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A New Approach to a Covid-19 Nasal Vaccine Shows Early Promise

By Brenda Goodman, CNN

German scientists are working to create a new nasal vaccine that is expected to stop COVID-19 infection in the nose and throat. They administered two doses of the vaccine to hamsters, which blocked the virus from replicating itself in the animals’ upper airways. They used a live but weakened vaccine, which created a much stronger immune response than doses of an mRNA-based vaccine. Scientists believe this was effective because the live-weakened vaccine closely mimics the process of a natural infection.

Researchers are hopeful about the potential of future vaccines, which aim to shut down the virus before it even makes us sick. This will ideally prevent the spread of infection, which could be a huge step in preventing the transmission of COVID-19. A way of attacking the virus before one displays symptoms is by building up immune defenses in upper airway tissues. Scientists believe this to be a proactive approach to attacking the virus before it infects our cells.

Although results sound promising, this particular nasal vaccine is still in its early phases of research, requiring more testing and trials. However, other nasal vaccines are further along in clinical trials: China and India created nasal vaccines last fall, but until their research is published, the effectiveness of this nasal method remains unclear.

by Jordyn Rosenberg

Johnson & Johnson Reaches Deal for $8.9 Billion Talc Settlement

By Tiffany Hsu, NYTimes

After more than a decade-long legal fight, Johnson & Johnson has reached an $8.9 billion talc settlement driven by suits on behalf of 70,000 women whoi suffered gynecological and other cancers linked to J&J’s products. Lawyers for victims alleged that for decades, the company was aware that the talc used in their products might be contaminated with asbestos, a carcinogen known to cause cancer. While J&J’s Vice President expressed that these claims lack scientific backing, he sees this solution as more equitable and efficient than evaluating each claim against the company. 

Johnson & Johnson’s subsidiary, LTL Management, filed for bankruptcy to pay this settlement. For the deal to become final, the court must accept this bankruptcy filing and have enough claimants agree to this settlement. However, a lawyer involved in 10,000 cases of women claiming J&J’s baby powder caused their ovarian cancer, finds this settlement “bad for victims.” He is concerned the settlement will be blocked in court, and even if approved, does not think claimants will receive enough money to compensate for the degree of impact caused by J&J’s contaminated talc.

Johnson & Johnson stopped selling their talc products in the United States beginning in 2020, and as of this year, they will halt talc product sales globally. Instead, they will market a cornstarch version of their previously talc-containing products. If approved, Johnson & Johnson will pay claimants over a 25-year period, and all current and future claims will be paid.

by Rebecca Sugerman

Study Finds Light Therapy May Help People With Dementia

By Shawn Radcliffe, Healthline

A new paper in the Brain and Behavior journal, claims light therapy reduces dementia symptoms. The paper is a meta-analysis of 12 separate studies, each testing if phototherapy improves symptoms of Alzheimer’s such as agitation, aggression, psychosis, and wandering. Across the 12 studies, 766 patients were included with 426 of them undergoing light therapy. The experimental group that received the therapy improved in overall cognitive function compared to the control group, yet there were no significant differences in depression or agitation. 

Despite the promising results from the paper, there are issues with the study design that need to be addressed. Across the 12 studies, there were only 726 patients included which is a small number of participants to claim there are benefits of light therapy for all dementia patients. Additionally, the type of light used in each study was not standardized. 8 studies used bright light, while 4 used LED or blue-green light. Variability across studies makes any claims from the meta-analysis paper less convincing. 

Still, there is a need for non-pharmacologic interventions to improve symptoms of dementia. While medicines such as donepezil and galantamine are commonly prescribed to Alzheimer’s patients, pharmacologic treatments become less effective as symptoms progress due to diminishing patient adherence. 

Light therapy has been proven to be beneficial in other areas such as sleep and mood. A paper from the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease Reports gives evidence for phototherapy improving sleep and reducing depression among Alzheimer’s patients. The sleep-related effects are due to the regulation of circadian rhythm, the body’s biological clock. Better sleep is associated with increased mood and vitality, so despite the shortcomings of the meta-analysis light therapy is an exciting new therapy that could benefit dementia patients.

by Nolan Shah

Items contributed by: Jordyn Rosenberg, Rebecca Sugerman, and Nolan Shah