News in brief: MDMA-analogues to be tested as neurological treatment; ‘First brain’ theory supported for enteric nervous system, Long COVID uncommon in children, research finds

12 Aug 2021

Drug developer looks to trip over new MDMA-like treatment

Next generation neurological treatments could come from the University of Western Australia’s (UWA) MDMA analogue library, according to a healthcare technology and drug development company.

Emyria has secured the rights to over 100 MDMA analogues and will pay $491,000 over 12 months to help determine their neurological effects and therapeutic potential. New compounds will be also designed and synthesised to expand the library, the university wrote in a media release.

MDMA has recently demonstrated benefits in post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), particularly when accompanying psychotherapy, they wrote.

“With careful guidance, MDMA allows PTSD patients to open up and address distressing memories, facilitating recovery.”

“However, the drug has a long duration of action and side-effects that make it non-ideal for psychotherapy.”

Emyria is working to develop safe and effective MDMA analogues so they can become registered treatments for major psychiatric and neurological disorders, the media release read.

ENS propulsion mechanisms “more complex” than expected

A study describing propulsion mechanisms in the large intestine has added weight to the “first brain” theory of the enteric nervous system (ENS), according to Australian researchers.

The Flinders University-led study found that fluid propulsion was driven by “synchronous firing of the descending inhibitory nerve pathways over long ranges aborally [which] acts to suppress smooth muscle from contracting, counteracting the excitatory nerve pathways over this same region of colon”, thus delaying contraction downstream of the existing contraction.

“The mechanism identified is more complex than expected and vastly different from fluid propulsion along other hollow smooth muscle organs; like lymphatic vessels, portal vein, or ureters, that evolved without intrinsic neurons,” the authors wrote in Communications Biology.

“Synchronisation of neuronal activity across large populations of neurons is common in the nervous system of many vertebrate animals,” Flinders University Professor Nick Spencer said in a media release.

“The study suggests that the ENS in the gut is the ‘first brain’ and evolved long before the brain as we know it, in humans.”

Long COVID uncommon in children, research finds

Children who develop COVID-19 typically have mild illness and recover within a week, with just 4.4% experiencing symptoms beyond a month and almost all recovering fully by eight weeks, a large UK study has found.

Researchers from King’s College London said their findings suggest that long illness duration after infection with SARS-CoV-2 “appears less common in children than in adults”.

The study, published in the journal Lancet Child and Adolescent Health, looked at data reported to the ZOE COVID app between 1 September 2020 and 22 February 2021, during which time 1,734 children developed symptoms of COVID-19 and received a positive PCR test.

The data showed that children were ill for an average of six days. Older children were generally ill for longer than primary school aged children (an average of 7 days in 12-17 year olds versus 5 days in 5-11 year olds), and were also more likely to experience symptoms after the four-week mark (5.1% vs 3.1%, respectively).

Also, children in the cohort experienced an average of three symptoms in the first week of illness, most commonly headache (62.2%), fatigue (55.0%), anosmia and dysosmia (39.6%), fever (37.7%) and persistent cough (25.5%).

Typically, only two symptoms remained in those experiencing symptoms after a month, the most common being fatigue. However, almost all children had symptom resolution by eight weeks, “providing reassurance about long-term outcomes”, the researchers said.

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