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Health

Ontario researchers invent way to store vaccines at higher temperatures

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Ontario researchers say they’ve come up with a simple way to store vaccines at higher temperatures for weeks at a time, potentially solving a major problem in the fight against preventable diseases around the world.

The cheap technology from the team at McMaster University involves the use of a sugary gel that allows for easier, longer shipments of vaccines that typically need to be consistently stored at cold temperatures.

“If we can make vaccines easier and more accessible through technology, then we can save a lot of lives,” said Vincent Leung, a chemical engineering professor and the lead author of the study that was published Tuesday in the journal Scientific Reports.

Most vaccines require the “cold chain,” an uninterrupted refrigerated supply chain where they’re stored at temperatures between 2 C and 8 C at all times. Otherwise, the effectiveness of vaccines can be greatly affected, the study notes.

Leung worked for four years on the project as part of his doctoral research and had help from other disciplines, including biochemists and immunologists, he said.

The solution the researchers devised is simple.

McMaster chemical engineers had previously created a sugary gel for use in various applications, including an edible coating that can prolong the shelf life of fruits and vegetables.

The research team mixed two sugars — pullulan and trehalose — with the vaccines and let them dry, either by air, or vacuum to speed up the process. The gel seals in the vaccine, which can later be reconstituted with water by clinicians in the field and given to patients.

“It’s easier to think of Listerine breath strips because that’s the main material,” Leung explained. “It will form a film like that, then (is) put into a vial for deployment.”

For the study, the research team stored mixtures of the sugary gel and numerous vaccine types at various temperatures for different lengths of time and then tested the vaccines.

They found, for example, that “enveloped DNA vaccines” that usually require consistent cold storage, such as the herpes simplex virus type 2 vaccine, retained their efficacy for at least two months of storage at 40 C with the use of the sugary gel. The team also showed the inactivated influenza vaccine remained effective after three months of storage at 40 C.

“This can really improve deployment and give easier access to those that don’t have refrigeration or access to electricity,” Leung said.

The fact that the dried gel vaccine can easily be reconstituted by clinicians in the field could make the storage and transportation method invaluable in certain situations, such as the delivery of Ebola vaccines in remote areas of Africa.

“Part of our goal was to have a very simple and cost-effective solution to address this accessibility issue for vaccines,” Leung said.

The research team is now looking at partnerships and more funding to further develop the technology, and is also going through the proper regulatory procedures to be approved by the likes of Health Canada and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

“The good thing is the sugars we’re using are already used in the food and drug industry and approved by FDA and Health Canada,” Leung said. “On that end, it should not be as hard to get it approved.”

Liam Casey, The Canadian Press

Community

Edmonton community members explore using the Emergency Room as an entry point to transitional housing

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Is there a better way than simply releasing a person experiencing homelessness from the hospital back onto the street? It creates an endless cycle of emergency room visits and escalating costs, not to mention the challenges the patients face in having a successful recovery.

As we continue to look for solutions to homelessness in our city, a group of community members from different fields and backgrounds met recently to brainstorm and discuss alternatives to the practice of releasing patients into a state of homelessness.

That’s a long way of saying that if someone experiencing homelessness comes to an emergency room with a need for medical aid, the only alternative once treated is to release the patient back onto the street.  The chances of recovery are greatly diminished, while the probability of return visits increases.  The costs are severe, both to the person experiencing homelessness and to our ever-more expensive health care system.

Spearheading the initiative is Dr. Louis Hugo Francescutti, a veteran emergency room physician at the Royal Alexandra Hospital and a Professor at the School of Public Health at the University of Alberta.

Watch this short video to hear from some of those involved and to better understand the concept and learn why there is a growing groundswell of support for this idea.

 

There are many ways that people can get involved with this initiative.  It’s common sense that housing and health are interconnected. Finding solutions to chronic homelessness and easing pressure on our health care system is something we can all get behind.

Please contact Dr. Louis Hugo Francescutti directly to learn more about the project and how you can help:

Phone 780.932-7187

lfrances@ualberta.ca

 

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Community

Canada’s First Female Astronaut coming to Red Deer for Health Fundraiser

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From the Red Deer Regional Health Foundation

The world’s first neurologist in space is coming to Red Deer

The Red Deer Hospital fundraiser also features comedians from CBC Radio’s “The Debaters”

Red Deer Regional Health Foundation is pleased to announce a new event, The Lunch Box Experience, featuring three of Canada’s brightest stars, all coming together over lunch to raise funds for critical equipment for Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre.

Dr. Roberta Bondar, Canada’s first female astronaut and first neurologist in space, will be the keynote speaker on Monday, September 23, 2019 at Cambridge Red Deer Hotel & Conference Centre.  To motivate and inspire audiences, Dr. Bondar draws on her remarkable depth of expertise as an astronaut, physician, scientific researcher, author, and leader.

This is Dr. Bondar’s first visit to Central Alberta, and may be your only chance to experience this extraordinary woman in person.

 

Also performing are Erica Sigurdson and Dave Hemstad, comedians both regularly featured on CBC Radio’s smash hit The Debaters.  After lunch you’ll enjoy hysterical standup from both Erica and Dave, plus an episode of witty debater-style banter that will have you in stitches!

Tickets are $125 per person or table of 6 for $700; includes a unique lunch and are available now.

The Lunch Box Experience, formally part of the Red Deer Festival of Trees event line-up (Festival Business Lunch) is a fresh, new business networking opportunity.

Proceeds from this event will go towards ceiling-mounted patient lifts at Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre.

For more information, tickets, or sponsorship opportunities, please visit

The Lunch Box Experience:  A Red Deer Hospital Fundraiser

WHEN:     Monday, September 23, 2019

11:00am – 1:30pm

Cambridge Red Deer Hotel & Conference Centre

 

 

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