Friday, February 25, 2011

Hot Topics In Science Week of 2/20/2011

The news reported this week that are science related that I found interesting.

Image from BBC
Spice Drug Fights Stroke - Tumeric is a component of Indian curry and has been known for awhile to have health benefits. Only recently has researchers began to discover ways to make drugs out of this compound. In this report, the component of tumeric, curcumin was modified to cross the blood brain barrier and is effective up to 3 hours after a stroke in repairing four of the signaling pathways damaged in stroke cases. 

In my opinion, the use of tumeric as a potential source to create drugs provides a two fold benefit, providing new drugs and increasing interest in "natural" substances. Some natural substances may provide great health benefits, but without the studies behind them regarding their safety and efficacy they should not be taken without caution.
Image from BBC

This study found that the medial prefrontal cortex is the area involved in state dependent heroin relapse. When rats were given heroin, allowed to rehab, and then given inhibitors to this area of the brain and exposed to heroin again, then did not take the heroin. This same mechanism does not apply to cocaine as cocaine relapse acts differently.

There are a few issues with this study in my opinion. First, it only applys to heroin in rats which needs to be remembered. Humans are often on several drugs at once and finding a brain area for relapse in all of them will take some time. Also, I am not sure that this suggests lack of relapse or lack of liking for the heroin which are two different things. That being said, anyone who has ever been addicted to anything (even cigarettes or coffee), knows the power of relapse and finding a way to lessen this power would be great.

Image from
K. Ma/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Genezyme, a biotech company known for designing drugs and other therapies for rare diseases has signed a deal with the pharmaceutical company Sanofi-Aventis. This is a $20 billion deal and the largest deal in 2 years. 

Concerns with large pharmaceutical companies acquiring small (or not so small in the case of Genezyme) biotech companies include the conflict of interest that can occur in instances of this. The small biotechs now have to answer to the desires of the pharmaceutical company which narrows the research field for different diseases. This does provide an avenue for small biotechs which may have great idea but lack resources to create items they would not have normally been able to design.

Image from AP Photo/Mahesh Kumar A

In Patancheru India, large amounts of antibiotics were found dumbed in the rivers. These antibiotics are being discarded as waste and then they build up in the drinking supply and create bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics. 

This is a huge concern currently in America, and even though this study was done in India, it could have far reaching effects.  Bacteria are capable of becoming resistant to the available antibiotics more quickly than we can design new ones and this is causing a rise in things such as MRSA. If this continues unchecked, more and more diseases will be antibiotic resistant and an increase in deaths will occur. We need to realize that bacteria are more efficient at what they do than we are at defeating them and we need to figure out a way to outsmart them.

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