How Medical Research is Paving the Way For a Healthier Future?
Trying to develop new therapeutics can be challenging, especially with the known limitations and ethical considerations in testing medications.
However, the use of single-cell cloning solutions can help streamline this, as it allows for the creation of monoclonal cell lines. In turn, in-vitro models for testing and development can move forward with ease.
These two research tools are used in the development of a wide range of treatments like vaccines, antibiotics, and immunotherapy to mention a few.
Neurodegenerative diseases are a wide range of disorders that affect tens of millions of people around the world. They have the same feature in common: progressive neuronal damage, for both the cells themselves and the connections formed between them.
While some ailments impact muscular strength, coordination, and therefore mobility, sensation and cognition are also impaired.
Being the most common cause of other neuropsychiatric ailments like dementia, Alzheimer’s disease is a form of brain atrophy.
It is mediated by the deposit of amyloid-β, a peptide (a short chain of amino acids) produced in the brain throughout life, and its accumulation in an excessive quantity is related to Alzheimer’s disease.
In its earliest stages, the person may have a hard time remembering recent events or conversations. Further down the road, this impairment will result in the inability to carry out daily tasks.
Finally, the severe loss of brain function fosters malnutrition and dehydration, eventually resulting in death.
There’s very little to be done about Alzheimer’s other than palliative care, but there are many lines of investigation being traversed, such as reducing inflammation, estrogen-based hormone therapy, and even changes in lifestyle.
Other new developments take aim at beta-amyloid plaques by preventing them from forming or by removing the existing plaques.
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Another progressive neurological disorder that shows tissue degeneration is Parkinson’s disease. This affliction is commonly associated with the elderly, but it can also affect adults as young as their third decade.
Physiologically, it is defined by an array of motor dysfunctions with an origin in the brain’s dopamine-producing neurons called substantia nigra. The atrophy, depletion, or destruction of these cells leaves involuntary muscular activity uninhibited.
Classically, early symptoms are inconspicuous tremors in one hand when it’s at rest. By contrast, they subside when the hand is active. And in a more systematic manifestation, movement fluidity in general can also be affected in the early stages of the disease.
Notwithstanding, anosmia or olfactory loss may be an even earlier sign of Parkinson, along with ageusia which is the loss of the sense of taste.
This illness doesn’t progress at the same pace for every patient. All the same, later stages find the person progressively impaired in their movement, losing the ability to care for themselves.
Parkinson’s current treatment centers around a specific type of drug that is transformed into dopamine once it reaches the brain. It is a very effective therapy, but it decreases its efficacy as the illness progresses.
There is new research pushing the frontier and giving hope to those that carry the burden of this disease. One of those researches is done at Arizona State University.
These scientists are investigating the possibility of turning non-neuronal cells into neurons that can produce dopamine and replace defective or destroyed dopaminergic cells and return Parkinson’s patients to health.
Albeit not neurological in origin, chronic kidney disease is also a progressive ailment characterized physiologically by a loss of function, primarily in the Bowman’s capsule, which is the functional unit of the kidneys in the same manner that the alveoli are the functional unit of the lungs.
Given the kidneys’ ability to compensate for the progressive loss of function, the early stages of the disease tend to produce few symptoms.
This makes the condition go unnoticed by the majority. It is estimated that around 15% of the American population bears this disease, albeit being none the wiser.
In later stages, symptoms become noticeable and they originate from a hazardous accumulation of fluid and waste products in the body. These substances in excess normally would be eliminated by healthy kidneys.
An excess of liquid causes swelling in the lower limbs, shortness of breath, chest pain, high blood pressure, and an increase in the quantity of daily urine. Waste buildup can cause fatigue and sleep problems, nausea and vomiting, as well as an impairment of mental faculties.
Treatment for this malady ultimately consists of dialysis and, eventually, a kidney transplant. Nevertheless, new findings presented at the High-Impact Clinical Trials session of the American Society of Nephrology support that SGLT-2 (sodium-glucose cotransporter-2) – which is an antidiabetic drug – protects kidney function in diabetic and nondiabetic patients.
Another, more promising line of research points at IL-11 (interleukin 11) as an endogenous kidney regeneration trigger, which can lead to new therapies for chronic and acute kidney disease.
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A Healthier Future for All
While designing experiments and finding adequate research models is a challenge, science moves forward. Degenerative diseases are a particularly hard subject to tackle, since the application of potential treatments is oftentimes extremely species-specific.
Hence the importance of creating artificial models of human physiology. All of these promising new treatments open the door to a future full of possibilities.