from the world's big
Flu season is here. Researchers may have discovered a cure.
Ferrets are not humans, but this new drug is showing promise.
- Researchers at Georgia State University and Emory University tweaked an old drug and found great results.
- None of the ferrets given EIDD-2801 twelve hours after infection developed the flu.
- Those given the drug a day later developed less severe symptoms than the control group or those receiving Tamiflu.
Disease is part of the price we pay as biological organisms. Contemplating how many diseases we have not eradicated can be daunting, though in reality, since the discovery of vaccination in the late eighteenth century and widespread acceptance of germ theory in the nineteenth, researchers have made great strides in medicine. Formerly deadly diseases are now behind us.
Not every illness is easy to overcome, however. Cancer, as Siddhartha Mukherjee writes in his opus on the topic, is an inherent part of our biology; whether or not those cells get turned on is the grim game of change every one of us faces. Optimize all we like, the possibility is always lurking.
A disease we often overlook in this conversation due to its ubiquity is one most everyone has fallen victim to once (or many times) in their lives: influenza. The flu killed a record number of Americans in 2017-18: 80,000 citizens died that year, according to the CDC.
Even in an average year, the agency states that between 12,000 and 79,000 people die. Yet many more are struck ill—somewhere around nine million up to 50 million. That's nearly one-sixth of the population during especially bad seasons. Globally, over 600,000 people die every single year.
The flu isn't one disease, but a family of viruses. Knowing which will strike in any given year requires educated guessing. (Since Australia experiences its season earlier than America, our flu shots are based on what happens across the planet.) Three of the four influenza viruses affect humans, though there is speculation that the fourth might also make us sick.
It doesn't really matter which virus gets into your system. They're all terrible, and, for the youngest and oldest among us, potentially deadly. Sadly, as with antibiotics, flu drugs are showing less efficacy, as the virus has developed resistance to a popular remedy, oseltamivir (commonly known as Tamiflu).
Hope springs eternal, however. A new study, published in the journal, Science Translational Medicine, is showing promise—in ferrets. Researchers at Georgia State University and Emory University teamed up to test N-hydroxycytidine (NHC) on those polecats; previous research on macaques didn't go well: the medicine wasn't effective in preventing or treating flu symptoms because their bodies couldn't convert the drug.
This time, the researchers created a new compound, EIDD-2801, a minor tweaking of NHC. When the ferrets were infected with the flu and given a round of this new compound twelve hours later, not one of them got sick. Those given the drug a day after infection exhibited fewer symptoms than the control group or the group given Tamiflu.
Influenza - causes, symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, pathology
Andrew Pavia, an infectious disease expert at the University of Utah, breaks it down:
"It's important that they showed a reduction in symptoms in ferrets, because it gets much closer to predicting what happens in people. It's a major step towards developing a drug for humans."
Ferrets are not people, of course, so efficacy and dosage are up for debate. But it's an important potential breakthrough. The team writes,
"In conclusion, our data identify EIDD-2801 as a promising clinical candidate for monotherapy of seasonal and pandemic influenza. Although SI values defined by the human airway epithelia model are encouraging and no gross signs of toxicity were observed in the corresponding ferret efficacy studies, formal two-species multiday toxicity and adverse event testing will determine first-in-human dose concentrations."
Trials on humans are likely to begin next spring, so we'll have to make due with Tamiflu and that old cure-all, sleep and hydration, for a bit longer. Of course, getting your flu shot as soon as possible is also a good idea. Regardless of this season, this new research is an advancement in treating one of the world's most common diseases. Over a half-million lives every year depend on such a development.
What would it be like to experience the 4th dimension?
Physicists have understood at least theoretically, that there may be higher dimensions, besides our normal three. The first clue came in 1905 when Einstein developed his theory of special relativity. Of course, by dimensions we’re talking about length, width, and height. Generally speaking, when we talk about a fourth dimension, it’s considered space-time. But here, physicists mean a spatial dimension beyond the normal three, not a parallel universe, as such dimensions are mistaken for in popular sci-fi shows.
Duke University researchers might have solved a half-century old problem.
- Duke University researchers created a hydrogel that appears to be as strong and flexible as human cartilage.
- The blend of three polymers provides enough flexibility and durability to mimic the knee.
- The next step is to test this hydrogel in sheep; human use can take at least three years.
Duke researchers have developed the first gel-based synthetic cartilage with the strength of the real thing. A quarter-sized disc of the material can withstand the weight of a 100-pound kettlebell without tearing or losing its shape.
Photo: Feichen Yang.<p>That's the word from a team in the Department of Chemistry and Department of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science at Duke University. Their <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/adfm.202003451" target="_blank">new paper</a>, published in the journal,<em> Advanced Functional Materials</em>, details this exciting evolution of this frustrating joint.<br></p><p>Researchers have sought materials strong and versatile enough to repair a knee since at least the seventies. This new hydrogel, comprised of three polymers, might be it. When two of the polymers are stretched, a third keeps the entire structure intact. When pulled 100,000 times, the cartilage held up as well as materials used in bone implants. The team also rubbed the hydrogel against natural cartilage a million times and found it to be as wear-resistant as the real thing. </p><p>The hydrogel has the appearance of Jell-O and is comprised of 60 percent water. Co-author, Feichen Yang, <a href="https://today.duke.edu/2020/06/lab-first-cartilage-mimicking-gel-strong-enough-knees" target="_blank">says</a> this network of polymers is particularly durable: "Only this combination of all three components is both flexible and stiff and therefore strong." </p><p> As with any new material, a lot of testing must be conducted. They don't foresee this hydrogel being implanted into human bodies for at least three years. The next step is to test it out in sheep. </p><p>Still, this is an exciting step forward in the rehabilitation of one of our trickiest joints. Given the potential reward, the wait is worth it. </p><p><span></span>--</p><p><em>Stay in touch with Derek on <a href="http://www.twitter.com/derekberes" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, <a href="https://www.facebook.com/DerekBeresdotcom" target="_blank">Facebook</a> and <a href="https://derekberes.substack.com/" target="_blank">Substack</a>. His next book is</em> "<em>Hero's Dose: The Case For Psychedelics in Ritual and Therapy."</em></p>
Vaccines find more success in development than any other kind of drug, but have been relatively neglected in recent decades.
Vaccines are more likely to get through clinical trials than any other type of drug — but have been given relatively little pharmaceutical industry support during the last two decades, according to a new study by MIT scholars.
Sallie Krawcheck and Bob Kulhan will be talking money, jobs, and how the pandemic will disproportionally affect women's finances.