In this newsletter issue, we highlight the growing threat of malaria caused by the spread of the Anopheles stephensi mosquito in Africa, the activation of the brain's salience network by injected drugs, and the development of an 'off-the-shelf' cancer immunotherapy. Additionally, we discuss the breakthrough in drug delivery to the brain using a thyroxine derivative.
Malaria, a disease caused by a parasite spread by mosquitoes, continues to be a major problem worldwide. In 2021 alone, there were an estimated 247 million cases and over 600,000 deaths, mostly in Africa. Shockingly, children under the age of 5 accounted for about 80% of all malaria deaths in the region. Recently, a particular type of mosquito called Anopheles stephensi has become a cause for concern. Originating from Asia, it has rapidly spread to countries in the Horn of Africa and beyond. People living in households with this specific mosquito were found to have a 270% higher risk of malaria infection compared to those without it. What's more, the study also identified two other threats in the fight against malaria: drug resistance and diagnostic resistance of the parasite itself. This means that traditional methods of control, such as insecticides and vaccines, may not be as effective against this invasive species and the resistant parasites it carries. In particular, the development of new vaccines may not be sufficient to reduce the burden of malaria in Africa, where the disease is already rampant. Overall, this research underscores the urgent need to address the growing threat of Anopheles stephensi and its implications for malaria control and prevention efforts.
Read more at Lancaster University.
Researchers Identify Brain Network Activated by Injection vs. Oral Drugs
A new clinical trial has found that a group of brain regions known as the "salience network" is activated when drugs are injected intravenously, but not when they are taken orally. This study helps to explain why drugs that enter the brain quickly, such as through injection or smoking, are more addictive than when they enter the brain more slowly, such as when they are taken orally. The researchers used sophisticated imaging technology to gain insights into the brain mechanisms underlying drug addiction. This research could inform prevention interventions and the development of new therapies for substance use disorders.
UK Scientists Develop 'Off-the-Shelf' Cancer Immunotherapy
Scientists at UCLA have developed a new method to engineer immune cells that could be used to treat difficult cancers. The technique, known as "off-the-shelf" cell therapy, uses immune cells taken from healthy donors instead of the patients themselves. This approach has the potential to make cell therapies more accessible and affordable, as the current process can be time-consuming and expensive. The researchers focused on gamma delta T cells, which have the ability to target a range of cancers, and found that certain cells with high levels of a surface marker called CD16 were particularly effective at killing cancer cells. The engineered cells were also able to attack tumors and remain in the body for a long time without causing complications.
Read more at University of California - Los Angeles Health Sciencesand the research paper at Nature Communications.
Thyroxine Derivative Boosts Brain Drug Delivery
Researchers at the University of Eastern Finland have made a breakthrough in drug delivery into the brain. They found that using a protein called OATP1C1 can enhance drug delivery into glial cells, which are important for supporting neurons in the brain. This could be crucial in treating brain diseases associated with chronic inflammation. The study also highlighted the need for better understanding of drug transport mechanisms in the body to improve drug development. The project was funded by the Research Council of Finland.
I hope you enjoyed reading issue #17 of smuklok. I am constantly trying to improve every issue. If you have any feedback, suggestions or criticism for me, please send them to my email at
Sampath Amitash Gadi