Categories
Biomedical Research

Is Regenerative Medicine the Key to the Future?

By Sajia Athai

Published 12:20 PM EST, Tues March 30, 2021

Introduction

Have you ever taken an interest in regenerative medicine? If not, perhaps you’d be interested in a possible advancement related to it that would benefit us all. Over a long period of time, scientists and researchers have hoped that regenerative medicine would advance further into treating conditions, diseases, and more illnesses related to health. Regenerative medicine was not only an opportunity but a breakthrough into solving even more severe illnesses such as cancer. Recently, scientists and researchers discovered neurons with unique structures that would help to create effective regenerative medicine that would help brain and spinal cord injuries.

Regenerative Medicine

A new printable biomaterial was found that it replicates properties that brain tissue has. To elaborate, the material would be utilized in regenerative medicine to fix the errors and injuries that are caused by damage done to tissues and the spinal cord. The self-assembly process in the molecules makes it possible to fix and control the properties, which is a major advantage to finding the constituents to make up regenerative medicine. In regenerative medicine, the replica utilized must have the pivotal properties that the original had, such as brain tissue. By being able to fix and wire these properties, it will make it much easier to form regenerative medicine. Although 3D printing is offered as an option to create therapies and processes, it’s important to realize that it’s much more necessary to remember the disadvantages such as the disruption it will cause in biological interactions and the intracellular processes in the molecules. Although 3D printing will be considered, it is most likely to be rejected due to the detrimental effects it would have.

This would not be very helpful in injuries related to the heart or for cartilage. Cartilage and heart related injuries cannot be fixed with regenerative medicine yet but for brain tissue injuries and the spinal cord, there will definitely be some advancement. The issue, however, is that the human brain constantly changes, adapts, and grows. This makes it difficult for medicine to keep up with the needs of those who face severe brain trauma and also makes it more challenging for those who suffer from great damage to their tissues. For instance, utilizing treatments will only help to treat it such as therapies. However, the aim is to attack the source of all the pain and damage and fix it using regenerative medicine. In order to fulfill this and continue with this, the use of neurons and some sort of other biomaterial is heavily needed to do this. Otherwise, it would be a major issue due to several reasons. For one, the lack of biomaterial will make it difficult to indicate the source of the pain and damage. Two, the idea of only using neurons will only be useful for brain-related injuries. Regenerative medicine is hoped to be able to fix other types of injuries as well.

Various scientists insisted on the idea of utilizing lentiviral vectors, which would involve inputting a virus into the body to help insert different genetic material. Although this seems like a plausible proposal, it is dangerous as there isn’t much control over it. It has been suggested for illnesses such as thalassemia (beta and alpha) where it can control the genes but the brain is full of matter that constantly adapts and changes. One thing in the brain being messed up would be an obstacle due to the fact that it could make someone’s injuries worse, which is not the objective of it. However, the use of lentiviral vectors is more related to genetic engineering, which can possibly be applied to regenerative medicine in terms of principles, but they are still two disparate processes that have different objectives. Lentiviral vectors would involve the utilization of oncoviruses in order to insert material or molecular material. With regenerative medicine, there needs to be control over the structures and over the molecules of the general area that is attempted to be fixed. For instance with damaged brain tissue, the goal is to attack the source of the damage and attempt to repair it. If this is not done, it could be an issue that could escalate further and instead cause additional damage. Instead, the vectors will definitely be rejected out of fear of doing more harm and making mistakes. However, inserting biomaterial will definitely be an imperative step. It is extremely necessary to continue in the study of medicine.

Conclusion

Regenerative medicine hopefully advances further overtime in hopes of being able to cure and repair damages, especially starting with brain injuries and spinal cord injuries. With the help of scientific research and strategies, a cure will be found for more diseases and regenerative medicine can play a pivotal role in our lives.

Sajia Athai, Youth Medical Journal 2021

References

‘Walking’ molecule superstructures could help create
neurons for regenerative medicine. (2021, February
23). Retrieved March 17, 2021, from
https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2021/02/21022311043 5.htm

What is regenerative medicine for traumatic brain
injuries? (2017, November 13). Retrieved March 17,
2021, from https://tbitherapy.com/what-is-regenerative-
medicine-for-traumatic-brain-injuries/Anthony, S., & Borlongan, C. (2017).

Recent progress in regenerative medicine for brain
disorders. Retrieved March 17, 2021, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6057690/

Categories
Biomedical Research

Breakthrough or Nah?

By Sajia Athai

Published 6:11 PM EST, Sun February 21, 2021

Introduction

COVID-19 has impacted the world in many powerful ways. From halting the economy to forever changing human interaction, 2020 showed the effects of this pandemic. With dramatic increases in deaths each day, the only hope seems to be the vaccine and any possible antibodies. However, scientists have made a breakthrough that suggests that mini antibodies from a llama could help to fight off infections. This unexpected opportunity brings a great change in terms of diseases and their effects.

COVID-19, Antibodies, and Llamas

Researchers have isolated many antibodies from llamas, which allows them to notice that these antibodies have the ability to fight off infections in the body, especially the infections caused by COVID-19. To elaborate, these antibodies are nanobodies, and can help detect viruses by specifically targeting SARS-CoV-2 spike proteins. As we know, COVID-19 is part of a much larger strain and in order to attack these particles, the nanobodies have to be analyzed further and be presented in an aerosol or liquid form. It is stated that it’s most effective through inhalation, which researchers have pondered whether there are other ways to increase the effectiveness of these nanobodies. Another way to explain is, neuroscientists have attempted to study different nanobodies because they are not costly and much easier to produce in large quantities. This allows for flexibility for research and disparate experiments. Scientists have been leaning towards utilizing more strike proteins to replicate the conditions against the coronavirus. This is imperative to finding a cure and plausible treatment for the virus. 

To elaborate further, nanobodies have been previously utilized in experiments that were primarily based on the utilization of monoclonal antibodies. One specific experiment involved the use of anti-BCL-6 GI191E/A8 MAb, which was found to be successful in terms of effectiveness. It helped to assist with the staining of a technique in order to test the impact of new antibodies on mice. It also involved the use of proteinase K helped to drastically decrease the background staining. The best results occurred after 24 hours of formalin fixation. It is stated that a similar technique would be utilized to test the effectiveness of the nanobodies. To elaborate, COVID-19 is a new strain that scientists have been analyzing and hoping to find medicine for. Utilizing nanobodies from llamas is very similar to the usage of antibodies of mice / in mice that have affected medicine as well. The nanobodies from llamas could target SARS-CoV-2 spike proteins and also help to attempt staining on a portion of the strain for further research. This will hopefully help scientists find easier ways to implement the nanobodies into their research for the cure to this disease.

By analyzing the antibodies, it was found that the nanobodies in the llama would target the spike proteins and possibly eliminate any possibility of an infection or any other issues. To elaborate, it would neutralize SARS-CoV-2 and two copies of the nanobody from the llama would be fused together in order to study the effects on the strain. With COVID-19, scientists noticed that it causes infections and blood clots within many individuals, which is what often leads to other respiratory illnesses that result in death. Although the disease impacts everyone in disparate ways, these antibodies can block infections which would help lower the number of deaths and help people recover. In order to test this further, a set of steps and techniques will be utilized such as the western – blot assay technique and others in order to see how effectively it will work against the virus.

An antibody called VHH-72Fc targets the spike protein on SARS-CoV-2 and it blocks the virus from infecting cells in a human body. This would be significant as antibodies are necessary to fight off the effects of the virus. The nanobodies that the scientists harvested from the llama that they utilized clung to the spike protein and prevented the virus from entering the cells. This has shown to be impactful due to the fact that the spike protein needed to be attacked in order to prevent an infection from occurring. This could possibly help find the effective cure to this disease as the obstacle that comes with the disease is primarily that the infections are hard to fight off. The existing antibodies in the hospitals have not been effective towards the infections for many patients who either have an underlying disease or pre-existing respiratory issues. However, VHH-72Fc has a high chance of targeting the protein without causing any harm to the patient and obstructing the virus from entering the human body. To explain further, the llama would also not be hurt in the process. Antibodies from mice have been shown to be successful in many diseases, and antibodies from llamas could also reach the same degree of success. More funding towards this research will assist in making a possible cure for the virus more effective.

Conclusion

Although the nanobodies have not proved themselves to be fully effective, they are definitely a significant step towards the right direction. This will possibly result in a medical discovery that would alter the lives of humans forever. Although scientists don’t know the effect of this approach, it has shown itself to be a useful tool to find the treatment and cure to COVID-19.

Sajia Athai, Youth Medical Journal 2021

References

National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. “Neuroscientists isolate promising mini antibodies against COVID-19 from a llama.” Science Daily, TrendMD, 22 December 2020, Accessed 2 February 2021. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/12/201222081257.htm

García, J., García, J., Maestre, L., Lucas, E., Sánchez-Verde, L., Romero-Chala, S., . . . Roncador, G. (2006). Genetic Immunization: A New Monoclonal Antibody for the Detection of BCL-6 Protein in Paraffin Sections. Journal of Histochemistry & Cytochemistry, 54(1), 31-38. doi:10.1369/jhc.5a6646.2005

Barry, M., Barry, M., & Johnston, S. (1994, January 01). Production of monoclonal antibodies by genetic immunization. Retrieved November 29, 2020, from https://asu.pure.elsevier.com/en/publications/production-of-monoclonal-antibodies-by-genetic-immunization

Categories
Health and Disease

Pill or Shot?

Abstract

HIV infections have spread throughout women through a prolonging period of years. Women have not been able to combat it effectively as obstacles prevent them from using the medicine. However, a new breakthrough appeared, allowing for women to possibly take long-lasting shots rather than daily pills of two drugs. These shots would allow women safety while not having to be attentive to it daily. This would be a simple treatment that could prevent women’s stress, allow for an effective alternative, and be able to help women who don’t have access in communities of poverty and lack of healthcare. The real question comes to what would battle HIV further: pills or shots?

Background

Although many women may be told they have a high risk of contracting HIV, they are not given the opportunity for being able to use PrEP pills. The pill is called Truvada and is utilized by an extremely small percentage of people. According to a 2018 research study, 6 percent of over 100,000 users have used Truvada. This pill is not made available to all groups of women yet, research has shown that the women who have stuck to the pill had difficulty in taking it every day without forgetting. Many women also feel the need to conceal the fact that they have HIV due to the stereotype that women infected with HIV would be insulted or accused of infidelity. This continued to portray that HIV has created obstacles for women such as societal challenges and physical challenges. Many women reside in neighborhoods with low-quality healthcare, lack of resources, or violence infested neighborhoods. If an injection, however, were to be approved, women would be able to utilize this and not be forced to conceal that they have HIV. Along with that, the shot would allow women comfort so that they weren’t forced to stick to a schedule that would constantly stress them out and cause psychological pain. 

Data and Analysis

A study was conducted where 38 women were grouped together to test whether pills were more effective or if shots were. 4 of the women were taking the shot while 34 had been taking the PrEP pill. This allowed for the opportunity to analyze results and also be able to see whether the injection would be safe enough to be distributed and approved. The results were rather exciting as they showed that the injections effectively combatted the injections in comparison to the pills. They reduced HIV infections by 89 percent compared to the effect of the pills, showing how the shot affected women in great ways that would help the women rather than harm. In a trial that involved cisgender men and transgender women who were having intercourse with men, it resulted in injections reducing infections by 66% compared to pills. The shot does not solve all the obstacles women face in HIV, but it would definitely gear towards the direction of assisting women who are not receiving enough help or access to the resources that they require.

   Perhaps this injection will introduce flourishing opportunities that would help combat the obstacles women face more effectively. For now, the shot has triumphed over PrEP pills, providing women with a choice that they get to pick in order to be more comfortable and safe with. This choice is a step in the direction of providing women the resources they need to prevent HIV infections.

Sajia Athai, Youth Medical Journal 2021

References

(1) Cunningham, Aimee. Long-Lasting Shots Work Better than Daily Pills to Prevent HIV in at-Risk Women. 1 Dec. 2020, http://www.sciencenews.org/article/hiv-prevention-women-prep-truvada-pill-shot.

Categories
Health and Disease

Battle of Progeria

    

Introduction

Throughout years of research, we have discovered a genetic disease progeria, which we have been unable to find a cure for. Progeria, also known as Hutchinson-Gilford syndrome, is an aging genetic disorder that causes rapid growth among the children who have it. A recent breakthrough of an oral treatment that would help the disease in children has been approved by the FDA to help treat the disease. Most children who have this disease die shortly before reaching the age of 15, and this treatment, Zokinvy, or lonafarnib, can help these affected patients in various ways. Zokinvy is actually the first and rather only approved drug that the FDA promotes and although this does not serve as a cure to the disease, it would help slow the pace of the disease which would result in a longer lifespan. Analyzing this disease resulted in discoveries such as  the cause of this illness, which is a mutation in the genetic code. The development of Zokinvy helped discover more details about the disease.

Background

        The mutation affects the gene that helps produce protein lamin A, and children who have progeria have substantial amounts of a defective protein called progerin, which is just lamin A but with extra pieces attached. This causes the rapid growth in those with the disease and also impacts how their cells recycle and carry out the production of blood cells. Every individual produces progerin, but those with progeria make an extreme amount, which makes them age faster eventually as the amount of progerin affects their body systems. Children diagnosed with progeria appear normal in the first 2 years of life but the effects of the disease begin to appear and often result in death before the age of 15 for many. About 350 to 400 children globally have this disease, and there is no cure for it yet, but this treatment, Zokinvy, can tremendously affect the children by slowing down growth and increasing their chance of living longer past the age of 15. Farnesyltransferase inhibitor is a drug in Zokinvy that affects the toxic buildup of progerin, which is detrimental for the body, but the inhibitor helps to control it.     

Uses   

  Zokinvy has also been implemented for use in other syndromes besides just progeria such as progeroid laminopathies, which also consists of rapid aging. It also assists with heterozygous LMNA mutations with progerin-like protein accumulation or compound heterozygous ZMPSTE24 mutations. Zokinvy could truly make breakthroughs in science and make drastic progress for progeria. Perhaps, this treatment would lead to further treatments that would eventually be a cure to this rare, aging disease. Eiger BioPharmaceuticals took over the treatment after Merck dropped it and developed it, in hopes of finding an effective treatment. In a clinical trial of about 62 patients, Zokinvy increased the average time of survival by 2.5 years and a possible follow-up of eleven years, a leap compared to the given lifespan of the children diagnosed with the disease. This has shown to be effective, and has been approved by the FDA and the FDA granted a rare pediatric disease priority review voucher, which will help establish a more permanent cure.

Conclusion

  Although Zokinvy has been approved to help progeria, there is still a long way until a permanent cure can be produced. With time, there will hopefully be a breakthrough that changes the outcome of progeria as Eiger is working to distribute and work on the treatment heavily for improvement and progress. Zokinvy is definitely the first step of the arduous journey to curing the disease.

Effects of progeria and how it appears in the children as young as a few years old.

Sajia Athai, Youth Medical Journal 2020

References

Categories
Health and Disease

The War of Genes vs Disease

Throughout the past several years, you have definitely heard speculations, observations, and many theories regarding the dramatic increase in obesity rates of individuals in the United  States. For over a decade, scientists have been experimenting and attempting to discover genes, alleles, and other genetic material that may contribute to obesity. However, scientists did discover that clusters of cells were found to play a pivotal role in the development of obesity. Although it had taken time for scientists to further study this phenomenon in-depth, they established that there is a myriad of genetic variants present that contribute towards the rate.

This idea was determined by the combination of two sets of data that involved an analysis of a person’s health, their specific attributes, and a separate set of single-cell RNA sequencing data. The first set of data, associated with humans, involved finding information about one’s genome and their body weight. For the second set of data, information was found about unique genetic codes and different portions of the genomes of the mouse populations. When both sets of data were combined to be accurate, scientists concluded that the genetic variants that contributed towards obesity were present in 26 disparate cell populations. This indicated that individuals with obesity had a higher chance of having identical genetic variants with one another.

Given from prior research, scientists know that the brain is the foundation for diseases and it is a region that controls the body’s needs for food and energy. Obesity is an intricate disease that involves more than just excessive body fat; It involves unhealthy habits, risks of other illnesses, and other detrimental effects. It is suggested that clusters of cells that process actions related to habits and eating contribute towards an individual’s rate of obesity. Recent findings also revealed that specific forms of brain cells determine the response and vulnerability to obesity. These are enthralling ideas that have been analyzed more deeply and are still being further looked at before coming to a final conclusion.

In late August, there were reports regarding how transplanted brown-fat-like cells were linked to reducing risks of obesity and diabetes, compared to human white fat cells that are existing in the body. This discovery shows the complex relationship between the body cells and the diseases in the human body. The way that cells interact and generally respond to sensory behaviors determines a lot of attributes of our health. Although there isn’t sufficient data to terminate all chances of acquiring obesity, scientists are getting much closer to putting together the pieces to prevent obesity at a higher rate and dissect the genetic traits behind this disease.

References

  • Pascal N Timshel, Jonatan J Thompson, Tune H Pers. Genetic mapping of etiologic brain cell types for obesity. eLife, 2020

Sajia Athai, Youth Medical Journal 2020