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Could Broccoli Sprouts Help Treat Type 2 Diabetes?

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The next big diabetes drug may have been sitting in the salad bar all along. Researchers say concentrated broccoli sprout extract could be an excellent tool for regulating blood glucose in people with Type 2 diabetes (T2D). They published their findings in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

Scientists have been interested in broccoli sprout extract (BSE) for some time now. The active ingredient, a compound called sulforaphane (SFN), has already been tested as a potential treatment for a number of conditions, including cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Nobody had considered SFN for diabetes before. The authors of the current study weren’t even considering it. They had just been looking for existing drugs that matched T2D’s genetic signature. Out of 3852 different compounds, just a few possible leads emerged. The most promising among them was SFN.

The researchers took that lead and ran with it. They tested the compound’s effects on the liver and blood sugar in not one, but a whole bunch of settings, starting with computer models of genes, then moving to liver cells cultured in the lab, then mice and rats.

The results of each experiment informed the next one—and the results were promising. SFN seemed to reduce glucose production in liver cells and change T2D gene expression in rats.

Finally, the researchers moved into testing the drug on people. They recruited 103 obese people with hard-to-manage T2D at a Swedish hospital and tested how well each person’s body metabolized glucose. For 12 weeks, study participants took a daily dose of either BSE concentrate or a placebo. They watched for other symptoms or side effects and monitored their blood sugar as usual. Two weeks later, the researchers checked the participants’ glucose tolerance again.

The results were as encouraging as the previous experiments’. Patients who took the drug saw significantly decreased blood sugar levels without any serious side effects. And, the authors write, “SFN also protects against diabetic complications such as neuropathy, renal failure, and atherosclerosis in animal models because of its antioxidative effects.”

Before we all get too excited, there are a lot of caveats to consider.

“High doses of BSE cannot yet be recommended to patients as a drug treatment but would require further studies,” the authors write, “including data on which groups of patients would potentially benefit most from it.”

That’s for sure. All of the experiments we describe here were small. All of the rats and mice, and 75 percent of the human participants, were male. All 97 humans who completed the study were Swedish, obese, and between the ages of 35 and 75, and all the women involved were postmenopausal. And study participants took refined BSE. They didn’t just eat broccoli sprouts.

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Health
New Test Can Differentiate Between Tick-borne Illnesses
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Time is of the essence in diagnosing and treating Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses. Fortunately, one new test may be able to help. A report on the test was published in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

Ticks and the diseases they carry are on the rise. One 2016 study found deer ticks—the species that carries Lyme disease—in more than half of the counties in the United States.

The two most common tick-borne illnesses in the U.S. are Lyme disease and southern tick-associated rash illness (STARI). Although their initial symptoms can be the same, they’re caused by different pathogens; Lyme disease comes from infection with the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi. We don’t know what causes STARI.

"It is extremely important to be able to tell a patient they have Lyme disease as early as possible so they can be treated as quickly as possible," microbiologist and first author Claudia Molins of the CDC said in a statement. "Most Lyme disease infections are successfully treated with a two- to three-week course of oral antibiotics." Infections that aren't treated can lead to fevers, facial paralysis, heart palpitations, nerve pain, arthritis, short-term memory loss, and inflammation of the brain and spinal cord.

But to date, scientists have yet to create an accurate, consistent early test for Lyme disease, which means people must often wait until they’re very ill. And it’s hard to test for the STARI pathogen when we don’t know what it is.

One team of researchers led by experts at Colorado State University was determined to find a better way. They realized that, rather than looking for pathogens, they could look at the way a person’s body responded to the pathogens.

They analyzed blood samples from patients with both early-stage Lyme disease and STARI. Their results showed that while all patients’ immune systems had mounted a response, the nature of that response was different.

"We have found that all of these infections and diseases are associated with an inflammatory response, but the alteration of the immune response, and the metabolic profiles aren't all the same," senior author John Belisle of CSU said.

Two distinct profiles emerged. The team had found physical evidence, or biomarkers, for each illness: a way to tell one disease from another.

Belisle notes that there’s still plenty of work to do.

"The focus of our efforts is to develop a test that has a much greater sensitivity, and maintains that same level of specificity," Belisle said. "We don't want people to receive unnecessary treatment if they don't have Lyme disease, but we want to identify those who have the disease as quickly as possible."

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Google Can Warn You When Your Allergies Are About to Go Haywire
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How much allergy medication are you going to need today? Google can tell you. Well, it can give you a forecast, at least, as The Verge reports.

Google announced on August 16 that the search engine will now auto-populate search results for pollen and allergy information with allergy forecasts from The Weather Channel. The integration will include the most recent pollen index and allergy forecast data, showing a 5-day forecast detailing whether you’re likely to feel seasonal allergy symptoms throughout the week.

An animation shows a scroll of Google’s search results for pollen with allergy forecasts.
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If you have the Google app, you can set it to send push notifications when the pollen count is notably high that day, so you know to sequester yourself safely indoors. Hopefully you don't live in a city like Jackson, Mississippi, which in 2016 was named the worst city in the U.S. for allergy sufferers. There, your phone may be pinging every day.

While you can already find this information on sites like Pollen.com, having it show up immediately in search results saves you a few extra clicks, and frankly, it’s far more readable than most allergy and weather forecast sites.

Too bad a search engine can't cure our sneezes and watery eyes, though. Time to stock up on Kleenex, get a jumbo bottle of allergy meds, and maybe buy yourself a robot vacuum.

[h/t The Verge]

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