Today’s Headlines: New Stem Cell Research on Alzheimer’s Disease, Why Vegetable Oils May Not Be Helping Your Heart, and When Thyroid Cancer Isn’t Cancer

Researchers from the University of Miami are set to begin a stem cell clinical trial for Alzheimer’s disease. The research trial is the first time the stem cells will be tested on humans to determine effectiveness. “[R]esearchers…are using mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) in an attempt to slow or reverse the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. The team is aiming to enroll 30 patients who will be tested and observed for cognitive function, memory, quality of life and brain volume over the course of a year. Baumel and his team began investigating MSCs because of their anti-inflammatory properties and because they have shown the ability to develop into many different types of cells. The cells are also thought to promote neurogenesis, which allows the brain to produce new cells in the hippocampus, which is where new memory forms and Alzheimer’s disease begins.” The point of this study is to prove that this stem cell therapy is safe for people and could potentially slow down the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. (Fox)

While vegetable oil has been shown to lower cholesterol, it may not help extend your lifespan. Most advice in recent years has been to reduce saturated fat intake and replace it with unsaturated fats like vegetable oils in order to boost heart health. “The new report, which analyzed 40-year-old data from the Minnesota Coronary Experiment, found no association between lower cholesterol levels and longer life, suggesting that reducing the amount of saturated fat in the diet isn’t enough to reduce risk of death from heart disease. While the diet rich in vegetable oil did lower cholesterol levels over the 4-5 year study period, compared to a control group (who continued to eat saturated fat daily), the researchers found no change in the rate of death from heart-related ailments.”  Even though this particular study did not indicate that cholesterol and longevity are linked, “many studies show the benefit of statin medications to lower blood cholesterol, that are highly associated with a reduced risk of death.” (NBC)

A certain type of thyroid tumor is no longer considered cancerous. Doctors have renamed the tumor, “encapsulated follicular variant of papillary thyroid carcinoma” to “noninvasive follicular thyroid neoplasm with papillary-like nuclear features, or Niftp” – a change that could help many patients today and in the future. “[Doctors] have officially downgraded the condition and thousands of patients will be spared removal of their thyroid, treatment with radioactive iodine and regular checkups for the rest of their lives, all to protect against a tumor that was never a threat…The reclassified tumor is a small lump in the thyroid that is completely surrounded by a capsule of fibrous tissue. Its nucleus looks like a cancer but the cells have not broken out of their capsule, and surgery to remove the entire thyroid followed by treatment with radioactive iodine is unnecessary and harmful, the panel said.” This adjustment is projected to “affect about 10,000 of the nearly 65,000 thyroid cancer patients a year in the United States.” (NYT)