Cannabidiol an Effective Treatment for Seizures in Patients With a Severe Type of Epilepsy

Seizures represent dysfunctional brain activity, and the mental process compromised by them is obviously negative. This research is also probably something of a milestone in treatment of seizures — many of today’s medications aren’t that effective and/or come with gruesome side effects.

Cannabidiol (CBD), a compound derived from the cannabis plant that does not produce a “high” and has been an increasing focus of medical research, was shown in a new large-scale, randomized, controlled trial to significantly reduce the number of dangerous seizures in patients with a severe form of epilepsy called Lennox-Gastaut syndrome.

In the new study comparing two doses of CBD to a placebo, the researchers reported a 41.9 percent reduction in “drop seizures” — a type of seizure that results in severe loss of muscle control and balance — in patients taking a 20 mg/kg/d CBD regimen, a 37.2 percent reduction in those on a 10 mg/kg/d CBD regimen, and a 17.2 percent reduction in a group given a placebo.

The phase III trial was led by principal investigator and study first co-author Orrin Devinsky, MD, a professor of neurology, neurosurgery, and psychiatry at NYU School of Medicine and director of NYU Langone’s Comprehensive Epilepsy Center, and was published online May 17 in The New England Journal of Medicine.

“This new study adds rigorous evidence of cannabidiol’s effectiveness in reducing seizure burden in a severe form of epilepsy and, importantly, is the first study of its kind to offer more information on proper dosing,” says Dr. Devinsky. “These are real medications with real side effects, and as providers we need to know all we can about a potential treatment in order to provide safe and effective care to our patients.

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“This landmark study provides data and evidence that Epidiolex can be an effective and safe treatment for seizures seen in patients with Lennox Gastaut Syndrome, a very difficult to control epilepsy syndrome,” adds study co-first author, Anup Patel, MD, chief of Neurology at Nationwide Children’s Hospital.

A study led by Dr. Devinsky published in last May’s New England Journal of Medicine showed a 39 percent drop in seizure frequency in patients with a different rare form of epilepsy, Dravet syndrome. Those findings represented the first large-scale, randomized clinical trial for the compound. Open label CBD studies led by Dr. Devinsky also have shown positive results for treatment-resistant epilepsies.

In April, a U.S. Food and Drug Administration advisory panel unanimously voted to recommend approval of a new drug application for Epidiolex cannabidiol oral solution, following a meeting where researchers, including Dr. Devinsky, presented their findings. The FDA will decide whether to approve the medication in late June.

“While the news gives hope for a new treatment option to the epilepsy community, more research remains imperative to better determine the effects of CBD and other similar cannabis-derived compounds on other forms of the disease and in more dosing regimens,” says Dr. Devinsky.

Creating Medicines With Less Side Effects Through a New Chemical Dividing Process

Overall, medications today have way too many harmful side effects, and so this breakthrough technological process should be helpful in reducing them. It also has the potential to “produce better medical and agricultural products, including medicines, food ingredients, dietary supplements and pesticides.”

Chemical compounds are made up of molecules. The most important molecules in biology are chiral molecules. “Chiral,” the Greek word for “hand,” describes molecules that look almost exactly alike and contain the same number of atoms but are mirror images of one another — meaning some are “left-handed” and others are “right-handed.” This different “handedness” is crucial and yields different biological effects.

Understanding chiral differences was made painfully clear by the drug thalidomide. Marketed to pregnant women in the 1950’s and 1960’s to ease morning sickness, thalidomide worked well under a microscope. However, thalidomide is a chiral drug -its “right” chiral molecule provides nausea relief while the “left” molecule causes horrible deformities in babies. Since the drug company producing Thalidomide did not separate out the right and left molecules, Thalidomide had disastrous results for the children of women who took this medication.

Though a crucial step for drug safety, the separation of chiral molecules into their right- and left- handed components is an expensive process and demands a tailor-made approach for each type of molecule. Now, however, following a decade of collaborative research, Paltiel and Naaman have discovered a uniform, generic method that will enable pharmaceutical and chemical manufactures to easily and cheaply separate right from left chiral molecules.

Their method relies on magnets. Chiral molecules interact with a magnetic substrate and line up according to the direction of their handedness — “left” molecules interact better with one pole of the magnet, and “right” molecules with the other one. This technology will allow chemical manufacturers to keep the “good” molecules and to discard the “bad” ones that cause harmful or unwanted side effects.

“Our finding has great practical importance,” shared Prof. Naaman. “It will usher in an era of better, safer drugs, and more environmentally-friendly pesticides.”

While popular drugs, such as Ritalin and Cipramil, are sold in their chirally-pure (i.e., separated) forms, many generic medications are not. Currently only 13% of chiral drugs are separated even though the FDA recommends that all chiral drugs be separated. Further, in the field of agrochemicals, chirally-pure pesticides and fertilizers require smaller doses and cause less environmental contamination than their unseparated counterparts.

Injectable Bandage Developed, Could Stop Internal Bleeding in Mere Minutes

Likely enough to be part of the new frontier in physical healing. There has long been a need for bandage-type medical applications that can heal both internally and externally.

Scientists have invented an injectable ‘bandage’ made out of a common food ingredient and nanoparticles. And not only does this material staunch bleeding stunningly fast, it also helps wounds heal more quickly.

When a person is wounded, they don’t necessarily just bleed on the outside – gunshots and other injuries often cause internal bleeding as well, which needs to be dealt with as quickly as possible.

In recent years, scientists have been coming up with new kinds of materials that can quickly plug a wound – such as this incredible sponge-filled syringe – but getting that same effect deeper in the body has remained a challenge.

Now a team of biomedical engineers at Texas A&M University has invented a totally new ‘injectable bandage’. It’s comprised of a seaweed-derived gelling agent and two-dimensional clay nanoparticles.

Together, these unlikely ingredients form what’s known as a hydrogel – highly absorbent, jelly-like substance with a super-high water content that can work remarkably well as wound dressing.

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“An ideal injectable bandage should solidify after injection in the wound area and promote a natural clotting cascade,” explains biomedical engineer Akhilesh K. Gaharwar from Texas A&M.

On top of that, the team also noticed significantly improved tissue regeneration and wound healing in their treated lab samples. And, best of all, the nanoparticles used to make this hydrogel could also deliver medication to the wound site, slowly releasing it into the body as needed.

So far, the team’s hydrogel hasn’t been tested in human wounds, but its highly promising performance means it could only be a matter of time until doctors can add this injectable bandage to their arsenal.

The Cancer “Vaccine” That Eliminated Tumors in Mice is Now Beginning Human Trials

What could be one of the most promising scientific advances of the 21st century thus far has just entered a new stage.

An injectable “vaccine” delivered directly to tumours in mice has been found to eliminate all traces of those tumours, cancer researchers have found – and it works on many different kinds of cancers, including untreated metastases in the same animal.

Scientists at Stanford University School of Medicine have developed the potential treatment using two agents that boost the body’s immune system, and a human clinical trial in lymphoma patients is currently underway.

“When we use these two agents together, we see the elimination of tumours all over the body,” said senior researcher, oncologist Ronald Levy.

“This approach bypasses the need to identify tumour-specific immune targets and doesn’t require wholesale activation of the immune system or customisation of a patient’s immune cells.”

Cancer immunotherapy is tricky. Because cancer cells are produced by the body, the immune system doesn’t see them as a threat the same way it sees invaders like viruses.

That’s why some cancer immunotherapy treatments focus on training the immune system to recognise cancer cells as a problem.

It’s an effective area of treatment, but one that often involves removing the patient’s immune cells from their body, genetically engineering them to attack cancer, and injecting them back in – a process that is both expensive and time-consuming.

The Stanford vaccine could be much cheaper and easier.

It doesn’t work like the vaccines you might be familiar with. Instead of a prophylactic administered prior to infection, the researchers gave it to mice that already had tumours, injecting directly into one of the affected sites.

“Our approach uses a one-time application of very small amounts of two agents to stimulate the immune cells only within the tumour itself,” Levy said.

“In the mice, we saw amazing, bodywide effects, including the elimination of tumours all over the animal.”

The vaccine exploits a peculiarity of the immune system. As a tumour grows, the immune system’s cells, including T cells, recognise the cancer cells’ abnormal proteins and move in to take care of business.

But cancer cells can accumulate mutations to avoid destruction by the immune system, and suppress the T cells, which attack abnormal cells.

The new vaccine works by reactivating these T cells.

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Of the 90 mice with lymphoma, 87 were completely cured – the treatment was injected into one tumour, and both were destroyed. The remaining 3 had a recurrence of the lymphoma, which cleared up after a second treatment.

The treatment was also effective on the mice genetically engineered to develop breast cancer. Treating the first tumour often, but not always, prevented the recurrence of tumours, and increased the animals’ lifespan, the researchers said.

The team then tested mice with both lymphoma and colon cancer, injecting only the lymphoma. The lymphoma was destroyed, but the colon cancer was not. This demonstrates that T cells in tumours are specific to that kind of tumour – so the treatment isn’t without limitations.

But it does mean that immunotherapy is possible without genetically engineering cells outside the body; or, as is the case with a previous vaccine, extracting cancer RNA, treating it, injecting it into the body, and applying an electric charge to deliver it to immune cells.

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Its efficacy is about to be tested, though. The clinical trial currently underway is expected to recruit 15 patients with low-grade lymphoma to see if the treatment works on humans.

If it’s effective, the treatment may be used in the future on tumours before they’re surgically extracted to help prevent metastases, or even prevent recurrences of the cancer.

“I don’t think there’s a limit to the type of tumour we could potentially treat, as long as it has been infiltrated by the immune system,” Levy said.

The research has been published in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

Venomous Animals Found to Sometimes Change Their Venom Recipe

The careful study of animals has often yielded positive results for humans. Studying bats helped lead to the development of radar and also is beneficial for flying aircraft better, for example. These findings on venomous animals are important, however, because there’s actually a fair amount of medicine that’s made from venom. Last year scorpions were found to be able to adjust their venom depending on the situation, so this study with sea anemones adds further evidence to venom being different than thought in past years.

For a long time scientists believed that an animal’s venom was consistent over time: once a venomous creature, always a venomous creature. However, through a close study of sea anemones, Dr. Yehu Moran of Hebrew University’s Alexander Silberman Institute of Life Science, found that animals change their venom several times over the course of a lifetime, adapting the potency and recipe of their venom to suit changing predators and aquatic environments.

“Until now, venom research focused mainly on toxins produced by adult animals. However, by studying sea anemones from birth to death, we discovered that animals have a much wider toxin arsenal than previously thought. Their venom evolves to best meet threats from predators and to cope with changing aquatic environments,” explained Dr. Yehu Moran.

To track these changes, Moran’s team labeled the sea anemone’s venom-producing cells and monitored them over time. The researchers also recorded significant interactions that Nematostella had over their lifetime — first as prey and later as predators.

These findings are significant for several reasons. First, venom is often used in medicines and pharmacological compounds. This study suggests that for animals with a complex life cycle there are many venom components that have remained unknown to researchers since, until now, researchers have only studied venom from adult sea anemones, missing out on the unique compounds that exist in larvae venom. These “new” compounds could lead to new medicines and drugs. Second, sea anemones, jellyfish and coral play a significant role in marine environments. A better understanding of their venomous output and effect on marine life ecology is crucial.

Nanorobots Successfully Programmed to Seek and Eliminate Tumors in Major Nanomedicine Study

This is a significant nanotechnology advance, although there’s still progress needed for it in further trials. These nanorobots have yet to be tested on humans, which makes them another advance worth looking for the human trial results on when they’re available.

In a major advancement in nanomedicine, Arizona State University (ASU) scientists, in collaboration with researchers from the National Center for Nanoscience and Technology (NCNST), of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, have successfully programmed nanorobots to shrink tumors by cutting off their blood supply.

“We have developed the first fully autonomous, DNA robotic system for a very precise drug design and targeted cancer therapy,” said Hao Yan, director of the ASU Biodesign Institute’s Center for Molecular Design and Biomimetics and the Milton Glick Professor in the School of Molecular Sciences.

“Moreover, this technology is a strategy that can be used for many types of cancer, since all solid tumor-feeding blood vessels are essentially the same,” said Yan.

The successful demonstration of the technology, the first-of-its-kind study in mammals utilizing breast cancer, melanoma, ovarian and lung cancer mouse models, was published in the journal Nature Biotechnology.

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First and foremost, the team showed that the nanorobots were safe and effective in shrinking tumors.

“The nanorobot proved to be safe and immunologically inert for use in normal mice and, also in Bama miniature pigs, showing no detectable changes in normal blood coagulation or cell morphology,” said Yuliang Zhao, also a professor at NCNST and lead scientist of the international collaborative team.

Most importantly, there was no evidence of the nanorobots spreading into the brain where it could cause unwanted side effects, such as a stroke.

“The nanorobots are decidedly safe in the normal tissues of mice and large animals,” said Guangjun Nie, another professor at the NCNST and a key member of the collaborative team.

The treatment blocked tumor blood supply and generated tumor tissue damage within 24 hours while having no effect on healthy tissues. After attacking tumors, most of the nanorobots were cleared and degraded from the body after 24 hours.

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Yan and his collaborators are now actively pursuing clinical partners to further develop this technology.

“I think we are much closer to real, practical medical applications of the technology,” said Yan. “Combinations of different rationally designed nanorobots carrying various agents may help to accomplish the ultimate goal of cancer research: the eradication of solid tumors and vascularized metastases. Furthermore, the current strategy may be developed as a drug delivery platform for the treatment of other diseases by modification of the geometry of the nanostructures, the targeting groups and the loaded cargoes.”

Developing Edible QR Codes for Future Medications

Quite a different approach than how medicine is administered today. There will need to be safeguards, however, such as by ensuring the legitimacy of the scans through cryptographic verification.

For the last 100 years, researchers have constantly pushed the boundaries for our knowledge about medicine and how different bodies can respond differently to it. However, the methods for the production of medicine have not yet moved itself away from mass production. Many who have a given illness get the same product with equal amount of an active compound.

This production might soon be in the past. In a new study, researchers from the University of Copenhagen together with colleagues from Åbo Akademi University in Finland have developed a new method for producing medicine. They produce a white edible material. Here, they print a QR code consisting of a medical drug.

“This technology is promising, because the medical drug can be dosed exactly the way you want it to. This gives an opportunity to tailor the medication according to the patient getting it,” says Natalja Genina, Assistant Professor at Department of Pharmacy.

Potential for reducing wrong medication and fake medicine

The shape of a QR code also enables storage of data in the “pill” itself.

“Simply doing a quick scan, you can get all the information about the pharmaceutical product. In that sense it can potentially reduce cases of wrong medication and fake medicine,” says Natalja Genina.

The researchers hope that in the future a regular printer will be able to apply the medical drug in the pattern of a QR code, while the edible material will have to be produced in advance to allow on-demand production of medical drug near end-users.

“If we are successful with applying this production method to relatively simple printers, then it can enable the innovative production of personalized medicine and rethinking of the whole supply chain,” says professor Jukka Rantanen from Department of Pharmacy.

The researchers are now working to refine the methods for this medical production.