Common autism pathway opens the door for new drug treatments

Common autism pathway opens the door for new drug treatments

The definition of autism has undergone constant evolution — as any architect of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders can attest — and now refers to a broad spectrum of various developmental and social disorders with many distinct genetic causes. This understanding of the disorder obviously complicates the development of therapeutics: if every person with autism is different, identifying drugs to treat everyone seems like a Sisyphean task. But research published today suggests that the disorder’s complexity may not beckon the end of drug development.  Read more

New drug pathways under investigation for ALS

New drug pathways under investigation for ALS

A diagnosis of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is considered a life sentence. Most people with the neurodegenerative disease, which attacks the neurons responsible for motor control, only survive two or three years after their diagnosis — and 5,000 such diagnoses are made each year in the US alone. Despite the need, however, there is only a single drug on the market that targets ALS: Rilutek (riluzole), made by France’s Sanofi. But this agent only prolongs life by two or three months on average.  Read more

WHO’s the boss: Chan set to stay at the helm of the global health agency

WHO’s the boss: Chan set to stay at the helm of the global health agency

The US Republican party has a long list of potential candidates to choose from for the 2012 presidential bid, but the World Health Organization (WHO) has no such leadership race. Today, the WHO, the Geneva-based health arm of the United Nations, announced that the organization had received just a single nomination for its next director-general: the incumbent Margaret Chan.  Read more

Straight talk with… Steve Brown

Straight talk with… Steve Brown

For decades, the study of gene function has relied heavily on the creation of ‘knockout’ mice, bioengineered to lack certain genes. But making a rodent without a specific gene is a chore—so much so that doctoral students sometimes dedicate their entire PhD work to generating a single mouse strain. The International Knockout Mouse Consortium (IKMC), launched in 2006, plans to change all that. The consortium, involving scientists from 33 research centers in nine countries, is creating a library of every gene knockout in embryonic stem cell lines, which can be used to produce mouse strains.  Read more

Stanford program gives discoveries a shot at commercialization

In the late 1990s, Daria Mochly-Rosen, a protein chemist at the Stanford University School of Medicine in California, discovered that a certain class of drugs that inhibit enzymes known as protein kinase C could reduce cardiac damage after a heart attack. Working with Stanford’s Office of Technology Licensing (OTL), she patented the finding with hopes of licensing it to a pharmaceutical company. No one showed any interest.  Read more

Research organizations push back against clinical trials directive

LONDON — European legislation intended to streamline clinical research is so steeped in bureaucracy that it is threatening “the development of potentially lifesaving treatments,” says a consortium of 16 research organizations, including Cancer Research UK, the Wellcome Trust and the UK’s Academy of Medical Sciences.  Read more

Graphic design in pharma ads traces the history of healthcare

Graphic design in pharma ads traces the history of healthcare

Modern-day print ads for medicine are hardly worth a glance, with their universal fine print detailing drug side effects amidst stock-photo graphics and vague illusions to disease. However, such ads would be unrecognizable to their predecessors in the mid-twentieth century. At the time, pharmaceutical advertising was a new frontier for American artists working in marketing. And with a heavy influence from the European avant-garde movement, drug ads became bold, colorful statements for the nascent field of graphic design.  Read more

NEWS FEATURE: A raw nerve

NEWS FEATURE: A raw nerve

At a walkathon one Saturday in September, nearly 5,000 people traced two miles of Chicago’s lakefront to raise money for research into the progressive nerve disease that is thought to have killed baseball star Lou Gehrig. Janice Caliendo was there collecting blood samples from friends of those affected by the incurable disease to be used as controls in future genetic studies. Caliendo, a lab manager at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in the Streeterville neighborhood of the city, often attends these sorts of fundraisers, but this time she was getting more attention than usual.  Read more

First drugs found to inhibit elusive cancer target

Ever since scientists discovered the cancer-promoting gene MYC in the late 1970s, researchers have dreamt of developing drugs that inhibit its function. Yet efforts to target MYCactivity have proven unsuccessful, in part because the protein product encoded by the oncogene lacks an obvious target-binding site. Now, however, scientists from a handful of research groups have found a way to inhibit MYCindirectly—by preventing an upstream protein from instigating the expression of MYCand its downstream targets. Buoyed by the promising therapeutic effects that such experimental drugs have had in mice with several types of cancer, companies are racing to test the molecules in clinical trials, despite lingering questions about how, exactly, they work.  Read more