Researchers are currently working on new techniques to develop more functional and less invasive drugs to reduce the risk of therapy-associated side effects and to improve overall health, particularly for those suffering with diseases such as Cystic Fibrosis and Epilepsy. In this regard, scientists at the University of Quebec at Montreal and the University of Southampton have developed a new microsystem that will test the efficacy of different pharmaceutical drugs in the management of health issues like myasthenia gravis (MG), cystic fibrosis and epilepsy.
Background of the Research:
The majority of the therapeutic agents that manage or treat chronic conditions like Cystic Fibrosis exert their action by interfering with the activity of protein transporters that control the activity (or movement) of ions across the biological membranes.
Ion channels or transport proteins are designed to allow the passage of some ions according to the charge it carries. This selective movement of ions serves as the basis of electrophysiology procedures that are employed by researchers to measure the efficacy of drugs by monitoring the flow of electric current across these ion channels. The only limiting factor is the cost issue since the procedure employs monitoring electrical activity in living tissues.
Details of the Research:
The researchers at Southampton have developed a cell-free expression mixture that enables scientists to acquire same quality results without using live tissue at cost-effective rates. The researchers have developed an ion channel that utilizes an artificial but stable cell membrane that test the drug response and activity after the insertion of ion channels.
This has become possible by combining microtechnology and molecular technology that helped in devising a more cost-effective and quicker method to replace the conventional multi-step procedure.
University of Southampton researcher at Nano Research Group in Electronics and Computer Science, Dr. Maurits de Planque, who is also the lead author of the study, commented: ”By putting the ion channel into an artificial membrane, we only have one type of channel, no living cells and a relatively inexpensive method for testing for several of these types of channels at once.”
Dr. de Planque further added:
Researchers have experimented with cell-free mixtures before, but they found that this method was not economical due to the amount of expensive biochemicals required. Our proposal to develop a new platform, which uses a couple of microlitres instead of millilitres, will be a very cost-effective way of doing this, particularly when the produced channel is directly inserted in a membrane for drug testing.”
Co-author of the study, Dr. Philip Williamson, a Biological Sciences lecturer at University’s Institute for Life Sciences, explained the scope of the study by suggesting that the new technology will change the current methods of screening of drugs and identification of new leads for diseases like epilepsy and cystic fibrosis. He further added that, “Off target effects are a major complication in the development of new drugs, and many are withdrawn from late stage clinical trials due to cardiotoxic effects arising from the inhibition of the hERG voltage gated ion channel in the heart. The hERG channel coordinates cardiac rhythm and the availability of cheap and reliable assays to identify these interactions early will help streamline the drug discovery process.”
AbbVie is currently enrolling participants in a long-term clinical trial to test a new investigational Cystic Fibrosis therapy targeted. Click on the company’s icon below visit the clinical trials page and get more information on where the trials are being held in the U.S.:
DISCLAIMER: BioNews Texas is a publishing company that occasionally focuses on the clinical trials industry. The information provided in this article is designed to help educate patients on clinical trials that may be of interest to them, based on the topic of the story, and to help patients contact the centers conducting the research. BioNews Texas is neither promoting this research nor involved in conducting any of these trials. Some study summaries have been edited for clarity purposes to make them easier to understand.