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Study discovers 'trigger gene' in IBD as researchers look for drugs to prevent the bowel disease

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Study discovers 'trigger gene' in IBD as researchers look for drugs to prevent the bowel disease

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Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) — which includes Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis — affects around 3.1 million U.S. adults.

The disease can cause debilitating symptoms such as diarrhea, abdominal pain and cramping, blood in the stool and more. 

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Now, researchers at the U.K.’s Francis Crick Institute, working with UCL and Imperial College London, have discovered a genetic component — referred to as a “weak spot” in the DNA — that is present in 95% of those living with the disorder.

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The study, published in the journal Nature earlier this month, identified a section of DNA that boosts the activity of a gene called ETS2

ETS2 has been linked to inflammatory functions that increase the chances of IBD.

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) can cause debilitating symptoms such as diarrhea, abdominal pain and cramping, blood in the stool and more.  (iStock)

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Rosario Ligresti, M.D., chief of the Division of Gastroenterology at Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey, was not involved in the research but called the findings “quite important.”

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“The researchers finally showed that all autoimmune and inflammatory disease — including IBD — appear to be caused by a single gene, ETS2,” he told Fox News Digital.

“The research identified this gene as a central regulator of a type of inflammatory cell called the macrophage, which is the main inflammatory cell in all these processes.”

“IBD usually develops in young people and can cause severe symptoms that disrupt education, relationships, family life and employment.”

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“The more the gene was ‘turned on’ or amplified, the greater the risk of inflammation. Without this gene, these cells do not ‘turn on’ and there is no IBD.”

While diet and stress have long been suspected to worsen IBD, the exact “‘molecular switch’ that activates inflammatory bowel disease has been unknown until now,” Ligresti noted.

Crohn's disease

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) — which includes Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis — affects around 3.1 million U.S. adults. (iStock)

“This discovery is so exciting and significant because it only gives us a better understanding of the inner workings of the disease, and it will allow researchers to adapt existing drugs to finally treat it,” added Ligresti. 

The research team is now investigating drugs that could reduce the activity of the ETS2 gene, thus reducing the occurrence of IBD.

HERE’S WHY YOU’RE BLOATED — AND WHAT TO DO ABOUT THE COMMON DIGESTIVE CONDITION

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They found that a group of existing anti-inflammatory medications called MEK inhibitors could do the trick.

“Although there have been many factors suggested as risks for IBD, there is currently no way to prevent the onset of IBD,” Ligresti said. 

Genetic testing

“The researchers finally showed that all autoimmune and inflammatory disease — including IBD — appear to be caused by a single gene, ETS2,” a researcher (not pictured) told Fox News Digital. (iStock)

“We do know, however, that inflammatory pathways in the body are likely activated at least five years before the onset of symptoms of IBD.”

Ideally, he said, patients at increased risk could be given a drug during this window of time that could “nip IBD in the bud.”

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While more research is needed to find ways to deliver these MEK inhibitors to the target cells, Ligresti noted that this finding opens a “tantalizing door” to the future of very effective therapies to “shut off” inflammatory bowel disease.

IBD

The research team is now investigating drugs that could reduce the activity of the ETS2 gene, thus reducing the occurrence of IBD. (iStock)

James Lee, group leader of the Genetic Mechanisms of Disease Laboratory at the Crick, who led the research, agreed that better treatments are “urgently needed.”

“IBD usually develops in young people and can cause severe symptoms that disrupt education, relationships, family life and employment,” Lee said in a Crick press release. 

                                                               

“Using genetics as a starting point, we’ve uncovered a pathway that appears to play a major role in IBD and other inflammatory diseases,” he said.

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“Excitingly, we’ve shown that this can be targeted therapeutically, and we’re now working on how to ensure this approach is safe and effective for treating people in the future.”

IBD diagram

Inflammatory bowel diseases, including Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, often occur early in life, experts say. (iStock)

Lauren Golightly, 27, was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease in 2018 after experiencing stomach cramps, bleeding and irregular bowel habits, according to the release. 

“I’ve had a rocky road since diagnosis, with many hospital admissions, several different medications and even surgery to have a temporary stoma bag,” she said in the release.

For more Health articles, visit www.foxnews/health 

“I still experience flare-ups and can still spend quite a bit of time in hospital.”

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She also said, “Learning about this research is so exciting and encouraging. I am hopeful this could potentially make a difference for myself and so many other hundreds of thousands of people living with IBD.”

Fox News Digital reached out to the researchers for additional comment.

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Artificial intelligence detects cancer with 17% more accuracy than doctors in UCLA study

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Artificial intelligence detects cancer with 17% more accuracy than doctors in UCLA study

Artificial intelligence is outpacing doctors when it comes to detecting a common cancer in men.

A new study from UCLA found that an AI tool identified prostate cancer with 84% accuracy — compared to 67% accuracy for cases detected by physicians, according to a press release from the university.

Unfold AI, made by Avenda Health in California — a software recently cleared by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration — uses an AI algorithm to visualize the likelihood of cancer based on various types of clinical data. 

WHAT IS ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE?

In the study, a team of seven urologists and three radiologists analyzed 50 cases where tumors had been removed, looking for signs of residual cancer. 

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A few months later, the AI software performed the same analysis.

A new study from UCLA found that an AI tool identified prostate cancer with 84% accuracy — compared to 67% accuracy for cases detected by physicians. (iStock)

The “negative margin rate” — a medical term that describes the absence of cancer cells surrounding the removed tissue — was 45 times greater in AI-detected cases, so the chances of cancer being left behind was far less.

Ali Kasraeian, M.D., a urologist at Kasraeian Urology in Jacksonville, Florida, said he uses the Unfold AI technology in his consultations with patients about managing their prostate cancer.

AI COULD PREDICT WHETHER CANCER TREATMENTS WILL WORK, EXPERTS SAY: ‘EXCITING TIME IN MEDICINE’

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“The AI takes the information that we currently have about a patient’s prostate cancer — like their pathology, imaging and biopsy results — and creates a 3D cancer estimation map,” he told Fox News Digital via email.  

“The results we get from Unfold AI tell us if a patient will be better suited for focal therapy or more radical therapy, such as radical prostatectomy, or radiation therapy, ensuring we optimize their cancer cure, the personalization of their cancer care, and their quality of life goals.”

“AI is our new diagnostic ally — but like any tool, it works best in human hands.” 

Based on these findings, the AI could lead to more accurate diagnoses and more targeted treatments, reducing the need for full-gland removal and the side effects that can come with it, such as incontinence and impotence, the researchers wrote.

AI MODEL COULD HELP PREDICT LUNG CANCER RISKS IN NON-SMOKERS, STUDY FINDS: ‘SIGNIFICANT ADVANCEMENT’

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Joshua Trachenberg, PhD, is a professor of neurobiology at UCLA — and also a prostate cancer patient himself. After doctors found a slow-growing tumor on his prostate, they recommended removing the gland surgically — but he decided to explore other options.

“I got in touch with a team at UCLA, where I also am a faculty member, that was exploring alternate treatments to total gland removal,” Trachenberg, 56, told Fox News Digital via email.

Prostate model

The “negative margin rate” — a medical term that describes the absence of cancer cells surrounding the removed tissue — was 45 times greater in AI-detected cases, so the chances of cancer being left behind was far less. (iStock)

The UCLA researchers were testing an approach that uses ultrasound to heat tissue and is “focally guided” by MRI to destroy the cancerous tissue without damaging the rest of the gland, he said.

After some imaging scans, it was determined that Trachenberg was a candidate for the experimental therapy.

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“The 3D map created by Unfold AI enabled this team to identify precise margins, target the cancerous area and avoid any functional structures of the gland,” he said. 

“It was able to visualize my cancer and it gave me a much better understanding of my case.”

“It was truly able to visualize my cancer and it gave me a much better understanding of my case.”

Trachenberg is now cancer-free and was able to avoid a radical prostatectomy.

Man cancer treatment

“I would recommend to any prostate cancer patient who is told they need a radical prostatectomy that they take some time to look at all their options, [including] AI technologies,” said a doctor and patient (not pictured).  (iStock)

“So many men are afraid of treatment because of the risks associated with gland removal, and Unfold AI enables therapies that don’t put men through the meat grinder,” he said.

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This type of AI technology gives Trachenberg hope for the future of prostate cancer treatment, he told Fox News Digital.

      

“Too often, we are given only two options: Watch and wait for it to get worse, or take the entire gland out, which often leaves men with lifelong side effects that strain their physical health, emotional health and even their marriages,” he said.

“I would recommend to any prostate cancer patient who is told they need a radical prostatectomy that they take some time to look at all their options, [including] AI technologies.”

Potential risks, limitations

Dr. Harvey Castro, a board-certified emergency medicine physician and national speaker on artificial intelligence based in Dallas, Texas, was not involved in the new study but shared his insights on the potential risks associated with the technology.

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Dr. Harvey Castro

Dr. Harvey Castro, a Dallas, Texas-based board-certified emergency medicine physician and national speaker on artificial intelligence, shared his insights on the potential risks associated with the technology. (Dr. Harvey Castro)

“The accuracy of AI depends heavily on the quality of the data it is trained on,” he told Fox News Digital. “Poor data can lead to inaccurate diagnoses.”

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Castro also cautioned against an “overreliance” on AI.

“While AI is a powerful tool, it should complement, not replace, the clinical judgment of health care professionals,” he said.

“AI is our new diagnostic ally,” Castro added. “But like any tool, it works best in human hands.” 

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AI health care

“While AI is a powerful tool, it should complement, not replace, the clinical judgment of health care professionals,” an expert said. (iStock)

Privacy should also be considered when using this type of technology, according to Castro.

“Handling sensitive patient data with AI necessitates stringent data protection measures to maintain patient trust and confidentiality.”

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The cost of AI technologies can also be a significant barrier, added Kasraeian.

“I hope this study encourages us and future payers to make these innovations more accessible to urologists and, most importantly, to our patients.”

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Joe Biden with COVID at age 81: What to know about the risk the virus poses to older adults

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Joe Biden with COVID at age 81: What to know about the risk the virus poses to older adults

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President Joe Biden’s testing positive for COVID-19 this week may spark questions about how the virus affects older adults in America.

Certain populations are at a higher risk of severe illness from COVID — and older adults top that list, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

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On Wednesday, the White House released an announcement of Biden’s positive COVID test, noting that the president had been vaccinated and boosted and was “experiencing mild symptoms.”

AMID SUMMER COVID SURGE WARNING FROM CDC, SHOULD YOU WORRY? DOCTORS WEIGH IN

His upper respiratory symptoms included “rhinorhea (runny nose) and non-productive cough, with general malaise,” according to a statement on the White House’s website.

Here’s what people should know. 

On Wednesday, the White House released an announcement about President Biden’s positive COVID test, noting that the president had been vaccinated and boosted and was “experiencing mild symptoms.” Biden is 81 years old. (Getty Images)

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COVID prognosis for the elderly

More than 81% of COVID-related deaths affect those age 65 and older, the CDC states on its website — and the number of older people who succumb to the virus is 97 times higher than those who are 18 to 29 years old. 

Dr. Norman B. Gaylis, a Florida physician and COVID expert, agreed that adults over 80 years old comprise the highest-risk group for mortality, as they face “multiple significant risks.”

COVID VACCINE COMPANIES TOLD TO FOCUS ON KP.2 VARIANT FOR FALL SHOTS, PER FDA ANNOUNCEMENT

“COVID causes debilitating problems for the elderly, especially if there is a pre-existing neurological condition such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease,” he told Fox News Digital via email. (He has not examined or treated Biden.)      

A diagnosis of acute COVID can affect the ability of those in this age group to think properly, and often causes a condition known as “brain fog,” he said. 

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“It is a problem, because the elderly are often more susceptible to COVID due to weakened immune systems,” he said.

Best practices after a diagnosis

When someone over age 80 tests positive for the virus, the first course of action is to go into some degree of isolation, Gaylis said.

“It is also important [that people] stay well-hydrated and be cautious not to overexert themselves,” he said. 

Paxlovid medication

Paxlovid, Pfizer’s anti-viral medication to treat COVID-19, is displayed in this picture illustration taken on Oct. 7, 2022. Doctors recommend that older adults seek “proactive treatment.” (REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay/Illustration)

If symptoms last more than 48 hours, the doctor calls for “proactive treatment.”

Take Paxlovid or approved nutraceuticals with zinc that boost the immune system,” he recommended. 

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If symptoms do not decrease after 36 hours — or if symptoms are severe — the patient should seek medical attention right away.

COVID test

More than 81% of COVID-related deaths affect those age 65 and older, the CDC says on its website — and the number of older people who succumb to the virus is 97 times higher than those who are 18 to 29 years old.  (iStock)

“With those in their 80s, it is crucial to check and make sure major organs are not being affected,” Gaylis said. 

Regarding Biden’s case of COVID, Gaylis said that only the president’s personal physician can speak to his condition and outlook for recovery. 

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“But we should certainly be more concerned about his condition than we would be with someone much younger — and because of his age, we also have to be aware of the risk of long-term health consequences,” he added.

“The elderly are often more susceptible to COVID due to weakened immune systems.”

As of Friday, Biden had completed his fourth dose of Paxlovid and “continues to tolerate treatment well,” according to an updated statement issued from the White House.

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“His loose, non­productive cough and hoarseness continue to be his primary symptoms, but they have improved meaningfully from yesterday,” the statement said.

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Biden will be 82 years old in Nov. 2024. 

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Ask a doctor: ‘Is it safe to swim underwater with my eyes open?’

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Ask a doctor: ‘Is it safe to swim underwater with my eyes open?’

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Hot summer days include plenty of pool or beach time for many people — but it’s important to stay safe while swimming.

While it may be tempting to open your eyes underwater, experts warn that prolonged exposure could put your vision at risk.

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Fox News Digital spoke with Brian Boxer Wachler, M.D., an ophthalmologist in Beverly Hills, California, who is also a medical reviewer with All About Vision, an online resource, about what happens when people take a peek while swimming.

ASK A DOCTOR: ‘WHY ARE MY EYES OFTEN BLOODSHOT?’

A quick glance likely won’t be harmful, the expert said — but extended periods of underwater peeping could cause problems.

“Usually when people open their eyes underwater, the [eyes] begin to feel irritated and they will close their eyes pretty quickly,” Wachler said. 

It may be tempting to open your eyes underwater, but experts warn that prolonged exposure could put your vision at risk. (iStock)

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When swimming in pool water, the chlorine can irritate the eyes, he warned.

Chlorine can cause damage to the outer layer cells that protect the cornea, Dr. Muriel Schornack, a Mayo Clinic optometrist in Minnesota, stated on the clinic’s website.

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As a result, the eye may become red, irritated or sensitive to light, the doctor warned. 

You may also notice blurred vision.

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Man swimming underwater

Swimming in saltwater or untreated freshwater can potentially introduce bacteria into the eyes, a doctor said. (iStock)

“A lot of folks who are highly nearsighted or highly farsighted like to wear their contact lenses while they’re swimming — and if chlorine soaks into those lenses, now you’ve got a reservoir of chlorine on the surface of the eye that’s likely to do damage,” Schornack noted on Mayo Clinic’s site.

ASK A DOCTOR: ‘WHY AM I HEARING MY HEARTBEAT IN MY EARS?’

With saltwater or untreated freshwater, the effects can be even harsher, and can potentially introduce bacteria into the eyes, Wachler warned.

blue eye contact lens

For people who wear contacts while swimming, chlorine can soak into the lenses and cause problems, a doctor said. (iStock)

“Microscopic organisms are found in various bodies of water, and can be both beneficial and harmful,” he said.

Bacteria such as E. coli can thrive in contaminated freshwater, while saltwater teems with decomposers like Vibrio, according to the ophthalmologist.

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“Viruses like those causing hepatitis A can linger in polluted water,” he said. 

“Protozoa such as Giardia can cause diarrhea if ingested from untreated sources, while molds like Aspergillus may be found in damp areas around freshwater.”

Signs that you should see a doctor

If you’ve been swimming with your eyes open for an extended period, watch out for signs of irritation like redness, itchiness and a burning sensation, Wachler advised. 

Woman swimming

For those who want to look underwater while swimming, experts recommend wearing goggles to protect the eyes.

“You might also experience watery eyes or increased sensitivity to light,” he said. 

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“These are usually temporary and go away on their own.”

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If you notice a thicker discharge, have trouble seeing or experience severe pain, it could be a sign of infection and warrants a trip to the doctor.

For more Health articles, visit www.foxnews/health

For those who want to look underwater while swimming, experts recommend wearing goggles to protect the eyes.

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