Thursday, June 4, 2009

Okay, What ELSE Can It DO?

The inquisitiveness of human nature may be one of our most-useful, as well as most-dangerous, character traits. YOU probably can think of "most-dangerous" examples without much help from me. But, for a moment, let's think about the "most-useful" trait of curiosity. For instance, who was that first brave person to get past the forbidding outer surface and enjoy a pineapple? What could have made him or her realize the sweetness that awaited beneath the skin? Or, picking a real hero, why did someone think that the inside parts of the artichoke plant would be good to eat [then again, as sometimes happens in bars at closing time with shots of hot sauce, could it have been a dare]? It's one of those questions that we'll never get a final answer to, but it does show the versatility we humans bring to the table.

Of course, this adaptability is not limited to our table habits. A tire iron is clearly designed for aiding in the removal or attaching of tires, but, in a pinch, it makes a fine weapon, suited for crashing across a rival figure skater's knee cap. What about the cottage industry that's sprung up around unintended uses for WD-40 [the company's official web site admits to over two thousand, and seems to demur only in cases of alleged medical uses]? Balding persons may recall that minoxidil, better known as Rogaine, was originally a high-blood pressure medication, that just happened to grow hair. Who knew?
This all came to me with word that Xoma Ltd, a medical company best known for its work in anti-inflammatory treatment, will report positive results this weekend for its Xoma 052 medication's Phase II testing on diabetics. Xoma 052, an anti-inflammatory, was reported as showing positive results in a presentation last weekend in Rome. Phase I testing was reported as successful last September, and the next report is expected at the American Diabetes Association 's 69th Scientific Sessions, being held in New Orleans. A couple of questions come out of all this:
-Did anyone realize that diabetes could be related to other illnesses caused by inflammation? Don't feel badly if you didn't; I didn't either, until I read a Xoma release that noted the inflammation angle has been under research for the last decade or so.
Xoma has high hopes for 052, believing it can aid sufferers of everything from rheumatoid arthritis, to heart disease, to, of course, diabetes.
-How effective is 052? I'm not a scientific expert, but some of the testing indicates fewer doses may be required than under current treatments. In fact, some research is indicating that as little as one dosage in 90 days, may cause a significant reduction in A1C levels. Anything that reduces the number of treatments will likely reduce the cost of treatment overall. Anything that can do that can help the millions of diabetics around the world that struggle to pay for treatment.
-Where can I get it? Nowhere yet. It's wrapping up Phase II testing in the US, and is on similar tracks in other countries. If the US FDA works at its usual pace, it'll probably be a year or two before Xoma 052 is generally available. This is not necessarily a bad thing. Considering the disaster that followed, for instance, the release of the diet drug fen-phen, a little caution is probably in order.
Is this a breakthrough? Maybe. Keep an eye out for more details as the research into anti-inflammatory and diabetes continues. This site will try to keep up.
-Mike Riley


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