Plant-derived Nanotubes Enable Personalized DNA Delivery
Personalized medicine took one step closer to reality recently with the development of plant-derived nanotubes.
These nanotubes – tiny structures several hundred times thinner than a human hair – hone in on specific tissues in the body and deliver their cargo, in this study’s case, a healthy gene to help override a dysfunctional copy. Nanotubes have many uses, such as delivering chemotherapy drugs directly to a tumor. As of now, chemotherapy is delivered to the entire system and often causes damage to healthy tissue. Using this direct-delivery method, chemotherapy can maximize its effectiveness on tumors while minimizing harm to healthy tissue.
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.”
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.
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.
Chemotherapeutic drugs excel at fighting cancer, but they’re not so efficient at getting where they need to go. They often interact with blood, bone marrow and other healthy bodily systems. This dilutes the drugs and causes unwanted side effects.
Now, researchers are developing a better delivery method by encapsulating the drugs in nanoballoons, tiny modified liposomes that — upon being struck by a red laser — pop open and deliver concentrated doses of medicine.
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.
Researchers from UC San Diego Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, in collaboration with material scientists, engineers and neurobiologists, have discovered a new mechanism for using light to activate drug-delivering nanoparticles and other targeted therapeutic substances inside the body.
This discovery represents a major innovation, says Adah Almutairi, associate professor and director of the joint UC San Diego-KACST Center of Excellence in Nanomedicine. Up to now, she says, only a handful of strategies using light-triggered release from nanoparticles have been reported.
Using a new gene-editing system based on bacterial proteins, MIT researchers have cured mice of a rare liver disorder caused by a single genetic mutation.
The findings, described in Nature Biotechnology, offer the first evidence that this gene-editing technique, known as CRISPR, can reverse disease symptoms in living animals. CRISPR, which offers an easy way to snip out mutated DNA and replace it with the correct sequence, holds potential for treating many genetic disorders, according to the research team.
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 media are always fascinated by medical “breakthrough” stories: tales of hope that scientists have found cures for our most threatening diseases and tales of woe that our lifestyles are doing us harm. All too often these stories portray the underlying science as conclusive, when at best it is speculative.
Uncertainty does not grab headlines. Successful careers are being forged by our more numerate journalists in dissecting the overblown claims – for example the Guardian’s Bad Science column and Radio 4’s More or Less provide expositions of the lack of substance in these stories, often through detailed examination of the statistical evidence. The Royal Statistical Society champions good statistical reporting, presenting annual awards for Statistical Excellence in Journalism.
A small filter the size of a contact lens could possibly make life easier for some of the estimated 500 million people worldwide who suffer from itching, sneezing and a runny nose as soon as the pollen season starts.
A clinical study from Aarhus Univ. concludes that a newly developed Danish mini-filter — Rhinix — appears to be significantly more effective against the discomfort of seasonal hay fever than a filter-less placebo.
A single injection of stem cells into degenerative discs reduced low back pain for at least 12 months, according to results of a 100-patient, phase II, international clinical trial that included researchers at the Emory Orthopaedics & Spine Center.
W. Jeremy Beckworth, assistant professor of Orthopaedics and Rehab Medicine, was part of the trial that used injections of bone marrow stem cells called mesenchymal precursor cells (MPCs) to reduce pain. On average researchers found a pain reduction greater than 50 percent at 12 months. Additionally, there was less need for pain medication, improvement in function and less need for further surgical and non-surgical spine interventions. These results were found in patients with moderate to severe discogenic low back pain.
Fast, Effective Mechanism Combats Aggressive Cancer
Ovarian cancer accounts for more deaths of American women than any other cancer of the female reproductive system. According to the American Cancer Society, one in 72 American women will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer, and one in 100 will ultimately die of the condition.
Now Prof. Dan Peer of Tel Aviv Univ.’s Department of Cell Research and Immunology has proposed a new strategy to tackle an aggressive subtype of ovarian cancer using a new nanoscale drug delivery system designed to target specific cancer cells. He and his team — Keren Cohen and Rafi Emmanuel from Peer’s Laboratory of Nanomedicine and Einat Kisin-Finfer and Doron Shabbat, from TAU’s Department of Chemistry — have devised a cluster of nanoparticles called gagomers, made of fats and coated with a kind of polysugar. When filled with chemotherapy drugs, these clusters accumulate in tumors, producing dramatically therapeutic benefits.
The debut of cyborgs who are part human and part machine may be a long way off, but researchers say they now may be getting closer. In a study published in ACS’ journal Nano Letters, they report development of a coating that makes nanoelectronics much more stable in conditions mimicking those in the human body. The advance could also aid in the development of very small implanted medical devices for monitoring health and disease.
Innovation Enables Faster Decisions on Cancer Treatment
Oncologists and cancer patients could improve the results of drug therapies by making real-time decisions about treatment options using an innovation developed by a researcher in Purdue Univ.’s College of Pharmacy.
Laurie Parker, assistant professor of medicinal chemistry and molecular pharmacology, is developing a method to detect if cancer-inhibiting drugs are entirely blocking the activity of enzymes, called kinases, in tumor cells. Several kinases are linked to cancer development. If a drug therapy only partially blocks kinase activity, the cells that survive could become a stronger tumor and develop a resistance to the drug.