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Top 10 Drug Discovery News Stories of 2018
Listicle

Top 10 Drug Discovery News Stories of 2018

Top 10 Drug Discovery News Stories of 2018
Listicle

Top 10 Drug Discovery News Stories of 2018

2018 has been an exciting year for the drug discovery field. This list details the top 10 most-read news stories we published from the field this year.

New Drug to Treat Herpes Simplex Virus Infection?


In February this year researchers from the University of Illinois at Chicago identified a small molecule drug (called BX795) that is capable of clearing herpes simplex-1 virus (HSV-1) infection in the cells of the cornea (outer cell layer of the eye). HSV-1 primarily infects the mouth and eyes, although genitals can also be affected. BX795 offers hope to patients suffering from the painful condition, as there are currently only a small number of drugs available to treat HSV-1, and patients can develop resistance to treatment. The team’s findings were published in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

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Eye-rectile Dysfunction: Irreversible damage to color vision linked to popular drug


Mount Sinai researchers demonstrated that issues with color vision caused by retinal damage can result from a high dose of Viagra® (sildenafil citrate) – a well-known erectile dysfunction drug. Their findings, published in Retinal Cases and Brief Reports, indicate that excessive use of the drug could result in long-term vision problems and could potentially lead to permanent damage. Adaptive optics (AO) and optimal coherence tomography (OCT) were used to examine the retina for structural damage, enabling the scientists to identify microscopic injury to the cone cells of the retina.

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Scrap the Scratching: New way to treat an itch


A team from the University of Zurich have identified a new strategy for suppressing itch. In a series of experiments performed in various animal models, the researchers were able to alleviate both chronic and acute itch. Whilst there are drugs available for the commonly experienced itching sensation related to insect bites etc., these drugs are usually ineffective as a treatment for patients experiencing skin, kidney and liver conditions that cause unrelenting urges to scratch. The team used the experimental drug to enhance the effect of a particular type of neuron (located in the spine) which is responsible for preventing itch signals from being relayed to the brain. Study results were described in Nature Communications.

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Treatment Eliminates Nicotine Addiction in Preclinical Tests


In a paper published in Science Advances, scientists describe how they gave an engineered enzyme to nicotine-dependent rodents, the enzyme (NicA2-J1) was able to breakdown the nicotine in the bloodstream, before it was able to reach the brain. Treatment with NicA2-J1 lead to a reduce motivation to take nicotine, it also reversed the signs of nicotine dependence and prevented the animals from relapsing when given subsequent access to nicotine. NicA2-J1 is a version of a natural enzyme usually produced by Pseudomonas putida. The team modified the natural enzyme to optimize is pharmacological properties (e.g. potency, duration in the bloodstream).

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Clinical Trial Launched to Test New Treatment for Type 1 Diabetes


In September 2018, a ground-breaking clinical trial was launched in Cardiff, Wales, investigating the use of a novel Type-1 diabetes treatment. The drug is designed to help the regrowth of beta cells in the pancreas (the cells responsible for producing insulin) however, in patients living with Type-1 diabetes these cells are lost. It is estimated that ~90% of Type-1 diabetes patients have < 5% of beta-cells remaining in the pancreas - ff the clinical trial turns out to be successful, it could mean that patients with Type-1 diabetes could become far less reliant on insulin injections.

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Can Psychedelic Drugs Heal?


Research presented at the annual convention of the American Psychological Association indicated that psychedelic drugs could one day be used to treat disorder including social anxiety and depression. The study findings suggest that symptoms of social anxiety in autistic patients (adults) could be treated with a combination of MDMA (more commonly known as ecstasy) and psychotherapy. Autistic adults with moderate-severe social anxiety (N=12) were given two treatments of MDMA as well as ongoing psychotherapy, which resulted in a long-lasting reduction in symptoms of social anxiety.

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Differences Between Combined & Isolated Use of Cannabis & Nicotine on Brain Networks


A study published in Brain Structure and Function explored the effects of concurrent use of cannabis and nicotine, versus use of just cannabis, and just nicotine, on the brain. The team from the University of Texas at Dallas found that the group using nicotine and cannabis more closely resembled the non-user group when it came to brain connectivity. The group of isolated nicotine users and the group of isolated cannabis users showed less connectivity. Changes in the connectivity of the brain network indicates possible alterations in the underlying neural architecture of the brain and could therefore impact brain function.

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Drinking Baking Soda: A Cheap Way to Combat Autoimmune Disease Inflammation?


Scientists have reported in the Journal of Immunology that a daily dose of baking soda could effectively reduce the destructive inflammation associated with autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis. Drinking a solution of baking soda, or sodium bicarbonate, triggered the stomach to generate more acid to digest the next meal. It also signals mesothelial cells on the spleen not to mount a protective immune response. These cells line body cavities (such as the digestive tract). Using a rodent model, the team demonstrated that after drinking baking soda for 2 weeks, the population of macrophages in the spleen, kidneys and blood shifted from the type that cause inflammation (M1) to those that reduce it (M2).

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Research Suggests Cannabidiol Can Reduce Symptoms of Depression


In June, researchers reported that a single dose of cannabidiol in rats with symptoms of depression was highly effective, eliminating the symptoms on the same day and maintaining the benefit for up to 7 days Their findings were published in Molecular Neurobiology. The team cross-bred rat and mouse lines to display symptoms of depression (N=367). Some were administered cannabidiol (at doses of 7,10, and 10 mg/kg) and some were administered saline-only (control group). The animals were then submitted to situations of stress. The team observed that cannabidiol induced acute and sustained anti-depressant-like effects.

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A Cure for Baldness on the Horizon?


Researchers from The University of Manchester’s Centre for Dermatology Research have discovered that a drug (Cyclosporine A) has a huge stimulatory effect on human hair follicles, suggesting that it holds potential as a therapeutic strategy against hair loss. The team published their findings in PLOS Biology.  The researchers performed full gene expression analysis of isolated human scalp hair follicles treated with Cyclosporine A (an existing immunosuppressant drug that has around since the 1980s). They found that Cyclosporine A reduces the expression of a protein known as SFRP1, which inhibits the development and growth of hair follicles – identifying a completely novel mechanism of action.

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Meet The Author
Laura Elizabeth Lansdowne
Laura Elizabeth Lansdowne
Managing Editor
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