Antiviral protects monkeys from Ebola virus

After three days post-infection with Ebola virus, 100% of rhesus monkeys survived after being given antiviral treatment. In addition, the monkeys exhibited a reduction in viral load as well as a decrease in the physical signs of the disease. This research was conducted by the US Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases.

The initial compound being worked with was a precursor to GS-5734, which is a small antiviral agent. GS-5734 is a novel prodrug which the Ebola virus by blocking the virus’s ability to replicate it’s genetic material.

The thing I found most interesting about this discovery is that GS-5734 use is favorable in humans because it can be made using a well-controlled chemical procedure and can be produced in mass quantities. I think that this research should be further studied to see how this antiviral can be used to cure the Ebola virus in humans. It will be interesting to see how soon this can be implemented. My question for the class is: How do you think we should go about testing this antiviral in human subjects?


Travis K. Warren, Robert Jordan, Michael K. Lo, Adrian S. Ray, Richard L. Mackman, Veronica Soloveva, Dustin Siegel, Michel Perron, Roy Bannister, Hon C. Hui, Nate Larson, Robert Strickley, Jay Wells, Kelly S. Stuthman, Sean A. Van Tongeren, Nicole L. Garza, Ginger Donnelly, Amy C. Shurtleff, Cary J. Retterer, Dima Gharaibeh, Rouzbeh Zamani, Tara Kenny, Brett P. Eaton, Elizabeth Grimes, Lisa S. Welch, Laura Gomba, Catherine L. Wilhelmsen, Donald K. Nichols, Jonathan E. Nuss, Elyse R. Nagle, Jeffrey R. Kugelman, Gustavo Palacios, Edward Doerffler, Sean Neville, Ernest Carra, Michael O. Clarke, Lijun Zhang, Willard Lew, Bruce Ross, Queenie Wang, Kwon Chun, Lydia Wolfe, Darius Babusis, Yeojin Park, Kirsten M. Stray, Iva Trancheva, Joy Y. Feng, Ona Barauskas, Yili Xu, Pamela Wong, Molly R. Braun, Mike Flint, Laura K. McMullan, Shan-Shan Chen, Rachel Fearns, Swami Swaminathan, Douglas L. Mayers, Christina F. Spiropoulou, William A. Lee, Stuart T. Nichol, Tomas Cihlar, Sina Bavari. Therapeutic efficacy of the small molecule GS-5734 against Ebola virus in rhesus monkeysNature, 2016; DOI:1038/nature17180



Motivating smokers with mental illness to quit found to be more effective than educational intervention

Significantly more individuals who smoke that have a mental illness made an attempt to quit after receiving a single 45-minute counseling session compared to those who received an interactive educational intervention. The researchers randomized 98 smokers with serious mental illness to receive either the counseling session or the interactive educational intervention. They found that a significantly greater portion of the patients who received motivational interviewing made an attempt to quit by the 1-month follow-up. The findings suggest that motivational interviewing may be the key to having people with mental illnesses quit smoking.

The researchers say that people who have mental illnesses are less likely to quit compared to those who don’t. Therefore, using motivational interviewing might be the most effective way to get these patients to quit smoking.

I think this article is interesting because it shows the effectiveness of motivational interviewing that we learned about in Community Health 2. Since people told us it is useful, it was cool to find a study that actually showed its effectiveness. Moreover, I think it is also interesting that researchers are trying to determine the best ways to motivate people to see which methods are most effective. My question for the class is: How do you think pharmacists can implement motivational interviewing into their practice?


Marc L. Steinberg, Jill M. Williams, Naomi F. Stahl, Patricia Dooley Budsock, Nina A. Cooperman. An Adaptation of Motivational Interviewing Increases Quit Attempts in Smokers With Serious Mental IllnessNicotine & Tobacco Research, 2016; 18 (3): 243 DOI:10.1093/ntr/ntv043

Risks of using herbal medicines in cancer patients

A study published in the journal of Cancer found that herbal remedies and supplements such as turmeric can increase the toxic effects of certain chemotherapies. Similarly, they found that green teas and gingko biloba can increase the risk of bleeding in these cancer patients.

The study was focused on cancer patients in the Middle East since herbs are commonly used as traditional medicine. The study found that nearly two-thirds of the herbal medicines that cancer patients in the Middle East used pose potential health risks.

I think this study is very important because a lot of people tend to think that anything that is over-the-counter or natural is safe. This is why it is important for patients to inform all of their healthcare providers about all of the over-the-counter medicines and supplements they take. My questions for the class are: What do you think of herbal medicines and how safe do you think they are for the average person?


Eran Ben-Arye, Noah Samuels, Lee Hilary Goldstein, Kamer Mutafoglu, Suha Omran, Elad Schiff, Haris Charalambous, Tahani Dweikat, Ibtisam Ghrayeb, Gil Bar-Sela, Ibrahim Turker, Azza Hassan, Esmat Hassan, Bashar Saad, Omar Nimri, Rejin Kebudi, Michael Silbermann. Potential risks associated with traditional herbal medicine use in cancer care: A study of Middle Eastern oncology health care professionals. Cancer, 2016; 122 (4): 598 DOI:10.1002/cncr.29796

Preventing allergic responses

A research team from the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre is hoping to develop a potential vaccine that would drive the immune system response away from developing allergies. These findings are extremely important because allergies and asthma are lifelong conditions that impact millions of people within the United States.

The researchers said they have found a molecule which can potentially prevent allergies by redirecting the immune response away from the allergic response. The researchers also say this is a promising discovery since the molecule would be able to be administered as a nasal spray.

The molecule the research team worked on is called STAT6. This molecule is important in the development of allergic response. Because of this, the researchers thought that inhibiting this molecule would be a good way of inhibiting the development of allergic responses. The researchers then developed an inhibitor peptide called STAT6-IP. They then gave this molecule to newborn mice before allergies were present. They then tried to make the mice allergic later on, but, the immune system had already been “taught” to tolerate allergens.

I think this research is very interesting because I have bad allergies so I think that for future generations this would be a great discovery. I also find the fact that this single molecule can be used to avoid allergic responses from a variety of allergens pretty interesting. I think it will be interesting to see if this discovery will lead to clinical trials in humans to prevent allergic responses. My questions for the class are: Do you think this data is relevant since it was only proven in mice and do you think that this molecule could completely eliminate allergic responses in humans?


H Michael, Y Li, Y Wang, D Xue, J Shan, B D Mazer, C T McCusker.TGF-β-mediated airway tolerance to allergens induced by peptide-based immunomodulatory mucosal vaccination. Mucosal Immunology, 2015; DOI: 10.1038/mi.2015.15

High sucrose diet linked to increased risk in breast cancer

Researchers at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center have been studying how dietary sugar effects enzymatic signaling of the 12-LOX (12-lipooxygenase) pathway. The researchers found that mice who had sucrose intake similar to those found in Western diets lead to an increased risk of tumor development and metastasis. Specifically, they studied the impact of how sucrose influenced mammary gland tumor development in several mouse models.

This is the first study to investigate the direct effect of sugar consumption and how it relates to the development of breast cancer. The researchers believe that the mechanism by which the sugar effects tumor growth, the 12-LOX pathway, needs to be further studied.

I think this article is very interesting because I had never even thought of dietary sugar levels leading to cancer development. This is important as a pharmacist because we can make recommendations to patients to eat healthier or refer them to a dietician. If this data holds true in humans, it will be another great counseling point to make in order for our patients to eat less unnecessary sugar to improve overall health. My questions for the class are: Have you ever thought that excess dietary sugar could lead to cancer development? And, if the data translated to humans, do you think people would change their diet if they knew this information?



Yan Jiang, Yong Pan, Patrea R. Rhea, Lin Tan, Mihai Gagea, Lorenzo Cohen, Susan M. Fischer, and Peiying Yang. A Sucrose-Enriched Diet Promotes Tumorigenesis in Mammary Gland in Part through the 12-Lipoxygenase PathwayCancer Res, January 1, 2016 76:24-29 DOI: 10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-14-3432

No more insulin injections for Type I diabetic patients?

Researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have found that encapsulated pancreatic cells could potentially offer new diabetes treatment. In the past, researchers have tried giving patients healthy pancreatic islet cells that replace the patients’ destroyed pancreatic cells. However, the patients’ immune system attacks the transplanted cells.

New research shows that it may be possible to actually provide diabetic patients with a new pancreas that is protected from the immune system. This may be possible by encapsulating the islet cells before they are transplanted. This is done using alginate derivatives that prevent the immune system from recognizing the cells. The most effect derivative the researchers found was triazole-thiomorpholine dioxide (TMTD). The researchers implanted human islet cells that were encapsulated in TMTD into diabetic mice. Upon implantation, the cells began producing insulin and were able to keep blood sugar levels under control for the entire length of the study, nearly 6 months.

This article is very interesting because it shows that we may eventually have a cure for Type I diabetes. It will be interesting to see what further studies are going to be done before they can eventually attempt this method on diabetic humans. I’m sure translating this data from animals to humans will not be easy, but it is a step in the right direction. My question for the class is: What do you think of this new finding, and do you think the results can be translated into therapy for humans with Type I diabetes?


Arturo J Vegas, Omid Veiseh, Joshua C Doloff, Minglin Ma, Hok Hei Tam, Kaitlin Bratlie, Jie Li, Andrew R Bader, Erin Langan, Karsten Olejnik, Patrick Fenton, Jeon Woong Kang, Jennifer Hollister-Locke, Matthew A Bochenek, Alan Chiu, Sean Siebert, Katherine Tang, Siddharth Jhunjhunwala, Stephanie Aresta-Dasilva, Nimit Dholakia, Raj Thakrar, Thema Vietti, Michael Chen, Josh Cohen, Karolina Siniakowicz, Meirigeng Qi, James McGarrigle, Stephen Lyle, David M Harlan, Dale L Greiner, Jose Oberholzer, Gordon C Weir, Robert Langer, Daniel G Anderson. Combinatorial hydrogel library enables identification of materials that mitigate the foreign body response in primatesNature Biotechnology, 2016; DOI:10.1038/nbt.3462


Arturo J Vegas, Omid Veiseh, Mads Gürtler, Jeffrey R Millman, Felicia W Pagliuca, Andrew R Bader, Joshua C Doloff, Jie Li, Michael Chen, Karsten Olejnik, Hok Hei Tam, Siddharth Jhunjhunwala, Erin Langan, Stephanie Aresta-Dasilva, Srujan Gandham, James J McGarrigle, Matthew A Bochenek, Jennifer Hollister-Lock, Jose Oberholzer, Dale L Greiner, Gordon C Weir, Douglas A Melton, Robert Langer, Daniel G Anderson. Long-term glycemic control using polymer-encapsulated human stem cell–derived beta cells in immune-competent miceNature Medicine, 2016; DOI: 10.1038/nm.4030

Researchers have visualized the origins of cancer from the first affected cell

For the first time ever, scientists have watched cancer from the first affected cell and watched it spread in a live animal. The study used live zebrafish to track the development of melanoma over time. The fish all had a human cancer mutation as well as the loss of the tumor suppressor gene p53. In order to see this happen, the researchers made it so that individual cells could light up green if certain genes were expressed.

These cells express characteristics of stem cells which normally shut off after embryonic development, but are reactivated in certain cancer cells. The researchers discovered that the genes that were reactivated in the cancer cells were the same genes that are turned on during embryonic development. One of the researchers explained how this group of genes are also the ones that get turned on in human melanoma. This work could be used to potentially create drugs that target moles from becoming cancerous in humans.

The researchers proposed a new model of how cancer works. They proposed that the normal tissue has oncogenes activated and tumor suppressor genes are silenced or lost, but that cancer only occurs once the cell converts back to the embryonic state and starts dividing.

I think this study is really interesting because the researchers were able to see cancer from the first cells onward. This is groundbreaking research that will be useful for further studies so we can continue to learn to understand exactly what causes cancer.  My question for the class is: How useful do you think these findings are and how can we translate this into future human cancer studies?



K. Kaufman, C. Mosimann, Z. P. Fan, S. Yang, A. J. Thomas, J. Ablain, J. L. Tan, R. D. Fogley, E. van Rooijen, E. J. Hagedorn, C. Ciarlo, R. M. White, D. A. Matos, A.-C. Puller, C. Santoriello, E. C. Liao, R. A. Young, L. I. Zon. A zebrafish melanoma model reveals emergence of neural crest identity during melanoma initiation.Science, 2016; 351 (6272): aad2197 DOI: 10.1126/science.aad2197

Genome of the tick that transmits Lyme disease sequenced

Tick-borne illnesses cause thousands of deaths per year after ticks infect their host. The host, animals or humans, is infected with the tick’s saliva as the tick ingests their blood. It is estimated that the actual number of cases of Lyme disease per year in the United States is over 300,000. The actual number of reported cases is significantly less than this because many cases are either not reported or they are misdiagnosed.

Researchers from Purdue University have sequenced the genome of the tick, Ixodes scapularis, that transmits Lyme disease after a decade-long project. Researchers say that the sequenced genome is a valuable tool that can be used to control ticks and to understand how they transmit the disease. Most importantly, this may be used as a means of discovering of how to interfere with the transmission of the disease. The researchers say they may be able to do this because they know what proteins the tick is making so they may be able to control the tick by controlling the proteins they express.

The researchers found that tick saliva contains thousands of compounds which allows ticks to have a large range of hosts. In addition, the researchers faced challenges because nearly 70% of the tick genome is repetitive DNA. Many of the genes have mutated and show that two copies may be associated with different functions, therefore giving the tick an evolutionary advantage.

I think this article was interesting because it shows another example of how we can use genomic sequencing to benefit humans. My question for the class is: Can you think of any other examples in which it would be beneficial to sequence the DNA of another insect or animal?



Monika Gulia-Nuss, Andrew B. Nuss, Jason M. Meyer et al.Genomic insights into the Ixodes scapularis tick vector of Lyme diseaseNature Communications, 2016; 7: 10507 DOI:10.1038/ncomms10507