Scientists have solved a decades-old medical mystery – and in the process have found a potentially less toxic way to fight invasive fungal infections, which kill about 1.5 million people a year. The researchers say they now understand the mechanism of action of amphotericin, an antifungal drug that has been in use for more than 50 years – even though it is nearly as toxic to human cells as it is to the microbes it attacks.
“Invasive fungal infections are a very important unmet medical need,” says Univ. of Illinois and Howard Hughes Medical Institute chemistry professor Martin Burke, who led the study with chemistry professor Chad Rienstra. “There are about three million cases per year and what’s striking is that, even in 2014, half the patients who come into the hospital with an invasive fungal infection in their blood die.”
Delivering chemotherapy drugs in nanoparticle form could help reduce side effects by targeting the drugs directly to the tumors. In recent years, scientists have developed nanoparticles that deliver one or two chemotherapy drugs, but it has been difficult to design particles that can carry any more than that in a precise ratio.
Now, MIT chemists have devised a new way to build such nanoparticles, making it much easier to include three or more different drugs. In a paper published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society, the researchers showed that they could load their particles with three drugs commonly used to treat ovarian cancer.
Treatment options for the 170 million people worldwide with chronic Hepatitis C Virus (HCV) are evolving rapidly, although the available regimens often come with significant side effects. Two multi-center clinical trials led by Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center show promise for a new option that could help lead to an increase in patients cured with a much more simple and tolerable all oral therapy.
A new 12-week single tablet regimen of ledipasvir and sofosbuvir have proven to be highly effective in treating a broad range of patients with HCV genotype 1, a form of the virus found in up to 75 percent of infections, according to results unveiled at the European Association for the Study of the Liver and published online by the New England Journal of Medicine.
Builders and factory workers know that getting a job done right requires precision and specialized tools. The same is true when you’re building antibiotic compounds at the molecular level. New findings from North Carolina State Univ. may turn an enzyme that acts as a specialized “wrench” in antibiotic assembly into a set of wrenches that will allow for greater customization. By modifying this enzyme, scientists hope to be able to design and synthesize stronger, more adaptable antibiotics from less expensive, natural compounds.
Kirromycin is a commonly known antibiotic that can be created through natural synthesis; that is, it doesn’t have to be made in a chemistry lab. Nature creates compounds like kirromycin through a factory-like assembly line of enzymes where each performs a specific function, snapping different fragments of molecules together like a jigsaw puzzle. Understanding this process on the molecular level could give chemists the ability to piggyback on nature, synthesizing new antibiotics and cancer drugs with less waste and expense.
Average life expectancy has nearly doubled since 1800, thanks to progress in medicine. Most of that was made by developing drugs and improving public health services. The medical revolution of the 21st century is going to be different. With greater understanding of our genes, we will need treatments that are more personalized.
In pursuit of that goal, researchers have developed a wearable patch that can monitor your health, store and transmit data and deliver drugs when needed. Such a device has instant applications for those suffering from diabetes or heart diseases. In the future it could be used more generally, to keep track of health.
Just a few short weeks ago, dimethyl fumarate was approved in Europe as a basic therapy for multiple sclerosis. Although its efficacy has been established in clinical studies, its underlying mode of action was still unknown, but scientists from Bad Nauheim’s Max Planck Institute for Heart and Lung Research and the Univ. of Lübeck have now managed to decode it. They hope that this knowledge will help them develop more effective therapeutic agents.
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a chronic inflammatory disease of the central nervous system that affects nerve fibers in the brain and spinal cord by damaging their protective myelin sheath. The cause of multiple sclerosis is unknown and the disease has no cure to date, but a range of treatments are available that can have a positive influence on its course.
The molecular details of how zinc, an essential trace element of human metabolism, interacts with the enzyme caspase-3, which is central to apoptosis or cell death, have been elucidated in a new study led by researchers at Virginia Commonwealth Univ. The study is featured on the cover of the April issue of the journal Angewandte Chemie’s International Edition.
Dysregulation of apoptosis is implicated in cancer and neurodegenerative disease such as Alzheimer’s disease. Zinc is known to affect the process by inhibiting the activity of caspases, which are important drug targets for the treatment of the above conditions. The findings may help researchers design therapeutic agents that target zinc-caspase interaction to specifically control the activity of caspases, and hence, apoptosis.
It doesn’t take long for the flu virus to outsmart Tamiflu. EPFL scientists have developed a tool that reveals the mutations that make the virus resistant, and they have identified new mutations that may render ineffective one of the few treatments currently available on the market.
Tamiflu is one of the few available treatments for those who come down with the flu. But the virus quickly develops resistance; multiplying at a rate of several generations a day, these tiny pathogens rapidly accumulate genetic mutations. Because of this, they have a good chance of developing counterattacks to the antiviral. How can these infinitesimal variations be identified within the immensity of the virus’ genetic code? EPFL researchers have created a computer tool that can shed light on the flu virus’ formidable adaptability. They were able to find mutations that conferred resistance that had up to this point not yet been identified. Their software has been made freely available to researchers everywhere, and is the subject of an article published in the journal PLOS Genetics.
Using magnetically controlled nanoparticles to force tumor cells to self-destruct sounds like science fiction, but could be a future part of cancer treatment, according to research from Lund Univ.
“The clever thing about the technique is that we can target selected cells without harming surrounding tissue. There are many ways to kill cells, but this method is contained and remote-controlled,” says Prof. Erik Renström.
Test May Reduce Animal Tests for Asthma, Allergy Meds
To determine whether new medicines are safe and effective for humans, researchers must first test them in animals, which is costly and time-consuming, as well as ethically challenging. In a study published in ACS’ journal Molecular Pharmaceutics, scientists report that they’ve developed a simple, “3-D” laboratory method to test asthma and allergy medications that mimics what happens in the body, which could help reduce the need for animal testing.
A derivative of vitamin A, known as retinoic acid, found abundantly in sweet potato and carrots, helps turn pre-cancer cells back to normal healthy breast cells, according to research published this month in the International Journal of Oncology. The research could help explain why some clinical studies have been unable to see a benefit of vitamin A on cancer: the vitamin doesn’t appear to change the course of full-blown cancer, only pre-cancerous cells, and only works at a very narrow dose.
The Supreme Court is wading into a patent dispute between rival pharmaceutical companies over a multiple sclerosis treatment.
The justices agreed Monday to hear an appeal from Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd., which claims the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit wrongly overturned five of its patents for the drug Copaxone.
Oral Pain Reliever May Be Derived from Snail Venom
Scientists reported they have created at least five new experimental substances — based on a tiny protein found in cone snail venom — that could someday lead to the development of safe and effective oral medications for treatment of chronic nerve pain. They say the substances could potentially be stronger than morphine, with fewer side effects and lower risk of abuse.
“This is an important incremental step that could serve as the blueprint for the development of a whole new class of drugs capable of relieving one of the most severe forms of chronic pain that is currently very difficult to treat,” says David Craik, who led the study.
The head of the Food and Drug Administration says that the much-debated painkiller Zohydro fills an “important and unique niche” for treating pain.
Margaret Hamburg defended her agency’s decision to clear the drug during questioning before the Senate’s committee on health, saying that the pill from Zogenix Inc. met the government’s standards for safety and effectiveness.