Although the news from last month's conference in Atlanta about a baby "cured" of HIV made a big splash, another discovery concerning this molecule is more likely to lead to a real cure. Can you guess what it is?
This short (26 amino acid) peptide is the active ingredient in bee venom. It inhibits membrane ion pumps and leads to cellular disruption, killing cells. Investigators at Washington University in St. Louis recently showed that nanoparticles containing mellitin were able to disrupt the membranes of HIV, preventing infection of T cells. The initial suggested utility of this discovery is the incorporation of these nanoparticles into vaginal gel as they did not appear to affect vaginal wall cell viability.
The study of the Mediterranean diet in the New England Journal of Medicine currently making waves used this biomarker to monitor compliance. Can you guess what it is?
The study found that the Mediterranean diet reduced cardiovascular risk more significantly than a low-fat diet but it has been criticized for the fact that the control group did not really reduce their fat intake. To monitor compliance with the Mediterranean diet, the investigators tested the urine for hydroxytyrosol, a phenylethanoid found in the olive plant that it a potent anti-oxidant. Hydroxytyrosol esters of elenolic acid are present in olive oil at a very high concentration.
A recent decision by a court of appeals for the second circuit involving this molecule may have ramifications for the way in which manufacturers discuss their products with physicians. Can you guess what it is?
Sodium Oxybate (Xyrem ®)
This drug is approved by the FDA for treatment of narcolepsy but may be used for several other "off-label" uses, including insomnia and fibromyalgia. A sales representative was convicted for discussing such indications with a doctor who was a government informant but the recent decision overturned that conviction because it violated the First Amendment right of freedom of speech. Although it is unlikely that IVD manufacturers will suddenly start to talk to laboratorians about similar "off-label" uses of FDA-approved laboratory tests, the FDA will probably not pursue similar convictions as aggressively until this is resolved, possibly by the Supreme Court.
The FDA recently approved an oral version of this molecule – a member of a new class of drugs for treatment of rheumatoid arthritis that inhibit a kinase named, as is this month, for a Roman god. Can you guess what it is?
Tofacitinib (Xeljanz ®)
Tofacitinib is an inhibitor of one of the Janus kinase (JAK) enzymes. This family of kinases phosphorylate cell surface receptors and other signaling molecules when the cell surface receptor binds its ligand. The signaling molecules then move to the nucleus to activate the appropriate genes. When the first one was discovered, it was called "just another kinase" but then the name "Janus" kinase was applied because these protein kinases are arranged in pairs on the intracellular portion of the receptors, facing each other. (Janus, for whom January is named, was a two-faced Roman god.) Tofacitinib inihibits signal transduction of a number of receptors involved in activating the immune system (such as IL-2) and has been used to treat autoimmune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis. The new oral form of the drug will mean it can be used more easily.