Category: Medical Research & Technology

Plant Virus-based Treatment Protects Against Lung Tumours

Image source: CDC/Unsplash

Using a virus that grows in black-eyed pea plants, nanoengineers developed a new treatment that could keep metastatic cancers at bay from the lungs. 

Not only did the treatment slow tumour growth in the lungs of mice with either metastatic breast cancer or melanoma, it also prevented or drastically minimised the spread of these cancers to the lungs of healthy mice that were challenged with the disease. The research was published in Advanced Science.

Researchers developed an experimental treatment that combats metastatic spread. This involves a plant virus called the cowpea mosaic virus, harmless to animals and humans, but which the body still registers as a foreign invader, thus triggering an immune response that could also boost the body’s cancer-fighting ability.

The idea is to use the plant virus to help the body’s immune system recognise and destroy cancer cells in the lungs. The virus itself is not infectious in our bodies, but it has all these danger signals that alarm immune cells to go into attack mode and search for a pathogen, said Nicole Steinmetz, professor of nanoengineering at the University of California San Diego.

To draw this immune response to lung tumours, Prof Steinmetz’s lab engineered nanoparticles made from the cowpea mosaic virus to target a protein in the lungs. The protein, called S100A9, is expressed and secreted by immune cells that help fight infection in the lungs. Overexpression of S100A9 has been observed to play a role in tumour growth and spread.

“For our immunotherapy to work in the setting of lung metastasis, we need to target our nanoparticles to the lung,” said Prof Steinmetz. “Therefore, we created these plant virus nanoparticles to home in on the lungs by making use of S100A9 as the target protein. Within the lung, the nanoparticles recruit immune cells so that the tumors don’t take.”

“Because these nanoparticles tend to localise in the lungs, they can change the tumor microenvironment there to become more adept at fighting off cancer — not just established tumors, but future tumors as well,” said Eric Chung, a bioengineering PhD student in Steinmetz’s lab who is one of the co-first authors on the paper.

To make the nanoparticles, the researchers infected black-eyed pea plants with cowpea mosaic virus, and harvested the virus in the form of ball-shaped nanoparticles. They then fixed S100A9-targeting molecules to the particles’ surfaces.

The researchers performed both prevention and treatment studies. In the prevention studies, they first injected the plant virus nanoparticles into the bloodstreams of healthy mice, and then later injected either triple negative breast cancer or melanoma cells into these mice. Treated mice showed a dramatic reduction in the cancers spreading to their lungs compared to untreated mice.

In the treatment studies, the researchers administered the nanoparticles to mice with metastatic tumours in their lungs. The treated mice exhibited smaller lung tumours and survived longer than untreated mice.

Prof Steinmetz envisions that the treatment could be useful after tumourectomy. “It wouldn’t be meant as an injection that’s given to everyone to prevent lung tumours. Rather, it would be given to patients who are at high risk of their tumors growing back as a metastatic disease, which often manifests in the lung. This would offer their lungs protection against cancer metastasis,” she said.

More detailed immunotoxicity and pharmacology studies are needed before this can progress to a treatment. Future studies will also explore combining this with standard cancer therapies such as chemotherapy.

Source: University of California – San Diego

Is Heart Pump Development Dead in the Water?

Photo by Robina Weermeijer on Unsplash

At an annual meeting of the Heart Failure Society of America (HFSA), heart failure specialists agreed that recalling the HeartWare heart pump was good but debated whether its departure leaves the field of mechanical circulatory support (MCS) dead in the water.

In June, Medtronic stopped sales of its HeartWare Ventricular Assist Device (HVAD), citing excess neurological events and mortality with the device. As a result, Abbott’s HeartMate 3 became the only FDA-approved, durable left ventricular assist device (LVAD) on the market.

“Competition breeds innovation. When competition is absent or minimal, there is little incentive for corporations to innovate,” said Jennifer Cowger, MD, MS, of Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, during the annual scientific meeting.

“While I believe the removal of the HVAD from the market was the ethical thing to do, unless we as a field start embracing MCS technology and change our messaging to the general cardiology community, our field is going to be viewed as niche to referring cardiologists and we’re going to face irrelevance and we’re going to have bad times ahead,” she added.

However Nancy Sweitzer MD, PhD, of the University of Arizona in Tucson, disagreed, pointing out that there are plenty of advances on the horizon.

Nine companies worldwide are developing heart pumps for this $3-4 billion market, Dr Sweitzer noted. Several devices under investigation — implantable ones with no external component — will probably proceed to first-in-man trials in the next year, she said. “There’s a lot of money if you do this well,” she added

Internal competition alone may be enough to advance the field, Sweitzer argued, citing Thoratec’s HeartMate II superseding their old HeartMate XVE.

“They put their own device up against their own device. So I would argue that corporate competition isn’t necessary when the stakeholders realize that we need to get better at this. I think the companies in this space realize there’s a huge unmet need here if we develop a really good MCS that was truly portable, gave people excellent quality of life, and had lower complications,” she said.

Yet given the pace of LVAD research, “in the next decade, we have cause for concern in the MCS field,” Dr Cowger countered.

Both debaters suggested that MCS technology shouldn’t stop at HeartMate 3, even with its relatively impressive performance.

“Outcomes on HeartMate 3 are not the outcomes we really want for these patients. There are still innumerable complications. Hospitalization rates are extraordinarily high in these patients post-implant even if they’re successful implants. They bleed, they get infected, they get strokes. That still happens,” noted Dr Sweitzer.

Innovation issues aside, Dr Cowger pointed out that HeartMate 3 is also much larger than the HVAD, and the smaller device’s loss leaves a gap for patients. She said negative media views had not helped the recent “sense of apathy and loss of enthusiasm for MCS”.

“Physicians don’t want to use technology that will harm or be perceived to harm patients,” she said, noting that sentiment has shifted from “VADs are sexy, cool” to “we would not choose LVADs over [heart] transplant.”

Source: MedPage Today

Men’s Sleep Affected by Phases of the Moon

Photo by Mert Kahveci on Unsplash

The phases of the moon may have a far greater effect on men’s sleep than women’s, according to a new study published in Science of the Total Environment.

Prior research has produced somewhat conflicting results on the link between the lunar cycle and sleep, with some reporting an association whereas others did not. There are several possible explanations for these discrepant findings, such as that some of the results were chance findings. However, a number of past studies investigating the link between lunar cycle and human sleep did not account for confounding factors, such as obstructive sleep apnoea and insomnia.

During the waxing period, the amount of illuminated moon surface as seen from Earth increases, and the time the moon appears highest in the sky gradually shifts to late evening hours. In contrast, during the waning period, the illuminated surface decreases and the moment that time the moon is highest gradually shifts to daytime hours.

“We used one-night at-home sleep recordings from 492 women and 360 men. We found that men whose sleep was recorded during nights in the waxing period of the lunar cycle exhibited lower sleep efficiency and increased time awake after sleep onset compared to men whose sleep was measured during nights in the waning period. In contrast, the sleep of women remained largely unaffected by the lunar cycle. Our results were robust to adjustment for chronic sleep problems and obstructive sleep apnea severity,” said Christian Benedict, Associate Professor at Uppsala University’s Department of Neuroscience, and corresponding author of the study.

One mechanism through which the moon may impact sleep is sunlight reflected by the moon around times when people usually go to bed. In addition, a recent study suggests that the male brain may be more responsive to ambient light than that of females.

“Our study, of course, cannot disentangle whether the association of sleep with the lunar cycle was causal or just correlative,” concluded Prof Benedict.

Source: EurekAlert!

New Effort to Improve Diversity in Clinical Trials

Source: CC0 Creative Commons

Columbia University and Pfizer Inc. have established the Columbia-Pfizer Clinical Trials Diversity Initiative, which aims to reduce health disparities by increasing the number of minorities in clinical trials and making clinical researchers more diverse.

In the United States, 12% of the population is Black and 18% is Hispanic or Latino but in 2020, only 8% were Black and 11% were Hispanic among the 32 000 patients who participated in clinical trials that led to FDA approval of new drugs. For example, a review of clinical trials between 1999 and 2015 for cystic fibrosis only had a representation of 2.0% for Latinos, 1.0% for Black individuals, and 0.1% for Asians.

“People of different ethnicities can have different responses to the same medicine or treatment, so a lack of diversity among clinical trial participants means doctors cannot know if the treatment will be effective in all the patients they treat,” said Anil K Rustgi, MD, Interim Executive Vice President and Dean of the Faculties of Health Sciences and Medicine at Columbia University and director of the Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center. “Increasing diversity in trials will improve the treatment of patients from underrepresented groups and is a moral imperative as well as a fundamental medical issue.”

Rod MacKenzie, PhD, Executive Vice President and Chief Development Officer at Pfizer, said, “Diversity of representation in clinical trials is a matter of equity, which is a core Pfizer value. We are deeply committed to ensuring our clinical trials reflect the diversity of the communities like New York in which they are conducted. We look forward to working with Columbia University both to offer any willing individual, regardless of background, the opportunity to participate in and contribute to clinical research, and to expand the roster of diverse clinical researchers who are helping us conduct studies.”

Pfizer will provide a three-year, $10 million grant to Columbia to help establish and expand the Initiative, which will improve the diversity of participants in clinical trials by looking at the barriers that prevent participation by marginalised individuals. The Initiative will expand Columbia’s Community Health Workers Program network to connect with underserved populations and create culturally sensitive engagement tools. The efforts will include researching new ways to increase the accessibility of clinical trials through telemedicine, wearable technology, and home visits.

The Initiative also aims to improve diversity among clinical research faculty and staff. Columbia will help build an additional pipeline of diverse clinical investigators through a new National Diversity Clinical Trials Leadership Program to increase the number of faculty and staff from underrepresented groups as well.

“A diverse research staff not only helps to improve trust in clinical trials among participants from underserved groups but improves the entire clinical trial enterprise by bringing different questions, experience, and perspective to the table,” Dr Rustgi said.

Source: Columbia University Irving Medical Center

Fraud Trial of Theranos Boss Begins

Photo by Tingey Injury Law Firm on Unsplash

On Wednesday, the trial of Elizabeth Holmes, founder of medical technology company Theranos, began. Prosecutors alleged she “lied and cheated” for money and fame.

Ms Holmes faces 12 fraud charges over her role at the failed company which was once worth $9bn, facing up to 20 years in prison if found guilty.

She is accused of deceiving patients and investors about the company’s testing technology, which was claimed to diagnose basic illnesses from a few drops of blood. Her defence team argues that she was naive and her company simply failed.

“Failure is not a crime. Trying your hardest and coming up short is not a crime,” said defence lawyer Lance Wade in his opening statement on Wednesday.

Former Theranos executive Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani faces the same charges next year. He was romantically involved with Ms Holmes.

Ms Holmes, who founded Theranos in 2003 aged 19, was dubbed the world’s youngest self-made female billionaire and hailed as the “next Steve Jobs”.

In 2015 and 2016, investigations by the Wall Street Journal revealed Theranos’ blood-testing devices did not work and the company was doing most of its testing on commercially available machines made by other manufacturers. She initially denied these reports.

Prosecutor Robert Leach alleges that, after running out of funds, Ms Holmes and Mr Balwani turned to fraud in 2009, lying about the tests and exaggerating the firm’s performance. Mr Leach said this included falsely claiming the tests were vetted by Pfizer and being used by the US military.

The case will probably take months and Ms Holmes will likely take the stand — a necessary gamble in the face of overwhelming evidence that the technology did not work.

Ms Holmes “dazzled” Walgreens into using the company’s services, and the company brought her fame.

“She had become, as she sought, one of the most celebrated CEOs in Silicon Valley and the world. But under the facade of Theranos’ success there were significant problems brewing.”

 The defence’s Mr Wade said Ms Holmes “naively underestimated” the business challenges but did not attempt to defraud investors. Ms Holmes has also alleged years of emotional and psychological abuse by Mr Balwani, who has denied the allegations. She is likely to testify as to how this affected her.

Source: BBC News

New Medical Emoji Urged for Patient Communication

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Emoji, those colourful symbols we use in WhatsApp and other communication applications, could be a valuable medical tool which lets patients better communicate symptoms, concerns, and other clinically relevant information, researchers argue.

In a commentary in the Journal of the American Medical Association, senior author Shuhan He, MD, an emergency department attending, advises that each medical discipline start to come up with its own unique set of iconography for official adoption and incorporation into everyday practice.

“The need to listen to patients is at the core of our mission as physicians, and the use of emoji is a great opportunity to take communication to another level,” said Dr He. “Emoji could be particularly important in treating children with still-developing language skills, people with disabilities that impair their ability to communicate, and the many patients who speak a different language.”

While around 3500 emoji are currently within the domain of the Unicode Consortium – the nonprofit organisation that maintains text standards across computers – only about 45 emoji can be considered relevant to medicine. The first, introduced in 2015, were the syringe and the pill. Apple added emoji in 2017 to represent people with disabilities, followed by symbols of the stethoscope, bone, tooth and microbe in 2019. He was co-creator of the anatomical heart and the lung emoji introduced globally in 2020 and is now working with colleagues, as well as with a wide range of medical societies and organisations to advocate for an additional 15 medically related emoji.

“It’s tempting to dismiss emoji as a millennial fad, but they possess the power of standardisation, universality and familiarity, and in the hands of physicians and other health care providers could represent a new and highly effective way to communicate pictorially with patients,” said Dr He. In emergency medical settings where time is critical, emoji could lead to a point-and-tap form of communication that could facilitate important clinical decisions, he adds. The tiny graphic symbols which now span all digital platforms – from mobile to tablet to desktop – could also have utility as annotations to hospital discharge instructions, which are often confusing if not incomprehensible to some patients.

The recent surge of telemedicine presents a great opportunity for medical emojis. It is well suited for patients visually conveying to healthcare providers the intensity of pain they have experienced over time, and for those providers to incorporate it into digital health records.

His research is on emoji to help patients and doctors communicate common symptoms – such as mobility, mood, and duration and quality of pain – that are associated with various diseases and conditions. “It’s clear that emoji have become part of the global, mainstream conversation, and that medical societies and physician committees and organisations need to take them seriously,” said Dr He. “Which means they should be determining now which emoji would best serve the interests of their patients, building consensus around the medical accuracy of these emoji, then working to get them approved through the global standard-setting body and working through the long adaptation and implementation process.”

Source: EurekAlert!

Thrombin’s Involvement with Coagulation Reconsidered

Source: NIH

After 20 years of research, an established truth of how thrombin interacts with coagulation has been overturned.

“It has been said that an established truth in medicine lasts for about 10 years. It is probably the case that many truths last longer, but on the other hand, the time that different truths stand is constantly shrinking. This is because our perception of reality is changing rapidly, in step with new research,” said Tom Eirik Mollnes, Professor at the University of Oslo and Oslo University Hospital.

Based on more than 20 years of work to develop a whole blood model, Mollnes and colleagues have recently disproved an established truth about the immune system.

“There was an established truth in the literature for many years that a protein in the coagulation system called thrombin could activate a protein called C5 in the complement system,” Prof Mollnes said.

However, Prof Mollnes and his colleagues doubted whether the methods used in the studies were reliable.

“The notion that the protein thrombin could activate the protein C5 was only shown in so-called purified systems. That is, the proteins were taken out of their natural context,” he explained.

The researchers thought that the results would possibly be different if you looked at how the proteins work in their natural environment in the blood.

“The modified model made it possible to study the connection between the various proteins and defence systems as close to reality as possible,” Prof Mollnes explained. “Using the new model, we clearly showed that the previous findings were incorrect. We showed that the proteins changed structure and function during the purification, and that this was the reason for the former findings.”

When the proteins were in their natural environment in the blood, thrombin did not activate the protein in the complement system. Thus, the researchers had disproved the established truth.

“Many findings have been published in purified systems that are not representative of reality,” he said. “You can say that Gro Harlem Brundtland’s statement that “everything is connected to everything” is a very good description of how biology and the human body work. Therefore, it is important to use methods that make it possible to look at how different systems in the body interact and cooperate.”

The whole blood model makes such methods possible, and the model can be used widely. The whole blood model can, by and large, be used to study all the substances and biological systems in the blood.

Professor Mollnes therefore considers the model to have great potential.

“With the whole blood model, we have contributed to something that we will not only benefit from in our own laboratory, but that can be an asset to research groups in a number of fields,” he said.

It takes time to develop new models, and it was a long uphill battle for Prof Mollnes and his research group. Even so, the researchers have now received recognition for their work from the research community. The article got a recommendation by the editors of The Journal of Immunology, [PDF] in which it was published, as a ‘Top Reads Selection’.

“Changing so-called established truths is not easy, and we had to go through many rounds, with a number of experiments, to gain acceptance for our findings. That is why our work was especially recognised,” he concluded.

Source: University of Oslo

MRI and Massage Stones Help Unlock Mystery of Sensory Associations

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By using hot and cold massage stones, scientists have found that the brain’s prefrontal cortex conjures up sensations based on other sensory information, such as feeling warmth when viewing a beach.

Publishing their findings in The Journal of Neuroscience, the researchers investigated patterns of neural activity in the prefrontal cortex as well as the other regions of the brain known to be responsible for processing stimulation from all the senses and discovered significant similarities.

“Whether an individual was directly exposed to warmth, for example, or simply looking at a picture of a sunny scene, we saw the same pattern of neural activity in the prefrontal cortex,” said Dirk Bernhardt-Walther, an associate professor in the department of psychology in the Faculty of Arts & Science, and coauthor of a study published last week in the Journal of Neuroscience describing the findings. “The results suggest that the prefrontal cortex generalizes perceptual experiences that originate from different senses.”

To understand how the human brain processes the torrent of information from the environment, researchers often study the senses in isolation, with much prior work focused on the visual system. Bernhardt-Walther says that while such work is illuminating and important, it is equally important to find out how the brain integrates information from the different senses, and how it uses the information in a task-directed manner. “Understanding the basics of these capabilities provides the foundation for research of disorders of perception,” he said.

Capturing brain activity with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), the researchers conducted two experiments with the same participants, based on knowing how regions of the brain respond differently depending on the intensity of stimulation.

In the first, the participants viewed images of various scenes, such as beaches, city streets, forests and train stations, and were asked to judge if the scenes were warm or cold and noisy or quiet.

For the second experiment, participants were first handed a series of massage stones that were either heated to 45C or cooled to 9C, and later exposed to a variety of sounds such as birds, people and waves at a beach.

“When we compared the patterns of activity in the prefrontal cortex, we could determine temperature both from the stone experiment and from the experiment with pictures as the neural activity patterns for temperature were so consistent between the two experiments,” said lead author of the study Yaelan Jung, who recently completed her PhD at U of T working with Bernhardt-Walther and is now a postdoctoral researcher at Emory University.

“We could successfully determine whether a participant was holding a warm or a cold stone from patterns of brain activity in the somatosensory cortex, which is the part of the brain that receives and processes sensory information from the entire body – while brain activity in the visual cortex told us if they were looking at an image of a warm or cold scene.”

“Overall, the neural activity patterns in the prefrontal cortex produced by participants viewing the images were the same as those triggered by actual experience of temperature and noise level,” said Dr Jung.

This opens up insights into how the brain processes and represents complex real-world attributes that span multiple senses, even without directly experiencing them.

“In understanding how the human brain integrates information from different senses into higher-level concepts, we may be able to pinpoint the causes of specific inabilities to recognise particular kinds of objects or concepts,” said Bernhardt-Walther.

“Our results might help people with limitations in one sensory modality to compensate with another and reach the same or very similar conceptual representations in their prefrontal cortex, which is essential for making decisions about their environment.”

Source: University of Toronto

New Prosthetic Arm Restores Normal Movements

A prosthetic arm being fitted. Source: This is Engineering on Unsplash

Researchers have developed a bionic arm for patients with upper-limb amputations that allows wearers to think, behave and function like a person without an amputation.

The arm combines three important functions – intuitive motor control, touch and grip kinaesthesia, the intuitive feeling of opening and closing the hand. The developers, led by Clevelend Clinic, published their findings in Science Robotics.

“We modified a standard-of-care prosthetic with this complex bionic system which enables wearers to move their prosthetic arm more intuitively and feel sensations of touch and movement at the same time,” said lead researcher Paul Marasco, PhD, associate professor  in Cleveland Clinic Lerner Research Institute’s Department of Biomedical Engineering. “These findings are an important step towards providing people with amputation with complete restoration of natural arm function.”

The system is the first to test all three sensory and motor functions in a neural-machine interface simultaneously in a prosthetic arm. The neural machine interface sends impulses from the brain to the arm and sensory information back to the brain.

“Perhaps what we were most excited to learn was that they made judgments, decisions and calculated and corrected for their mistakes like a person without an amputation,” said Dr Marasco. “With the new bionic limb, people behaved like they had a natural hand. Normally, these brain behaviors are very different between people with and without upper limb prosthetics.
The researchers tested their new bionic limb on two study participants with upper limb amputations who had previously undergone targeted sensory and motor reinnervation -procedures that establish a neural-machine interface by redirecting amputated nerves to remaining skin and muscles. 

In targeted sensory reinnervation, touching the skin with small robots activates sensory receptors that enable patients to perceive the sensation of touch. In targeted motor reinnervation, when patients think about moving their limbs, the reinnervated muscles communicate with a computerised prosthesis to move in the same way. Additionally, small, powerful robots vibrate kinesthetic sensory receptors in those same muscles which helps prosthesis wearers feel that their hand and arm are moving. The new prosthetic arm feels grip movement sensation, touch on the fingertips, and is controlled intuitively by thinking. Cameras lets the computer see the prosthetic’s position.

While wearing the advanced prosthetic, participants performed tasks reflective of basic, everyday behaviours that require hand and arm functionality, which were compared to people with traditional prosthetics and people without amputations.

According to Dr Marasco, because the limb lacks sensation, people with traditional prosthetics behave differently than people without an amputation when performing tasks. For example, traditional prosthesis wearers must constantly watch their prosthetic while using it, and have difficulty correcting for the correct amount of force needed.

The researchers could see that the study participants’ brain and behavioural strategies changed to match those of a person without an amputation. They no longer needed to watch their prosthesis, they could locate things without looking, and they could more effectively correct mistakes.

“Over the last decade or two, advancements in prosthetics have helped wearers to achieve better functionality and manage daily living on their own,” said Dr. Marasco. “For the first time, people with upper limb amputations are now able to again ‘think’ like an able-bodied person, which stands to offer prosthesis wearers new levels of seamless reintegration back into daily life.”

Source: Cleveland Clinic

How Blood Vessels Change Permeability

Source: Wikimedia CC0

Researchers have made steps toward understanding how blood vessels change permeability, and how they might intervene to restore blood vessel integrity during sepsis, trauma or other conditions.

Sepsis occurs when a patient’s over-activated immune system harms their own tissues. As a result, blood vessels can become ‘leaky’ and can’t adequately supply major organs. The condition is notoriously difficult to treat, and there are no drugs that help stabilize the cell barrier that lines blood vessels.

A protein, HSP27, was previously found by researchers at University of California San Diego to be involved in regulating blood vessel leakage. To help break down or build up blood vessel barrier, cells add and remove chemical tags on HSP27.

The study, reported in Science Signaling, provides new potential targets for the development of drugs that shore up blood vessel barriers, preventing fluid loss.

“This new information will help us home in on the root cause of leaky blood vessels, rather than taking a broad strokes approach that may have many off-target effects,” said senior author JoAnn Trejo, Ph.D., professor of pharmacology and assistant vice chancellor of the Office of Health Sciences Faculty Affairs at UC San Diego School of Medicine.

Blood vessel barriers need to be permeable enough to allow immune cells to squeeze out to reach the site of an infection, for example, but not so much that the situation becomes life-threatening. HSP27 binds to proteins that help form the cell’s “skeleton.” Prof Trejo and colleagues suspect that’s how HSP27 affects blood vessel permeability: by reinforcing the skeleton of cells that maintain the barrier.

Prof Trejo has long studied G-protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs), proteins that are embedded in cell membranes and act as signal transducers for cells. About a third of all therapeutic drugs on the market work because they influence GPCR signals.

In their latest study, the team found that during inflammation, GPCRs tell enzymes called kinases to add chemical (phosphate) tags to HSP27. The tags perturb HSP27’s structure in a way that disrupts blood vessel barriers. When HSP27 reassembles, the barriers recover. The researchers validated their lab studies in mice, where they found that inhibiting HSP27 increases blood vessel leakage.

One problem in targeting GPCRs to treat a disease is that most act as master regulators, influencing many different cell functions. Inhibiting one GPCR may therefore have many unintended consequences. By aiming not at the master GPCR but at individual targets upon which it acts, such as HSP27, Trejo’s team is hoping to enable the development of blood vessel barrier-stabilising drugs that have greater precision and fewer side effects.

“It’s become apparent that you can develop different molecules that can bind to receptor and ‘bias’ them — make them signal in a very specific way to some pathways but not others,” Prof Trejo said. “It’s what we call biased agonism, and it’s a huge advantage for drug development. It means we can develop not just an on/off switch, but a drug that can switch a receptor ‘off’ or eight different types of ‘on.’ We want to be able to tweak which pathways are on and not touch others.”

The team plans to explore additional cell signaling pathways that helps blood vessels build resistance to injury and inflammation.

Source: UC San Diego