Week 1: Concerns rise over Christmas tree conservation, Tuberculosis updates, and a new approach to interventional cardiology

Posted on January 8, 2019 in Uncategorized

Could Christmas Trees Be in Danger?

Recent data collected on global plant conservation says they could be, along with many other common botanical species. BioTechniques reports that “The list includes plants vital for medicine, shelter and fuel as well as kitchen staples such as coffee, vanilla, chamomile, chocolate and cinnamon plants. Fir trees used for Christmas were also marked as high priority

Plants were rated on a scale of 1 to 100 (100 being the most protected in conservation efforts) from 220 countries. Only 3% of the 7,000 species evaluated fell within the range of 75-100, a benchmark indicating that they were adequately conserved.

Of the 13 species of Abies genus, which contain fir trees, that were evaluated only one was considered a low-priority at 59.9 while the others were placed in high- and medium-priority categories.

None of the 32 different coffee species evaluated earned higher than a 35.5 ranking, with a wild chocolate plant scoring 35.4.

Plants that were grown in protected areas, like national parks, on average scored a 40.7. This indicates that putting conservation efforts into focused areas does not necessarily work, while noting that irregular borders and climate changes create challenges in these areas.

The hope is that these findings will increase urgency in conservationists and policymakers to make changes necessary to protect these vital species.

Merck & Co. Partner with Sanofi to produce the ‘first hexavalent vaccine for US Market’

The two vaccine producers have paired up to create a vaccine for children six weeks of age to four years, covering diptheria, tetanus, pertussis, polio, hepatitis B, and Haemophilus influenzae type B virus (Hib), as covered by FiercePharma.

After earning European approval in 2016, the duo plans to debut this new vaccine in 2020 or later. This new product was created under a US vaccine partnership, established back in 1991, and is the first childhood vaccine to cover six different diseases in one.

Initial approval by the FDA was denied in a Complete Response Letter, reported in a 2017 securities filing by Sanofi. No details were released in this letter.

Sanofi is a producer of antigens covering diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, and polio while Merck produces Hib and hep B antigens, with Sanofi stating it expects their combination vaccine to be the first hexavalent vaccine available in the US.

Researchers Dive in to Why Some People Are Prone to Tuberculosis

Within the US, Tuberculosis (TB) infections are rare and individuals who possess risk factors can fly under the radar. Specifically, if you happen to have a gene mutation that makes you more prevalent to TB infections.

New insights from Rockefeller University investigators have found that certain gene mutations do exist that can predispose an individual to contracting TB, as well as have further immune impacts that lower the body’s response to fight off related mycobacterium.

With the current rate of infection at one in five people worldwide, but most people possess the necessary immune functions to fight off TB- only 10% of those infected show symptoms. In those who are infected and lacking the necessary tools, that infection can damage the lungs, spread to other organs, or even cause death.

The team analyzed DNA samples from patients with active infections across the world. The data put forward showed the gene mutation in question was widespread and focused on two genes in question: IL-12 and IL-23, each being responsible for certain immune functions.

Read more on GEN’s coverage here.

Portola to See Commercial Release of Bleeding Reversal Agent

FiercePharma covers the story on Portola’s Andexxa. The drug in question was approved for commercial release after facing two-year delays due to large scale production concerns. It was approved last spring under limited conditions, with only 1,000 healthcare providers having access to it.

Large companies like Pfizer, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Bayer, and Johnson & Johnson rely on Andexxa as an antidote to bleeding in patients who take their respective blood thinners. Companies like Pfizer and Bristol-Myers kicked in $50M in unsecured loans to help see the approval through after Portola was hit with a complete response letter in the summer of 2016.

The approval also helps reduce the risk of companies facing litigation due to uncontrolled bleeding in patients taking their blood thinners, as well as help in their competition with Boehringer Ingelheim’s Pradaxa that saw a bleeding antidote approved previously.

Baylor College of Medicine Questions Involvement of Fungal Infections with Long-Term Neurological Impacts

The team studied low-grade blood infections in mice, Candida albicans,  covered by GEN. The yeast was shown to trigger inflammatory responses that temporarily impacted memory function and lead to the formation of  granuloma-like structures that shared similarities with plaques deposits found in Alzheimer’s Disease.

The researchers referenced a study where allergic airway diseases and sepsis caused by fungal infections that lead to the development of dementia in their need to further study the long-term implications of fungal infections in the brain.

Fungal infections caused by environmental factors have been shown to be the cause of other inflammatory conditions such as eczema, asthma, and colitis. Fungi are now representing a number of causes for blood infections leading to sepsis, specifically in hospitals. However, blood infections caused by C. albicans (candidemia) can be hard to diagnose properly. Furthermore, short-term infections are considered to be increasingly common, while the long-infections and their implications aren’t well known. As a result, further development of diagnosing and treating these infections is called to be placed at a higher priority.

In mice, tests showed that those treated with C. albicans acquired cerebritis in localized areas, causing activated microglial and astroglial cells to accumulate around the infection sites. Through phagocytic activity, which lead to the development of granulose structures that resembled similarities to plaque deposits in AD.

The infected mice displayed memory deficits similar to AD. When left alone, the mice cleared the fungal infection on their own in around 10 days, subsequently resolving any memory deficits. However, further monitoring showed that the granulose structures were still present and microglial cells continued to be active for around three weeks post initial infection. Their findings suggest further research should be done in to determine the long-term effects of consistent, low-grade fungal infections on overall brain function and cognition.

Crossing Over Interventional Cardiology?

One veterinarian at Colorado State University’s James L. Voss Veterinary Teaching Hospital is proposing a novel approach to testing new cardiovascular devices by placing them in pets and teaching doctors how to use them.

This approach is multifaceted, with Brian Scansen, DVM, an associate professor of cardiology and the section head of cardiology and cardiac surgery at CSU, stating it’s a ‘win-win-win’ for all involved. His work over the past decade has been to form a collaboration between specialties. The idea is to create an environment to test devices meant for humans on animal patients with the same disease, eliminating the use of laboratory-created models that do not accurately mimic the condition being studied.

For the animal patients who are suffering from similar human conditions- in this case, dogs with left-sided congestive heart failure- there is an opportunity to trial new devices and treatments on these patients who would otherwise not have the opportunity. The hope is to create an opportunity for both types of doctors to learn how to treat these conditions and accelerate the advancements for new treatments.

Utilizing CSU’s highly advanced imaging resources and catheter lab, many device companies have the opportunity to advance and adapt their current systems to not only better serve their human patients but help out another species ailing from the same condition they’re trying to treat. Read more from TCTMD here.