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Living in the Future: Alzheimer’s Vaccine, Mercury Treaties, and Hospital Sterilization with UV Light

This week on We Are Living in the Future:

Scientists in Quebec develop a way to stimulate the brain’s own defenses against Alzheimer’s, and is starting the work to develop an effective Alzheimer’s vaccine. One of the major issues in Alzheimer’s disease research has been in combating the toxic molecule “amyloid beta”. The brain is generally unable to eliminate the substance, but thanks to a substance known as MPL, which has been used in other vaccines for years, the microglial cells in the brain can be “awakened” to the threat of amyloid beta and remove its buildup. In trials with mice, the vaccine restores 80% of functionality, and the mice were able to learn new tasks much more easily.

An internationally binding treaty was signed on Saturday in Geneva, intended to reduce mercury pollution from mining and other sources. Mercury is one of the most toxic chemicals as it builds up in the food chain, and even in small amounts, can cause brain and kidney damage, memory loss, and language impairment. This treaty is expected to be presented before the UN later this year, but has been adopted already by more than 140 countries.

In the world of hospitals, nothing is more scary than patients becoming infected with a disease within the hospital itself. Now, a new option for sterilization has become available. Bleach, the most commonly used cleaning option, is effective, but must be sprayed liberally over all surfaces in a room, and then cleaned away, making its application time consuming and potentially vulnerable to time constraints. In order to prevent the nearly 45 billion dollars in hospital costs for patients infected in the hospital, a medical company named Xenex has produced a UV sterilizer, which pulses intense UV light, killing bacteria and viruses in all directions. Because it’s a setup-and-leave sterilizer, it saves hospital staff valuable time as well as being more effective than bleach. The hospitals using the UV sterilizer have already seen an 80% drop in hospital-acquired infections.