Aspirin of the future

A breakthrough discovery in North Carolina State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine could change the way illnesses like asthma and cancer are treated. Researchers at the university discovered a compound that reduces inflammation by slowing the movement of cells into unwanted areas.

TRANSCRIPT

A breakthrough discovery at North Carolina State University's College of Veterinary Medicine could change the way illnesses like asthma and cancer are treated.

Researchers at the university discovered a compound that reduces inflammation by slowing the movement of cells into unwanted areas.

Here's the story.

Scientific discoveries often require years of methodical, painstaking research involving countless tests, reformations, and retests of hypotheses.

Just media alone.

Okay.

Transfection vehicle.

Wow, that's amazing.

And that describes Dr. Ken Adler's work at North Carolina State University's College of Veterinary Medicine.

It's how he found out about a medical breakthrough that makes this story unique.

His colleagues asked him to look at the lab mice.

Something was happening.

I said, -- well, I think I was doing something at the time.

I said, 'I can't come down to the animal room right now.

Why don't you just take a video?' not even thinking, because everyone's got a phone now with a video camera.

So he came up and showed this to me.

It's like, 'Oh, my goodness.'

And indeed, Dr. Qi Yin had his phone with him.

Yes, when I saw the animal getting better, I just want to share the good news to everybody, so I make the video simply from this phone.

I know it's not professional, but it really found the animal getting better.

You had to show somebody?

Yeah, I have to show everybody for that.

You have to understand that just a few days before, those mice were on the brink of death, infected with acute respiratory distress syndrome.

So what we have here is a model of ARDS.

We call it ARDS now, acute respiratory distress syndrome, in mice.

What you do is you inject a substance called lipopolysaccharide into the airways of the mice.

This is the most common model in mice.

The mice get, essentially, ARDS.

It's about the same amount of mortality.

So these are the mice that are sick, and this is what they look like.

They're lying in one part of the cage in their own urine.

The rapid breathing.

Hair standing up.

Eyelids droopy.

Sort of huddled together.

Not very happy.

Very sick mice.

Now look at Dr. Yin's video.

It was shot after the mice received two treatments with a drug Dr. Adler discovered more than a decade ago and has continued researching.

Their eyes are bright.

Their hair is no longer standing up.

All activity.

Breathing normally.

Moving around.

Happy.

You couldn't believe it.

You said, 'These aren't the same mice.'

I'm totally blown away by this.

Dr. Adler discovered a peptide, which is basically a compound formed by linking amino acids.

Depending on the makeup, peptides regulate all kinds of things in the body, including hormones.

This peptide appears to block excessive inflammations.

Think of the swelling around an injured leg.

We'll let Dr. Adler explain.

So, if my hand is a cell, it's sitting on a blood vessel or a tissue, and the stimulus is over here, so it moves like this.

Sends out part of the cell.

Adheres onto whatever it's moving on.

Drags the rest of it.

The drug blocks the proteins that allow the cells to move.

To be clear, inflammation isn't bad.

That rush of cells helps to prevent infection and promote healing.

You want some inflammation.

You want some of your inflammatory cells to come to sites of infection, but not this tremendous cascade, which can cause all sorts of problems.

And you need to think of inflammation in a broader sense.

Many lung diseases are caused by inflammation.

The mucus in bronchitis is an inflammation.

That's why the drug powder is suspended in a solution and delivered as a mist that is inhaled using a nebulizer.

This is bronchitis caused by smoking, okay, causes all these inflammatory cells to come into the lung.

Air pollutants, we breathe in air pollutants.

All the inflammatory cells come to the lung.

So you want to stop the excess inflammation.

So this discovery could mean new treatments for chronic bronchitis, asthma, and acute respiratory distress syndrome, which results from stresses such as pneumonia or near-drowning.

So, inflammation in the lung, asthma's considered an inflammatory disease.

Bronchitis is considered an inflammatory disease.

It is rare that drugs that we get in basic science make it to the point of being a marketable item, and so this is truly special.

We've made an impact.

The cell biologist is now investigating if his drug could be used to block cancer metastases, which is the spread of cancer cells between organs.

There are currently no drugs to do that.

And to think that this drug can actually help people save lives is pretty humbling.

And I consider myself one of the fortunate scientists who have come to the point where something that I developed in my laboratory can actually be used as a drug to help people.

And that's the overriding thought.