Disease (5)

21 Aug 2013

See the link below for a disease that has affected about 100 people in the US since 1960. It is contracted by swimming in a few lakes which have sediment that can stir up amoeba. This amoeba called Naegleria Fowlerie and can infect the neurons through the nasal cavity. Eating their way through neurons from the neural cavity to the brain causes almost a complete destruction of the brain.

This is such a fascinating study topic since these amoeba are only found in warm lakes and they have to infect a people through their noses.

Is this a “Neglected disease”? Is this important to work on ? Yes. However, it leads to questioning what is an important disease to work on? Is a neglected disease one in which many more people are affected but still less than a full blown epidemic?

How does a scientist choose to work on a neglected disease ? How do they make a decision on the topic to work on that is important? It is possible that most scientist decide to work on a topic that pique’s their curiosity rather than label a disease – Neglected disease.

16 Aug 2013

Targets for cancer therapy initially were very specific cell division targets. Nowadays, the targets have become very cancer specific, for e.g. targeting the BCR-ABL to target Chronic Myeloid Leukemia. However, a scientist in Australia has come up with a target that is very unlikely – tropomyosin.

Tropomyosin is a protein that along with actin is responsible for cellular structure. It is present in every cell and is an important requirement for the survival of the cell.

Dr Gunning has found differences in tropomyosin between the heart and cancer cells and has developed drug therapy in his lab that causes the cellular structure of cancer cell to specifically break down. Tropomyosin and actin together can specifically work as a sensor for apoptosis. Thus creating specific drugs that modulate the tropomyosin inside the cancer cell can affect the cancer specifically.

However, though the tropomyosin in the heart maybe different from that in the cancer cell, it remains to be seen how the therapy can spare normal cells and specifically kill cancer cells.

Watch the video and then Read more about the work in the link below.

07 May 2013

The news story today is about Concert Pharmaceuticals partnering with Celgene to develop Concert’s deuterated compounds. Concert and Auspex are two pharmaceutical companies pursuing the deuterated compound as a unique drugs but the science is a bit of a mystery.

Hydrogen and its isotope Deuterium exists in nature and thus any compound will exist in its native version with some deuterated hydrogen. These drug companies hope that using the deuterated version of the chemical compound will change its binding property and its metabolism for the better. These companies have convinced some Pharma companies that their drugs are worth investing and will be better from biological point of view but also from a patent point of view.

This issue has been going on since a long time as the Nature link below in 2009 points out. Wonder what the reality is…

11 Feb 2013

It is postulated that the high nitrate content in beetroot is responsible for its ability to reduce the blood pressure. Circulation. 2012 June 12; 125(23): 2922–2932, Hypertension. 2008 March; 51(3): 784–790.

The benefit of beetroot juice in reducing the blood pressure is worth cosidering. About 17.6 ounce of juice (3 parts of beetroot and 1 part of apple juice) reduced the blood pressure by 4-5 points, on an average. Reduced endogenous nitric oxide (NO) is associated with hypertension. Dietary inorganic nitrate (NO3-) is absorbed rapidly and completely in the proximal small intestine with 100% bioavailability. Approximately 25% of the nitrate circulating in the plasma is then concentrated in the salivary glands and secreted into the mouth where around 20% (or ≈ 5 – 8% of intake) is converted to nitrite (NO2-) by commensal bacteria on the tongue and subsequently swallowed. Upon reaching the stomach the NO2- is either absorbed directly or reduced to NO as a result of the acidic environment of the stomach. Endogenously produced NO and NO2- are vasoprotective agents and therefore can increase vasodilation, decrease blood pressure and improve cardiovascular function.

There are other pathways that control blood pressure but it is possible that modulating one arm of the pathway may also be effective.

18 Jan 2013

Guinea worm disease or Dracunculiasis is a disease that has been around since a long time. The Guinea worm has been found on mummies and it has been mentioned in several holy books. Nowadays, it only exists in a few parts of Africa in very low amounts and is close to eradication.

Surprisingly, the eradication did not come from some new pharmaceuticals, new vaccine, new drug or even a new diagnostic. It really comes from understanding its life cycle and finding the cheapest solution to eradicate it.

Guinea worm spreads through water. The worm larvae are found in untreated water in the rainy season. These larvae are hosted in water fleas Genus Cyclops. As people ingest water contaminated by the copepods, the larvae enter circulation. Later in the stomach the fleas are digested by the stomach acid and the larvae are released. These larvae then infect the stomach and grow within the tissues of the body. Evolutionarily designed to spread, these worms then end of lower extremities causing significant pain and suffering. Near the feet, they emerge through a pustule, eliciting a feeling of intense burning. The instinct of the person is to dip the foot in water, which releases fresh larvae into the water body. The worm thus propogates the cycle.

The eradication is come from the simplest means to stop the water cycle. As people stop drinking contaminated water the cycle of the worm is broken. All that is required is to convince people to drink water that has been filtered or boiled. In parts of rural Africa this has been implemented through feet-on-the-ground effort by several agencies requesting filtering of water, or distribution of filters, building and maintaining adequate drinking water supplies. The person who are infected are treated by gently removing the worm from the body over days or weeks coiling it onto a piece of wood/stick/plastic.

The almost complete eradication has been achieved without any drugs or modern medicine and makes one realize that understanding the parasite was important rather than billions of dollars in research in drugs, tests or vaccines. Though this will not work in every disease, it is important to understand that a) even a single infected cow, horse or other infected animal will re-initiate the cycle and b) diseases take a long time to disappear.

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