A drug from a parasitic mushroom that lives on caterpillars could become an effective new painkiller for people with osteoarthritis within the next six years.

Ophiocordyceps sinensis 2010 gh 1

Scientists at The University of Nottingham are exploring the painkilling potential of cordycepin, a compound found in cordyceps mushrooms, which are widely used in Chinese traditional medicine, thanks to funding from Arthritis Research UK.

Dr Cornelia de Moor and her team have a three-year grant of £260,000 from the medical research charity to investigate cordycepin as a new type of drug that has potential to relieve the symptoms of osteoarthritis, a common joint condition that affects more than eight million people in the UK.

They will test the effectiveness of the compound, given as food pellets to rats and mice, to find out if cordycepin can prevent pain occurring after an injury to a joint, and also whether it relieves existing pain.

Molecule stays in the bloodstream and is turned on when blood sugar levels are too high.

For patients with diabetes, insulin is critical to maintaining good health and normal blood-sugar levels. However, it’s not an ideal solution because it can be difficult for patients to determine exactly how much insulin they need to prevent their blood sugar from swinging too high or too low.

 MIT engineers hope to improve treatment for diabetes patients with a new type of engineered insulin. In tests in mice, the researchers showed that their modified insulin can circulate in the bloodstream for at least 10 hours, and that it responds rapidly to changes in blood-sugar levels. This could eliminate the need for patients to repeatedly monitor their blood sugar levels and inject insulin throughout the day.

birdsnests.jpgA bit reminiscent of the Terminator T-1000, a new material created by Cornell researchers is so soft that it can flow like a liquid and then, strangely, return to its original shape.

Rather than liquid metal, it is a hydrogel, a mesh of organic molecules with many small empty spaces that can absorb water like a sponge. It qualifies as a "metamaterial" with properties not found in nature and may be the first organic metamaterial with mechanical meta-properties.

Hydrogels have already been considered for use in drug delivery -- the spaces can be filled with drugs that release slowly as the gel biodegrades -- and as frameworks for tissue rebuilding. The ability to form a gel into a desired shape further expands the possibilities. For example, a drug-infused gel could be formed to exactly fit the space inside a wound.

Dan Luo, professor of biological and environmental engineering, and colleagues describe their creation in the Dec. 2 issue of the journal Nature Nanotechnology.

asthma.jpgGroundbreaking research at Leicester’s Hospitals has identified a promising new treatment for patients suffering with severe asthma.

A team of medics led by Professor Ian Pavord from Glenfield Hospital have spent 10 years researching the best way to treat patients with severe asthma.  They identified a subgroup of patients who might respond to a new antibody therapy called Mepolizumab. More than 600 patients from 13 countries were involved in the DREAM Trial - a controlled drug trial which compared the effect of Mepolizumab and placebo on the number of asthma attacks experienced by patients over a year.

Researchers found that there were 50 per cent fewer asthma attacks when patients were treated with a monthly injection of Mepolizumab.  The drug works best in patients who have frequent asthma attacks.  Importantly, patients who were given this innovative treatment did not report any adverse effects.

by Michael Spencelayh

Researchers from the UK have designed a test that will help in the search for new anti-malaria medicines. 

Malaria is caused by parasites of the genus Plasmodium and causes over one million deaths per year. Plasmodium has a complex life cycle involving the host and an insect carrier, but a critical step is the invasion of red blood cells. 

A robust new technique for screening drugs' effects on zebrafish behavior is pointing Harvard scientists toward unexpected compounds and pathways that may govern sleep and wakefulness in humans.

Among their more intriguing findings, described this week in the journal Science: Various anti-inflammatory agents in the immune system, long known to induce sleep during infection, may also shape normal sleep/wake cycles. The new research identifies several compounds with surprising effects on sleep and wakefulness in zebrafish. But it also suggests that despite the evolutionary gap between them, zebrafish and mammals may be strikingly similar in the neurochemistry underlying their rest/wake cycles, meaning these same compounds may prove effective in people.

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