The coronavirus pandemic has dominated the headlines and our daily lives for more than a year. Medical News Today has covered this fast-moving, complex story with live updates on the latest news, interviews with experts, and an ongoing investigation into the deep racial disparities that COVID-19 has helped unmask.

However, this has not stopped us from publishing hundreds of fascinating stories on a myriad of other topics.

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This week, we begin with the second part of our look at what’s exciting cancer researchers. It’s every bit as fascinating as part one, and part three is also due soon.

Next, we’ve news of how exoskeleton technology is helping some people with multiple sclerosis (MS) boost their mobility and cognition, and how exposing people with Alzheimer’s disease to flickering sound and light may improve their symptoms.

We also have articles on the possible role of whole fruit in reducing the risk of diabetes, an introduction to low carb, high protein diets, and the brain networks involved in learning new skills.

We highlight this research below, along with several other recent stories that you may have missed amid all the COVID-19 fervor.

1. Cancer research: What’s exciting the experts? Part 2

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We begin with the second part of MNT‘s report from the front lines of cancer research. In part one, we spoke with scientists working on immunotherapies and radiopharmaceuticals.

This week, we learn about the potential uses of magnetically responsive bacteria, personalized medicine, and nanoparticles. We also hear about a new cancer-fighting role for a widely used antidepressant drug.

The latest article is every bit as fascinating as part one, and a third article on cutting-edge cancer research will follow soon.

Learn more here.

2. MS: How a robotic exoskeleton could aid treatment

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This week, we reported on a small trial of new technology designed to assist people with advanced MS.

Exercise rehabilitation is already established as a way to help improve mobility and cognition. Now, researchers have helped make exercise available for people with advanced symptoms — using an exoskeleton. The team reported significant improvements in several key MS symptoms after 4 weeks.

To learn more about the exoskeleton, how it was used, and what improvements were seen, click below.

Learn more here.

3. Plant-derived compound may help treat chronic pain

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A compound found in a flower commonly used in traditional medicine due to its analgesic properties may help scientists develop new treatments for chronic pain. Conolidine is extracted from the bark of the pinwheel flower, and researchers have developed a synthetic version that binds even more powerfully to a single receptor involved in pain regulation.

The precise mechanism of action remains unclear, but this discovery could be valuable in developing safer alternatives to the current range of opioid drugs, many of which can cause significant side effects. You can read more about this research and its implications by clicking the link below.

Learn more here.

4. Asthma and allergies hub

The latest MNT resource hub launched this week, this time focusing on asthma and allergies. Our editors have gathered articles covering the different types of asthma and their stages, symptoms, and triggers. There are also sections on allergies, including food allergies, seasonal allergies, and allergic reactions and complications.

We also present information on medications and treatments, as well as other management strategies. In all, there are nearly 80 evidence-backed articles in the new hub. If you or someone you know is affected by asthma or allergies, click below to access this indispensable resource.

Learn more here.

5. What foods are high in protein but low in carbs?

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This week’s most visited article, with over 276,000 page views to date, looks at foods and supplements that may be suitable for a person with a low carb, high protein diet.

Beginning with a summary of the roles that carbohydrates, fats, and protein play in our diets, the article then considers the benefits and risks associated with reducing carb consumption.

Our editors list foods to include and avoid, several supplements that may be beneficial, and an example of a low carb, high protein meal plan. Reduced carbohydrate diets are gaining in popularity, which is reflected in the number of visitors to this useful introduction.

Learn more here.

6. Eating whole fruits may lower risk of type 2 diabetes

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Staying with diet and nutrition, MNT reported on new research into the benefits of regularly consuming whole fruits, this week. Researchers tracked how much fruit 7,675 people consumed, which fruits they ate, and how much fruit juice they drank. The team then looked at how many people in this group went on to develop type 2 diabetes and found an association between high levels of fruit intake and a lower risk of type 2 diabetes, based on a 5-year follow-up survey.

People who consumed around 2 servings of fruit per day had a 36% lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes over the next 5 years, compared with those who consumed less than half a serving of fruit per day.

However, this benefit did not extend to those who consumed high amounts of fruit juice. It should also be noted that these results identify an association between fruit consumption and reduced risk of developing type 2 diabetes, rather than a causal link.

Learn more here.

7. Can flickering light and sound treat Alzheimer’s?

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Flickering light and sound may help treat people with Alzheimer’s disease, according to new research reported in MNT this week.

Earlier research in mice hinted that exposing them to light and sound flickering at 40 pulses per second both restored brain connectivity and mobilized the immune system to break down toxic beta-amyloid proteins. Whether this treatment would have a similar effect in humans remained unknown.

The latest results come from a pilot safety study with 10 participants who had mild cognitive impairment. After 8 weeks, the researchers saw signs of improved connectivity in MRI scans of the brain and evidence of a modified immune system response. Further trials are now needed to test how long these effects last and whether there is an overall clinical benefit to treating people with this type of audio and visual stimulation.

Learn more here.

8. Deep sleep may help clear the brain of Alzheimer’s-related toxins

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Alzheimer’s disease was the subject of another study reported in MNT this week, with the discovery of a link between deep sleep and the ability of the brain’s glymphatic system to wash away toxic protein accumulations.

Researchers analyzed global brain activity in 118 participants using MRI brain imaging in two sessions, 2 years apart. They found that both those with a higher risk of Alzheimer’s disease and those who had already developed the condition displayed a weaker connection between brain activity and the glymphatic system.

The researchers take this as further evidence of a link between sleep-dependent driving of the glymphatic system and the clearing of toxins from the brain.

To learn more about the implications of this study for our understanding of how Alzheimer’s disease develops and can be detected, click below.

Learn more here.

9. Half of adults have experienced weight stigma, large survey shows

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Two new studies help reveal the extent of weight stigma experienced by people in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

More than half of the participants reported having experienced stigma of some sort, with more than 75% reporting weight stigma from their relatives. Approximately two-thirds reported perceived negative weight bias from doctors.

One consequence of this stigma is that it may result in a reluctance to approach healthcare professionals for help and an avoidance of routine checkups. The authors emphasize that weight stigma needs to be addressed to help prevent the harmful effects.

Learn more here.

10. Why taking breaks is important for learning new skills

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Finally this week, new research highlights the importance of taking breaks when learning a new skill, in this case typing the sequence “41324” on a keyboard. Brain scans revealed that a specific network of neurons was involved in replay events — but only during resting intervals. These replay events played a large role in reinforcing the learning of the new skill.

What surprised the researchers was the involvement of the hippocampus in this type of learning, which was thought not to be required. The researchers also found that these replay events involved reactivation of key brain areas 20 times faster than seen while actually performing the task.

The findings could help develop optimized training schedules in rehabilitation programs following strokes and other brain injuries.

Learn more here.

We hope that this week’s Recovery Room has provided a taste of the stories that MNT covers. We will be back with a new selection next week.

Coming soon: A sneak preview of what’s in our drafts folder

We publish hundreds of new stories and features every month. Here are some upcoming articles that may pique our readers’ interest:

  • Could zinc help control blood pressure?
  • Why does spaceflight impair the immune system?
  • Medical myths: All about blood donation