In Mice with Alzheimer’s, memory loss is reversed with diabetic drug

According to a recently published paper in Brain Research, a diabetic drug could be used to reverse memory loss in mice with Alzheimer’s disease. This study was conducted at Lancaster University in the UK. Professor Christian Holscher was the lead researcher of this study. This is a promising line of treatment for Alzheimer’s disease, a common neurodegenerative disorder. The drug was conventionally used to treat patients with type 2 diabetes.

Memory loss and dementia are the most common signs of Alzheimer’s disease. According to Alzheimer’s Society, more than two million people would suffer from Alzheimer’s disease by 2051. This research study was partially funded by Alzheimer’s Society. It is alarming rate of increase and there has been no new treatment for Alzheimer’s disease in recent times.

Since the past 15 years, physicians have been prescribing the same medications for patients with Alzheimer’s disease. According to Dr Doug Brown at the Alzheimer’s Society, new drugs must be urgently developed to tackle the growing number of patients with Alzheimer’s disease. Patients with Alzheimer’s disease cannot lead normal lives as dementia progresses quickly, limiting their cognitive skills and memory.

Diabetic drug liraglutide was tested on mice with Alzheimer’s disease; however, its efficacy must be further tested on human patients with Alzheimer’s disease. Randomized clinical trial need to be carried out with this objective. “Triple agonist drugs” have also shown promising results on mice with Alzheimer’s disease. Nevertheless, much needs to be done in the area of research and development.

Liraglutide is a “triple receptor drug” that has been tested for the first time. Researchers found that this drug could offer protection against degeneration of brain cells. Growth factors GLP-1, GIP, and Glucagon are combined in the formulation of the diabetic drug liraglutide. Previous studies have reported that growth signaling factors get impaired in the brain of patients with Alzheimer’s disease.

In this research study, scientists used transgenic mice APP/PSI. In these mice, they observed the expression of mutated genes, which cause Alzheimer’s disease. The same genes also undergo mutation in humans with Alzheimer’s disease. This form of Alzheimer’s is inherited through genetic mutation.

Researchers found that even in the advanced stage of neurodegeneration, memory loss could be significantly reversed in transgenic mice. By administering liraglutide drug to these aged mice, they could not improve memory but also cognitive ability. By performing maze test, they found that growth factors were enhanced in the brain of aged transgenic mice.

These growth factors in the brain would ensure normally functioning of nerve cells, preventing them from undergoing degeneration. Moreover, the drug decreased the formation of amyloid plaques in the brain of patients with Alzheimer’s disease. Furthermore, oxidative stress and chronic inflammation were reduced with the administration of this drug. Finally, the rate of nerve cell loss decreased following the action of this drug.

According to Professor Holscher, clinical trials have been successfully conducted with an older version of this drug. The promising results suggested that this drug was suitable for treating patients with Alzheimer’s disease. Although this drug was originally developed to manage type 2 diabetes, many studies have reported about its neuro-protective effects.

Our study is unique in the fact that a novel triple drug shows promising results when used as a line of treatment for Alzheimer’s disease. However, further clinical trials must be conducted in a dose-dependent manner on humans, and its efficacy must be compared with existing drugs to know whether if the novel drug is superior to existing ones.

The risk of Alzheimer’s disease is high in patients with type 2 diabetes. Quite often, Alzheimer’s disease develops with the progression of type 2 diabetes. Owing to impaired insulin levels, cerebral degeneration occurs in patients with type 2 diabetes. This leads to the development of Alzheimer’s disease.

In the brain of patients with Alzheimer’s disease, scientists have found that there is no sensitivity to insulin. They believe that neurodegenerative disorders occur due to insulin desensistization in the brain. This is because insulin exhibits neuroprotective effects as it is a growth factor in human brain.


A new recyclable treatment for destroying cancer cells selectively

Researchers at the University of Warwick have developed a new recyclable treatment for destroying cancer cells. This research study was led by Professor Peter J. Sadler, who works at the Department of Chemistry at the University of Warwick. They have synthesized an organic-osmium compound, which can selectively attack cancer cells. The compound was synthesized using sodium formate in non-toxic dosages. Sodium formate is found in many organisms as a natural product. Ants and nettles also synthesize this natural product.

The novel organic-osmium compound was named JPC11 by researchers. They found that this compound can target metabolic process that governs the survival and proliferation of cancer cells. Cancer cells derive energy for rapid division and proliferation from a key substance, which belongs to the class of pyruvates. This key substance is converted into unnatural lactate by JPC11. The resultant lactate destroys cancer cells.

The significance of this treatment lies in the fact that the chemo-catalyst JPC11 is recyclable; therefore, it can be reused to repeatedly attack a particular cancer cell line. This is a path-breaking innovation in cancer treatment as JPC11 is a novel compound that paves the way for recyclable treatment of cancer. In future, side-effects and toxicity of chemotherapy can be minimized by administering such recyclable drugs in smaller dosages. The functional capacity of JPC11 is unprecedented given the recyclable ability of the compound. Researchers have been now focusing on how this compound can be effectively used to treat ovarian cancer.

It is difficult to treat patients with ovarian cancer because they are usually resistant to conventional chemotherapeutic drugs. In particular, they are highly resistant to the platinum drug cisplatin. This new drug broadens the scope of anticancer treatment given the fact that it is recyclable and reusable. The new drug is promising as it destroys cancer cells through a completely novel mechanism, so ovarian cancer patients may not be resistant to this novel drug.

One of the major attractions of this compound is the fact that it selectively destroys cancer cells. Researchers found that JPC11 compound primarily targeted the expression of cancer cells. The compound did not attack healthy living cells, so they were mostly unaffected by exposure to JPC11 compound. Compared to conventional platinum drugs, the selectivity of JPC11 compound is far more superior and effective. In fact, the conventional platinum drugs would also destroy healthy living cells which were in the vicinity of cancer cells. Thus, the selective activity of JPC11 compound seems to be a major breakthrough in cancer treatment.

According to Dr. James Coverdale, this is a path-breaking discovery in the treatment of cancer. Dr. James Coverdale is a research scholar at the Department of Chemistry, University of Warwick. He worked with his colleagues to develop this innovative compound, which holds promising results in cancer treatment. By synthesizing this compound, they broadened the applications of chemistry in medical science. With this compound, they have come up with a novel strategy for killing cancer cells selectively. The compound JPC11 is a chemo-catalyst with a unique mechanism of action, which seems to be more selective and effective in destroying cancer cells. Given its high selectivity, it paves the way for new treatments that are much safer and effective than conventional treatments.

Peter Sadler is a medicinal chemist who also worked with this research group at the University of Warwick. According to Professor Peter Sadler, cancer chemotherapy mainly involves the use of platinum compounds. However, these drugs have poor selectivity and less safety, so new drugs must be invented to overcome the problem of side-effects and drug-resistance. In this research study, a truly novel drug was discovered for cancer treatment. Professor Peter Sadler believes that chemo-catalysts are promising in cancer treatment since they have immunogenic properties. However, the efficacy of this drug must be further established by conducting clinical trials.


Twenty-six articles are retracted from Elsevier following fake peer review

Fake peer review has traumatized the business of scholarly communications in 2017. Springer announced that it would retract 107 papers in April 2017 after unearthing the scam of fake peer review. Closely following the steps of its competitor, Elsevier announced in December 2017 that it would retract 26 papers as they suspected they were approved by fake peer review racket. In a remarkable blow to scholarly publishers, peer review was systematically manipulated by digging into the loopholes of authorship. These papers were published in six journals of Elsevier from 2014 to 2017. Interestingly, all papers were written by Iranian research scholars. Moreover, A Salar Elahi is a common author in 24 out of 26 retracted papers. A Salar Elahi is a research scholar at Islamic Azad University in Tehran, Iran.

According to a statement released by Elsevier on 21st December 2017, 26 papers were found to be published due to academic misconduct. They had already retracted 13 out of 26 papers from their prestigious journals. It is important to note that the International Journal of Hydrogen Energy contained 10 out of these 13 retracted papers. The remaining three retracted papers had been published in the journal Results in Physics.

Elsevier declared that the remaining 13 papers would also be retracted soon from their esteemed journals following charges of fake peer review. Out of these 13 papers, four were published in the journal Results in Physics. Moreover, the Journal of Crystal Growth had also published 4 papers, which are in the process of retraction. Three papers will soon be retracted from the Journal of Alloys and Compounds. One paper would be retracted from each of the following journals: i) Fusion Engineering and Design and ii) International Journal of Thermal Sciences. These papers were submitted and published by Iranian researchers from 2014 to 2017.

Elsevier has found that peer review process was faked for publishing these 26 papers in journals. Interestingly, names of problematic reviewers were suggested by authors themselves.  The fraud of these authors was caught by editors of two Elsevier journals. These editors immediately informed Elsevier authorities of academic fraud. The email addresses of these recommended reviewers could not be validated by Elsevier editors. While submitting their manuscripts to Elsevier journals, the authors had provided these suspicious email addresses.

To tackle this menace, Elsevier decided to take strong punitive action against this group of authors. They investigated all papers submitted by this group of authors to Elsevier journals and they found that those papers were also published by following fake peer review process. To tackle this academic scam, Elsevier retracted all the 26 papers written by this group of authors.  Fake peer review was not the only issue for retracting these papers. Elsevier authorities found that the list of authors was also changed in these papers without informing journal editors prior to publication.

Interestingly, Elahi is the mastermind of this scam as he is corresponding author in 24 out of 26 papers that have been now retracted by Elsevier. He has successfully published 162 papers, which have been indexed by Web of Science (Thomson Reuter’s tool for SCI Journal list). Iran researchers have also defrauded Springer Nature earlier. In 2016, Springer Nature retracted 58 articles published by research scholars from Iran. These authors had also faked the peer review process to publish their papers.

Fake peer review was possible because the names of reviewers were suggested by authors themselves. Therefore, publishers should stop the practice of asking authors to suggest reviewers for their work, prior to publication in journals. However, publishers seem helpless here as they face scarcity of reviewers quite often. Elsevier spokesperson confirmed that journals have to cope with scarcity of reviewers in a highly competitive world of scholarly communications. Therefore, some journals had relented to the idea of receiving reviews from scholars recommended by authors themselves.




Advanced skin cancer can now be treated with Arthritis drug

According to a latest research study, patients with advanced skin cancer can now be treated more effectively if they are administered a well-known drug, which is normally used to treat rheumatoid arthritis. This drug should be dispensed in combination with conventional drug therapy used to treat skin cancer. This study was conducted on mice by researchers at the University of East Anglia (UEA). Melanoma tumor growth stopped almost completely in mice with advanced skin cancer when they were treated with both conventional medications and arthritis drug. Melanoma tumor occurs only in five percent of patients with skin cancer; however, it is the deadliest form of tumor with high mortality rate. If melanoma growth is diagnosed at an early stage, then it can be completely treated with this combinatorial therapy. However, it is difficult to treat melanoma in metastasis stage.

In recent times, novel treatments have targeted genetic mutations that cause metastatic melanoma in patients. However, metastatic melanoma becomes resistant to drugs very quickly, so researchers are focusing on developing a combination of treatments that can effectively destroy the proliferation of metastatic melanoma. Dr Grant Wheeler was the lead researcher at the School of Biological Sciences, UEA. According to Dr. Wheeler, metastatic melanoma can be attacked from several angles, if researchers provide combinatorial therapies to patients with skin cancer. Melanoma tumors would then find it difficult to develop drug resistance. In their research study, they could further establish the benefits of combinatorial therapies: since they administered arthritis drug along with conventional therapy to mice with skin cancer, the benefits of both therapies were enhanced; therefore, the effects of combinatorial therapies were more than the sum total of all benefits.

In this research study, Dr Wheeler worked with colleagues at the School of Pharmacy in UEA. This study was conducted in collaboration with researchers at the Norwich Medical School. Leflunomide is an immunosuppressive drug that is normally prescribed to patients with rheumatoid arthritis. They investigated how effective was Lelunomide drug in treating skin cancer patients, which were also treated with skin cancer therapy simultaneously.

In a previous study, these researchers had found that Leflunomide was effective when used with drugs that target a certain genetic mutation of melanoma tumor, namely, BRAFV600E. In current research study, they tested the efficacy of leflunomide in combination with seflumetinib, which is a conventional drug used to treat melanoma. They found that this combination of drugs was more effective in treating melanoma. Melanoma depends on a protein called MEK for its survival. The activity of MEK protein is targeted by the drug Selumetinib. Many drugs act as inhibitor of MEK activity. These drugs are used along with BRAF inhibitors to tackle resistance. In current study conducted by Dr Wheeler, it was found that this combination of drugs was more effective when leflunomide was also included in it.

These researchers tested leflunomide on melanoma cells in the laboratory. They found that leflunomide was effective in combating melanoma growth, irrespective of its genetic mutation. This was a path-breaking discovery as leflunomide could now be used to treat all kinds of melanomas, and not just the tumors caused by BRAF mutation. The team of researchers investigated the activity of leflunomide on melanoma cells. They found that leflunomide could arrest of growth of melanoma cells when they were in their early stage of development. Then, leflunomide would initiate controlled cell death, known as apoptosis. It would force melanoma cells to kill themselves.

This group of scientists then tested the efficacy of combining leflunomide with selumetinib. They found that this combination of drugs was more effective in killing melanoma cells. This finding was confirmed by administering leflunomide and selumetinib to mice with melanoma tumors. Over a period of 12 days, this combination of drugs was administered to mice with melanoma tumors. It was found that the combinatorial therapy worked wonders in completing stopping the growth of melanoma tumors. The efficacy of combinatorial therapy was far superior to those of individual drugs. However, further clinical trials need to be carried out to ascertain if melanoma tumors show drug resistance to this combinatorial treatment.

According to Dr. Wheeler, death rate is quite high in patients with melanoma tumors because these tumors usually develop resistance to drugs. Therefore, most patients respond poorly to melanoma treatments. To tackle this problem, doctors are now propagating immunotherapeutic treatments to boost defence mechanisms within the human body. However, researchers are still hopeful that novel combinatorial therapies would work wonders in association with immunotherapy, which is now being provided to most patients with melanoma tumors. According to Dr. Wheeler, the combination of leflunomide and selumetinib can destroy melanoma tumors effectively.



Elsevier and American Chemical Society sue Sci-Hub for copyright infringement

Sci-Hub was a popular website that provided access to academic papers free of cost. Elsevier pressed charges of copyright infringement against Sci-Hub at a U.S federal court in New York. In a historic judgment, the court convicted Sci-Hub for violating copyright laws.

As penalty, U.S court has ordered Sci-Hub to pay 15 million dollars as damages to Elsevier, world’s leading publisher of scientific, technical, and medical research. Sci-hub was penalized severely for copyright infringement, as more than 100 academic papers of Elsevier were pirated and downloaded free of cost. This website also contacted pirated copies of academic papers published in subscription journals of Springer Nature, Academic Chemical Society, and Wiley-Blackwell.


Elsevier had sued Sci-Hub in 2015 for copyright infringement as it unlawfully accessed and distributed more than 100 academic papers of Elsevier. The New York district judge convicted Sci-Hub for violating copyright laws severely and ordered to discontinue the website; however, the makers of Sci-Hub did not relent to the court and continued their website under different domain names and IP addresses.

Elsevier requested permanent ban on Sci-Hub in court and 15 million dollars as damages. Alexandra Elbakyan, the founder of Sci-Hub, did not hire any lawyer to represent her in the court. Thus, Elsevier easily won the lawsuit; however, it is not yet clear if Alexandra would relent to court orders.

Alexandra Elbakyan wanted to break the barriers in science and technology by providing free access to scholarly papers. Although several academics concede that the website violated copyright laws, they feel that this was the right step in letting knowledge grow. Most subscription journals of Elsevier are very expensive, so this limits access to published scientific literature. Libraries and academic institutions have been pressing for fairer pricing of subscription journals.


As per latest updates, American Chemical Society (ACS) has also filed a lawsuit against Sci-Hub in US court. The director of communications at ACS has alleged that Sci-Hub has managed to make many spoofed versions of ACS website. With these spoofed websites, Sci-Hub has managed to pirate and distribute many copyrighted journal articles of ACS. ACS also won copyright infringement case against Sci-Hub in November 2017.

According to the latest ruling of US court, Sci-Hub founder has to pay 4.8 million dollars as damages to ACS. Moreover, Sci-Hub and its domains have been asked to discontinue their operation with immediate effect. Search engines, hosting sites, internet service providers, and registries of domain names have been asked to ban Sci-Hub website and its related domains.

After receiving these landmark judgments against copyright infringement, speculations were rife about similar lawsuits against Google and other search engines, because they actively facilitated the operation of pirated academic content from Sci-Hub website. However, directors of ACS have clarified that they have no immediate plans of suing internet service providers and search engines.

Sci-Hub is operated and managed by Alexandra Elbakyan in Russia, which is outside the jurisdiction of US courts. She also does not hold any assets in USA, so it is not yet clear if she would comply with U.S court orders. In other words, this ruling may not really compel Sci-Hub to shut shop, though it is a brave step in deterring piracy of scholarly communications.




Growing Demand of South Korean Pharmaceutical Drugs

According to latest industry reports in 2017, Japan is the major importer of pharmaceutical drugs and finished products from South Korea. This information was provided in a press release statement of Korea Pharmaceutical and Bio-pharma Manufactuers’ Association.

Industry sources have confirmed that pharmaceutical drugs and finished products worth 3.12 billion dollars were exported from South Korea in 2017. Out of the total exports, pharmaceutical drug ingredients worth 304.6 million dollars were exported to Japan. Finished drugs exported to Japan were worth 158.1 million dollars. Thus, Japan imported pharmaceutical goods worth 462.8 million dollars from South Korea in 2017.

Another important destination for South Korean pharmaceutical drugs and products was Croatia. This country imported pharmaceutical drugs worth 397.8 million dollars from South Korea in 2017, followed by Ireland with a total import of 228.8 million dollars of drug ingredients from South Korea. Industry reports also presented top 10 export destinations for South Korean pharmaceutical products and drugs.

South Korea exported 208 $ million dollar worth pharmaceutical raw materials and finished goods to China, making it the no.1 export destination for South Korea. Another important export destination was Vietnam with total trade of 182 million dollars.

This was closely followed by Hungary, USA, and Brazil recording an export share of 135 million dollar, 116.2 million dollar, 113.2 million dollars, respectively, from South Korea. Finally, Germany and India were other important export destinations for South Korean pharma goods, with total market share of 80.9 million dollar and 77.8 million dollars, respectively.

Celltrion Healthcare is the biggest exporter of pharmaceutical drugs in South Korea. A leading biopharmaceutical firm, it reported robust growth in exports of biosimilar products, especially the ones required for treating autoimmune diseases. Its brand new biopharmaceutical drug Remsima received approval for commercial use in USA and Europe, thereby driving exports in unprecedented manner.

Yuhan and Green Cross were the other major exporters of pharmaceutical drugs in South Korea. Yuhan primarily exported pharmaceutical active ingredients to multinational companies all across the world, recording total exports of 246.4 billion won. Blood products manufactured by Green Cross were exported in large numbers, accounting for total exports of 203.8 billion won.

ST pharm was another major player exporting pharmaceutical active ingredients worth 165.5 billion won in 2017. Samsung Biologics also exported drugs worth 147.4 billion won, making it a global leader in the manufacture of biomedical products.

Dong-A ST was another major exporter of pharmaceutical products in South Korea, recording exports worth 146.8 billion won. It was closely followed by other major pharmaceutical exports, such as Suhueng, Kolon Life Science, Hanmi Pharmaceutical, Daewoong Pharmaceutical. 2017 year saw stupendous growth in pharmaceutical exports in South Korea, with top 10 players accounting for exports worth 2.12 trillion won.


Robotic surgery: latest innovation in healthcare

Within healthcare industry, robotic surgery has become the latest innovative trend and experts are of the view that robotic systems will become common in most hospitals by 2025. Though robotic surgery sounds very hi-tech, its demand is rising as general population is ageing in developed countries. Moreover, most developed countries are facing a severe shortage of trained medical surgeons.

So what exactly is robotic surgery? Well, it is a system of computer-aided machines that have the ability to carry out complex surgical procedures either partially or independently. In 2014, robotic surgery equipment had a market share of 3 billion USD. This market share is expected to double by 2020.

This implies that the demand for robotic surgery equipment is growing continuously, but there are some risk factors associated with it as it is computer-assisted device: there could be instrumental and system errors during the surgical procedure, leading to accidental deaths. To assess these risks, a study was conducted by a team of researchers at University of Illinois. In the USA, they found that about 1000 injuries and 144 deaths were caused by complications in robotic surgery.

Nevertheless, robotic surgery is going to the silent revolution of healthcare as its advantages far outweigh its risks. With a robotic surgery, the efficiency, efficacy, and precision improve tremendously. At the same time, patients experience fewer post-surgical complications and can recuperate soon. This reduced hospitalization time, so most hospitals are now encouraging patients to undergo robotic surgeries. In most government hospitals, robotic surgery is being carried out today to remove tumors. Moreover, it is now very common for patients to undergo robotic surgery for the removal of prostate, bladder or kidney.

Today, low-cost robotic systems have also become a common sight in laparoscopic surgeries. In this minimally invasive procedure, a robotic arm would align a video camera around the organ, and not the human surgeon. Minimally invasive surgeries are otherwise costly, but prices are likely to fall with the use of robotic systems.

It is important to note that robotic surgeries are still controlled by surgeons who control their movements remotely. A robotic arm can stay steady for several hours of the surgical procedure, giving a clearer picture to surgeons. With the use of robotic arms, we can minimize the need for trained clinical professionals in operation theaters. Moreover, surgical procedures carried out with robotic systems would require much lesser time for completion. In some cases, it saves about 20% of original time.

It is not just surgeons but also general practitioners are facing competition from automated healthcare systems, such as robots and chatbots. In London, a new automated has been launched recently. It allowed patients to check their symptoms through a mobile app. Then, a doctor at NHS (National Health Services) provides consultation through video conferencing. Patients need to book an appointment just two hours prior to consultation. Although doctors are not completely replaced in this procedure, chatbots assess symptoms initially. Patients are asked to answer a set of questions in these mobile apps, paving the way for artificial intelligence in healthcare systems.


Nanoparticles can stop antibiotic resistance in patients with respiratory ailments

At Friedrich Schiller University in Germany, a group of scientists have successfully devised an efficient method to treat lethal airway infections. They found that nanoparticles can efficiently transport antibiotics to the target destination. Presently, patients are asked to inhale drugs for treating airway infections. Thus, the passage of these drugs from the body to the pathogens causing lung infections is complicated. In fact, many drugs do not even reach the target destination let alone combating the pathogens causing airway infections.

Antibiotics need to be of a miniscule size in order to penetrate the deeper airways else they naturally bounce back and have no effect on the area infected. Moreover, antibiotics have to move across the thick layer of mucus that is formed due to airway infection. Thereafter, they have to penetrate the bacterial biofilm before reaching the infected airway passage.

Nanoparticles: a vehicle for antibiotics

To overcome the various obstacles encountered by inhaled antibiotics, these researchers developed a novel experiment. Antibiotics like Tobramycin were encapsulated in a polyester polymer. Then, they created a simulated lung situation in the laboratory and tested a nanoparticle that was specifically created for this purpose.

The movement of nanoparticle was tracked both in a static and dynamic positions within the simulated flow. In other words, these researchers developed an innovative simulation system, which exactly resembled a lung chronically infected with cystic fibrosis.

They found that nanoparticles can easily travel through the spongy network of mucus and finally reach the deeper airways to attack the pathogens. They did not encounter any difficulties in attacking the pathogens causing lung infection. Researchers applied an additional coating of polyethylene glycol to make the nanoparticle drug delivery system completely invisible to immune system.

Researchers declared that nanomaterial used in this study was biodegradable, non-toxic, and not toxic to humans. Nevertheless, researchers were clueless about how nanoparticles could fight pathogenic bacteria with so much efficiency. However, they are hopeful of making a breakthrough soon in this regard.

Researchers have presented two possibilities: i) significantly larger amounts of antibiotics are administered to the center of infection using nanoparticles as delivery carrier and ii) nanoparticle destroys the defense mechanism developed by the bacteria against the antibiotic.

This implies that these researchers have made a path-breaking discovery, which can be immensely useful in fighting lethal lung infections. Researchers have been able to tackle drug resistance of pathogenic bacteria, which cause lethal lung infections.

It is important to note that in the lower layers of the biofilm in airways, bacteria transform into persistent pathogens, which are dormant and hardly respond to any conventional drug therapies. Thus, conventional antibiotics are only able to destroy self-dividing bacteria. Using nanoparticles, antibiotics are transported into the inner layer of biofilms to combat these dormant, persistent bacteria.

This group of researchers developed nanoparticles specifically for inhalation. Conventional nanoparticles are 200 nm in size, which is too small to enter into the deeper passage of airways.  In humans, respiratory system normally filters out particles which are too large and too small. Particles of the size of 1 to 5 micrometers are only allowed to enter through airways of humans.

These researchers have pointed out that “coated nanoparticles” can effectively improve the therapeutic efficacy of antibiotics against bacterial biofilms.  This group of researchers have found a truly innovative method to tackle antibiotic resistance of pathogenic bacteria which cause lethal respiratory infections. This treatment modality was particularly useful in treating muscoviscidosis patients.

The life expectancy of such patients can be improved manifold with this path-breaking discovery. The impact of antibiotics against the bacterial biofilm certainly improved when they were delivered in “coated nanoparticles.” This discovery seems to have brought cheers to many pulmonologists who treat such patients on a daily basis.





A novel gene therapy for treating vision loss receives FDA approval

Luxturna (voretigene neparvovec-rzyl) is a novel gene therapy has been approved by US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) this week for treating inherited vision loss in both children and adult patients. Inherited vision loss can ultimately lead to blindness if untreated; however, Luxturna has shown promising results in tackling this condition. US FDA has approved for the first time a directly administered gene therapy. Luxturna targets the mutations of a specific gene, which causes inherited vision loss in children and adults.

The field of gene therapy has received a major boost after receiving approval from US FDAthis week. Now, gene therapy can not only be used to treat cancer but also vision loss; this is an important milestone that has expanded the clinical applications of gene therapy. This year has borne fruit for researchers who have spent decades in developing gene therapy solutions for various illnesses as three gene therapies have been approved by US FDA for the treatment of serious and rare diseases.

In the near future, US FDA officials are hopeful of making gene therapy a conventional mode of treatment as it shows bright prospects in curing serious diseases which cannot tackled by present modalities. In fact, US FDA officials are going to develop a specialized framework for approval novel gene therapies in the years to come. They have promised to come up with new clinical measures that can specifically evaluate and review all aspects of novel gene therapies, which seem to be important breakthroughs in tackling life-threatening diseases.

Many research studies have confirmed that mutation of a biallelic RPE65 gene leads to retinal dystrophy, which further progresses to cause inherited vision loss and ultimately blindness in patients. Officials of US FDA have confirmed that Luxturna is quite effective in treating such patients. Mutations in any one of the 220 different genes can lead to inherited vision loss and blindness. In scientific terms, this condition is known as hereditary retinal dystrophies that cause several retinal disorders due to genetic mutations. Visual dysfunction is a progressive disorder that leads to blindness both in children and adults.

Every year approximately 1000 to 2000 patients in the US are diagnosed with inherited retinal dystrophy, which is caused by mutation of biallelic RPE65 gene. In these patients, both copies of a particular gene (maternal and paternal gene) contain biallelic mutation carriers that cause mutation in the gene. In this case, RPEG5 directs the production of an enzyme that is required for maintaining normal vision. If mutations occur in the gene RPE65, then the activity of RPE65 can be suppressed or stopped completely. Thus, mutations of RPE65 genes can lead to impaired vision and ultimately blindness in patients with retinal dystrophy. Such patients experience progressive loss of vision over a period of time. The sad truth is that loss of vision first hits these patients during puberty or adolescence and ultimately they turn into blind adults.

Luxturna is a novel gene therapy that directly delivers a normal copy of RPE65 gene into retinal cells. A normal protein is then produced by retinal cells with the help of this gene. Due to this protein, light signals are converted into electrical signals in the retina. Thus, patients with inherited vision loss are cured completely as their normal vision gets restored.  Luxturna was prepared from a naturally occurring adenovirus; this virus was modified in the laboratory with the help of DNA techniques. This gene therapy is a vehicle that directly delivers the normal RPE65 gene in human retina and restores the vision of patients with inherited retinal dystrophy. Thus, it prevents many young adolescents and teenagers from turning blind. This has ultimately given hope to thousands of patients who were told that their condition is incurable till date.

Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is an important agency that is affiliated to the U.S Department of Health and Human Services. It is a major regulatory body in public health administration in the USA. Its main function is to assess and evaluate the safety, efficacy, and security of drugs, vaccines, biological products, and medical devices used on humans and animals. Apart from this, US FDA also investigates safety standards of processed foods, cosmetics, tobacco products, and dietary supplements.


Important scientific breakthroughs in 2017

Stars collision in astronomy

Astronomers announced an important breakthrough on 16th October, 2017. They detected the collision of two neutron stars on this day. This breakthrough was significant enough in the sense that these collisions would not lead to γ-ray bursts along with the creation of heavier elements in the Universe, such as gold and uranium.

Astronomers detected the gravitational waves, which were dissipated as ripples during the collision.  This project was carried out by a team of 70 astronomers at Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) based in the USA. Using sophisticated telescopes, scientists observed these γ-rays and radio-frequency spectrum.

Another important feat of 2017 was advancements in quantum communications. On 15th June, 2017, researchers in China made an important public announcement: they had shot pairs of photons from Micius satellite to two ground stations; the distance of separation between these two stations was 1200 kms. This experiment was a breakthrough event as it broke the record of the distance over which particles are associated with each other in an “entangled” state.  This was a major breakthrough for Chinese researchers who are trying to develop “quantum internet” in the near future.

Breakthroughs in Genetics

In 2017, a sophisticated treatment for cancer received its first approval: CAR-T cell therapy. In this approach, the immune cells of a patient were genetically engineered to destroy tumor cells of the target. Although the scientific community is not yet clear about the safety of this novel approach, the method did receive its approval from US FDA. This method was approved for treating acute leukemia in children and young adults.

Organ transplantation may soon become a reality given the path-breaking breakthrough in January, 2017. In a peer-reviewed report, scientist claimed to have developed fetuses with both pig and human cells. These hybrids would then be used for developing animals with organs, which are compatible with that of humans. Then, these organs could then be transplanted into people.

Assisted reproduction received a major boost in 2017 as gene editing was now approved for clinical use in six peer-reviewed studies. For the first time, a team of scientists announced in August 2017 that they had developed an innovative CRISPR–Cas9 gene-editing system that repairs pathogenic (disease-causing) mutation in human embryos. The researchers proved that the method was safe for clinical use as this method did not lead to any unwanted mutations.  Another innovative study was published in September 2017. In this study, scientists fixed the gene associated with recessive blood disease in human embryos, which contained unwanted mutations. These researchers had used human skin cells to clone embryos. Then, they corrected the defects by editing single bases of the DNA.

Another important breakthrough in genetics occurred in July 2017. Genomic data of more than 500, 000 participants was released by the UK Biobank; this genetic data is considered to be one of the largest troves till date. Complete information about the health and traits of 500, 000 participants was provided by UK Biobank to approved scientists. Using this genetic data, a team of scientists carried out a study on 2,000 genomes to understand the inheritance of diseases and traits.

Breakthroughs in space science


Cassini spacecraft launched by NASA got burned up in Saturn’s atmosphere on 15th September 2017.  At the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, scientists and engineers recorded the dwindling and death of incoming radio signals from Cassini spacecraft. This spacecraft had explored the Saturn planet was almost 13 years, and it crashed out as its fuel supply was exhausted completely; therefore, engineers at NASA steered this spacecraft for a crash and prevented it from bumping into one of the moons of Saturn planet. Cassini spacecraft provided important information about the powerful storms and constantly-changing rings of Saturn planet. Moreover, the spacecraft discovered a mammoth sea of hydrocarbon on Titan, which is the moon of Saturn planet.

In October 2017, astronomers observed a fast-moving asteroid whose orbit was unlike anything seen earlier. This important asteroid was spotted by astronomers in Hawaii. They christened this celestial body as “Oumuamua”; it was 400 meters in length and was believed to have originated from interstellar space. This celestial body zipped back toward the Sun and deep space no sooner it was observed. Such an object was observed for the first time ever in space.

In February 2017, astronomers discovered that seven planets (these plants were of the size of Earth) were orbiting around a star named TRAPPIST-1; this star was about 41 light years away from the Sun. This system was peculiar in terms of the number of small planets; all these planets were rotating in temperate orbits. This is an important breakthrough that paves the way for interplanetary visits.