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Sedentary Lifestyle Probably Won’t Kill You, New Study Says

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Got a desk job? Like to watch TV? Do you just enjoy sitting on your butt all day? We’ve got some good news: A group of scientists have challenged the idea that a sedentary lifestyle shaves years off a person’s life. 

For the last few years, scientists, doctors, and public health efforts have warned about the dangers of sitting down for hours at a time. More recent studies argued that even regular exercise couldn’t undo the damage caused by prolonged sitting.

According to a paper published last week in the International Journal of Epidemiology, this is just plain wrong. Between 1997 and 1999, researchers from the University of Exeter and University College London interviewed 3720 men and 1412 women about their sitting habits. They asked about total sitting time, as well as the context. Study participants reported if they were sitting at work, in front of the TV, or enjoying non-TV leisure time. They answered questions about how far they walked each day as well as how often and how vigorously they exercised.

Last year, the researchers followed up to see how their study participants were doing. The results showed no relationship between sitting and an increased risk of dying, even for people who didn’t exercise.

These findings contradict not only previous studies but also public health campaigns. Recommendations from Britain’s National Health Service have focused on the dangers of a sedentary lifestyle, rather than encouraging people to exercise.

Lead author Richard Pulsford thinks it might be time for those recommendations to change. “Reducing sitting time might not be quite as important for mortality risk as previously publicized,” he said in a recent press release, “and encouraging people to be more active should still be a public health priority.”

The problem is not sitting, agreed coauthor Melvyn Hillsdon, but the absence of movement. “Any stationary posture where energy expenditure is low may be detrimental to health, be it sitting or standing.” 

Yes, that includes standing up to work. Hillsdon said the study results even “cast doubt on the benefits of sit-stand workstations.” 

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New Cancer-Fighting Nanobots Can Track Down Tumors and Cut Off Their Blood Supply
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Scientists have developed a new way to cut off the blood flow to cancerous tumors, causing them to eventually shrivel up and die. As Business Insider reports, the new treatment uses a design inspired by origami to infiltrate crucial blood vessels while leaving the rest of the body unharmed.

A team of molecular chemists from Arizona State University and the Chinese Academy of Sciences describe their method in the journal Nature Biotechnology. First, they constructed robots that are 1000 times smaller than a human hair from strands of DNA. These tiny devices contain enzymes called thrombin that encourage blood clotting, and they're rolled up tightly enough to keep the substance contained.

Next, researchers injected the robots into the bloodstreams of mice and small pigs sick with different types of cancer. The DNA sought the tumor in the body while leaving healthy cells alone. The robot knew when it reached the tumor and responded by unfurling and releasing the thrombin into the blood vessel that fed it. A clot started to form, eventually blocking off the tumor's blood supply and causing the cancerous tissues to die.

The treatment has been tested on dozen of animals with breast, lung, skin, and ovarian cancers. In mice, the average life expectancy doubled, and in three of the skin cancer cases tumors regressed completely.

Researchers are optimistic about the therapy's effectiveness on cancers throughout the body. There's not much variation between the blood vessels that supply tumors, whether they're in an ovary in or a prostate. So if triggering a blood clot causes one type of tumor to waste away, the same method holds promise for other cancers.

But before the scientists think too far ahead, they'll need to test the treatments on human patients. Nanobots have been an appealing cancer-fighting option to researchers for years. If effective, the machines can target cancer at the microscopic level without causing harm to healthy cells. But if something goes wrong, the bots could end up attacking the wrong tissue and leave the patient worse off. Study co-author Hao Yan believes this latest method may be the one that gets it right. He said in a statement, "I think we are much closer to real, practical medical applications of the technology."

[h/t Business Insider]

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New Peanut Allergy Patch Could Be Coming to Pharmacies This Year
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About 6 million people in the U.S. and Europe have severe peanut allergies, including more than 2 million children. Now, French biotechnology company DBV Technologies SA has secured an FDA review for its peanut allergy patch, Bloomberg reports.

If approved, the company aims to start selling the Viaskin patch to children afflicted with peanut allergies in the second half of 2018. The FDA's decision comes in spite of the patch's disappointing study results last year, which found the product to be less effective than DBV hoped (though it did receive high marks for safety). The FDA has also granted Viaskin breakthrough-therapy and fast-track designations, which means a faster review process.

DBV's potentially life-saving product is a small disc that is placed on the arm or between the shoulder blades. It works like a vaccine, exposing the wearer's immune system to micro-doses of peanut protein to increase tolerance. It's intended to reduce the chances of having a severe allergic reaction to accidental exposure.

The patch might have competition: Aimmune Therapeutics Inc., which specializes in food allergy treatments, and the drug company Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc. are working together to develop a cure for peanut allergies.

[h/t Bloomberg]

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