Tool kit for patients to track drug toxicity

February 25th, 2008 - 3:43 pm ICT by admin  


New York, Feb 25 (IANS) A Harvard Medical School team led by Vamsi Mootha has developed a new tool kit that helps explains how drugs can affect users. The kit is important as certain drugs affect some people in unexpected ways, not all of them harmful.

For instance, muscle cramps affect nearly a million people relying on cholesterol-lowering statins. Conversely, a diabetic taking medication for intestinal worms could find his glucose levels improve.

The reason for this, according to this new study, can be traced to mitochondria, those tiny organelles floating around in cellular cytoplasm, often described as the cell’s battery packs.

Findings of the study have been published in the latest issue of the journal Nature Biotechnology.

The kit isolates five primary aspects of mitochondrial function and analyses how individual drugs affect them.

Over the past decades, mitochondria have increasingly been understood as a key determinant of cellular health. On the other hand, mitochondrial dysfunction can lead to many degenerative conditions as well as metabolic diseases such as diabetes.

“Historically, most studies on mitochondria were done by isolating them from their normal environment,” said Mootha.

“We wanted to analyse mitochondria in the context of intact cells, which would then give us a picture of how mitochondria relate to their natural surroundings. To do this we created a screening compendium that could then be mined with computation.”

“It’s just like taking your car in for an engine diagnostic,” explains Mootha.

“The mechanic will probe the battery, the exhaust system, the fan belt, etc., and as a result will then produce a read-out for the entire system. That’s analogous to what we’ve done.”

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