Articles & Experts

Pulmonary Fibrosis Reversed in Mice Utilizing Existing FDA-approved Drug

Wednesday, February 09, 2022

The Abstract - Medical News and Research Update

A monthly column from Physicians Office Resource looking into current research and the future of medical science

Pulmonary fibrosis occurs when lung tissue becomes damaged and scarred, leading to thick and stiff tissue making it more difficult for lungs to function properly. Scarring is caused by a multitude of factors and in most cases doctors are not able to pinpoint the exact cause. Currently there is no cure, and mortality often happens within a few years; though there are certain therapies can sometimes ease symptoms1. Promising results were published recent article in the journal Nature, researchers at the University of Alabama are starting to make headway on a possible reversal of this disease.

Utilizing mice models and an already approved FDA drug called ABT-199 (currently approved for treating types of leukemia), scientists treated the mice with lung fibrosis with the drug and after 21 days the mice’s lung architecture had returned to normal. This specific test was initiated when researchers discovered that human patients with pulmonary fibrosis exhibited higher amounts of Bcl-2, a regulator of apoptosis, in their lung immune cells. With higher levels of Bcl-2, macrophages refused to die off after completing their work, which lead to lung damage caused by pulmonary fibrosis. Research is still in the early stages but scientists are hopeful this will lead to new therapies for treating pulmonary fibrosis in humans.2

Effectiveness of COVID-19 Vaccines Against the Delta Variant

Questions and concern among the public and health officials about the rise of SARS-CoV-2 variants (specifically the Delta variant – the now dominant strain) and the effectiveness of current Covid vaccines in precenting symptomatic disease led to a new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, titled “Effectiveness of Covid-19 Vaccines against the b.1.617.2 (Delta) Variant.” Within this study, researchers reviewed data from England with symptomatic persons over the age of 16 who underwent Covid-19 testing between October 2020 and May 2021. They then assessed vaccination status in 4,272 persons who tested positive for the delta variant and in 14,837 who tested positive for the alpha variant. The two vaccines utilized in this test were the Pfizer-BioNTech and the AstraZeneca. Results showed that after one dose of either vaccine, the effectiveness was lower against the delta variant than the alpha variant. However, after two doses vaccine effectiveness was high with only modest differences between the variants. Researchers showed that after two doses, the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was 88% effective against the delta variant and the AstraZeneca vaccine was 67% effective3.

Maternal Speech Increases Oxytocin Levels and Decreases Pain Scores in Preterm infants During Painful Procedures

15 million premature infants are born worldwide every year and are often faced with early maternal separation and painful procedures which can have short and long term effects on their neurodevelopment. In an article in Nature published on August 27, 2021, researchers wanted to see “whether the mother’s voice could provide an effective and safe analgesia for preterm infants and whether endogenous oxytocin (OXT) could be linked to pain modulation.”4 In this study, 20 preterm infants when undergoing painful procedures had their OXT levels in saliva and plasma cortisol levels measured, and the Premature Infant Pain Profile was blindly coded by trained psychologist. When the mother was speaking to the child during the procedure, Premature Infant Pain Profile scores significantly decreased, along with an increase of OXT levels over the baseline. No effects on cortisol levels were found.4

Artificial Intelligence Models Show 17 Potential FDA Approved Drugs to Help Treat COVID-19

While vaccines provide the best way to prevent COIVD-19, researchers have been working to find ways to treat COVID may have just found some hope in several drugs already FDA approved. In a recent study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science of the United State of America5, researchers at the University of Michigan utilized artificial intelligence powered image analysis of human cell lines during infection with the coronavirus. In this computer model, cells were treated in over 1,400 individual FDA approved drugs either before or after viral infection. This resulted in 17 potential therapies, 10 of which were new to the science community. Dr. Johathan Sexton, Ph.D assistant professor of Internal medicine at the University of Michigan Medical School and one of the senior authors on the paper said, “Traditionally, the drug development process takes a decade—and we just don’t have a decade. The therapies we discovered are well positioned for phase 2 clinical trials because their safety has already been established.”6 One of the surprises of this study was the anti-viral activity of lactoferrin, a protein found naturally in human breast milk that can also be found over the counter in a dietary supplement derived from cow’s milk. Dr. Sexton went on to say, “We found lactoferrin had remarkable efficacy for preventing infection, working better than anything else we observed.”6 In their article published in PNAS, researchers mention that lactoferrin “inhibits SARS-CoV-2 infection in the nanomolar range in all cell models with multiple modes of action, including blockage of virus attachment to cellular heparan sulfate and enhancement of interferon responses.”5 

Ultrasound Activates Genetically Engineered Immune Cells to Safely Attack Tumors in Mice

CAR T Cell (chimeric antigen receptor) therapy is a type of treatment in which a patient’s T cells are changed in the laboratory so they will attack cancer cells. Large numbers of these CAR T cells are grown in a laboratory and given to the patient by infusion. This type of treatment has been used to treat certain blood caners, but not solid tumors. The reason being is the CAR T cells are always turned on and are very potent – destroying not only cancer cells, but normal healthy cells. In a recent article published in Nature Biomedical Engineering titled, “Control of the activity of CAR-T cells within tumours via focused ultrasound,”7 researchers at UC San Diego took CAR T cells and re-engineered them so that they only express the CAR protein when ultrasound energy is applied. Thus, allowing the researchers to turn on the CAR T proteins and focus them on a specific spot in the body. The scientist tested their hypothesis on mice with solid tumors. Taking the mice and injecting them with the re-engineered CAR T cells, they then used an ultrasound transducer on the area of the skin on top of the tumor. The heat from the ultrasound activated the CAR T cells over the tumor, attacking the tumor but keeping surrounding tissue and cells safe. Though still early in its research, the work looks promising for new therapies to treat solid tumors. 

New Heart Disease Drug Approved in the UK Hailed as “Life Changing”

It’s long been known that too much LDL cholesterol can lead to a buildup of plaques in the blood vessels. Plaque build-ups deprive the flow of oxygen rich blood to the heart which can lead to heart attacks and strokes. A new drug developed by Novaris called Inclisiran is the first drug to utilize RNA interference to help remove LDL from the bloodstream. Inclisiran silences a gene called PCSK9, by doing so Inclisiran helps the liver absorb more LDL cholesterol from the blood and break it down. The therapy is delivered via injection and could cut LDL cholesterol levels by 50%. Studies also noted that Inclisiran when combined with a statin could reduce cholesterol levels by 75-80%. The National Health Service of England and Wales estimate that if “300,000 people receive the drug as planned, a projected 30,000 people could avoid premature death due to heart attacks and stroke.”8 




  1. Mayo Clinic

Pulmonary Fibrosis


  1. Nature

Targeting Cpt1a-Bcl-2 interaction modulates apoptosis resistance and fibrotic remodeling


  1. 3. New England Journal of Medicine

Effectiveness of Covid-19 Vaccines against the b.1.617.2 (Delta) Variant


  1. Nature

Maternal speech decreases pain scores and increases oxytocin levels in preterm infants during painful procedures


  1. Proceedings of the National Academy of Science of the United State of America

Morphological cell profiling of SARS-CoV-2 infection identifies drug repurposing candidates for COVID-19


  1. Existing drugs kill SARS-CoV-2 in cells


  1. Nature Biomedical Engineering

Control of the activity of CAR-T cells within tumours via focused ultrasound


  1. Cholesterol-lowering jab could save over 30,000 lives