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A New Drug for Rare, Fatal Childhood Disease?

From The Wall Street Journal:

Research led by the National Institutes of Health may suggest new avenues of treatment for a rare childhood disorder–and insights into the aging process.

A group of scientists led by NIH director Francis S. Collins are reporting that the drug everolimus clears out a protein called progerin from cells of children with progeria. This protein builds up to toxic levels in patients with progeria, a rapid-aging disorder that causes children to die of heart attacks or strokes in their teens.

The study, published today in Science Translational Medicine , found that everolimus appears to rev up cells’ own recycling system so they clear the toxic progerin out more rapidly. The underlying defect driving the genetic disease remains, Collins told the Health Blog, “but the amount of protein is reduced by 50% in treated cells, which has a profound effect on survival.”

In the paper, the researchers concluded that the data are so compelling that the drug should be tested in children with progeria.

Posted: 6/30/2011 11:47:00 AM

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'New drugs' offset cocaine and heroin gains, says UN

From the BBC:

In its annual report, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) said that in Europe, seizures of new psychoactive drugs had been growing.  A number of new synthetic compounds have emerged, the agency said. 

The seized drugs included piperazines, cathinones, synthetic cannabinoids, tryptamines and phenethylamines.  Piperazine was developed for the treatment of parasitic worms and as an anti-depressant. Derivatives of piperazine are often sold as ecstasy. Other examples of "new drugs" are mephedrone, often touted as a legal alternative to amphetamine or cocaine, and "spice", a synthetic product that emulates the effect of cannabis.

Posted: 6/24/2011 1:21:00 PM

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Governor Corbett Signs Bill Banning 'Bath Salts,' Other New Drugs

From PR Newswire:

Governor Tom Corbett today signed into law Senate Bill 1006, legislation that bans the possession, use and sale of synthetic designer drugs including the dangerous substance known as "bath salts.''

The General Assembly last week unanimously approved the measure to expand the state's list of controlled substances. The new law prohibits all chemical substances contained in bath salts, as well as synthetic marijuana and other synthetic drugs, including 2C-E, which is similar to LSD or Ecstasy, and salvia, which causes hallucinations.

Bath salts, which have nothing to do with baths or spas, are designer drugs with an effect on users comparable to cocaine or methamphetamine. The substance had been legally sold in some tobacco shops and other specialty stores. Users sometimes experience agitation, paranoia, hallucinations and often commit violent acts.

Poison control centers nationwide received nearly 300 calls about bath salts in 2010. Already this year, that number has quadrupled. The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia has received more than 55 calls regarding bath salts so far this year, up from just 10 last year.

Posted: 6/24/2011 1:18:00 PM

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'Bath salts' ban sent to Corbett for enactment


A bill that would ban the sale of a legal yet powerful drug known as "bath salts" is heading to Gov. Corbett's desk after unanimous passage by the state Senate on Wednesday.

A spokesman said Corbett would sign the bill, which also would outlaw synthetic marijuana.

"Bath salts," which have the scientific name methylenedioxypyrovalerone, are a stimulant that can produce hallucinations and touch off bizarre or violent behavior when ingested, injected, or smoked.

The popularity of the drug, bought at convenience stores and on the Internet for as little as $10, has spread from Europe to most parts of the United States, particularly among teens and young adults in rural areas.

About 20 states, including New Jersey, have moved to ban the salts, which are unrelated to traditional bath salts. Five counties and one municipality in Pennsylvania - all in the central or northeastern part of the state - have banned the drug.

The bill, which would make local ordinances unnecessary, carries a penalty of up to five years for possessing the drug with intent to sell. Users would face fines and up to a year in jail.

Posted: 6/20/2011 10:18:00 AM

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Nicotine May Lead to Discovery of New Weight-Loss Drugs, Scientists Say

From Bloomberg:

Smoking cigarettes, even with its health risks, has long been used as a way to shed pounds. Now scientists have discovered how the habit suppresses appetite, pointing the way for potential weight-loss drugs.

Nicotine, the addictive substance in cigarettes, quells appetite by latching to certain brain receptors that crank up the activity of a system of neurons influencing food desire, according to a study in the journal Science. Scientists identified this pathway as the hypothalamic melanocortin system.

In experiments with mice, the researchers determined which nerves in the brain are affected by nicotine, suggesting a pathway for weight-loss drugs, said Marina Picciotto, the study’s lead author and professor of psychiatry at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut. Drugs might be developed that mimic the effects of nicotine on the brain’s appetite system, now that researchers know where to aim, she said.

Posted: 6/10/2011 9:58:00 AM

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Legalize Marijuana, Says Inventor of 'Spice' Chemicals

From ABC News:

When John W. Huffman invented a whole class of chemicals that mimic the effect of marijuana on the human brain, he never intended for them to launch a whole "legal marijuana" industry.

But now that "Spice" and other forms of imitation pot are sending users to emergency rooms across America, the retired professor has an idea of how to stem the epidemic. If the federal government would legalize the real thing, says Huffman, maybe consumers wouldn't turn to the far more dangerous fake stuff.

Huffman, who developed more than 400 "cannabinoids" as an organic chemist at Clemson University, says that marijuana has the benefit of being a known quantity, and not a very harmful one. We know the biological effects of THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, Huffman told ABC News, because they have been thoroughly studied. "The scientific evidence is that it's not a particularly dangerous drug," said Huffman.

The "JWH" class of compounds that Huffman invented to mimic marijuana's effects, meanwhile, have not been tested the same way. "The physiological compounds effects of [JWH] compounds have never been examined in humans," said Huffman. What we do know, he says, is that "it doesn't hit the brain in the same way as marijuana, and that's why it's dangerous."

Posted: 6/8/2011 2:45:00 PM

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Agilent Technologies Publishes Industry’s First Compendium to Test for Synthetic Marijuana Compounds

From Vadvert UK:

Agilent Technologies Inc. (NYSE: A) today announced availability of the industry’s first GC/MS compendium to test for synthetic cannabinoids, recently declared controlled substances by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency. They are most commonly found in “herbal incense” blends.

The compendium  available from Agilent at no cost to qualified forensics labs, contains detailed procedures for sample preparation and GC/MS method, plus a searchable mass-spectral library to test for 35 synthetic cannabinoids and their derivatives. The method and library were developed in collaboration with the Criminalistics Division of NMS Labs, an independent forensic laboratory certified by the American Board of Forensic Toxicology and the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors.

Posted: 6/1/2011 10:16:00 AM

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