”

Receptor blocker

In further experiments, the team designed a molecule it calls LIH383 to block ACKR3 selectively and prevent it from scavenging endogenous opioids.

Using brain tissue from rats, the scientists confirmed that LIH383 could boost levels of opioids, and hence reduce pain signaling.

“Our findings essentially brought forward a new and previously unknown mechanism to fine tune the opioid system and modulate the abundance of natural opioids by manipulating the fifth member of the opioid receptor family, ACKR3. We, therefore, set about developing a molecule that would be able to tightly bind to and block ACKR3, with the aim of potentiating the natural, beneficial effects of opioids on pain and negative emotions. This is how LIH383 was conceived.” – Dr. Martyna Szpakowska, co-first author

The scientists published their research in the journal Nature Communications.

Dr. Andy Chevigné at LIH, who is the senior author of the study, says: “We expect LIH383 to act as a precursor for the development of a new class of drugs against pain and depression, thus offering an innovative and original therapeutic strategy to tackle the opioid crisis.”

Dual role

Remarkably, LIH383 may also have potential as an anticancer agent.

Long before biologists found ACKR3 to be an opioid receptor, they were familiar with it as a receptor for chemokines. These are a family of immune signaling molecules; some of them are involved in controlling the migration of cells during normal development.

They are also involved in promoting cancer growth and ‘metastasis,’ which is the spread of tumors around the body.

High concentrations of the receptor occur in tumors, such as breast cancer and an aggressive form of brain cancer known as glioblastoma. Scientists associate them with resistance to chemotherapy and poor prognosis.

“As an ACKR3 modulator that interacts and ‘interferes’ with ACKR3, LIH383, therefore, also holds promise for the treatment of metastatic cancers, leveraging on our remarkable discovery of the dual chemokine-opioid ‘scavenging’ activity of this receptor,” says Dr. Chevigné.

The team’s research was a lab-based proof-of-principle study. Much more work remains before they can test a drug that blocks ACKR3 on people in clinical trials.

A farm worker picks strawberries from raised beds in modern poly tunnel farm.

A new analysis argues for the need to address food insecurity by recognizing the interconnected nature of global food systems.

In a commentary for the journal One Earth, Franziska Gaupp, Ph.D., a research scholar at the International Institute of Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA), argues that global food insecurity is increasingly susceptible to shocks because of the interdependence of the parts that make up the global food system.

For Gaupp, shocks to the supply of food — for example, extreme weather events that may damage or destroy crops — are challenging.

However, in our increasingly interconnected, globalized world, these shocks can come from events not directly related to growing food and can have far reaching consequences.

Gaupp — who is working jointly with IIASA’s Ecosystems Services and Management and Risk and Resilience programs — points to the COVID-19 pandemic as one such shock that is not directly related to food but has had a significant effect on global food systems.

Global shocks

Despite the world producing more than enough food for everyone on the planet, around one-quarter of the world’s population does not have access to food that is nutritious and sufficient.

Gaupp argues that this extreme inequality will get worse as there is increased demand for food from growing, affluent populations, placing more stresses on the environment that secure food systems depend upon.

Climate change has also placed severe stress on global food systems, destroying the quality of land, increasing desertification, disrupting conventional rainfall patterns, and causing sea levels to rise.

These stresses will get worse if temperatures significantly increase, as scientists predict.

However, while these are pressing concerns for the world’s ability to produce food, the interconnected nature of global food systems means that many other factors can affect food security.

According to Gaupp, the global supply chain of food is concentrated in the hands of fewer and fewer companies.

Even so, interconnected sectors that depend on many others to be able to function properly increasingly make up this global chain.

This means that while the system functions within conditions understood as “normal,” efficiency may be increased for those populations who have access to these markets and the wealth to engage with them.

However, if conditions are anything other than “normal,” the interconnectedness of the global food system means that it is increasingly susceptible to shocks from events not directly related to food.

These shocks can have a bigger negative effect, as global supply chains cease to function if parts of the chain break.

Interconnection

In Gaupp’s words, “[t]rade networks are more interconnected and interdependent than ever, and research has shown that they can be intrinsically more fragile than if each network worked independently because they create pathways along which damaging events can spread globally and rapidly.”

Just as the global supply chain can be affected by events not directly related to food, so can major negative effects on the global supply chain affect other social, cultural, economic, or political issues.

Gaupp’s commentary highlights the relationship between the failure of wheat crops due to 2010 droughts in Russia, the Ukraine, and China, and the 2011 civil unrest in Egypt.

Other shocks that occur at the same time can also amplify individual shocks around the world.

Again, the global interconnection, and climate change, make these shocks more likely to coincide because of their increased frequency, and their ability to generate other simultaneous shocks themselves.

The COVID-19 crisis

For Gaupp, the COVID-19 crisis has been exemplary at demonstrating the vulnerability the world faces due to interconnected food systems and the concentration in ownership of the markets that make up these systems.

The COVID-19 pandemic is a health crisis first, but its effects have also shaken global food systems.

According to Gaupp, “[a]lthough harvests have been successful, and food reserves are available, global food supply chain interruptions led to food shortages in some places because of lockdown measures.

“Products cannot be moved from farms to markets. Food is rotting in the fields as transport disruptions have made it impossible to move food from the farm to the consumer. At the same time, many people have lost their incomes, and food has become unaffordable to them.” – Franziska Gaupp, Ph.D.

How to respond?

To respond to these challenges, Gaupp argues, it requires first understanding the way the global food system is deeply interconnected with various other systems operating across the world.

Improving the models that can predict the complex effects of significant shocks to interconnected systems may help populations avoid the worst consequences.

Having the tools to predict and understand the effects of major shocks better could also help in the development of taxes that accurately reflect the damage done by the actions of major businesses and corporations, Gaupp writes.

This intervention might, hopefully, ameliorate some of this damage and dissuade these businesses from causing the harm in the first place.

However, while recognizing the complexity of the global food system is necessary for solving global food insecurity, it is unlikely to be sufficient on its own.

Understanding the political economy of global food systems — that is, the structural effects that economic systems have on both the efficient distribution of food and the justice of this distribution, as well as the chances of governments and international institutions holding large companies to account — is also likely to be a part of the puzzle.

Overall, the paper calls for collaboration: “We need global collaboration to work toward better management of trade barriers to ensure that food value chains function even in moments of crises.”

Macro shot of mid 20's brown eyed woman having her eyes examined at optometrists office. Her head is placed into tomography machine and light beam is shining through her retina and lens.

An eye scanner that Boston University Medical School developed can detect molecular aging in people. The new technique provides an accurate measure of age-related damage and could, one day, play a role in routine clinical practice.

Everyone ages, but not in the same way. Two people of exactly the same age may be in very different states of health.

In other words, chronological age and biological age are different. But while chronological age is very easy to measure, biological age is more difficult to assess.

Although scientists know that there is wide variation in the processes of aging — for example, in the deterioration of cells and tissues — among individuals, there is currently no universally accepted measure of biological aging.

In a new study that appears in The Journals of Gerontology: SerieA, researchers led by Boston University Medical School describe a tool that could fill this gap.

The researchers have developed a new eye scanner that detects molecular signatures of aging in the lens and is entirely noninvasive. Doctors could use it clinically to assess an individual’s aging process and then suggest personalized interventions.

The eyes have it

The dearth of tools to assess aging accurately puts a limit on scientific understanding, senior author of the paper Dr. Lee E. Goldstein explains.

“The absence of clinical tools and metrics to quantitatively evaluate how each person is aging at the molecular level represents a major impediment to understanding aging and maximizing health throughout life.”

To address this, Dr. Goldstein and a team of investigators from institutions including Boston Children’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School looked to the eye.

The eyes are a good measure of aging because they contain cells that are generated in the fetus and not replaced. This means that the cells that a person is born with remain with them for life.

These cells are called primary fiber cells, and they occur in the lens, which focuses light onto the back of the eye. Incidentally, these cells also contain the highest concentration of protein in the human body.

Importantly, these proteins do not regenerate, so they accumulate damage throughout life. This damage could provide a molecular readout of the aging process. As Dr. Goldstein puts it, the lens proteins provide a “permanent record” of a person’s life history.

Decoding the molecular record

To decode this molecular information, the researchers used a technique called quasi-elastic light scattering, or QLS, which uses lasers to measure the size of particles.

The technique works because the molecular damage that occurs to lens proteins over time causes the proteins to change shape and stick together. This aggregation of altered proteins changes the scattering of light in a way that QLS can detect.

The team first tested the technique in isolated lens proteins that they had incubated in a test tube for different lengths of time — up to almost a year — to mimic the way these proteins would age in people aged 12, 30, and 53. They found that, over time, the molecular signature of the proteins changed as they expected and that this was detectable using the QLS scanner.

They then tested the scanner, which the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have deemed a “nonsignificant risk device,” in a trial of 34 people aged between 5 and 61. Impressively, the scanner was able to detect the same age-related changes that the researchers saw in the lab.

Precision medicine

Although further testing is necessary, the authors say that these results support the use of the scanner to track molecular aging in people.

They state that the tool could work in a similar fashion to other clinical biomarkers, such as brain imaging for Alzheimer’s disease and blood tests for diabetes.

“[E]ye scanning technology that probes lens protein affords a rapid, noninvasive, objective technique for direct measurement of molecular aging that can be easily, quickly, and safely implemented at the point of care. Such a metric affords potential for precision medical care across the lifespan.” – Dr. Lee E. Goldstein

Doctors could eventually use the tool in routine clinical practice to provide an individual measure of molecular aging and perhaps even help identify interventions to extend the healthy period of a person’s lifespan.

A new study has shown that three-Quarters of the 200 million Nigerians are at risk of Non-Communicable Diseases, NCDs, amidst coronavirus pandemic.

The study also found that men are more at risk than women.

The year-long study which commenced in 2019, by WellNewMe in collaboration with Novartis was aimed at determining Nigerians risks for developing chronic diseases as part of the disease activities for World Hypertension Day.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), people with noncommunicable diseases (NCDs), such as hypertension, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, or cancer are at higher risk of complications of COVID-19.

The result of the study released weekend revealed that a total of 1,900 people were enrolled for the pilot, and 1,269 of them completed the assessment as part of the pilot.

The participants were drawn from different parts of Nigeria including the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, which majority of them coming from Lagos 30 percent, Oyo 8 percent, Abuja FCT 8 percent, Ogun 7 percent, and Rivers 5 percent.

Three-quarters of those who completed the assessment were found to have an increased risk of developing a chronic disease.

It was also found that risk increases as the age increases, while all of those aged 50 and above have an increased risk.

The results also showed that 43 percent of women seem more at risk than 36 percent of men for developing hypertension, while the risk increases as the age of the pilot enrolee increased.

With diabetes, it was found that almost three-quarters of those assessed had an increased risk of having diabetes with 10 percent having a high risk while men were more at risk than women. The diabetes risk also increases as the age of the pilot enrolee increases.

Some of the other interesting anecdotes from the pilot revealed that men were four times more likely to be at risk for developing the cardiac disease, and in Rivers, 85 percent of the adults assessed had an increased risk for developing chronic disease.

Commenting on the study, Co-founder of WellNewMe and author of the pilot report, Dr. Obi Igbokwe, said:” report of the pilot, while not extensive does lends importance to considerations by the Nigerian health authorities when designing the country’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, that they need factor in NCDs as well.”

Igbokwe further explained that “As patients with chronic diseases are at greater risk of the coronavirus, that in itself presents an extra burden on our already struggling health services across the country. It is also of great importance, that even when the pandemic has passed, we will still have to deal with the burden of tackling these chronic diseases which by all accounts are here to stay.”

Meanwhile, WellNewMe has designed an algorithm-based health risk assessment platform that encompasses psychological, physical, and social domains that are known to influence NCD risk and prognosis in cases of established disease.

Being a global leader in the cardiovascular healthcare space, Novartis is mobilizing the setup of these cardiovascular risk assessment stations at various pharmacies across the country with the aim of reaching a thousand patients.

The platform incorporates the ability for healthcare providers (HCPs) to standardize their approach to cardiovascular disease management by using an algorithmic process and harnessing relevant data to ensure a set of potential outputs that result in better outcomes for the patient.

WHO Regional Director for Europe, Dr. Hans Henri P. Kluge had also said that the prevention and control of NCDs have a crucial role in the COVID-19 response and if not adapted to encompass prevention and management of NCD risks, countries will fail many people at a time when their vulnerability is heightened.

The Director General of the Nigeria Natural Medicine Development Agency (NNMDA), Dr. Samuel Etatuvie in this interview with ONYEDIKA AGBEDO, explains steps his organization has taken towards finding a local cure for COVID-19 and also efforts being put in place to combat malaria fever among other issues.

Some herbal medicine advocates believe that the combination of garlic, ginger and some herbs can cure Coronavirus. How true is this belief?
Over the years, scientists have identified ginger, garlic and neem, among other herbs, as having antiviral and antioxidant properties. They can also assist in taking care of cough and feverish feelings associated with these infections.

Therefore, from a scientific point of view, definitely ginger, garlic and many other medicinal plants have the capacity to manage and take care of the associated symptoms of most viral infections, including, influenza and HIV/AIDS. One major thing is that most viral infections attack the immune system, of which these plants have the properties that could boost the immune system.

I think it is not really far from the truth to say that you can use extracts of ginger, garlic and many other medicinal plants to take care of the associated symptoms of viral infections, including COVID-19. If you look carefully, you will find out that COVID-19 symptoms are almost similar to other viral infections – cough, difficulty in breathing, difficulty in smelling and pains.

What level of research has NNMDA done to ensure that we have a local cure for COVID-19?
Like I said, you can manage the associated symptoms of COVID-19. The difficulty with viral infections is that even though you develop a product today to take out the ravaging disease, after a while, you will find out that such disease may mutate and you will begin to look for another product to take care of the mutation.

If you remember, COVID-19 is a novel disease and as scientists, we need to be patient to find out its characteristics. This is why I will not say we are looking for something to cure COVID-19.

As a research agency, we immediately thought of what we could do to support the government. At a point, it was difficult to get hand sanitiser in most countries. Therefore, what we immediately did in February this year was to develop hand sanitiser, using medicinal plants around.

We exhibited it at the last Science and Technology Expo held between March 16 and 20.

We are at the point of getting NAFDAC listing for it. There was an initial delay because of the six-week-stay-at-home order. Even accessing printing and packaging materials became difficult at a time.

Between now and the middle of June, we should have concluded all NAFDAC requirements, and sent it to the agency for listing. We would have given the country, for the first time, a 100 per cent herbal hand sanitiser, and also save her the hard earned foreign currency spent on importing hand sanitisers.

The hand sanitiser has 100 per cent local content and it is as effective as the imported ones. As at when we produced it, our thought was that if it becomes difficult to get raw materials for imported hand sanitiser, we would turn our medicinal plants, which have been shown to have anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties into local hand sanitiser. The advantages of such initiative are many, as the raw materials are locally sourced and are easily available.

One of our mandates is to promote traditional medicine and to sensitise members of the public on the rational use of traditional medicine. One of the steps we took in respect of COVID-19 is to create public awareness during the lockdown. In the social media campaign, we advised Nigerians that, in addiction to obeying all the guidelines outlined by the NCDC, they should practice aromatherapy.

Aromatherapy is one of the methods used in the past to take care of influenza, among others. In aromatherapy practice, the patients place various herbal plants inside a big pot, boil the herbs with water, cover themselves with cloths and inhale the steam coming out from the pots. This gives relief to the patient and builds their immune system. One of the tactics of viral infections is to attack the immune system. Some people who got our message on aromatherapy called to commend our efforts.

We have been working in the area of product development. We have been able to come out with a tea form of herbal remedy for the management of blood sugar in the system for people battling with diabetics. We found out that those with underlying ailment like diabetes are more at risk of COVID-19. The tea has been listed by NAFDAC. We also have a tea that can be used by those who suffer from malaria. The product has the capacity to reduce the level of malaria parasite in the blood, reduce the fever and improve the appetite of the patient. We have got NAFDAC listing for the tea too.

We also have a mosquito repellant product, but there are a few tests remainito NAFDAC for listing.

Another malaria-focused product is our indoor spray, which performs the dual function of killing mosquitoes and other household insects, as well as serves as air freshener. The advantage of this herbal product is that you can stay indoors while it is being applied. This is unlike what is obtainable with other chemicalised ones. We are also working on developing larvasical spray that can kill mosquito larvae within the environment.

It appears the agency is focusing more attention on malaria fever?
Statistics have shown that malaria causes more deaths than COVID-19 and HIV/AIDS. With abundant medicinal plants in the country, if we are able to do a lot in this direction, we would have improved the health of Nigerians and the nation’s economy. This is because we would have healthier people who would be economically active.

One other product that we have been successful with is a product to manage breast cancer. The development of the product has gone far and the potential is very high. We do not want to blow our horns unnecessarily until we finish all our scientific analyses. After that, we will go for NAFDAC listing. After the listing, other steps like clinical trial will now come in. If we are able to pass all the stages of the clinical trials, it means we can throw it open to the world.

We also have a product to treat erectile dysfunction. At times, when we go for exhibition, we find it difficult to meet the demand for it. In addition, we have a cream for women that are experiencing vaginal discharge.

We have published nine books on medicinal plants of Nigeria because we are fully aware that documentation is key if we really want to promote local production of our traditional medicine.

Another critical job that we are doing is the training of traditional medicine practitioners, which has remained the flagship duty of the agency since its formative years. We encourage the practitioners to do documentation because we have noticed that old practitioners are dying with their knowledge. So, we are encouraging the younger ones to documen encouraging the younger ones to document their therapy, just as we train them on how to preserve their intellectual property rights.

We have also reached out to people who sell agbo (herbal concoctions) around the country to see how they can improve the packaging of the products they hawk. Even if whatever they are hawking does not cure, it should not also cause harm because it will take time for us to convince everybody not take agbo.

With many people falling ill from COVID-19 and other ailments, experts have advised the public to ensure good nutrition for maximum protection. They said unhealthy diets contribute to pre-existing conditions that put many more at risk.

A Nutritional Health Consultant, and founder of AskDrNne, Dr Nnedimma Iwueke, said nutrition plays a crucial role in overall health and wellbeing.

She said good nutrition ensures the proper functioning of organs and systems of the body while aiding the regrowth and replenishment of body tissues.

She said carbohydrates required for the energy needs of the body, protein needed for a formidable immune system, fats and oils for various functions and vitamins and minerals needed for different processes all contribute to the role of nutrition.

“In the face of the current coronavirus pandemic ravaging the whole world, the importance of proper nutrition is further emphasised. A stronger immune system is essential in resisting the viral infection; therefore, a proper nutrition is a basic need in this battle against COVID-19.”

Dr Iwueke said in fortifying the immune system, good nutrition helps to provide the building blocks of body cells that play important roles in immunity.

“For instance, antibodies are proteins that help in the recognition and elimination of viruses and infectious microorganisms from the body while macrophages attack and destroy viral particles. Similarly, certain food components such as Vitamin D boost the immune system against viruses and even some types of cancer.”

The nutrition expert also said for a healthy diet during this coronavirus pandemic, the World Health Organisation (WHO) advises on the need for a combination of strategies which includes adequate amount of water, sufficient amount of fresh, unprocessed fruits and vegetables, moderate amount of fats and oils; preferably unsaturated fats, limiting sugar and salt as well as eating at home to avoid contact with crowds.

“Alcohol and drug abuse should be avoided during this period as they also weaken the immune system. Those that consume alcohol should desist and consume more of vegetables and fruits to help them build strong immune system against any form of disease.

She said all forms of canned and carbonated drinks and fruit juices contain large amounts of sugar and should be avoided because such drinks significantly increase the risk of obesity, heart disease, stroke, diabetes and others.

Dr Iwueke also advised that fruits be taken in their fresh form and that vegetables should not be overcooked to ensure that nutritional contents were intact to supply vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.

“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” The notion that nutritious and safe diets support good health has been around at least since antiquity, as this quote, often mis-attributed to Hippocrates

Let not thy food be confused with thy medicine: The Hippocratic misquota…

The link between food and health has been documented since Antiquity.

What to eat and not to eat regularly grab news headlines, as consumers try to balance scientific advice and marketing trends with their own culinary traditions, pocketbooks, and local food options.

“Now, with so many people falling ill from the COVID-19, unhealthy diets are contributing to pre-existing conditions that put them more at risk. And in much of the world, illness also means loss of income,” she said.

The Founder and Product Developer, Moepelorse Bio Resources, Mojisola Karigidi, said as the coronavirus death toll continues to rise all over the world, it is definitely not a good time to visit the hospital for mild, non-COVID-19 conditions, adding that, “To the best of everyone’s ability, whether in Africa or elsewhere, it is crucial to maintain good health to avoid the risk of exposure to the disease.”

She said the nature of COVID-19 highlights the need to strengthen the immune system to limit the severity of the disease in the event that one is at risk of infection even as we maintain distance from other people, regularly wash hands and maintain general hygiene.

“The role of the immune system, which involves several interconnected parts like the white blood cells, antibodies, spleen, bone marrow, lymph nodes, and lymphocytes, among others – is to protect the body against diseases.

Studies have revealed that regular consumption of fruits and vegetables can keep one healthy and prevent sicknesses from becoming severe. Orange, grape, carrot, apple, banana, leafy greens are rich in vitamins, and are important for proper immune function. Malnutrition can impair the body’s ability to fight infections and illnesses, thereby, increasing the risk of death from diseases, including COVID-19.

Mrs Chuka Helen said the vegetable garden she cultivates within her compound has been helping her and her family over the years. She said it enables her feed her family with fresh and healthy meals.

She said she learnt from her parents that vegetables and fruits were good for the body and always included them in their meals.

“We also have lots of vegetables in our compound so, I get used to planting them wherever I live for my family consumption but for fruits, we buy from the market.”

Experts said good nutrition means eating varieties of food that give you the nutrients you need to maintain your health, feel good, and have energy. These nutrients include protein, carbohydrates, fat, water, vitamins, and minerals. It also means considering balance, variety and moderation in everything that you eat.

by -
0 35

As part of efforts to expand COVID-19 testing capacity across Lagos, the state government has approved seven private laboratories to commence sample analysis for the virus.

The laboratories are; Total Medical Services, SynLab, 54 Gene, Medbury Medical Services, Biologix Medical Services, 02 Medical Services and Clina Lancent Laboratories.

In a statement last night to announce the development, the Commissioner for Health, Lagos State, Prof. Akin Abayomi, said the laboratories were selected and approved to carry out COVID-19 testing after a rigorous accreditation and validation process by the Health Facility Monitoring and Accrediation Agency (HEFAMAA) and the Lagos State Bio-Bank.

He said: “A key element in the next phase of the state’s response strategy is to expand diagnostic testing to strategically ensure a larger number of people have access to COVID-19 test. We have developed an inclusive strategy that aims to harness the public and private sectors to rapidly expand the state’s capacity to meet the growing demand for testing in the next stage of biosecurity road map.

“We recognise the need to expand our testing, especially to the local government areas that are most affected by the community transmission of the virus and as Lagos State continuously manages the public crises caused by COVID19, it simultaneously attempts to open up various aspects of its economy. Both efforts make it imperative that COVID19 tests are widely available to members of the public.

“In a bid to ramp up our testing capacity, we have taken a strategic decision to include private laboratories in the testing of COVID-19. However, the state’s COVID-19 response will remain a centrally managed emergency response by the government and the need to test will be surveillance driven and based on a clear case definition.”

Abayomi added that the state had also identified potential opportunities to achieve its goal of expanded testing via a carefully articulated framework.

He stressed that recognition of the potential opportunities was what led to the partnership with the private sector laboratories to rapidly increase diagnostic testing for COVID-19 response.

The commissioner while noting that the accredited private laboratories will carry out only PCR test stated that the use of Rapid Diagnostic Tests Kits (RDT) remains illegal in Lagos until the state government can validate RDT kits that actually works.

“In order to expand our testing capacity, we considered the use of Rapid Diagnostic Test (RDT) Kits. To facilitate the quick validation of the RDT Kits and reduce the barrier of entry for proposed manufacturers and supplier of RDT Kits, Mr. Governor paid the validation fees for the RDT kits

“However, upon review of the several RDT kits that were submitted for validation, we can report that none of the RDT kits passed the validation exercise. RDT kits have a very high risk of giving false positive or negative results and in the event that a false positive result is given, a potentially negative person will be subjected to trauma, isolation and treatment like a positive patient. In the event that a false negative is given, a potentially positive person is allowed to continue to roam freely in the community regardless of his positive status”, Abayomi posited.

Highlighting the demand for COVID-19 testing in the community, the commissioner opined that citizens will request for COVID-19 test; to confirm status periodically, as part of requirements for returning to work, regulatory requirements for selected industries like the food and beverage industry, local and international travel requirements, requirements for resuming school and admission into hospital.

“We expect demand for tests from the following industries: individuals in the informal sector, banking and finance, manufacturing, food & beverages, schools, aviation industry, fast moving consumer goods, hospitality amongst others. Based on the projected cumulative demand from the above, we believe that demand for COVID-19 tests could exceed 4,000 per day in the next six months”, he said.

Women doing warm up before fitness training in Berlin.

A new study in mice has revealed that muscle mass may help maintain a strong immune system.

New research in mice has revealed that strong skeletal muscles play an important role in maintaining an effective immune system. This is particularly the case during severe chronic illnesses, which can otherwise wear the immune system down.

In addition, skeletal muscles may combat the process of cachexia. This refers to the wasting away of muscle and fat that often accompanies severe chronic illness, alongside a weakening of the immune system.

The research, which scientists at the German Cancer Research Center in Heidelberg have now published in the journal Science Advances, lays the groundwork for future studies to determine if the same is true in humans.

Cachexia

According to the National Cancer Institute (NCI), cachexia typically accompanies severe chronic illnesses such as cancer. It is characterized by the wasting away of the body’s muscle and fat.

Cachexia may be responsible for up to a third of cancer-related deaths. It can also affect people with other serious conditions, such as AIDS, chronic kidney diseases, and heart failure.

According to Dr. Alfred Goldberg — of the Harvard University School of Medicine in Cambridge, MA — cachexia may be due to the body overcompensating when it attempts to take energy from muscle and fat to help fight a severe illness. However, exactly why and how this happens are still largely unknown.

Despite cachexia’s link to mortality, researchers have not yet developed any effective therapies for it. However, according to the NCI, there is a growing awareness of the need to research cachexia in the hope that scientists can find effective therapies.

Alongside cachexia, people with severe illnesses can also experience a weakened immune system. This is because their T cells, which are central to the immune system’s response to illness, become exhausted.

Scientists have also linked these T cells to cachexia. According to senior study author Dr. Guoliang Cui: “It is known that T cells are involved in the loss of skeletal muscle mass. But whether and how, in turn, skeletal muscles influence the function of the T cells is still unclear.”

Precursor T cells

In this context, the researchers developed a study to explore the relationship between cachexia, skeletal muscle mass, and T cells.

First, they transmitted the lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus to mice. They then studied the gene expression in the skeletal muscle of the mice. They noticed that in response to the chronic infection, the mice’s muscle cells released more of the messenger substance interleukin-15.

Interleukin-15 attracts the precursors of T cells — in this case, to the skeletal muscle. This places these precursor T cells away from the infection that is wearing down the T cells combating the infection.

“If the T cells, which actively fight the infection, lose their full functionality through continuous stimulation, the precursor cells can migrate from the muscles and develop into functional T cells.”

– Lead study author Dr. Jingxia Wu

“This enables the immune system to fight the virus continuously over a long period,” she adds.

Significantly, the study revealed a relationship between muscle mass loss and T cell exhaustion. This has implications for the strength of the immune system.

As Dr. Cui notes: “In our study, mice with more muscle mass were better able to cope with chronic viral infection than those whose muscles were weaker. But whether the results can be transferred to humans, future experiments will have to show.”

The study focused on skeletal muscle, but cachexia also causes fat tissue to waste away. As a consequence, the study authors suggest that future research could explore whether or not a similar relationship exists between fat tissue and the protection of T cells.

The researchers also note that it is not yet clear how these T cell precursors form in skeletal muscle mass.

The hope is that as further studies answer these questions, scientists can develop effective therapies that specifically target cachexia in humans.

Lagosians have been urged to embrace cycling as a sport and means of exercise to generally overcome the effects of ill health through interaction with their environment.

Speaking during a webinar organised by the Cycology Riding Club & African Cycling Foundation in Collaboration with the United Nations Information Centre, UNIC, Lagos, the Lagos State Commissioner for Health, Prof Akin Abayomi, described cycling as an enjoyable sporting activity that is aimed at contributing to the State’s One Health Agenda.

The webinar themed: “Bicycles as Drivers of Post COVID-19 Green Economy”, was a conversation among key stakeholders in Lagos State geared towards getting more people to start riding for health, environment, transport, and socioeconomic benefits.

Abayomi said: “I encourage cycling whenever I can because it is a noble sport. Cycling enables you have fun and exercise at the same time. Cycling in the context of Lagos State One Health Initiative addresses the holistic view of health, that is, human beings living in the biosphere which means you can only be as healthy as the environment you in life in and as the food you eat, and the activity you engage in. Enjoyable sports activity can contribute to One Health Agenda looking at the statistics around the world.”

Highlighting some of the benefits of cycling he said it includes improvement of cardiovascular and respiratory health among others.

“Up to 28 percent of trips in Europe are made by cycling but in Nigeria, the percentage is less than 5 percent. Cycling is an aerobic exercise it helps to build the muscle, expand the cardiovascular and respiratory agility it enables you to keep fit.

“The Lagos State Government has embarked on smart city agenda which is to create an environment for cyclists and pedestrians to enjoy free movement across the city, this involves urban planning, creating cycle lanes, areas for normal vehicular movements, areas for pedestrians and cyclists.

“This is an important aspect of urban planning we need to take into consideration in the future. It is our responsibility as the Lagos State Ministry of Environment, road traffic protection agency, Ministry of Transportation, and Lagos State Ministry of Health to ensure that we do indeed turn into a smart healthy city, a green city, a city where we are mindful about how much carbon we put into the environment, how much space we create for recreation, for sport, the quality of the water system, toxicity in the environment, the greening of the city, like other megacities around the world.”

vanguard

Worried about the unique threats and challenges posed by the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic on human reproduction, fertility experts have instituted several studies on the impact of the virus.

The fertility experts under the aegis of the American Society of Reproductive Medicine (ASRM), the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology (ESHRE), and the International Federation of Fertility Societies (IFFS) are collaborating to advocate for patients and to gather data and resources to enhance the understanding of COVID-19 as it pertains to reproduction, pregnancy, and the impact on the feotus and neonate.

They affirmed in a joint statement made available to The Guardian by the President of IFFS, who is also the joint pioneer of In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) in Nigeria and Medical Director of Medical Art Centre (MART) Maryland, Lagos, Prof. Oladapo Ashiru, the importance for continued reproductive care during the COVID-19 pandemic. They said lessons learned from these experiences would be useful as humanity deals with future pandemics.

According to the joint statement, in addition to helping patients, reproductive medicine practices are uniquely positioned to gather data and help to further COVID-19 research.

They noted: “Reproductive medicine professionals and practices are essential front-line resources for screening, monitoring, and assessing the prevalence and impact of the disease on patients and their progeny through Point-of-Care data collection.

“ESHRE, ASRM and IFFS are committed to continuous monitoring of the effects of COVID-19 on gametes and reproductive tissues, collecting data on pregnant patients infected during the pandemic, and assessing the outcomes of mothers and neonates.”

Examples of these research and registry efforts by the fertility experts are:

In the United States of America (U.S.A.), the ASPIRE (Assessing the Safety of Pregnancy In the Coronavirus Pandemic) Study is a nationwide prospective cohort study of pregnant women and their offspring during the COVID-19 pandemic. All patients under the care of a reproductive medicine specialist who conceived spontaneously or with assisted reproductive technology (ART) between March 1st and December 31st are encouraged to participate.

ESHRE is gathering global case-by-case reporting on the outcome of medically assisted reproduction (MAR) conceived pregnancies in women with a confirmed infection (https://nl.surveymonkey.com/r/COVID19ART).

The affiliate society of ASRM, the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technologies (SART) is including mandatory COVID-19-related questions in their Clinic Outcome Reporting System (CORS) registry of ART, which accounts for over 95 per cent of all ART cycles in the U.S.A.

ESHRE is gathering data and mapping MAR/ART activity during the pandemic, country by country whether and /or when they stopped offering treatment and when they have resumed care.

IFFS is conducting COVID-19-related periodic surveys to assess global trends in access to MAR/ART services.

The fertility experts concluded: “Reproductive care is essential and reproductive medicine professionals are in a unique position to promote health and wellbeing. In addition, ASRM, ESHRE and IFFS are collaborating to advocate for patients and to gather data and resources to enhance the understanding of COVID-19 as it pertains to reproduction, pregnancy, and the impact on the fetus and neonate. The lessons learned from these experiences will be useful as humanity deals with future pandemics.”

They said reproduction is an essential human right that transcends race, gender, sexual orientation, and country of origin: a human right to which the COVID-19 pandemic has posed unique threats and challenges. Reproductive health care professionals are in a special position to provide advocacy for this right and promote the health and well being of their patients.

The fertility experts said COVID-19 pandemic presents a unique global challenge on a scale not previously seen and the infectivity and mortality rates are higher than previous pandemics and the disease is present in almost every country. They also said the propagation and containment has varied widely by location and, at present, the timeline to complete resolution is unknown.

In the earliest stages of the pandemic, ASRM and ESHRE, independently recommended discontinuation of reproductive care except for the most urgent cases. More recently, with successful mitigation strategies in some areas and emergence of additional data, the societies have sanctioned gradual and judicious resumption of delivery of full reproductive care.