Tag Archives: treatment

Spiders and erectile dysfunction: a reason to get excited!

google free brazilian wandering spiderFor most people, the sight of a spider isn’t cause for good news. Instead, these eight-legged creatures often bring out the worst in people, causing voices to jump up an octave or two. So it may be surprising that a poisonous spider would prompt excitement from anyone other than a dedicated entomologist. But actually, patients with erectile dysfunction may be pretty excited about the prospects of clinical applications for a particular spider’s venom!

The Brazilian Wandering Spider may be the world’s most toxic spider. With a leg-span of up to five inches, and a deadly neurotoxin on board, this spider is definitely one for your nightmares.

If a man is bitten, one side effect can be a painful erection that lasts for hours, potentially causing permanent damage. But researchers investigated further and extracted a particular toxin (PnTx2-6) from the venom. They found that it increases the availability of nitric oxide, which dilates blood vessels and increases blood flow. In rats with erectile dysfunction, researchers saw promising results!

As the toxin works differently than erectile dysfunction drugs that are on the market today, it’s possible that therapies using this toxin could be effective treatments for erectile dysfunction in patients that haven’t responded to conventional therapies. This isn’t the first time scientists have looked towards venomous animals to provide inspiration for human therapies- read more about tarantula and centipede venom as pain medications, and snake venom for cancer treatments and possible treatments for heart disease. It will be interesting to see if spider venom can help human patients with ED- stay tuned for more research!

New drug reduces blood clots without increasing bleeding risk

iStock_000000529518SmallIt’s pretty likely that you’ve injured yourself at some point or another and experienced a break in your skin that caused bleeding. Skinned knees, paper cuts, hangnails- we’ve all been there. Initially, these injuries can bleed quite a bit, but after a few minutes the bleeding slows and eventually stops.

This is a normal defense mechanism- kind of like your body’s version of a Band-Aid. Platelets clump together to form clots over injuries in order to slow the bleeding and protect your body. But if blood clots form inside veins or arteries, they can slow or even stop blood flow to vital parts of the body and cause serious damage, including heart attacks and strokes.

To prevent or treat blood clots, at-risk patients are usually given blood-thinning drugs. However, these oral medications can spread throughout the body, so the risk of bleeding is also increased.

However, new research could change that. A new drug has proven to be effective in reducing blood clots in dogs and mice without increasing the risk of bleeding! The enzyme in this drug regulates platelet clumping, and it can be injected near the blood clot to work in the desired area without causing unwanted bleeding in other locations.

This type of drug could make a huge difference to patients currently taking blood thinners. The next steps will likely include human trials to determine if results in animals are an indication of the drug’s chances for success in humans. Read more about it here:

http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn26033-targeted-clotbusting-drug-wont-boost-bleeding-risk.html#.U-q-0fldWSp

Alzheimer’s Disease successfully reversed in mice!

alzheimer's freeThe incidence of Alzheimer’s Disease is increasing, and it’s projected that by the year 2050, the number of people with Alzheimer’s could triple. But new research could change that: researchers have discovered a drug compound that has successfully reversed the effects of Alzheimer’s disease in mice! After just one dose of this compound, called TC-2153, mice with Alzheimer’s were able to learn just as well as healthy mice!

Here’s how they figured it out: the protein STEP (STriatal-Enriched tyrosine Phosphatase) attacks neurotransmitters in the brain and prevents patients with Alzheimer’s from learning and retaining new information. STEP levels are often elevated in patients with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Disease. Knowing this, researchers turned to mice for help. They previously found that when Alzheimer’s mouse models (mice that are genetically engineered to develop the disease) had lowered levels of STEP, their cognitive abilities were similar to those of unaffected mice. The problem is that researchers could genetically lower STEP levels in mice- but you can’t do that in humans.

The understanding of STEP’s role in the disease led researchers to search for different compounds that could block it. And it appears that they’ve succeeded! More research is certainly needed to determine whether or not TC-2153 will work in other animals, and possibly humans, but the identification of this STEP-inhibiting compound is certainly good news! Read more about it here: http://www.newsweek.com/alzheimers-cure-worked-mice-compound-tc-2153-263171

Chronic pain sufferers: emotional effects, explained

girl sits in a depression on the floor near the wallPeople suffering from chronic pain often have to deal with depression and lack of motivation. It can be difficult to explain to friends and family who say “Just get out and DO something… it will make you feel better!” But now, there’s some science behind the lack of motivation felt by chronic pain sufferers.

Chronic pain, as debilitating as it may be, actually has a purpose. It serves to limit your behavior in such a way as to promote healing and prevent further injuries. And in the process of preventing you from further damage, chronic pain may actually rewire your brain in a way that decreases your motivation.

Researchers found that mice with chronic pain showed decreased motivation, even when they were given painkillers. They looked at a specific area in the brain associated with pain and motivation and found that nerve cells weren’t firing properly. They found that a specific chemical, called galanin, was the key. When galanin receptors were inactivated in this area, neurons began firing properly, and injured mice showed similar motivation to control mice.

Could treatments targeting galanin receptors change brain currents in such a way as to alleviate the lack of motivation that many HUMAN chronic pain sufferers feel? The emotional effects of chronic pain are often just as draining as the physical effects, and this research could bring hope to chronic pain sufferers. Read more about it here:

http://news.yahoo.com/chronic-pain-makes-mice-lazy-153242900.html

Memory-restoring implant by 2017!

Molecular ThoughtsAn implantable neural device could restore memory in patients with Alzheimer’s! The Department of Defense’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is funding the development of this device, and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, UCLA, and Medtronic are going to work together to make it a reality.

The device will stimulate neural tissue to bridge gaps in the brain, making it possible for patients to access memories and also form new ones. This device could also help patients with TBI (traumatic brain injury). This closed-loop, wireless device will be implanted into the hippocampus and entorhinal cortex.

Neurostimulators were piloted in rodents and dogs before approved for human use, and it’s amazing to see the advances and the potential associated with this research. Patients suffering from Parkinson’s and chronic pain are already benefiting from this technology, and with the rising incidence of Alzheimer’s, the potential for treatment with this device is great news. The hope is to have this device in clinical trials by 2017. Read more about it here:

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/07/140710175337.htm?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+sciencedaily%2Ftop_news%2Ftop_science+%28ScienceDaily%3A+Top+Science+News%29&utm_content=FaceBook

Animal Research: Is it Necessary?

iStock_000015264919SmallDrugs and treatments that are saving lives today are available to you and your family because of animal-based research. Yet animal rights supporters argue that animals aren’t necessary. However, researchers in the past and present have always looked for the most efficient and accurate models of drug discovery, and regardless of how much people want to argue about it, those methods have- and still do- involve animals.

Is it possible to gain the same results without animal research? For past research studies, this question is irrelevant. Animals have been crucial in the understanding of disease and in the development of drugs and treatments. No argument will change the fact that insulin, chemotherapy, joint replacements, and organ transplants (to name a few) were made possible through animal research. At the time of each of these developments, researchers used the best models available to them. Because of this, these advancements were developed as quickly as possible. All of these discoveries relied on animals because they were the best models for each of these respective types of research at the time. Without these models, is it possible that the same drugs and treatments would have been developed at some point? We don’t know. What we do know is that if researchers hadn’t used the best models available to them, the timeline for drug and treatment discovery would have been much longer. In 1922, insulin was first used to treat diabetic patients. At the time, diabetic children were kept in hospital wards where they often became comatose and slowly died. Without research in dogs, insulin development- if it was able to be developed at all- certainly would have been delayed, resulting in many more deaths.

In many cases, animals are still the best models for drug and treatment discovery. Currently, researchers are working on treatments and cures for pediatric cancers, blood disorders, rare diseases, and illnesses that affect millions of people. There’s a race to find cures and treatments for thousands of diseases, and researchers have every incentive to use the best options available to them to save lives as quickly as possible. The fact is that many of these research studies involve animals.

In the future, maybe we’ll be able to develop drugs and treatments of the same caliber without animals in the equation. That’s the goal, isn’t it? As an animal lover, I would certainly prefer it if animals weren’t necessary in research. But as a people lover, I am thankful that researchers and animals are working towards cures. You and I should want researchers to take advantage of the best models possible for drug and treatment discovery. If you have a loved one suffering from disease or illness, do you want to jeopardize their chance for a cure by sidestepping the most reliable research methods currently available? I certainly don’t.

Are animals still necessary in research? Right now, yes. Animal research is definitely a hot topic for debate, but nothing can be said that will negate the extremely valuable contributions made by animals in the past OR the continued contributions that are presently taking place. Until more efficient models for drug discovery are developed, animals continue to play an integral role in the quest to find cures for YOU and your loved ones.

Reducing cholesterol levels- PERMANENTLY!

stop high cholesterolOver 35 million Americans take daily medications to reduce their cholesterol, and that number continues to increase. But thanks to new research from the Harvard Stem Cell Institute and the University of Pennsylvania, it’s possible that patients will be able to experience an improved quality of life with a single injection!

By disrupting gene activity in a gene (PCSK9) that regulates cholesterol, researchers were able to permanently reduce cholesterol by 35-40%. First, they targeted the DNA sequence where the gene resides, then created a break in the system, and then used adenovirus to carry the treatment to the liver. In one injection, they were able to permanently change the genome, meaning that the benefits are there forever.

While this treatment is probably at least 5-10 years away for humans, the accomplishment in mice is pretty amazing. The next step in this research is to work with mice that have human-derived liver cells before moving into human studies. Read more about it here:

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-06-10/cholesterol-controlled-for-good-by-gene-therapy-in-mice.html

Canine melanoma vaccine coming soon!

jackrussellpixabayThe first therapeutic vaccine for cancer has been conditionally licensed by the USDA! And man’s best friend will benefit from it. This vaccine is intended as a treatment for dogs with stage II or stage III oral melanoma, and hopefully, it will dramatically improve the quality of life for pets suffering from this type of cancer.

Canine oral melanoma is very aggressive and can be difficult to treat. Melanoma tumors contain a protein called tyrosinase, and the vaccine works by introducing human tyrosinase into the dog’s body, which stimulates an immune response against the protein.

Because canine oral melanoma affects a small percentage of the dog population, using a vaccine as a treatment instead of a preventative seems to be the best option at this point. But if veterinarians were able to determine certain breeds or populations of dogs that were at risk, it’s possible that this treatment could be modified for use as a preventative vaccine.

By starting with a vaccine treatment for oral melanoma, it’s possible that this could lead to the development of vaccine treatments for other types of cancer. Interestingly, this development first began with basic animal research, moved into research in human treatments, and now it’s back to animals by benefiting man’s best friend! Who knows- this may lead to the development of human melanoma treatments. Read more about it here:

http://www.veterinarypracticenews.com/vet-dept/canine-practice/canine-melanoma-vaccine-gets-conditional-ok.aspx

Virus may obliterate triple-negative breast cancer!

iStock_000013954899SmallNot all cases of breast cancer are the same, and patients can require very different treatments depending of the type of tumors involved. Because different types of tumors contain different receptors, it’s important to tailor the treatments in order to be as effective as possible. Now, researchers have found that a virus could prove to be an effective treatment for patients with triple-negative breast cancer, which is extremely aggressive and difficult to treat.

Adeno-associated virus type 2, or AAV2, is a virus that doesn’t cause illness in humans. It does, however, kill cancer cells without affecting normal cells. In cell cultures, AAV2 wiped out 100% of the targeted cancer cells! As an added bonus, when cancer cells were infected with AAV2, more proteins that promoted healthy cell growth were produced!

In mice with tumors derived from human breast cancer cells, researchers saw amazing results after injecting AAV2- tumors shrank, the mice didn’t show any signs of illness, and they all survived through the study, unlike the untreated mice. This research could mean hope on the horizon for patients with triple-negative breast cancer! Read more about it here:

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2014-06/ps-vkt062414.php

Leukemia pill could bring hope to other cancer patients

iStock_000014156140SmallA pill intended for leukemia treatment may soon make a big difference for patients suffering from a variety of cancers. These drugs worked so well against leukemia that during trials, patients taking placebo pills were switched over to the real drug!

Cancer cells produce an enzyme called p110. This enzyme suppresses immunity, making it hard for the body to fight back against disease. The drug works by blocking that enzyme so the body can fight back more efficiently.

It turns out that this pill could be effective against a wider range of cancers than previously thought. Through research in mice with a variety of cancers, survival rate was greatly increased. Mouse studies indicate that this could be an effective treatment against breast cancer by not only minimizing the spread of the disease, but also by improving survival rates after removal of breast tumors!

P110 inhibitors could quickly become part of cancer treatments, as the drugs are already being successfully used on cancer patients. It will be interesting to see if administration of this drug for other types of cancer will be as successful as animal trials. Read more about it here:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2655793/Pill-used-treat-leukaemia-used-beat-cancers-stop-deadly-disease-returning.html