Researchers at the Univ. of Michigan have obtained the first three-dimensional snapshots of the “assembly line” within microorganisms that naturally produces antibiotics and other drugs.
Understanding the complete structure and movement within the molecular factory gives investigators a solid blueprint for redesigning the microbial assembly line to produce novel drugs of high medicinal value.
There is new hope for people suffering from depression. Researchers have identified a compound, hydroxynorketamine (HNK), which may treat symptoms of depression just as effectively and rapidly as ketamine, without the unwanted side effects associated with the psychoactive drug, according to a study in the July issue of Anesthesiology, the official medical journal of the American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA). Interestingly, use of HNK may also serve as a future therapeutic approach for treating neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, the authors note.
Discoveries Could Help Neutralize Chemical Weapons
Researchers at The Univ. of Tennessee are a step closer to creating a prophylactic drug that would neutralize the deadly effects of the chemical weapons used in Syria and elsewhere.
Jeremy Smith, UT-ORNL Governor’s Chair and an expert in computational biology, is part of the team that is trying to engineer enzymes — called bioscavengers — so they work more efficiently against chemical weapons. The work is a joint effort between scientists at UT, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and a French national laboratory in Grenoble. Their study was published recently in the Journal of Physical Chemistry.
Gauging Illicit Drug Use in Real-time Can Aid Police
The war on drugs could get a boost with a new method that analyzes sewage to track levels of illicit drug use in local communities in real-time. The new study, a first-of-its-kind in the U.S., was published in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology and could help law enforcement identify new drug hot spots and monitor whether anti-drug measures are working.
Kurunthachalam Kannan and Bikram Subedi note that to date, most methods to estimate drug use in the U.S. are based on surveys, crime statistics and drug seizures by law enforcement. But much illegal drug use happens off the radar. To better approximate usage, scientists have been turning to wastewater. Like a lot of other compounds from pharmaceuticals and personal care products to pesticides, illegal drugs and their metabolic byproducts also persist in sewage.
Scientists at EPFL have invented a molecule that can easily and quickly show how much drug is in a patient’s system. The molecule, now the basis of a start-up company, is expected to enable point-of-care therapeutic drug monitoring.
Monitoring the drug concentration in patients is critical for effective treatment, especially in cases of cancer, heart disease, epilepsy and immunosuppression after organ transplants. However, current methods are expensive, time-consuming, and require dedicated personnel and infrastructure away from the patient. Publishing in Nature Chemical Biology, scientists at EPFL introduce novel light-emitting sensor proteins that can quickly and simply show how much drug is in a patient’s bloodstream by changing the color of their light. The method is so simple that it could be used by patients themselves.
In one of the most ambitious attempts yet to thwart Alzheimer’s disease, a major study got underway Monday to see if an experimental drug can protect healthy seniors whose brains harbor silent signs that they’re at risk.
Scientists plan to eventually scan the brains of thousands of older volunteers in the U.S., Canada and Australia to find those with a sticky build-up believed to play a key role in development of Alzheimer’s — the first time so many people without memory problems get the chance to learn the potentially troubling news.
A new method for coupling together secondary and tertiary boronic esters to aromatic compounds that preserves the 3-D shape of the boronic ester has been described by researchers from the Univ. of Bristol in Nature Chemistry. The method could have widespread application in the development of new, more effective drugs.
The method, discovered by Prof. Varinder Aggarwal and colleagues in the School of Chemistry, fills a major gap in the Nobel prize-winning Suzuki-Miyaura reaction.
The city of Chicago is seeking damages in a lawsuit accusing five drugmakers of deceptively marketing a class of prescription painkiller that can be highly addictive.
The lawsuit filed in Cook County Circuit Court states the city has paid nearly $9.5 million for filling opioid prescriptions since 2007. It alleges the pharmaceutical companies’ marketing of opioids for long-term use to treat non-cancer pain was false, misleading and “unsupported by science.”
A North Dakota company that discovered an antibody technology while trying to cure flocks of dying geese is using its research for a more warm and fuzzy purpose: saving puppies.
Early tests performed on about 50 puppies in seven states, for Grand Forks-based Avianax, have resulted in a 90 percent cure rate for canine parvovirus, which spreads through animal waste and direct contact between dogs, usually at kennels, shelters and shows. Some puppies die from the virus and others are euthanized because the antibiotics and other medicine needed to treat it can be too expensive — sometimes up to $2,000 — and take too long.
For decades, seasonal allergy sufferers had two therapy options to ease the misery of hay fever. They could swallow pills or squirt nasal sprays every day for brief reprieves from the sneezing and itchy eyes. Or they could get allergy shots for years to gradually reduce their immune system’s over-reaction.
Now, patients can try another type of therapy to train their immune system, new once-a-day tablets that dissolve quickly under the tongue and steadily raise tolerance to grass or ragweed pollen, much like the shots.
Doctors may have found a way to help young breast cancer patients avoid infertility caused by chemotherapy. Being given a drug to shut down the ovaries temporarily seems to boost the odds they will work after treatment ends, and it might even improve survival, a study found.
"They’re really exciting findings" that could help thousands of women each year in the U.S. alone, says the study’s leader, Halle Moore of the Cleveland Clinic.
A substance that comes from pine bark is a potential source for a new treatment of melanoma, according to Penn State College of Medicine researchers.
Current melanoma drugs targeting single proteins can initially be effective, but resistance develops relatively quickly and the disease recurs. In those instances, resistance usually develops when the cancer cell’s circuitry bypasses the protein that the drug acts on, or when the cell uses other pathways to avoid the point on which the drug acts.
Soon, making and improving medical drugs could be as easy for chemists as stacking blocks is for a child. Univ. of Illinois chemist Martin Burke, a pioneer of a technique that constructs complex molecules from simple chemical “building blocks,” led a group that found that thousands of compounds in a class of molecules called polyenes – many of which have great potential as drugs – can be built simply and economically from a scant one dozen different building blocks.
“We want to understand how these molecules work, and synthesis is a very powerful engine to drive experiments that enable understanding,” says Burke, a chemistry professor at the U. of I. and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. “We think this is a really powerful road map for getting there.”
Microbes are not only a rich source of disease, but also a rich source of medicines, and experts think many life-saving compounds produced by as-yet-unnamed bacteria are awaiting discovery. But they don’t always give up their secrets easily. Researchers must know where to look to find promising bacteria, and how to get them to grow in the lab, the traditional route to identifying potentially valuable molecules they produce.
Researchers in Sean Brady’s Laboratory of Genetically Encoded Small Molecules at Rockefeller Univ. are working on a way around these roadblocks. By using genomic sequencing technology, they can investigate the organisms that live in habitats like soil without having to grow the microbes in the lab. They are using this information to map out the location of gene clusters they believe may encode novel antibiotics, and, with help from citizen scientists around the country, they are hoping to process soil samples from areas they would never be able to visit on their own.