Medical News Round-Up: Linking DNA Alterations to Type 2 Diabetes, Using CBD to Treat Heroin Abusers, and More.

Here are the top stories covered by DocWire News this week in the Homepage section. This week’s edition discusses a large-scale study that linked rare DNA alterations to type 2 diabetes, how the use of cannabidiol can help treat heroin abusers, a brain-based method for diagnosing autism, and how the consumption of sugary beverages correlates to increased mortality. 

Recently, an international team of researchers linked a number of rare DNA alterations to type 2 diabetes. They published their findings in Nature. In this study, researchers assessed gene data from 42,800 individuals from five self-reported ancestral backgrounds: 33.8% Hispanic/Latino, 24.6% European, 13.9% African American, 14.1% East-Asian, and 13.6% South-Asian. According to the study results, the researchers detected four genes with variants associated with increased diabetes risk.  Dr. Jose Florez, chief of the endocrine division and diabetes unit at Massachusetts General Hospital, a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, and director of the diabetes research group at the Broad Institute said that “the effects of these variations can be powerful, but because they are so rare, we still need to increase the sample size in order to really derive compelling insights.” 

The use of cannabidiol (CBD) could effectively treat patients with heroin addiction, mitigating their cravings and anxiety, according to the findings of a study published in The American Journal of Psychiatry. In this double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized clinical trial, researchers evaluated the acute, short-term, and long-term effects of CBD on drug-induced cravings and anxiety in 42 drug-abstinent individuals with heroin use disorder. Results of the study indicated that acute CBD administration notably reduced cravings compared to placebo, and perceptibly reduced both craving and anxiety induced by the presentation of primary drug cues compared with neutral cues. Dr. Julie Holland, a psychiatrist in New York and former assistant professor of psychiatry at the New York University School of Medicine, who was not involved in the study, said “we need to utilize every possible treatment in helping people with chronic pain to find other ways to manage their symptoms and in people with opiate addiction to find relief.” 

Scientists have potentially uncovered a brain-based method for diagnosing autism spectrum disorder (ASD) with the use of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and picture stimuli designed to elicit a response in a specific region of the brain, according to a study published in Biological Psychology. The study comprised 40 participants (age range, 6-18 years old), of which 12 had ASD and 28 were TD. Participants were prompted to view images of four faces and four objects, which were placed on a projection screen and viewed through a mirror during fMRI scanning. Results of the study indicate that the vmPFC elicited a stronger response to favorite pictures in TD children, but not in children in ASD. The researchers were able to differentiate the ASD and TD cohorts after just 30 seconds of fMRI data capturing single stimulus images.  The study’s lead investigator stated, “how the brain responded to these pictures is consistent with our hypothesis that the brains of children with autism do not encode the value of social exchange in the same way as typically developing children.” 

The consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) and 100% fruit juices are associated with increased all-cause mortality among adults in the US, according to a study published in JAMA. In this secondary analysis cohort study, researchers obtained data from participants who were previously enrolled in the Reasons for Geographic and Racial Differences in Stroke (REGARDS) Study, a cohort study intended to identify factors that contribute to increased mortality among people living in the southeast US as well black Americans. The REGARDS study enrolled 30,183 non-Hispanic black and white adults, ages ≥45 at baseline from February 2003 to October 2007, with follow-ups performed every six months through 2013. “Given the prominent role that sugary beverages play in the US diet, these results provide support for public health efforts to reduce consumption,” the study authors wrote.