Scientists have identified a compound that can kill the parasites responsible for three neglected diseases: Chagas disease, leishmaniasis and sleeping sickness.
These diseases affect millions of people in Latin America, Asia and Africa, but there are few effective treatments available.
A new study, published today in Nature, suggests that a single class of drugs could be used to treat all three. Wellcome-funded researchers at the Genomics Institute of the Novartis Research Foundation (GNF) have identified a chemical that can cure all of these diseases in mice. It also does not harm human cells in laboratory tests, providing a strong starting point for drug development.
Chagas, leishmaniasis and sleeping sickness have different symptoms, but are all caused by parasites called ‘kinetoplastids’ – a type of single-celled organism. The parasites share similar biology and genetics, which led scientists to think it might be possible to find a single chemical that could destroy all three.
The team at GNF tested over 3 million different chemicals and identified a compound, GNF6702, which was effective against the parasites but did not damage human cells. They refined this starting compound to make it more potent before testing in it mice.
Senior study author Frantisek Supek from GNF said: “We found that these parasites harbour a common weakness. We hope to exploit this weakness to discover and develop a single class of drugs for all three diseases.”
Dr Stephen Caddick, Director of Innovation at Wellcome, said: “These three diseases lead to more than 50,000 deaths annually, yet they receive relatively little funding for research and drug development. We hope that our early stage support for this research will provide a basis for the development of new treatments that could reduce suffering for millions of people in the poorest regions of the world.”
Existing treatments for the three diseases are expensive, often have side effects and are not very effective. The fact that GNF6702 does not seem to have any adverse effects in mice suggests that it might have fewer side-effects than existing drugs, although this will need to be explored in human studies. GNF6702 is now being tested for toxicity before it can be moved in to clinical trials.
Ahead of this years’ Farnborough International Airshow, engineers and scientists at BAE Systems and the University of Glasgow have outlined their current thinking about military aircraft and how they might be designed and manufactured in the future.
The concepts have been developed collaboratively as part of BAE Systems’ ‘open innovation’ approach to sharing technology and scientific ideas which sees large and established companies working with academia and small technology start-ups.
During this century, the scientists and engineers envisage that small Unmanned Air Vehicles (UAVs) bespoke to specific military operations, could be ‘grown’ in large-scale labs through chemistry, speeding up evolutionary processes and creating bespoke aircraft in weeks, rather than years.
A radical new machine called a Chemputer™ could enable advanced chemical processes to grow aircraft and some of their complex electronic systems, conceivably from a molecular level upwards. This unique UK technology could use environmentally sustainable materials and support military operations where a multitude of small UAVs with a combination of technologies serving a specific purpose might be needed quickly. It could also be used to produce multi-functional parts for large manned aircraft.
The University of Glasgow (Scottish Gaelic: Oilthigh Ghlaschu, Latin: Universitas Glasguensis) is the fourth-oldest university in the English-speaking world and one of Scotland’s four ancient universities.
The university was founded in 1451 and is often ranked in the world’s top 100 universities in tables compiled by various bodies.
In 2013, Glasgow moved to its highest ever position, placing 51st in the world and 9th in the UK in the QS World University Rankings.
In common with universities of the time, Glasgow educated students primarily from wealthy backgrounds, but was also, with the University of Edinburgh, a leading centre of the Scottish Enlightenment during the 18th century. The University became a pioneer in British higher education in the 19th century by also providing for the needs of students from the growing urban and commercial middle classes. Glasgow served all of these students by preparing them for professions: the law, medicine, civil service, teaching, and the church. It also trained smaller but growing numbers for careers in science and engineering.
In 2007, the Sunday Times ranked it as “Scottish University of the Year.” The university is a member of the Russell Group which represents the highest-ranked public research-based universities in the UK. It is also a member of Universitas 21, the international network of research universities.
Originally located in the city’s High Street, since 1870 the main University campus has been located at Gilmorehill in the West End of the city. Additionally, a number of university buildings are located elsewhere, such as the University Marine Biological Station Millport at Loch Lomond, and the Crichton Campus in Dumfries.
Glasgow has departments of Law, Medicine, Veterinary Medicine, and Dentistry. Its submission to the most recent UK university research assessment was one of the broadest in the UK. Glasgow’s financial endowment is the fifth largest (and fourth largest per head) among UK universities.
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University of Glasgow research articles from Innovation Toronto
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Vaccinating cattle against the E. coli O157 bacterium could cut the number of human cases of the disease by 85%, according to scientists.
The study, published in the online journal PNAS, used veterinary, human and molecular data to examine the risks of E. coli O157 transmission from cattle to humans, and to estimate the impact of vaccinating cattle.
Lead author, Dr Louise Matthews, Senior Research Fellow in the Institute of Biodiversity, Animal Health and Comparative Medicine, said: “E. coli O157 is a serious gastrointestinal illness. The economic impact is also serious – for instance studies in the US suggest that healthcare, lost productivity and food product recalls due to E. coli O157 can cost hundreds of millions of dollars each year.”Treating cattle in order to reduce the number of human cases certainly makes sense from a human health perspective and, while more work is needed to calculate the cost of a vaccination programme, the public health justification must be taken seriously.