Could a once-a-day nasal spray banish crippling migraines? Hundreds trialling hormone treatment
A once-a-day nose spray may help keep migraines at bay. The spray, which is being trialled by hundreds of people in the U.S., contains the hormone oxytocin.
Although oxytocin is most commonly associated with triggering contractions during labour, it also has painkilling properties.
Previous research has suggested that people have more migraines when oxytocin levels are low.
Symptoms include throbbing, one-sided headaches and visual disturbances, as well as vomiting, tiredness and sensitivity to light, sound and smells. Attacks can be associated with triggers, including stress, tiredness, flashing lights and certain foods or drinks.
Some patients are prescribed triptans — drugs that help reverse the changes in the brain thought to cause migraines.
A once-a-day nose spray may help keep migraines at bay. The spray, which is being trialled by hundreds of people in the U.S., contains the hormone oxytocin
Symptoms include throbbing, one-sided headaches and visual disturbances, as well as vomiting, tiredness and sensitivity to light, sound and smells. Attacks can be associated with triggers, including stress, tiredness, flashing lights and certain foods or drinks
For frequent or severe migraines, drugs including topiramate (which is usually used to treat seizures) and propranolol (a medication for high blood pressure) are used to help prevent further attacks.
However, these are not suitable or do not work for all people, and can cause side-effects, such as problems with sleep and appetite.
Known only as TNX-1900, the oxytocin spray is meant to be used once or twice a day as a preventative.
It is designed to head off the headache in two ways. First by preventing pain signals from passing along the trigeminal nerve, the main nerve in the head. The trigeminal nerve carries sensory information from the face, including the scalp, forehead and area around the eye, to the brain, and is involved in most migraines.
The spray also stops trigeminal nerve cells from releasing a compound, calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP), which increases during migraines. CGRP triggers inflammation and pain, and causes headaches to last longer, although the exact mechanism is unknown.
When sprayed into the nose, oxytocin sticks to the trigeminal nerve cells, interrupting the pain signals, while stopping the release of CGRP as well.
The spray contains magnesium, too, which helps the oxytocin adhere to the nerve cells.
Using a nasal spray rather than an oral drug or injection focuses the drug in the area where it is needed, reducing the risk of systemic side-effects.
During the new trial, which is being led by the Michigan Headache & Neurological Institute in the U.S., 300 patients will use the oxytocin spray or a placebo spray once or twice a day for three months. Doctors will then check the frequency of the participants’ migraines.
Dr Andrew Dowson, clinical lead at NHS East Kent and Bromley Headache Services, said: ‘This is interesting research. It is always good to see innovative thinking being tested in a condition that causes so much disability and remains poorly understood and without universally effective treatments.
‘There is a rational reason for studying CGRP. It is a protein that has been extensively studied and ultimately proven to be linked to migraine. I am sure other proteins will also be identified as playing a role.’
A healthy diet can reduce the number of migraines, suggests new research in the International Journal of Neuroscience.
Nearly 300 women who suffer migraines were quizzed about diet and the frequency of their headaches.
The antioxidant content of their diets was then calculated by measuring levels of vitamins A, C and E, as well as selenium, zinc and manganese. The researchers found those with low antioxidant levels were twice as likely to suffer attacks.
It is thought that oxidative stress — an imbalance between compounds called free radicals and antioxidants — is involved in migraines, and boosting antioxidant levels could reduce this.
Diabetes drug to slow Parkinson’s disease
A drug used to treat type 2 diabetes may slow the progression of Parkinson’s disease.
In diabetes, exenatide tricks the pancreas into releasing the hormone insulin.
Now scientists at University College London and other centres are testing to see if it can prevent the death of brain cells that produce dopamine, which helps control movement. Loss of the cells causes Parkinson’s.
Previous lab studies have suggested exenatide can help protect these cells.
Papaya gel could replace dental drill
Could a rub-on gel offer a pain-free way to treat tooth decay? A dental drill is currently used to remove decay, but this can lead to the loss of healthy tooth.
The new gel contains enzymes from papaya fruit that break down the decayed bit of tooth, leaving the healthy parts intact. The liquid is applied to the decay and left for 30 seconds, until it turns cloudy, then washed off. The process is repeated until all the decay has gone.
Earlier research has suggested that papaya enzymes remove strep mutans, the cavity-causing bacteria in the mouth.
MINI MUSCLE MIGHT
This week: Gluteus medius
The small muscles which play big roles
This muscle runs outside the hip joint and works with the main buttock muscle, the gluteus maximus, to stabilise the pelvis. It also allows you to rotate the hip outwards and lift the leg out to the side.
A strong gluteus medius stops the knee on the same side from falling inwards and the hip from dropping outwards. If the muscle is weak, the resulting poor stability can lead to lower back pain, as well as knee and hip problems.
Clare Lewey, a physiotherapist based in Oxfordshire, says this can particularly affect mid-life women if their buttocks flatten and weaken with age.
To strengthen it, she recommends ‘clamshells’: lie on one side with feet and hips stacked and knees bent at 90 degrees, then raise the top knee away from the bottom knee, keeping the feet touching.
‘Monster walks’ can also help, she says. Wrap a strong resistance band around the thighs, bend into a squatting position and, keeping legs apart, walk forwards and backwards a few strides at a time.
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