AP Biology class blog for discussing current research in Biology

Tag: medication

Can Cancer Cell’s Medication Immunity Be Stripped?

Cancer is one of the hardest diseased to fight. If a tumor begins to grow inside of a patient, they may be given drugs to fight off the corrupt cells. The problem with this is that the cancer cells could become immune to these drugs. Through the use of CRISPR. In Novel Crispr imaging technology reveals genes controlling tumor immunity, a new way of fighting cancer is revealed. Instead of targeting the whole tumor, Perturb-map marks cancer cells and the cells around cancer cells. Once this is completed, it is able to identify genes controlling cancer’s ability to become immune to certain drugs.

Mitosis appearances in breast cancer

To fight cancer cells, scientists use thousands of CRISPRs at the same time. This identifies every gene in a sequence and allows them to be studied. Through Perturb-map, scientists can now dive deeper and find where the cell immunity to drugs originates. A certain pathway in the cell is controlled by the cytokine interferon gamma or IFNg, and a second is by the tumor growth factor-beta receptor or TGFbR. When the cell had a gene with TGFbR2 or SOCS1, the latter of which regulates IFNg, tumor cells grew. When the cell lacked one of these, it shrunk. Moreover, it was discovered that tumors with SOCS1 were susceptible to attacks by T cells, but TGFbR cells had immunity against them. This stayed true even when both types of cells lived in the same environment. With findings like these emerging more and more, the future of cancer treatment is looking brighter than ever.

Chromosome DNA Gene unannotated

Jet Injectors: Getting Your Vaccine Without Needles

Typically, when you get injections at the doctors office, whether it is a flu shot or any number of vaccines that one is advised to take, it is usually injected via syringe/needle. However, there is an alternative way to give people the medication required that doesn’t involve a needle. This is achieved by using a Jet Injector, and this may be more favorable for people who have trypanophobia.

Before understanding and diving into the Jet Injector, we should take a look at how the traditional needle injections work. These injections are doing through syringes. Syringes are “pump[s] consisting of a sliding plunger that fits tightly in a tube.” These syringes, in the medical field, are filled with some vaccine or other fluid that is meant for injection into the body. The syringe was invented in 1853, and is still the main form of medical injections today. These have been so popular and efficient that some people label syringes as the “greatest medical device of all time.”

I’m sure many are no strangers to this syringe, especially with the increased use of them due to their importance in being the delivery system for the COVID-19 vaccine. The syringe is used to get the mRNA vaccine into the blood stream. As talked about in our bio class lessons, the vaccines contents need to be able to reach cells (in this case within the arm) in order to instruct them to produce antibodies  that latch onto the spike protein of COVID-19.

Despite the syringe being widely used and very efficient, it is just not suitable for everybody. For some people they just have trypanophobia and prefer not to use it, while others are better off without it. This is where Jet Injectors come in. Jet Injectors are an alternative to a syringe that do the same job. Jet injectors use a “narrow, high-pressure stream of liquid [that] penetrates the outermost layer of the skin to deliver medication.” These Jet Injectors are either powered by springs or compressed gas (varies based on manufacturer). These found good use in the military as it required less maintenance to use than changing out the needle after each injection. Although that was a use of the Jet Injector in the past, they are currently used as an alternative to the syringe for injection Flu Vaccination.

Luckily, the side effects of the Jet Injector is similar to that of the syringe: soreness, bruising, itching, and redness. So, if you are someone who is not too fond of needles, the Jet Injector could be the solution for you if your doctor has one.

Not 1, But 2: The Antiviral Pills That Could Change The Game For Covid-19

Right on time. As cases begin to rise again due to the omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2, the race for treatments against the virus becomes more urgent. Well, celebration is in order, for both Merck and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics and Pfizer have developed antiviral drugs in the form of a pill to fight the virus. 

Molnupiravir, the drug created by Merck and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics, and Paxlovid, Pfizer’s antiviral pill, are both pills that can be taken at home when one identifies early signs of Covid in themselves. For Merck, the latest data reads that their pill cut the rate of hospitalization or death by 30%. On the other hand, Paxlovid’s trial displayed reduced death and hospitalization rates of 89%, as long as the pill was consumed within 3 days of symptoms. 

Both effective medications and exciting progress, these two contrasting antiviral pills work in two distinct ways to stop viral replication. As we learned in AP Bio, viral replication is what occurs when a virus escapes the innate immunity responses, or the 1st line of defense, and enters the nasal epithelium, replicating in nasal passages and tissue fluids. This is what makes immunity responses to viruses often a long process, and is why we have to take sick days to allow time for our B and T cells to destroy the many invading pathogens and infected cells, respectively. A nucleoside analogue, Molnupiravir disguises as one of the aspects of RNA that makes up SARS-CoV-2. Normally, once inside the cells the virus would use a polymerase enzyme to assemble all the pieces of RNA into new copies of viral RNA, ultimately replicating itself. However, with the Molnupiravir drug’s deception, the virus creates new versions of itself with defective genetic materials, making it noninfectious. In juxtaposition, Paxlovid has a similar process of HIV treatments in that it is a protease inhibitor. After replicating its RNA, SARS-CoV-2 makes a large polyprotein containing all of the virus’s parts. But to function properly, this polyprotein must be broken into many small pieces by the enzyme protease. What Paxlovid does is it blocks that enzyme from its function, preventing the necessary production of small virus particles. Again like protease inhibitors for HIV, though, the Pfizer drug requires a second drug called ritonavir to make it last longer (like a booster).

COVID-19 Virus

Because both of these antiviral pills target the immune response in a general, nonspecific way (the replication process), they can work similarly against many different coronaviruses found in animals such as ​​bats, pigs, people, and mice. This is not only reason to believe these pills will probably be effective against other variants such as omicron, but it also means this scientific progress plays a role in fighting future pandemics, as well as the current one. 

While it is easy to get caught in the incessant loop of bad news concerning the pandemic, especially lately, I recommend balancing that awareness of threats with the acknowledgement of the improvements and steps forward, for everyday scientists are hard at work fighting this pandemic. In a similar lens, our work in AP Bio with beginning to understand immunology and how viruses work is our baseline in becoming the future of medicine, doctors, and scientists!

Childproof Caps – Are They Actually Smarter than Kids?

Image by Tom Varco

Image by Tom Varco

Recent studies have shown that although there seems to be a “childproof” cap that has revolutionized medication safety, children have still developed the ability to outsmart it.

According to this study, more than 34,000 children in the United States are hospitalized due to the ingestion of prescription drugs found around their home. Twelve drugs were seen as suspect, including oxycodone, bupropion, and clonazepam, but most commonly opioids and benzodiazepines, or anti-anxiety pills, which accounted for 45% of the reported hospitalizations.

The study focused on the admittances to 63 different hospitals from 2007 to 2011, and the rate of the amount of children admitted for unsupervised ingestion of prescription drugs. Of these thousands of children under the age of 6, three quarters of them were reported to be between the ages of 1 and 2.

While much of this issue is caused by parents who do not properly secure or put the medications away, researchers are looking for future ways to further protect children from the ability to open the bottles. This includes flow restrictions on the amount of liquid medication intake, as well as unit-dose packaging within the bottles of solid prescription drugs.

This article is interesting because often times we hear about and think of overdosing in a way that highlights the intention of adults, but never the unintentional suffering of children. However, its important to see the dangers of serious drugs on young children, and necessary to make a change! Will society be able to monitor a child’s intake at times when their caretakers are not?

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Doing Nothing is Still Doing Something

If you’re like me, you hate taking medication: it’s at times completely unnecessary, and who wants the hassle of having to remember actually take the meds?  Well, I have good news for us “lazy” ones: at times when we’re sick doing nothing is actually the best medication!

Have you ever noticed that whenever we have a problem, we tend to think that it can be fixed with some type of medication? Headache? Tylenol or Advil.  Tummy hurts?  A lovely dose of the horrendously pink Pepto should do.  Sore throat? Oh it must be the early symptoms of strep throat–here’s some antibiotics.  Let’s just forget about all medications that exist today–it’d be like how cavemen lived.  They had no medications, no drugs, simply their bodies which kept them alive and healthy for most of the time.  We need to give our bodies more credit–after all, they are made to maintain homeostasis.

According to an article written my Dr. Danielle Ofri, a professor of medicine at NYU, sometimes not taking any medication to alleviate a “medical condition” is actually the best medication for our bodies.  Doctors have the tendency to prescribe medication when they find that something is “wrong” with a patient, and patients likewise want something done when something is “wrong.”  Like everything else in the world, every action a doctor makes has a reaction.  Most frequently, this reaction that occurs from the physician prescribing an additional medication is a reaction within the body of the patient.  Often, especially in elders, there are multiple doctors to one patient, as a result, prescribe multiple prescriptions which sometimes causes detrimental affects to the health of the patient because the medications react with each other and create further problems for the patient, which leads to the prescribing of even more medications.

So, rather than acting immediately, let’s just stop and think for a moment…is it perhaps better to just chill and see what happens? Uh, yeah.  There are some doctors (the super smart ones) who practice this “doing nothing,” and believe “If the patient is doing fine right now, why rock the boat?”  This method is called clinical inertia, which is generally looked down upon, but why?  Dr. Ofri wrote “doctors who tend toward inertia might actually benefit their patients by protecting them from overzealous medical intervention.”  In an article from the American Medical Association, which focused on diabetes, cholesterol and hypertension, it was found that in these three diseases, it is perceived that “lower” is better, but it was found that lower levels in sugar or pressure are associated with higher death rates.

So…what’s the lesson?  Of course not all patients are the same, but when it comes to “fixing” a “problem,” your doctor should understand that there is room to stop and think for a second.  We’re all like balances, and little illnesses act as stones put on one side of the scale creating a bit of an imbalance, and rather than balancing the scale out with medication, we should sometimes allow our bodies to do their thing and balance it out themselves.

Photo taken by Gianluca Neri



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