Scientists speculate on what caused the Bial drug testing tragedy in France
In France, 90 people took an experimental drug (a fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH) inhibitor for pain relief) at various dose levels for Phase 1 clinical trials by a Portuguese pharmaceutical company called Bial. Of these drug trial participants, one is dead and five others are seriously ill of which some have irreversible neurological damage. All were in good health prior to taking the oral medication. The trial has been suspended, all participants are being heavily monitored, and the French state prosecutor has opened an inquiry into the situation. The medical reason(s) behind this tragedy have sparked considerable speculation and discussion in the scientific community. However, crucial details on the drug involved and prior studies leading to the involvement of humans is not well documented. The source article describes possible reasons for the trial's fatal error by explaining the likely chemical structure of the drug and the development and testing of other FAAH inhibitors that have progressed to clinical trials. It provides a good ethical balance of evidence-based speculation in comparison to the multitude of commentary pieces currently on newsstands.
Bial News Release: January 19th 2016
Ebola virus: New case emerges in Sierra Leone
Sierra Leone was declared free of Ebola on Nov. 7th 2015, with further regional clearance on Jan 14th 2016, when Liberia was added to the list according to a World Health Organization (WHO) media release. Tests conducted by British health authorities on the remains of a person who died in northern Sierra Leone proved positive for the Ebola virus. Back tracking of who the person came into contact with is underway. Although Ebola clearance was provided to the country, WHO has warned that flare-ups are to be expected and that a strong surveillance and response systems will be critical in finalizing the battle to erradicate the virus. To date, 10 post out-break flare-ups have been reported, which have been speculated as being due to virus persistence after patient recovery (e.g., in rare cases it can remain in semen for as long as 1 year). Approximately 4,000 people have died of Ebola in Sierra Leone and 11,000 people across the region since December 2013.
Challenges and Promises of a New Urine Malaria Test
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that every patient receive a prompt laboratory confirmation if suspected to have contracted malaria, via a microscopic review or Rapid Diagnostic Tests. Although microscopy has been considered a ‘gold standard’ in laboratory malaria confirmation, the Fyodor Urine Malaria Test (UMT) has the potential to increase the number of people tested within 24 hours of symptom onset as it uses a dipstick submerged for 25 minutes in urine to determine test results. The rapid detection test UMT looks for proteins produced by the malaria parasite - histidine rich protein 2 (HRP2) is produced by Plasmodium falciparum which is the most common malaria species in Africa. Benefits of such a test include the facilitation of patients receiving the right treatment at the right time, improvement of febrile patient outcomes (and other medical conditions), reduced use of unnecessary antimalarials, and potential reduction of drug resistance spread.
Two assisted reproductive technology innovations for treating infertility: One boosts ICSI and IVF success rates
According to the Mayo Clinic, between 10-15% of Americans struggle with infertility conditions with many using assisted reproductive technologies such as in vitro fertilization (IVF) or intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI). Tel Aviv University scientists have developed a microscopic technology that does not require staining sperm and will increase a couple's chances of successful pregnancy without congenital defects. A cost-effective “black box” is attached to an existing microscope and in conjunction with software, it produces a thickness map of the sample as well as other physical parameters to evaluate sperm viability.
In other published work, a German science team has conceptualized a unique solution to infertility issues associated with low mobility of sperm. Based on previous work with micromotors, mini-metal motorized helices were constructed to fit around the tail of a sperm. With the use of a rotating magnetic field, the tool can drive the sperm to an egg for fertilization.
Press Release: New microscopy may identify best sperm cells
Related Video: Spermbot could help solve male infertility
Mass Spectrometry: Transitioning from Bench to Bedside to Improve Patient Care
Dr. Paul Jannetto from the Mayo Clinic believes that mass spectrometry is beginning to play a permanent and transformative role in laboratory medicine. Prominent examples of mass spectrometry are covered to illustrate how it has improved the practice of medicine and enabled physicians to provide better patient care. From dramatic advances in mass spectrometry technologies’ ability to improve microbial identification time, better analytic platforms and fiscal benefits associated with employer constraints, mass spectrometry makes significant contributions. Read this interesting article to understand why and how this will be accomplished.
Abstract: Effective Use of Mass Spectrometry in the Clinical Laboratory
Frozen poop just as good as fresh for C. diff patients
Can frozen poop save lives? Yes, as it can expand access to a life-saving transplant which restores healthy bacteria to the gastrointestinal tract that can otherwise cause death.
Patients who contract a bacterium called Clostridium difficile, received a frozen specimen "poop transplant" was found to be as effective as fresh poop. Published in JAMA, researchers examined 232 adults who had C. difficile infections that were recurrent or unresponsive to other types of treatment. The researchers found that the percentage of patients who recovered from their infection without relapsing after receiving frozen fecal transplants from healthy donors was comparable to the percentage of those who recovered after receiving fresh fecal transplants. Benefits of this study can impact the shelf life of the product and limits other logistical burdens. The researchers are planning to test the effectiveness of transplants comparing frozen and dried poop.
Cancer treatment for MS patients gives 'remarkable' results
Quote: Dr. Basil Sharrack, of Sheffield's Royal Hallamshire Hospital, says, "To have a treatment which can potentially reverse disability is really a major achievement."
Approximately 100,000 people in the UK are suffering from multiple sclerosis (MS) and most are diagnosed in early adulthood. The disease is caused by the immune system attacking the protective layer surrounding nerve fibers (myelin) in the brain and spinal cord. About 20 people with MS have been treated with an autologous hematopoietic stem cell transplant (HSCT) that destroys the faulty immune system using chemotherapy. To date positive results have been identified for patients. The article cites patients' experiences, including the ability to walk again after being bed ridden due to the disease. As part of a larger MIST trial, final results in a couple of years will determine if stem cell transplant will become a standard practice for MS patients.
Related Publication: Association of nonmyeloablative hematopoietic stem cell transplantation with neurological disability in patients with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis
New cellular structure responsible for organ rejection
A study published in the journal Science Translational Medicine discusses a new cellular structure responsible for previously unexplained organ transplant rejection. Dr. Marie-Josée Hébert, a transplant physician and researcher at the University of Montreal Hospital Research Centre states, “We have found the mechanism that makes patients react against components of their own blood vessels even before receiving an organ transplant, and we have identified a drug that can prevent this type of rejection.”
Rejection can occur because of a reaction of the immune system that considers the transplant as an invader due to unique HLAs (human leukocyte antigens) identifiers in for each person. When blood vessels are damaged there is a release of HLAs which activates the immune system to be on alert, resulting in an initial reaction against one’s own system and not necessarily the transplant. Dr. Hébert's team has found a way to neutralize the enzyme driver of these small vesicles, the proteasome, by using Bortezomib - a drug currently used to treat some bone marrow cancers. The drug acts by blocking the enzyme activity of the vesicles, and ultimately deactivates the immune system alarm system.
Scientists solve 3D structure of protein that guides the immune system
Quote: "The fact that the field of cryo-electron microscopy has advanced to where we can now solve the structures of these small membrane-embedded complexes to such high resolution is exciting," said Mark Herzik Jr. of the The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI).
In a new study published in Nature Structural and Molecular Biology, TSRI and Duke University Medical Center researchers used an imaging technique called cryo-electron microscopy, in which a sample is pelted with high-energy electrons to identify the three-dimensional structure of a crucial ion channel in more detail than ever before (near atomic levels). These results, according to the press release, shed light on the channel's possible role in immune functions such as detecting infection and inflammation. Future research will examine the structures of TRPV2 across the entire cycle of opening and closing its gate to see how it can be manipulated therapeutically to treat autoimmune diseases.
News Release: TSRI Scientists Solve 3D Structure of Protein that Guides the Immune System
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