News of the Week – Feb. 4th, 2013
Stem cells for treatment of stroke
A group in Bolivia has found that injecting rats with stem cells within an hour after a stroke markedly restores brain function. The stem cells were effective regardless of their origin within the body; the researchers found that adipose-derived stem cells worked well on top of being easy to collect. Additionally, allogenic stem cells, or cells from rats other than the one receiving the transplant, yielded the same protective result. Although promising, this method would not be approved for human clinical trials anytime soon, a spokeswoman for the Stroke Associated noted.
Mass cancer mapping center opens in the UK
A new cancer mapping center has been established at the Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) in the UK. Researchers will use DNA samples from patients at a hospital in London in an attempt to delve further into the molecular basis of cancer. The recent rise of affordable and fast genome sequencing will allow tumors to be examined for specific mutations, including mutations that change over time. Within the center, the Tumor Profiling Unit will attempt to document the tumor mutations that lead to drug resistance. The UK government has declared that up to 100,000 patients with cancer and other diseases will have their genomes sequenced to facilitate research.
Why petting soothes and calms
A group at CalTech reports that they have pinpointed the neurons underlying pleasurable sensations. The researchers genetically engineered a mouse with specialized hairy skin neurons that lit up when given the right stimuli. They found that stroking the mouse’s hindquarters with a paintbrush activated the neurons. When given a choice between drug-induced stroking and no stimuli, the mice preferred the former, suggesting that the treatment was rewarding and soothing. The findings link the power of social touch to a specific neuronal subset for the first time in live animals.
Published results from clinical trials misleading
When public and private accounts of drug trials were recently compared, several discrepancies were found. Due to a lawsuit, a group at Johns Hopkins gained access to internal Pfizer documents outlining the methods and results of 10 clinical trials that were published in peer-reviewed journals. They found differences in the number of study participants reported, as well as omittance of study results for as many as 40% of the trial participants. The researchers conclude that greater transparency and accountability is needed for publication of clinical trials.
Big pharma releases earnings for 4th quarter of 2012
Major pharmaceutical companies released their fourth quarter earnings this past week. Pfizer, Roche and Novo Nordisk all posted significant growth, while Eli Lilly & Co. reported a 1% decline in revenue and AstraZeneca rounded out the year with a 15% loss overall. The revenue declines were largely due to expiration of patents and loss of exclusivity on several drugs. Novo Nordisk’s diabetes drugs Victoza, NovoRapid and Levemir, as well as Roche’s brand-name MabThera/Rituxan, Herceptin and Avastin helped boost the earnings of those companies.
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