Imperial College London: Blood pressure control and mask immunotherapy: News from the College

From an analysis of the benefits of intensive blood pressure control in older patients, to a new method for treating cancers with immunotherapy, here is some quick-read news from across the College.

Blood pressure treatment analysis
A man uses a device to test his blood pressure. Although studies have shown there is clinical benefit from intensive blood pressure control in older hypertensive patients, there are also impactful harms associated with such treatment, such as fainting and falls.

An analysis of six large randomised controlled trials by researchers, including Imperial’s Dr Victoria Cornelius, has shown that intensive blood pressure treatment could benefit older people (≥60 years) who have a long-life expectancy (>3 years), but it may not be suitable for those who are not expected to live less than one year.

The results could be used by clinicians to better judge individual benefit for their patients against potential risks from such treatment.

Dr Cornelius, a senior author of the study, from Imperial’s Clinical Trials Unit, said: “This important research helps us to answer the question of whether to prescribe intensive blood pressure control in the elderly.

“It shows us that patients with less than one year of life expectancy may have limited chance to receive the clinical benefit.”

Zirconium for electrodes
A diagram from the zirconium study.Resistive switching memory (ReRAM) is a data storage system that can read, write, and retain data without external power by changing the resistance state. Niloufar Raeis-Hosseini of the Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering looked at using zirconium (Zr) for the next generation of nonvolatile nanoelectronics like ReRAM. Inspired by natural memory, they emulated some basic functionalities of the human brain in the form of artificial synapses using pulse schemes. The research was done in collaboration with Ilia Valov at the Juelich Research Centre in Germany.

The work could have immediate technical implications since the researchers’ methods can be used for many other functional nanoelectronic devices, such as energy conversion/storage devices, sensors, and memristors with applications in neuromorphic computing.

Masked immunotherapy
An illustration showing green smoke behind a surgical mask.Proteins called interleukins are used as part of immunotherapy to treat certain cancers – however immunotherapies can have serious side effects because of the way they interact with the immune system. Now Dr Jun Ishihara at the Department of Bioengineering and his team have used protein engineering to ‘mask’ interleukins so they can ‘hide’ from the immune system successfully in mice. These masks can be removed once they reach the tumour.

They found that the therapy achieved eradication of some mouse cancers without detectable side effects and, if translated into the clinic, the protein engineering approach could help the advancement of immunotherapy for cancer.

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