Pulse 44: Toward Reliable Prevention of Migraine Attacks

5 December 2017
Giulio Prisco

Migraine Headache

A recent clinical study (see below) shows that monoclonal antibody erenumab can prevent migraine attacks, The Independent reports. According to Prof. Peter Goadsby, from King's College Hospital, London, the results represent “an incredibly important step forward for migraine understanding and migraine treatment” and “a real transition for migraine patients from poorly understood, re-purposed treatments, to a specific migraine-designed therapy.”

The common and debilitating effects of migraine, and the difficulty to treat it, justify the importance given to this development. “Migraine is a common problem for adults and children. In its global burden as a disease, it is consistently in the top 10, and among neurologic disorders, it is second only to stroke in its number of associated disability-adjusted life-years,” notes an editorial published with the study. “The complexity of migraine, which is considered to be a polygenetic disease with environmental modifiers, is the main reason for the paucity of migraine-specific treatments.”

“It contrasts with what we have now, which are medicines that drifted into migraine from many other areas, such as blood pressure control, epilepsy and depression,” added Goadsby, as reported by Time. “It has no other effects than to control migraine.”

In the mean time, if you suffer from migraine headaches, take a look at related clinical studies for Feverfew and Vitamin B2.

In another breakthrough, Caltech scientists are making important advances in synthetic biology (see below). "We have given life a whole new building block that it did not have before," said a Caltech researcher. "Nature has created beautiful machinery that we can benefit from," added another. "We're repurposing nature's best inventions."

New drug proves very effective against episodic migraine. Novartis announced the positive results of a clinical trial evaluating erenumab, a monoclonal antibody co-developed by Novartis and Amgen to prevent migraine by blocking the CGRP receptor, in the prevention of episodic migraine (defined as 4 to 14 migraine days per month). A study published in The New England Journal of Medicine shows that erenumab, administered subcutaneously at a monthly dose of 70 mg or 140 mg, significantly reduced migraine frequency, the effects of migraines on daily activities, and the use of acute migraine–specific medication over a period of 6 months. Fifty percent of patients taking erenumab 140mg had their migraine days cut by at least half - nearly three times more than the control group patients taking a placebo.

Synthetic biologists use directed evolution techniques to turn bacteria into chemical manufacturing labs. Bioengineers at Caltech have created bacteria that can, for the first time, make chemical compounds containing bonds between boron and carbon. Such bonds, which could not be produced by any known life form so far, are now within reach of synthetic biology. Previously, the scientists had engineered bacteria to produce molecules with silicon-carbon bonds, called organosilicon compounds, which can be found in everything from pharmaceuticals to semiconductors. A study published in Nature describes how the scientists used directed evolution methods, in which enzymes are evolved in a lab to perform desired functions, such as creating chemical bonds that aren't found in the biological world.

Artificial human heart muscle patches developed with stem cells. Biomedical engineers at Duke University have created a fully functioning artificial human heart muscle large enough to patch over damage typically seen in patients who have suffered a heart attack. A research paper, published in Nature Communications, describes how the scientists made patches using many different lines of human stem cells, including those derived from embryos and those artificially forced or "induced" into their pluripotent state. According to the researchers, this is a major step toward the end goal of repairing dead heart muscle in human patients.

Monkeys trained to control a robotic arm with their thoughts. Neuroscientists at the University of Chicago Medical Center have demonstrated how amputees can learn to control a robotic arm through electrodes implanted in the brain. The researchers implanted electrodes in the brain of three rhesus monkeys, who had to have an arm amputated years ago, and trained the monkeys to control the robotic arm using only their thoughts.  The research results, published in Nature Communications, indicate that a new neural connection network, able to control both the intact limb and the prosthetic arm, formed in the monkeys’ brains. Both areas of the brain could create new connections to learn how to control the prosthetic limb, even several years after amputation.

Nanoparticles seek and destroy cancer stem cells. Researchers at the University of Illinois have designed nanoparticles that specifically bind to a protein that marks the surface of breast cancer stem cells. The nanoparticles can seek and destroy cancer stem cells, the elusive and rare cells that can cause cancer to come back even when years have passed since the initial tumor was treated. A study published in Molecular Cancer Therapeutics shows how the scientists successfully tested the nanoparticles, which target a protein called CD44 that only appears on the surface of cancer stem cells, on breast cancer tumors in cell cultures, and in live mice.

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