Scientists synthesise anti-cancer drug in ‘landmark’ discovery 

After three decades of work and research, scientists have managed to synthesise a powerful anti-cancer compound. The compound in question is a type of halichondrin. These compounds occur naturally in a sea sponge and were first discovered thirty-three years ago. These molecules can inhibit micro-tubules, exerting anticancer properties.  

To accurately test the pharmacological properties and biological behaviour of this type of halichondrin, scientists needed to obtain large quantities. This was previously impossible. In the 1990s, scientists managed to create a small synthetic of this compound. However, the structure of the molecule made it difficult to recreate on a large scale. 

It is now possible to begin clinical trials as scientists have made what is described as an ‘unprecedented achievement of synthesis’. 

Professor Kishi and colleagues, at Harvard University, have also discovered that molecule can change a tumour environment, which can improve the effects of other cancer drugs on top of its own anticancer properties.  

Commenting on their findings, Prof. Kishi said “We are very delighted to see our basic chemistry discoveries have now made it possible to synthesise this compound at a large scale.” 

Full story and sources on Medical News Today, 18 June 2019. 


‘Timed release of turmeric stops cancer cell growth

A research team at Washington State University have successfully developed a drug delivery system using curcumin, the main ingredient in the spice turmeric. Curcumin inhibits bone cancer cells while simultaneously promoting the growth of healthy bone cells.  

Curcumin has anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory and bone-building capabilities. It has been used in cooking and medicine in Asian countries for centuries and has now also been shown to prevent various forms of cancer.  

If taken orally, the chemical cannot be well absorbed within the body, as it is metabolised and eliminated too quickly. To tackle this, researchers use 3D printing to build support scaffolds out of calcium phosphate. Such ceramic scaffolds are more like real bone, which scientists hope one day could be used as a graft material after bone cancer surgery.  

Curcumin was incorporated into these calcium phosphate scaffolds, to allow the gradual release of the chemical. Researchers discovered that this system inhibited the growth of osteosarcoma cells by 96 percent after 11 days, compared to untreated samples. It also promoted healthy bone cell growth. 

Alternative medicines coupled with modern 3D printing technology could allow for effective and gentler treatment for bone cancer, which is the second biggest cause of cancer related death amongst children. The researchers are continuing the unique research area to look at the benefits of integrating other natural compounds in biomedical techonology. 

Full story on Science Daily, 20 June 2019. 


‘One step closer to chronic pain relief’ 

Scientists believe they are one step closer to effectively relieving chronic pain. The research found that the protein Sortilin, which is expressed on the surface of nerve cells, plays a crucial role in pain development in laboratory mice. Scientists are hopeful that results could translate to the development of an effective medicine to treat chronic pain caused by nerve injury in humans.  

Neuropathic pain can be triggered by an acute injury or a chronic condition, including diabetes. With 8% of the population suffering from neuropathic pain, the findings are important for future care. The numbers of sufferers are only set to increase with people living longer and contracting more lifestyle diseases.  

Chronic pain is triggered by overactive nerve cells. Scientists hope that the findings of this study will encourage the pharmaceutical industry to continue investigating whether it is possible to block Sortilin locally in the spinal cord, therefore limiting the pain.

There is obviously a long way to go from mice studies to human but the results are promising off the back of a decade of research.  

Full explanation and source on Science Daily, 20 June 2019. 


‘Using graphene and tiny droplets to detect stomach-cancer causing bacteria’ 

Researchers at Osaka University have invented a new biosensor out of graphene that can detect the bacteria that attacks stomach lining, which is linked to the development of stomach cancer. When the particular bacteria interacts with the biosensor, it triggers a chemical reaction that can be detected by the graphene.  

The graphene sensing surface then can feedback electrical signals. These electrical signals will vary depending on how much of the reaction product is present and how quickly it is accumulating. The number of bacteria can be calculated from this information. 

The results of the study pave the way for the creation of other “lab-on-a-graphene-FET” biosensors to detect various different bacteria. The detection of even tiny amounts of bacteria could be achieved in less than 30 minutes. The speed of this detection could allow for faster diagnoses of harmful diseases caused by certain bacteria in the future. 

Full story and sources on Science Daily, 20 June 2019. 


References 

Aarhus University. “One step closer to chronic pain relief.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 20 June 2019. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/06/190620100029.htm> 

Osaka University. “Using graphene and tiny droplets to detect stomach-cancer causing bacteria.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 20 June 2019. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/06/190620100019.htm>. 

Scientists synthesize anticancer drug in ‘landmark discovery’. Ana Sandoiu, Medical News Today. 21 June 2019: <https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/325497.php> 

Washington State University. “Timed release of turmeric stops cancer cell growth.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 20 June 2019. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/06/190620121404.htm>. 

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