Daily News

Could a unique new fungus offer an opioid alternative?

A new fungus discovered in the estuarine waters of Tasmania could be the unexpected answer to the world's opioid crisis, a current study suggests. Opioids — many of which are prescription painkillers, such as codeine — have created a worldwide health crisis. Many opioids are highly addictive substances that some people overuse or misuse. According to data from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, over 130 people die each day in the United States because of an opioid overdose. The Health Resources and Services Administration call this "an unprecedented opioid epidemic." The situation has led to the World Health Organization (WHO) encouraging countries to monitor the use of opioid drugs closely. But while monitoring the use of opioids is helpful, scientists are on the lookout for opioid alternatives. They are searching for drugs that will treat chronic pain in the same way as opioids but are less likely to harm health or lead to misuse. A novel discovery by researchers from the University of Sydney in Australia — in collaboration with colleagues from other academic institutions — may, in the future, lead to the development of one such potent alternative. The team found an unknown species of the fungus Penicillium in an estuary in the Huon Valley in Tasmania. The researchers showed that this fungus contained a set of molecules called "tetrapeptides," which are amino acids. These molecules had a unique structure that emulates the shape of endomorphins, which are natural opioid chemical messengers that help deliver pain relief. The team notes that these new fungus-derived tetrapeptides have the potential to cause fewer side effects than regular opioids, while still delivering effective pain relief. (Credits: www.medicalnewstoday.com)

Estrogen exposure may stave off cognitive decline in women

New research suggests that taking estrogen as part of hormone replacement therapy may help women fight off cognitive decline. The study paper — titled "Lifetime estrogen exposure and cognition in late life: The Cache County Study" and appearing in the North American Menopause Society (NAMS) journal Menopause — details the new findings. Researchers and the medical community alike have long known that Alzheimer's disease tends to affect women far more often than it does men. According to Alzheimer's Society, in the United States, almost two-thirds of all people with Alzheimer's disease are women. Specifically, of the 5.6 million U.S. adults aged 65 and above living with Alzheimer's, 3.5 million are women. As for why this is the case, an established body of research has suggested that estrogen exposure is the answer. After menopause, women experience a drop in estrogen levels, and this could make them more susceptible to Alzheimer's, these studies have suggested. More recently, some researchers have argued that pregnancy and reproductive history may also impact a person's risk, while others have called for a reassessment of the role of hormone replacement therapy in cognitive health. Namely, scientists have recently been suggesting that hormone therapy is not always linked with cognitive harm, as many previously believed. In fact, the new research suggests that it may have the opposite effect, actually benefiting cognitive health. (Credits: www.medicalnewstoday.com)