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Top 10 Drug Discovery News Stories of 2019

Top 10 Drug Discovery News Stories of 2019 content piece image

2019 has been an exciting year for the drug discovery field. This list details the top 10 most-read news stories, published on Technology Networks.

Compound Created To Help Reconstruct Myelin in Multiple Sclerosis

Researchers have created a compound, that when tested in mice, promoted the reconstruction of the myelin sheath surrounding neuronal axons. These study findings could pave the way to a novel treatment for combating demyelinating conditions such as multiple sclerosis (MS). The team had previously discovered a molecule called hyaluronic acid (HA) that accumulates in the brains of MS patients. This “build-up” of HA inhibits the maturation of oligodendrocytes (the cells responsible for forming myelin in the CNS). Further studies revealed that HA is broken down into small fragments in MS lesions by hyaluronidases. These fragments act as a signal to immature oligodendrocytes not to “activate” their myelin-producing genes. The researchers report that the compound “S3” was able to reverse the effects of HA, leading to the remyelination of axons in mice.

Published in: Glia

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Male Birth Control Pill Passes Human Safety Tests

An experimental male oral contraceptive pill, called 11-beta-methyl-19-nortestosterone dodecylcarbonate (or 11-beta-MNTDC), passed tests of safety and tolerability when healthy men used it daily for one month, according to research presented earlier this year during ENDO 2019. According to the study authors, 11-beta-MNTDC (a modified testosterone with the combined actions of an androgen and a progesterone) produced hormone responses consistent with effective contraception. The study involved forty men (N=40), and the participants were split into three study arms; placebo group (n=10), active 11-beta-MNTDC at 200mg (n=14), active 11-beta-MNTDC 400mg (n=14). We interviewed Christina Wang, MD and Stephanie Page MD, PhD – both actively involved in the development of the male oral contraceptive drugs.

Published in: The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism

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Paracetamol During Pregnancy Could Be Linked to Increased Risk of ADHD and Autism

A new international study shows that Acetaminophen (paracetamol) use during pregnancy may be linked to an increased risk of childhood attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Paracetamol metabolites were measured using umbilical cord plasma samples that had been collected at birth – maternal plasma paracetamol metabolites were also collected within three days of delivery. The team concluded that: “cord biomarkers of fetal exposure to paracetamol were linked to a significantly increased risk of childhood ADHD and ASD in a dose-response fashion.”

Published in: JAMA Psychiatry

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Study Links Heartburn Drugs to Stomach Cancer and Fatal Heart and Kidney Disease

A study conducted by researchers from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and Veterans Affairs St. Louis Health Care System has linked long-term use of proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) to fatal cases of cardiovascular disease, chronic kidney disease and upper gastrointestinal cancer. The team observed that risk increased with the duration of PPI use. Medical data acquired from 2002 to 2004 was examined by the team. 157,625 people were identified that had been newly prescribed PPIs, and 56,842 people who had been newly prescribed another class of acid-suppression drugs (H2 blockers). They followed the patients for up to 10 years. The researchers discovered a 17% increased risk of death in the PPI group compared to the H2 blocker group.

Published in: The BMJ

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Serotonin and Antidepressant Drug Alter the Gut’s Microbiota

A new study conducted using a mouse model, suggests that serotonin, along with other drugs that target serotonin, such as anti-depressants, can have a significant effect on the gut’s 
microbiota — the trillions of bacteria and other microbes that live inside the intestines. It is thought that approximately 90% of the body’s serotonin (a neurotransmitter) is generated in the gut, where it affects gut immunity. The researchers discovered a particular gut bacterium (Turicibacter sanguinis) that can detect and transport serotonin into bacterial cells. When mice were given the antidepressant fluoxetine, they observed that the transport of serotonin into the animal’s cells was reduced.

Published in: Nature Microbiology

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Aspirin May Interact With Cells’ DNA Modifications Changing Breast Cancer Outcomes

A study published in August of this year suggests that women that possess specific DNA characteristics in certain areas of the genome may live longer if they take aspirin before they are diagnosed with breast cancer. The team studied women (N=1266) who had been diagnosed with breast cancer from 1996–1997.In the women that took aspirin, they determined that the risk of dying (from any cause and from breast cancer) was lower amongst those whose DNA was not methylated in the region responsible for expression of the BRCA1 gene. The team hope that by reviewing the methylation profile of women newly-diagnosed with breast cancer, it may be possible to intensify individuals who may benefit from aspirin.

Published in: CANCER

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Timed Release of Turmeric Stops Cancer Cell Growth In Vitro

A team of researchers from Washington State University have created a drug delivery system using 3D printing. The 3D printed scaffold (constructed out of calcium phosphate) was used to house curcumin – the active ingredient in turmeric – encapsulated in a vesicle of fat molecules. The researchers found that the drug delivery system inhibited osteosarcoma (bone cancer) cell growth by 96% after 11 days of treatment – in comparison to untreated “control” samples. Whilst the curcumin system showed significant cytotoxicity towards in vitro osteosarcoma cells, it promoted osteoblast proliferation. The system could potentially, in future, be used to treat bone defects after tumor resection.

Published in: ACS Appl. Mater. Interfaces

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FDA Approves First Treatment for Postpartum Depression

On March 16, 2019 the US Food and Drug Administration approved ZULRESSOTM (brexanolone) for “intravenous use for the treatment of postpartum depression (PPD) in adult women”. The approval was based on efficacy data obtained from two clinical studies. Participants who received a 60-hour continuous IV infusion of brexanolone or placebo were followed for four weeks. One study recruited participants with severe PPD whilst the other moderate PPD. Mean change from baseline in depressive symptoms was measured using a rating scale. Brexanolone showed superiority to placebo in improvement of depressive symptoms in both studies. The medication can only be accessed via a restricted program called the “ZULRESSO REMS Program”.

Published by: US Food and Drug Administration

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Pill Could Replace Insulin Injection for Patients With Diabetes

An MIT-led research team has developed a drug capsule that allows the oral delivery of insulin, meaning diabetic patients that are reliant on insulin therapy may soon have an alternative to subcutaneous injections. The researchers designed a capsule that contains an ingestible microneedle capable of injecting insulin into the stomach lining. Using a large animal model, the researchers were able to deliver enough insulin to reduce blood glucose levels, comparable to levels achieved by subcutaneous injection. The pill could also be adapted to deliver other protein drugs. The team are now working to further optimize the technology and manufacturing of the capsule.

A video explaining the research is available here.

Published in: Science

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Anti-inflammatory Drug May Raise Diabetes Risk

Study findings presented during The Society for Endocrinology Annual Conference highlight the potential long-term health implications for people taking commonly-prescribed anti-inflammatory drugs called Glucocorticoids. The team observed changes in markers of blood sugar metabolism linked with an elevated risk of developing diabetes, in healthy men given the drug (prednisolone). The drug was administered to the “healthy” participants at a dose (10 and 15mg) consistent to that given for the treatment of inflammatory disorders. The findings highlight the importance of determining the “optimal” dose – to achieve efficacy whilst minimizing metabolic effects.

Published in: Endocrine Abstracts

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