Parents’ Quest Helps Develop Drug to Treat Atherosclerosis in Children
A remarkable result occurred after two parents began an investigation into how they could save their twin daughters’ lives from being taken by an uncommon, chronic illness — and now their quest may save millions of lives, according to Beth Mole of Ars Technica.
The couple researched medical reports and pieced information together in spite of having no medical training. After they completed their fact-finding mission, they contacted a German scientist and his team and told them their studies found that a chemical, cyclodextrin, may treat atherosclerosis, which is a hardening of the arteries caused by cholesterol-rich plaques. This condition can lead to heart attacks, strokes and other cardiovascular issues.
Eicke Latz from the University Hospital Bonn and his colleagues from the Center of Molecular Inflammation Research (CEMIR) at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) in Trondheim investigated the couple’s hypothesis and began their scientific journey toward discovering whether the two parents were correct.
Testing on mice showed that cyclodextrin did, in fact, block plaque formation. It also melted and carried away the plaques that were already present in the arteries, decreased the inflammation associated with atherosclerosis, and boosted cholesterol metabolism even when the mice were fed cholesterol-rich diets.
When tested on human cells in the laboratory, researchers found the drug seemed to have the same effects on plaques and human cells.
The findings were published in Science Translational Medicine and concluded that cyclodextrin may be extremely helpful in preventing and treating heart disease.
Around the world, cardiovascular diseases are the preeminent cause of death, and approximately 43% of US citizens have high cholesterol, a gateway to atherosclerosis. Treatments for excessive cholesterol levels include statins and other drugs that reduce cholesterol in the arteries. These medications are not effective, however, if patients do not follow low-cholesterol diets.
Clinical trials will be needed before the drug can be safely prescribed, but scientists say repurposing the medicine for cardiovascular diseases will not be difficult.
In 2007, Chris and Hugh Hempel of Reno, Nevada, and their then three-year-old twins, Addi and Cassi, received information that was upsetting, to say the least. Their twins were diagnosed with Niemann-Pick type C disease (NPC).
Sometimes called childhood Alzheimer’s, the disease causes young patients to develop symptoms much like those of elderly Alzheimer’s sufferers, including dementia, memory loss, balance problems, and diminishing verbal skills.
American mother Chris Hempel read about the research on cholesterol crystals by Latz and contacted him to suggest they test it as a possible atherosclerosis treatment, states material from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology.
When alcohol is poured on cyclodextrin, the molecules of alcohol stick to the ring-shaped cyclodextrin, which creates a dry powder that is consumable alcohol. This compound is FDA-approved and is used in drugs to cause them to bind fatty acids in the body which are the ideal targets for the pharmaceuticals.
Now, researchers have found that the compound can cause fatty build-ups in blood vessels to dissolve and leave the body in a better manner than the existing treatments for atherosclerosis.
The hypothesis by scientists is that the composites strengthen the immune cells‘ (macrophages) activity and causes them to fight and dissolve extra cholesterol without inducing inflammation, reports The Science Explorer’s Kelly Tatera.
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