Science Bites seeks to compile the latest scientific research updates in bite-sized forms.

1. Combinatorial therapy to combat colorectal cancer

Recently, researchers at the National University of Singapore (NUS) have discovered a combination of drugs – an anti-malarial drug artemisinin and aminolaevulinic acid, which can be used to treat cancer. This research finding is especially valuable because conventional treatments for cancer including radiotherapy and chemotherapy can have adverse systemic effects on patients.

Artemisinin works by targeting cells with high concentrations of heme, which is a complex substance derived from iron. Both drugs have a synergistic effect as aminolaevulinic acid increases the amount of heme in cells, enabling artemisinin to selectively attack these cells. Whilst these drugs are stipulated to be safer than traditional cancer therapies, extensive human experiments still need to be conducted. Further trials are essential in order to reveal any unexpected side effects or compare the efficacy of this combination treatment with currently used drugs.

2. Oral hypoglycaemic drug reduces insulin dependence in diabetic patients

Reduced dependence on insulin injections may make patients more inclined to comply with treatment and reduce adverse effects of the injections such as local lipomas or scars.

Reduced dependence on insulin injections may make patients more inclined to comply with treatment and reduce adverse effects of the injections such as local lipomas or scars.
 
Researchers from the University of Colorado have unveiled a drug named sotagliflozin that facilitates better glucose control in diabetic patients. Patients with Type 1 diabetes and advanced Type 2 diabetes are required to take insulin, which can have adverse effects such as allergic reactions, and hypoglycaemic manifestations such as coma and confusion when taken in excess.


Sotagliflozin is found to control blood glucose concentration without elevating the risk of diabetic ketoacidosis, a life-threatening emergency which requires immediate treatment with insulin and fluid administration. Satish Garg, the lead researcher of the study comments on this drug finding stating that, “If approved by the FDA, sotagliflozin may be the first oral drug that helps patients with type 1 diabetes in improving their glucose control without any weight gain or increase and severe hypoglycaemia.”

Sotagliflozin not only improves clinical markers of diabetic control, such as HbA1c concentration, but also reduces both systolic and diastolic blood pressure and can lead to weight loss. These effects are particularly beneficial for reducing cardiovascular risk in diabetic patients. Sotagliflozin works by inhibiting SGLT1 and SGLT2, sodium-glucose transporters situated in the gastrointestinal tract and kidney respectively. Despite the multiple desirable effects of the drug, patients with Type 1 diabetes still need to be advised to take this drug in conjunction with insulin.

3. Newly discovered senolytic drugs may reverse the harmful cellular changes that occur with ageing

Senescent cells are implicated in the causation of several diseases associated with ageing such as cardiovascular disease, dementia and osteoarthritis.
Senescent cells are implicated in the causation of several diseases associated with ageing such as cardiovascular disease, dementia and osteoarthritis.

Recently, a study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society has revealed that drugs that facilitate healthy ageing in animal models could be used for the purpose of prevention of diseases that occur with ageing.

Researchers from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester aim to extend the findings in animal models to humans through further trials. Ageing leads to an increase in the number of senescent cells, which are no longer involved in cell division or regeneration. These cells serve no significant purpose but are not triggered to undergo cell death. Senolytic drugs specifically target these senescent cells, without affecting peripheral normal tissues which divide and replicate normally.

Senescent cells are implicated in the causation of several diseases associated with ageing such as cardiovascular disease, dementia and osteoarthritis. Therefore, targeting these cells may lead to a positive effect on the incidence of these conditions in the population. Dr James Kirkland, director of the Centre of Ageing at the Mayo Clinic comments that, “The same processes that cause ageing seem to be the root causes of age-related diseases.” He adds, “Why not target the root cause of all of these things? That would have been a pipe dream until a few years back.”

A study conducted by researchers from the Scripps Research Institute showed that senolytic drugs can prevent symptoms associated with ageing such as difficulty walking and motor strength. This finding was demonstrated in mouse models, whereby the mice aged more healthily when they were administered senolytic drugs. The mice also showed an improvement in health over a longer period of time and improved cardiac function. As senescent cells can be implicated in some degree of vascular damage, clearing these cells may potentially reduce cardiovascular risk.

Dr Kang Zhang, founding director of the institute for Genomic Medicine at UC San Diego, comments on the scope of senolytic drugs: “I think senolytic drugs have a great future. If it is proven that it can reduce senescent cells and rejuvenate tissues or organs, it may be one of our potential best treatments for age-related diseases.” Before these drugs are approved for widespread clinical use, extensive trials need to be conducted in order to assess whether these drugs are truly beneficial for reversing diseases associated with senescent cell accumulation. MIMS

Read more:
3 new research findings on diabetes treatments
Are the supposedly high costs of cancer drug R&D due to transparency issues?
Science Bites: Lung cancer associated with vitamin B intake, Large doses of vitamin C aid in leukaemia treatment

Sources:
http://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/health/drug-combo-may-boost-cancer-treatment-study?login=true
https://www.news-medical.net/news/20170913/Study-New-oral-drug-helps-control-glucose-reduces-need-for-insulin-in-patients-with-type-1-diabetes.aspx
http://edition.cnn.com/2017/09/04/health/anti-aging-senolytic-drugs-clinical-trials-study/index.html
http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/business/biotech/sd-me-senolytic-scripps20170904-story.html
https://www.news-medical.net/news/20170904/Mayo-Clinic-experts-move-closer-to-realizing-clinical-potential-of-senolytic-drugs-on-aging.aspx
https://medicalxpress.com/news/2017-09-clinical-potential-senolytic-drugs-aging.html