Thursday, 19 November 2020

Did you know that ...


Altmetric is a tool that allows you to collect and collate research information spread out in the web using a really helpful interface that provides you information on how your own research is seen by others. This is a very useful tool for those scholars who publish, for investigators and even institutions, those who provide grants and those are involved in R&D. Finally a tool that makes all engage in the same platform whilst compiling relevant and useful data on their investigational projects. More information HERE.

Chronic fatigue in Sjogren's syndrome patients - it is known that chronic fatigue in patients dealing with Sjogren's syndrome is probably one of the most invisible debilitating traits of this set of 'diseases'. But a recent article has shed some new light on an agent that interferes with the immunological response and consequently on fatigue, the vagus nerve, that can be used to modulate the immune responses, and with the help of an electronic device, the noninvasive gammaCore. Initial results on a small number of female patients observed positive changes to the profile of fatigue and on the Epworth sleepiness scale (used to diagnose obstructive sleep apnoea) [1]. Reduction in these profiles were also accompanied by significant reduction in the presence of inflammation factors such as IL-6, IL-1β, IP-10, MIP-1α, and TNFα. More information HERE.

Free Resources for Science Pictures - Do you have a blog? Do you participate in a videocast? Are you writing a monograph, essay or any science piece of work that could use some visual attractiveness? Do you need science images but don't really have the money to pay for it. Well, this is the place where you have to go to. This platform suggests 7 places containing high-quality scientific research images that one can access and use at will. From figures, to micrographs, plots and diagrams the images available at the recommended sites will save one hours of unnecessary drawing up. More information HERE.

First Universal Flu Vaccine -  Now that the eyes of the world are layed upon the recent announcement of a vaccine to counteract the sars-cov-2 disease (covid-19), we nearly forgot that there are still numerous 'bugs', prions and viruses out there, roaming at will, looking for an opportunity to prevail. Influenza is just as such one of these and the research for a universal vaccine to prevent flu has been a long standing project. But in 2018 it was announced that the seasonal flu would meet a new defense guard, one that could even protect us against a emerging influenza mutation and avoid a pandemic. Approximately 20 years took these researchers to get to the phase III clinical trial stage where a new complex substance that induces immunity to the less varying parts of the virus (the core of the virus we would say), is to be tested on hundreds, or possibly thousands of human subjects. Knowing that the Influenza virus is made of two surface glycoproteins: hemagglutinin (aiding cellular access to host's moiety), and neuramidase (aiding the spread through), the new pipeline vaccine - BiondVax’s M-001 - will not focus on generating antibodies against the highly variable head of the virus, but instead focusing on producing an immune response against the stalk (a more conserved fragment in the viral structure). In fact, this project is so well advanced and scientifically robust that the researchers are also looking into adjuvants (substances that can aid the primary product work better in an improved fashion). On tof the adjuvants is called TRAC-478 and stimulates several toll-like receptors (TLRs) on antigen-presenting cells; the other one is known as TRAC-478 and can help the body recognise both bacterial and viral infections in a synergistic operation [2]. More information HERE.

The Language of Biosimilars - Have you ever heard of biosimilars? Have you ever been prescribed one? Well, to ignite your responses let us look briefly into what a biosimilar medical product is. A Biosimilar Medical product is a biological medicine considered highly similar to yet another already approved biological medicine (that for that matter is known as the 'reference medicine') and that are approved/licensed with exact the same standards of pharmaceutical quality, safety and efficacy that is applied to all biological medicines. In fact the same agency, meaning the European Medicines Agency (EMA) is the one body, in Europe, responsible for evaluating most of the applications to market biosimilars in the European Union (EU).

The active substances found in biosimilars, meaning the molecules that are indeed expected to do the trick and help cure the problem, are often purified proteins obtained from other living cells or organisms, such as animals, plants, or even smaller ones (microorganisms). The process of protein purification enhances the quality content of the product so the product can be used safely in responding to clinical needs usually related to chronic conditions.  

Confused? Biologic drugs are large, complex proteins, they are 'manufactured' from living cells in extremely complex manufacturing ways; but they are not what we know these days as generics. Roughly said, Generics are 'copy-paste' copies of chemical drugs where as Biosimilars are copies of a biologic medicine that is similar, but not identical, to the original medicine.

Considering that biologics are usually quite large 'protein' molecules with complex structures, biosimilars cannot be considered generic equivalents to these. Instead they are products developed and assessed for their efficacy and safety based on very rigorous processes that study their specific function in different steps of a clinical trial set to confirm similar efficacy and safety. These studies are not performed, or should not naturally be, to show clinical prevalence of these products. [2]

[1] Epworth sleepiness scale - Obstricive Sleep Apnoea (OSA), British Lung Foundation, [], last access on the 19th of November 2020, last update on May 2016.

[2] Declerck, P., Danesi, R., Jacobs, I. (2017). "The language of biosimilars: Calrifications, Definitions, And Regulatory Aspects. Drugs, 77, pp. 671-677.

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