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Health news weekly: free at home HIV testing and how sugar affects obesity-prone rats

February 8, 2023

We know it can be difficult and time-consuming to wade through all the news about healthcare (much of it doom and gloom) which is why we’re here to keep you up to date with all the latest news, discoveries and innovations in our weekly round-up:

Health News Weekly Living Room Health

The UK government is giving residents the chance to take a free at-home HIV test this week. The kit arrives in the mail and gives results within 15 minutes through a simple finger prick blood test. If the test is “reactive,” it means further clinic testing is necessary, with support available to arrange this. Early diagnosis and treatment can reduce the number of people living with undiagnosed HIV and prevent transmission.

It’s important to remember that anyone who is sexually active can be affected by HIV and regular testing is recommended. Although testing rates have decreased during the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s essential to stay on top of your HIV status and take advantage of this opportunity for a confidential, at-home test. Taking control of your sexual health has never been easier!

Scientists are studying the nucleus accumbens, a brain structure involved in motivation, to understand what drives people to overeat. This small region of the brain drives reward-seeking behaviours related to food, sex, and drugs like nicotine and alcohol. The problem is that this brain motivation centre, which evolved to help us survive, is now becoming a disadvantage in today’s food-rich environment, where over-processed, low-nutrient foods are abundant. Researchers are using rat models to understand potential brain differences between animals prone to overeating and obesity and those who are not. A recent study showed that glucose was taking longer to get into the nucleus accumbens of obesity-prone rats, and they had excess levels of the excitatory neurotransmitter glutamate, suggesting a defect in a neurotransmitter recycling process. The team hopes to study the role of inflammation in the development of obesity next.

The National Health Service (NHS) in the United Kingdom has initiated a world-first clinical trial for a novel treatment for brain tumour patients. The team of specialists are using highly targeted radiotherapy before surgery, backed by detailed MRI scans, in an attempt to reduce the risk of tumour regrowth and increase patients’ life expectancy. Currently, brain tumour patients undergo surgery first, followed by radiotherapy and chemotherapy, but fewer than 10% of patients with a specific type of fast-growing and aggressive brain cancer, glioblastomas, survive for more than five years.

Dr. Gerben Borst, a radiation oncologist and senior lecturer at the University of Manchester, leading the trial, stated that the trial could be a long-awaited breakthrough in brain cancer research. In the trial, codenamed POBIG, patients undergo an MRI scan to determine the area where cancer cells are most likely to be left after surgery. A single dose of radiation is aimed precisely at that area before patients undergo surgery followed by radiotherapy and chemotherapy. According to Dr. Borst, the results have been “very encouraging” so far, and this technique could improve the outcomes of all patients in the future.

James’ Place, a suicide prevention charity for men, is expanding its operations with the opening of three new centres in Bristol, Newcastle Gateshead and Birmingham. The charity offers free therapy to men in suicidal crisis and currently operates in Liverpool and London. During therapy, men receive six to eight face-to-face sessions with a trained therapist. According to Ellen O’Donoghue, the CEO of James’ Place, the organization’s goal is to make its life-saving services accessible to half the male population in England by 2026.

One client, Michael, shared his positive experience with the charity after he struggled with his mental health following the loss of his mother. He feels much better after receiving treatment from James’ Place and considers himself a different person now. The expansion of James’ Place is aimed at helping more men in need and preventing suicide.