Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Harmless Viruses Might be a Potential Treatment for Acne

Guest Post – Lily Bryant

According to a report published in the Indian Journal of Dermatology, Venereology and Leprology, there are thought to be between two million and three million acne sufferers in India. Acne can lead to low self-esteem and image problems and is the scourge of teenage boys all over the country. Fortunately towards the end of 2012, researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles, and the University of Pittsburgh in the United States discovered that phages living on our skin possess the ability to kill propionibacterium acnes, which is the virus that causes it. This could be good news for those whose skin is tarnished by this condition and mean that an end is in sight.

There has been a rapid increase in the promotion of drugs aimed at enhancing individuals’ physical appearances in recent years. The weight loss industry has grown at a yearly rate of over twenty-five percent, with more people than ever purchasing diet pills and fat burners, the hair loss treatment industry has been growing by one percent per year and the acne treatment industry has also seen significant growth. People’s daily lives are affected in a major way by how they look so a cure for acne could be both highly profitable for the pharmaceutical company that is responsible for it and highly beneficial to sufferers.

Immune Resistance Unlikely to Develop

In order to arrive at their discovery, the researchers at the two universities analysed phages and deduced that they make endolysin, which breaks down propionibacterium acnes before killing it. They also discovered that the phages shared eighty-five percent of their DNA. This is unusual for viruses and means that when used as a treatment, it would be unlikely that immune resistance would develop.

Advantages Over Other Forms of Treatment

Unlike antibiotics, which kill many different types of bacteria including ones that live in the gut and can have positive effects, phages are programmed to only target specific bacteria. According to director of the University of California, Los Angeles, Clinic for Acne, Rosacea and Aesthetics Dr Jenny Kim, who was one of the researchers, many acne strains are now resistant to antibiotics such as tetracycline, as they are so widely used. Drugs like Accutane are still effective but can have risky side effects, which limits their use. The researchers at the two universities have stated that phages could offer a tailored therapy that has less adverse side effects. Therefore phages could be the new form of acne medication that those inflicted with the condition have been looking for.

Development of New Drugs and Treatments 

Study co-author Graham Hatfull, who is a biotechnology professor at the University of Pittsburgh, has stated that there are two ways in which this research could be used with regards to the development of new drugs and treatments. He says that phages could either be used directly as therapy for acne or phage-based components could be utilised. Professor Hatfull also says that the work that the University of California, Los Angeles, and the University of Pittsburgh have carried out has provided the world with useful information about phages and paved the way for the thinking up of potential applications for them. He points out that whilst acne is a condition that a significant percentage of the population is likely to suffer from at some point in their lives, there are still currently few effective methods for curing it. Hatfull says that harnessing a virus that naturally preys upon the bacteria that causes spots looks to be a promising means of reducing both the physical and the mental scars that acne can inflict upon individuals.

Implications of the Research

It appears that being forced to endure pimples and spots could soon bee a thing of the past. The results of a study published in the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology in 2010 demonstrate that acne can severely negatively impact upon the self-esteem of sufferers and increase the risk of them developing psychological disorders. It can make them two to three times more likely to become clinically depressed. Therefore it is high time that there was a means of treating it and phages could provide the answer. Now it is just a matter of deciding what the best way of using them to gain the optimum results in acne reduction is.

About Lily Bryant

Lily Bryant is a writer working with one of only two licensed online pharmacies in the US. She is strongly interested in promoting and creating content aimed at relevant readers as part of her role in ethical healthcare business. She believes that it is important that we play a strong role in leading society towards a healthier lifestyle through the promotion of exercise and healthy diet rather than an early adoption of drug treatment.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Modulators of Protein–Protein Interactions

Protein-protein interactions (PPI) play a key role in most biological processes. This nature of PPI has put forward itself as a prospective candidate for therapeutic intervention. Traditional small molecule target classes such as Enzymes, GPCRs, Kinases etc have a deep pocket (often used to bind an endogenous substrate), where small molecule tend to bind. PPIs on the other hand, appear to be too large and featureless for small molecules to bind against. Hence, due to this lack of well defined binding pockets, they were considered unsuitable/ extremely hard for targeting small molecules. 

Attempts at generating small molecule modulators of PPIs have been largely unsuccessful by adopting existing chemical techniques. This leads us to believe that we need to identify novel chemical space that can leverage the flat and expansive surfaces of PPI, which would in turn provide effective binding for small molecules. However, pharmaceutical companies are rather unwilling to add compounds containing multiple rings, multiple stereocenters that are highly complex, into their corporate collection as it does not align with their immediate short term business goals.

(aromatic, largely flat and hydrophobic)

Natural products
(rich in sp2 bonds)

Natural Product Inspired  
(New Chemical toolbox)

A new chemical toolbox enriched with both Heterocyclic Compounds and Natural Products to tackle such issues is being developed by Dr. Prabhat Arya from Dr.Reddy’s Institute of Life Sciences (Org. Lett., Article ASAP, DOI: 10.1021/ol3032126). This approach could create large 3D surface area, numerous binding interactions, rich stereochemical diversity, which would in turn solve the poor cell permeability of natural products, not to mention the added advantage over crowded IP Space.

The field of small-molecule-PP interactions appears to be highly promising, and in the near future, we can hope to see several strategies and techniques that will pave way towards discovering novel agents in this regard.