The rate of progress in patient diagnosis and treatment has accelerated again this year, after a short hiatus brought on by the need to concentrate on finding and deploying a barrier to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In both academic institutions and the private pharmaceutical sector, there are, once again, many exciting developments that can address worldwide illnesses and diseases. In this short article, we will try to outline some of the new medical innovations discovered so far this year that could change the world.
#1. Preventing the progression of Alzheimer’s Disease
Researchers from Oxford’s Institute of Population Ageing, working alongside researchers from Tufts University and the University of Manchester have published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s disease a major discovery that some widespread viruses may in fact play a role in some cases of Alzheimer’s disease (AD).
The root causes of most cases of Alzheimer’s are not yet fully unknown. However, the research is producing evidence suggesting some very common viruses, including herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) may be involved. Herpes simplex is the so-called ‘cold sore virus.’ It usually infects and becomes manifest, but then can reside in the infected person lifelong in a dormant form. It usually infects the peripheral nervous system, from which it could be reactivated by events such as immune reactions or simply from stress-related mechanisms.
For over thirty years, scientists have known that the DNA of HSV-1 is present in the human brain in higher proportions as people age. Herpes simplex was the first microbe to be detected in normal brains. Research later found that the combination of a specific genetic factor with the virus, creates an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
The latest studies have shown strong links between the natural effects of the virus on the brain and characteristic features of Alzheimer’s. Furthermore, treating HSV1-infected cells in the laboratory with antiviral drugs protects against AD.
The Tufts School of Engineering found a significant link between HSV-1 and AD using 3D bioengineered human brain tissue models. Infection of human neural stem cells with HSV-1 produced similar changes to those observed in AD patients’ brains, with inflammation, formations of amyloid plaque, gliosis, and a slowing down in cell functionality.
All of this could lead directly onto a path to attack the root cause of AD by addressing the path that’s taken by the virus. Not a short-term prospect, but it’s a great leap forward.
#2. A new treatment promoting the reduction of cardiovascular disease caused by high cholesterol (LDL)
High levels of ‘bad’ cholesterol (low-density lipoproteins – LDL-C) in the bloodstream significantly contribute to myocardial infarction and atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease. In individuals over the age of 40, treatment for elevated LDL-C is the primary target for the prevention of heart attacks.
Recent research has been comparing the relative properties of the older alternative treatment for high LDL-C with statins and diet, which has moved on more recently to PCSK9-inhibiting monoclonal antibodies, and now to Inclisiran. This injectable treatment came onto the market at the beginning of 2022.
Inclisiran works by increasing the number of low-density lipoprotein surface receptors expressed on hepatocytes. It can reduce the levels of LDL-C by as much as 50%. This is roughly similar to the reductions achieved with PCSK9-inhibiting monoclonal antibodies or high-intensity statins. However, Instatin has the advantage of being administered only once every six months after the initial phase. In contrast, monoclonal antibodies must be administered fortnightly, and statins are taken daily.
Inclisiran is indicated for patients who are unable to lower their LDL concentrations through diet and their maximum tolerated doses of statin therapy. Compared with PCSK9-inhibiting monoclonal antibodies, Inclisiran has not been seen to induce neutralizing drug antibodies that could impact drug efficacy.
#3. New possibilities of non-hormonal alternative treatments for menopause
More than one-half of all the women who have passed into menopause report that hot flashes are some of their most pervasive and annoying problems. Flashes (or flushes) can persist throughout the lives of menopausal women, although they tend to be most prevalent for around the first seven or so years.
The most frequently prescribed solution is hormone therapy, primarily providing doses of estrogen. This involves some risks, and not all women are appropriate candidates or ready to try this treatment option. This is especially the case for women who suffer from breast cancer, because all phytoestrogens are contraindicated.
The more recent development is of drugs called NK3R antagonists, which have become a viable alternative to standard hormone replacement therapy (HRT). Research has shown that hot flashes are triggered along a signaling pathway in the brain. The new drugs can disrupt the links that cause the flashes. Clinical trials have demonstrated NKR3 antagonists to be effective in relieving moderate and severe menopausal hot flashes at least as effectively as HRT.
Here at IsraelPharm, we are always keen to add the latest and most advanced treatments for both common and rare disease and conditions to our range of drugs. Although the developments we outlined above are still some months or even years from general release, you can rely on our information to keep you up-to-date both here on the website, and through our newsletters.