Health Highlights: Jan. 3, 2018

Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:

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Novel Diabetes Drug Battles Alzheimer's in Mice

British researchers report that a new kind of type 2 diabetes drug pulled double duty and reversed memory loss in mice engineered to develop Alzheimer's.

The mice were already showing signs of the symptoms associated with the brain-robbing disease -- including poor memory and trouble learning -- but the diabetes drug triggered dramatic improvement in the rodents.

The medication "holds clear promise of being developed into a new treatment for chronic neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer's disease," lead researcher Christian Holscher, from Lancaster University, told the New York Post.

One Alzheimer's expert said the need is pressing.

"With no new treatments in nearly 15 years, we need to find new ways of tackling Alzheimer's," Dr. Doug Brown, director of research and development at the Alzheimer's Society, in England, said in a Lancaster University news release.

"It's imperative that we explore whether drugs developed to treat other conditions can benefit people with Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia. This approach to research could make it much quicker to get promising new drugs to the people who need them," Brown added.

The medication, known as a triple agonist, appeared to act on three fronts: it protected nerve cells; reduced amyloid plaques in the brain (which have been linked with Alzheimer's); and lowered inflammation, the scientists said.

The finding, published Jan. 1 in the journal Brain Research, is not a complete surprise: Type 2 diabetes has been linked to Alzheimer's in previous studies, the researchers noted. Also, insulin desensitization has been observed in the Alzheimer's brain.

While the research has only been conducted in mice and such findings often don't pan out in humans, the researchers said they have high hopes for the medications, the Post reported.

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Trump Fires Obama-Era HIV/AIDS Council Members

President Donald Trump has terminated the appointments of all remaining members of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS (PACHA) who had joined the expert panel during the Obama years, CBS News reported.

The terminations come after the resignation earlier in 2017 of a handful of council members who said "Trump doesn't care about HIV" in a letter published in Newsweek.

Notice of the new terminations came to the remaining Obama-era appointees in letters received last Wednesday, according to council executive director Kaye Hayes.

"Changing the makeup of federal advisory committee members is a common occurrence during administration changes," Hayes said in a statement. "The Obama administration dismissed the George W. Bush administration appointees to PACHA in order to bring in new voices."

Gabriel Maldonado was appointed to the council by the Obama administration in 2015, and was among those terminated. Maldonado, who is founder and CEO of the HIV/AIDS and LGBT advocacy group TruEvolution, agreed that dismissals after a change in government aren't unusual.

But he told CBS News that such dismissals typically happen at the council's quarterly meetings, so the earlier timing suggests that the Trump administration isn't prioritizing HIV/AIDS or LGBT issues.

Asked whether he thought the new administration cares about these issues, he said, "Bigotry and homophobia have been around since the beginning of the country, sometimes it takes a voice for a particular type of sentiment to be resurrected."

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NFL Tightens Concussion Protocol

The National Football League has toughened its concussion rules following an incident where the Houston Texans quarterback returned to the field after a hit that was hard enough to leave him on the ground with his arms shaking.

The more stringent guidelines for handling possible concussions during games were agreed upon by the league and the players' union, the Associated Press reported Friday.

Head injuries have been a serious concern in the NFL in recent years, and in 2017 the league reached a $1 billion settlement over concussion-related claims from more than 20,000 former players.

An expert will now watch games from a central location and have the authority to alert medical teams on the sidelines to investigate an incident, the wire service said. If the injured player shows signs of a seizure or similar responses, as the Texans quarterback Tom Savage did during a Dec. 10 game, they will be removed from play.

Savage was hurt when Elvis Dumervil drove him to the ground on a hit. Replays showed Savage looking dazed after his head hit the ground, with both of his arms shaking and lifted upward. He was taken to the medical tent where he stayed for less than 3 minutes before going back in for the next series.

After Savage threw two incompletions, the team doctor approached him. He was evaluated again and taken to the locker room after it was determined that he did have a concussion, the AP said.

In December, the Seattle Seahawks were fined $100,000 for not following concussion protocol with quarterback Russell Wilson during a November game. Seattle was the first team to be fined for a violation of the protocol. Seattle's medical staff and coaches also had to attend training sessions on the protocol, the wire service reported.

Dr. Hunt Batjer, the former co-chairman of the NFL committee on head, neck and spine injuries who chairs the department of neurological surgery at Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, told the AP that the latest moves were positive steps.

But he added that he believes more should be done to protect players.

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"When a player has a suspicious either helmet-to-helmet or helmet-to-playing-surface hit and he's down on the field and play is stopped because of that play, then that person should be escorted to the locker room for a full exam," Batjer said. "So that should be added to this."


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