Week 50: Coffee and Parkinson’s explored, wasp venom and antimicrobial resistance, Tilapia skin and burn wounds in veterinary medicine.

Posted on December 22, 2018 in Drug Development

Can Coffee Help Prevent Parkinson’s Disease in Mice? 

Two compounds of coffee are thought to work synergistically together to help prevent the onset of Parkinson’s Disease (PD) in mice, as stated in a report by GEN.

The compounds in question are caffeine and eicosanoyl-5-hydroxytryptamide (EHT), the substance that gives the waxy coating to coffee beans and are thought to prevent the buildup of alpha synuclein protein. These aggregations of proteins are characteristic of PD and dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB).

When looking at the impacts of amount of caffeine consumed in early PD patients showed no impact on disease progression. However, when looking at the consumption of decaffeinated coffee in drosophila PD models, it showed some protective properties. This caused researchers to raise the question of which other compounds in coffee have protective properties.

Altered levels of enzymes responsible for the methylation of neurons within the brain are found in patients with PD and DLB. Consumption of EHT, which is structurally individual has been shown to increase methylation in the brain and decreases the occurrence of certain protein aggregates in mouse models.

Studies out of Rutgers showed that EHT and caffeine may prevent aggregate formation, but when used alone does not prevent behavioral problems; when they were used concurrently they showed protective effects. With coffee being a complex combination of different substances, there could be other components that contribute to these findings. Furthermore, determination of therapeutic amounts of helpful substances should be determined before recommendations can be made. Full study here.

Wasp Venom May be the Answer for Common Infections

An antimicrobial peptide (AMP) has been discovered by MIT scientists and could be the key in treating Pseudomona aeruginosa, a common cause of urinary tract and respiratory infections. Discovered in a species of South African wasps, the treatment is derived from a toxin composed of 12 amino acids and proved to be non-toxic in human cells, when modeled in mice.

The results of the study were promising with the infection being studied cleared up within four days, unlike other infections that have been studied within this model.

This provides hope for drug resistant infections, which have become a global issue and impacts millions of people in developed countries every year. Antimicrobial peptides developed due to evolutionary processes. When found in certain insects and arachnids, these AMPs belong to a certain class characterized as linear amphipathic, which disrupt the cell membranes of bacteria.

In a global collaboration with other scientists, the team reasoned that they could manipulate the AMP due to its small size, allowing for a retained potency but ensuring the safety of human cells it comes into contact with. The overall goal for the researchers is to develop this compound and discover ways to potentially manipulate similar structures to create new treatments that can be used at smaller doses. Check out the full article from GEN here.

How Can Normal Dermal Bacteria Cause Deadly, Resistant Infections?

Scientists at the University of Bath in the UK wanted to know the same thing. Their study, covered here by FutureScience, looked at the differences between Staphylococcus epidermidis in healthy patients and those with post-surgical infections caused by the aforementioned bacteria.

S. epidermidis exists naturally on the skin of all health humans. Normally, it does not cause any issues. However, in some cases it can be the source of a potentially deadly infection.

Upon further looking between the two populations, the team discovered 61 genetic differences in the pathogenic strains of S. epidermidis compared to naturally occurring strains. Further analysis showed that these genetic differences were physically expressed as either the ability to grow in the bloodstream, create antibiotic resistant biofilms, or avoid the immune system altogether. In some samples, healthy adults unknowingly carried the pathogenic strain.

The team hopes this may help determine pre-operatively those patients who may be at risk for post-operative infections and create treatment strategies for these pathogens.

Is There a New Treatment on the Horizon for Baldness?

A new startup, HairClone, is looking to combat the changes brought on by balding, as covered by BioPharma-Reporter. The new entity, created by experts in the fields of hair loss and regenerative medicines, were looking for a solution to the common cause of thinning hair, androgenetic alopecia. Thinning hair or balding is caused by a reduction in hair follicle regeneration, which causes the follicle itself to shrink and lead to an appearance of thinning hair.

How HairClone plans to tackle this issue is by harvesting healthy follicles from the patient, isolating the necessary cells viable for hair growth, and replacing them back under the scalp to help restore affected follicles.

Their ideal patient at this point would be of either gender who is seeing the beginning of hair thinning. While the idea, at the moment, is not to stop the process completely multiple treatments would be necessary over time to rejuvenate hair follicles that are losing function. The expectation is not to change the overall appearance of the patient, but rather make it look as though their hair is not thinning.

The secondary project for HairClone is to make the first ever allogenic hair follicle bank, where donor samples can be stored and preserved cryogenically and used in recipients at a later time.

 Another Step in the Right Direction for Animal-to-Human Research Translation?

Scientists from CytoReason have developed a “groundbreaking” model to aid in the translation of results derived from mouse models to the human equivalent, as reported by Outsourcing-Pharma.

The model, called Found In Translation or FIT, is a machine-based learning platform that is designed to bridge the gap of information that exists with murine models and reduce the occurrence of “wasted” experiments. The platform looks at the stimulation of the human immune system on the cellular level and has already been tested on mice by looking at 28 different human diseases. Through this, discoveries have already been made in understanding Irritable Bowel Disease (IBD) in humans, with a key biological factor discovered to play an important role that no other study has yet to determine.

By looking at the roles different genes play in disease processes, the platform can help close the gap that exists between results in mice and the impacts it may have on humans. With this addressed, the hope is that drug makers can move better between data from preclinical mouse models and clinical outcomes in humans.

By being fed data sets from different studies, the platform looks at things on a per gene basis in humans with the hopes that it can translate from different species, to different tissues, and even to different diseases.

While it will not t eliminate the need of testing in mice, it will hopefully help make testing more targeted in the future.

Are There Veterinary Applications of Tilapia Skin?

Yes, yes there are.

After successfully using Tilapia skin last year, Dr. Jaime Peyton, Chief of Integrative Medicine at UC Davis, set to work treating animal burn victims from the deadly Camp Fire in Northern California earlier this year.

Tilapia skin has been gaining traction in treating burns, first being utilized in Brazil as an alternative to human skin grafts. The results were incredibly promising, and Dr. Peyton took notice.

Tilapia skin contains collagen and can be transferred to wounds when applied directly and speed up healing time. The skin is sterilized and can be applied in lieu of traditional gauze bandages. In veterinary applications, this is tremendous seeing as traditional bandages can be chewed off by patients and consumed, potentially causing intestinal blockages. If the Tilapia skin is eaten, it is harmless to the patient.

This is especially helpful when treating wild animals, such as bears and mountain lions. Dr. Peyton even treated an 18-month old filly in the UK who was a victim of suspected chemical burns to her face.

In addition to decreased healing time, the skin has also shown to be helpful in pain management. Patients have demonstrated signs of returning to normal such as resuming eating or walking directly on affected surfaces that they couldn’t previously.

These documented applications are promising in helping burn wounds heal, regardless of the species.