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Research Roundup: Peanut allergies, heart disease treatments and wearable technology


Each week, The Daily’s Science & Tech section produces a roundup of the most exciting and influential research happening on campus or otherwise related to Stanford. Here’s our digest for the week of Nov. 10 – Nov. 16.

Peanut allergies disappear after treatment

An antibody injection allows people who have severe peanut allergies to eat nuts without complications, according to a study published Thursday by Stanford researchers in JCI Insight found. The study found that 73% of the people who received the antibodies could eat nuts safely after two weeks.

“What’s great about this treatment as an option for food allergies is that people did not have to eat the food to get desensitized,” Kari Nadeau, professor of medicine and pediatrics, told Stanford Medicine News. “Although this is still in the experimental stages, we’re delivering on the hope of testing a drug that won’t be for one food allergy but for many, and for other allergic diseases, too.”

The antibody treatment, called etokimab, works by interfering with the function of interleukin-33 (IL-33), an immune-signaling molecule. Typically, when a person with peanut allergies eats the food, IL-33 is activated and causes a signaling cascade leading to an allergic reaction. 

“By inhibiting IL-33, we potentially inhibit features of all allergies, which is promising,” Nadeau told Stanford Medicine News.

In future studies, the researchers hope to understand when to administer the antibody dose and the concentration of the antibody in future patients.

Evaluation of two approaches to heart disease treatments

Patients who received medication and lifestyle advice as a treatment for heart disease are no more at risk of heart attack than patients who underwent surgery to receive stents or bypass, researchers found. Stanford and New York University collaborated in the study, and the results were presented on Saturday at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2019.

The team set out to determine whether invasive surgical procedures are more effective in treating adverse heart conditions than simply giving patients medications.

“This has been one of the central questions of cardiovascular medicine for a long time: Is medical therapy alone or medical therapy combined with routine invasive procedures the best treatment for this group of stable heart patients?” Robert Harrington, professor and chair of medicine, told Stanford Medicine News. “I do see this as reducing the number of invasive procedures.”

The findings suggested that there was no significant difference between the two approaches in treating heart disease.

“For patients with severe but stable heart disease who don’t want to undergo these invasive procedures, these results are very reassuring,” David Maron, clinical professor of medicine, told Stanford Medicine News.

Wearable technology detects irregular heart rhythms 

Wearable technology can now detect heart rate irregularities such as atrial fibrillation, according to a collaborative study between Stanford and Apple published on Thursday in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The Apple Heart Study has 400,000 participants enrolled, making it the largest virtual study ever conducted. Led by associate professor of cardiovascular medicine Mintu Turakhia and professor of medicine and biomedical data science Manisha Desai, the team used the Apple Watch to identify atrial fibrillation, irregular heart rhythms that can cause stroke.

“The study’s findings will help patients and clinicians understand how devices like Apple Watch can play a role in identifying atrial fibrillation, a deadly and often undiagnosed disease,” Turakhia told Stanford Medicine News. “Additionally, these important findings lay the foundation for further research into the use of emerging wearable technologies in clinical practice and demonstrate the unique potential of large-scale app-based studies.”

Marco Perez, associate professor of cardiovascular medicine, presented findings from the study at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2019 on Saturday in a session titled “Apple Watch App Identifies Clinically Important Arrhythmias Other Than Atrial Fibrillation: Results From the Apple Heart Study.”

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