PHARMACY

Researchers inadvertantly discover potential ALS drug

BY Drew Buono

IOWA CITY, Iowa A drug has been identified University of Iowa researchers that, nearly doubles the life span of mice with inherited ALS, a fatal neurodegenerative disease that destroys motor nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. The drug was discovered after an unexpected reaction between proteins, according to the Washington Post.

The researchers were studying the biology of cell signaling when they made the unexpected discovery that superoxide dismutase-1, a protein that’s mutated in inherited forms of ALS, interacts with Rac1, a protein that regulates production of reaction oxygen species by the Nox2 protein complex. Reaction oxygen species is essential for normal cell function but abnormal production is a suspected cause of ALS and other neurodegenerative diseases.

The researchers first found that deletion of the Nox2 protein almost doubled the life span of mice with inherited ALS. This provided further evidence that Nox-2 generated reaction oxygen species may play a role in ALS progression. The researchers then found that a drug called apocynin, which blocks Nox2, slows ALS progression and increases life span of mice with inherited ALS.

The researchers also noted that extensive safety and efficacy testing in pre-clinical trials must be conducted to determine if apocynin is effective in people.

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Harvard program seeks to discourage doctors from prescribing pediatric antibiotics

BY Drew Buono

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. A program was conducted at the Harvard Medical School in an effort to change doctors’ prescribing habits for antibiotics and to educate parents of small children about the proper use of antibiotics, according to Reuters.

The program was initiated because of the emergence of microbes that are resistant to antibiotics because doctors prescribed the medications when they weren’t really needed.

Harvard Medical School’s Jonathan Finkelstein and colleagues conducted the program in 16 Massachusetts communities between 1988 and 2003. Finkelstein’s team measured changes in antibiotic prescribing rates among three groups of children: 3 to 24 months, 24 to 48 months, and 48 to 72 months.

By the end of the study, the intervention had not changed the rate of antibiotic use in the youngest group, but for children between 24 and 48 months, the rates decreased by 4.2 percent and for the oldest children, the rates decreased by 6.7 percent.

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Patent office rejects Gilead patents for Viread

BY Drew Buono

WASHINGTON The Patent and Trademark Office has tentatively rejected four patents for Gilead Sciences’ HIV drug Viread, according to published reports.

The Public Patent Foundation filed a petition in March seeking to revoke the patents for the drug because they felt the drug should never have been patented in the first place, as the technology used to make the drug had been previously disclosed publicly.

The PTO is now re-examining the patents. Industry experts have said that it is common for the federal agency to tentatively rule patents invalid after having been asked by a third party to re-examine them. What would be unlikely would be the patents being permanently revoked, which has only occurred about 10 percent of the time.

Gilead sells Viread under that name and in combination with other drugs as Truvada and Atripla. Taken together, the three HIV treatments generated $3.1 billion in sales last year, according to the company.

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