Health Scan

A round-up of the latest health news.

By
July 5, 2015 03:23
4 minute read.
Nurse writing prescriptions

Nurse writing prescriptions (illustrative).. (photo credit: INGIMAGE)

A new institute aimed at finding and developing new therapeutic uses for existing drugs, to be named the Center for Drug Repurposing, will be established at Ariel University. Along with its technology transfer organization and the startup Drug Rediscovery Ltd., the university has decided to create a dedicated unit using current Ariel University researchers and capabilities as well as new recruits.

Drug repurposing is the fastest way to bring new treatments to the marketplace, reducing the time it takes to reach the patient from as much as 15 years for new drugs down to as little as two years for repurposed drugs. It is the fastest-growing sector in drug development and has recently surpassed standard new drug development in terms of annual approvals by the US Food and Drug Administration.

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Ariel University will be providing the physical infrastructure, and Drug Rediscovery Ltd. will manage the research group, bring in funding and grants to the center and direct the drug rediscovery strategy.

The center expects to reach an annual operating budget exceeding $10 million in the short term.

University vice president and dean of R&D Prof. Albert Pinhasov said, “Drug repurposing has begun to receive wide attention in recent years. We believe the joint venture with Drug Rediscovery, Ltd.

will enable our researchers to broaden their collaborations with other scientists worldwide, and should lead to novel scientific achievements.”

Moshe Rogosnitzky, a veteran of personalized medicine and drug repurposing, who heads the startup with Emmanuel Elalouf, a biotech/pharmaceutical industry expert, said the new venture aims at becoming the world’s “leading resource for drug repurposing and rediscovery.”


PREVENTING FALLING

A smartphone application aimed at helping to prevent falls in the elderly has been developed at Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center. Prof. Jeffrey Hausdorff and Dr. Anat Mirelman of the Center for the Study of Movement, Cognition and Mobility in the neurology department said the app – called CUPID – is specially helpful to Parkinson’s patients, as well as the elderly.

Sourasky’s joint project is being carried out with hospital information centers in Europe and funded by the European Union, and is designed for adults over age 60 who are at risk of falling.

Sensors are worn on the feet that transmit the patient’s gait in real time to the smartphone. Intelligent algorithms analyze the signal to identify situations where the person’s walking “freezes” into a standstill; when it does so, the system plays audio signals with the patient’s personal rhythm that helps restart their walking.

The app also contains a number of treatment programs so users can practice walking in situations known to cause a “walking freeze,” teaching the individual to learn how to prevent or shorten the deadlock situations, improve gait and thus prevent falls.

Hausdorff said that about a third of those over 60 suffer from walking problems and are at risk.

“This innovative development integrates advanced technologies used in real time for the identification of functional disorders and prevention of falls and hospitalizations, thus improving their way of life.”

Patients are invited to join the clinical research on the app by calling (03) 694- 7513/4 and will be put on sale in the coming months.


EXCHANGING URINE SAMPLES FOR BLOOD TESTS

Many people going to their health fund clinic for tests dread giving blood. Now, scientists at South Carolina’s Clemson University believe they can reduce the need for blood tests and replace some of them with urine tests. Ken Marcus and master’s degree student Marissa Pierson say they have developed a new testing method that will reduce costs, get faster results, cover more medical conditions and lower the volume of urine needed for a sample.

Urine is the most easily obtained bodily fluid; sweat can also be obtained noninvasively, but may not be as informative or as free of contaminants as urine. Proteins in urine, for example, could help detect early signs of coronary heart disease, tell whether the body is rejecting a transplanted kidney and show whether someone has sleeping sickness. The trouble with testing urine is that it’s full of salt, making it difficult to isolate the proteins that act as biomarkers – the clues that determine whether the patient is sick or has ingested a drug.

“You’ve got almost seawater coming out of you, and I’m trying to find something far smaller than a needle in a haystack,” Marcus said. “The concentrations of these proteins would be one part in a billion.”

The team packed capillary-channeled polymer fibers into plastic tubes and then passed urine samples through the tubes by spinning them in a centrifuge for 30 seconds.

Then the researchers ran de-ionized water through the tubes for a minute to wash off salt and other contaminants. As proteins are hydrophobic, they remained stuck to the fibers. They extracted the proteins with a solvent and were left with purified proteins that could be stored in a plastic vial and refrigerated until needed for testing. In urine tests commonly used now, polymer beads extract the proteins, but those tests are larger, slower and more expensive.


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