2017 research HIGHLIGHTS

 

Dr. Jan Medlock
Dr. Manoj Pastey

In the Department of Biomedical Sciences at the OSU College of Veterinary Medicine, two researchers are taking different approaches to battling the HIV/AIDS epidemic. One uses biology with computers, and the other combines the latest laboratory technology with age-old folk medicine.

Vaccination Recommended In Two-Prong Approach To HIV Epidemic

Dr. Jan Medlock, an associate professor in the College of Veterinary Medicine, uses computers to analyze the process of infectious disease. He creates complex mathematical models that juggle many variables, such as population density, access to healthcare, and cultural behavior. In a recent study, in partnership with the Yale School of Public Health, he used mathematical models to investigate the efficacy of using vaccines to combat HIV/AIDS.

Since 2010, the global prevalence of HIV infections has increased to 37 million people. Although there are now effective treatments, control of the epidemic has been elusive. “Both around the world and in the U.S., HIV and AIDS are still nowhere close to being under control,” says Medlock. “Given the efforts made against HIV/AIDS and the fact it can now be treated, the continued rate of spread is surprising.”

HIV vaccines already exist, but the best are only 60% effective for the first year, then drop to 30% efficacy. But Medlock’s model shows that development and widespread use of a vaccine that’s even partially effective, along with further diagnosis and treatment, offer the best hope for knocking back this global epidemic.

The study found that continuing with the current approach of treatment only, the world may expect about 49 million new cases of HIV infection during the next 20 years. Adding a vaccine that was even 50 percent effective could prevent 6.3 million infections, and might have the potential to reverse the HIV pandemic.

“Given the challenges inherent in treatment as prevention, a combined approach would be the most feasible and effective strategy to address the HIV pandemic,” the scientists wrote in their study.

Turmeric Key Ingredient In Prevention Of STDs

If you are a curry afficianado, you know turmeric gives the sauce it’s bright yellow color. Turmeric has also been used for many years in Indian folk medicine, and is now proving to be more than just a culinary spice.

In recent studies, curcumin, the compound that gives turmeric its intense color, has been found to help with a variety of health issues, including prevention of  heart attack and delay of the onset of diabetes. It may also provide a new treatment for sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV.

Dr. Manoj Pastey, associate professor in the College of Veterinary Medicine, along with other OSU researchers, the National Aids Institute, and the Talwar Research Foundation, has completed the first stage of testing a new treatment for sexually transmitted diseases that uses curcumin as a key ingredient. “Turmeric has so many health benefits,” says Pastey. “It is an anti-inflammatory and a microbicide.”

In laboratory studies, the Pastey team found that curcumin inhibits replication of the HIV virus at the molecular level.  They then combined curcumin with Aloe vera (another pathogen inhibitor) and other natural ingredients to develop a vaginal microbicide called BASANT.

In clinical trials in India, 120 women were given BASANT, with little or no side effects, and the formulation was found to successfully combat gonorrhea, human papilloma virus, and Chlamydia, as well as HIV.

 

Dr. Sreekanth Puttachary

Nearly 3 million people in the U.S. suffer from epilepsy, a conditon of the brain which causes seizures, unusal sensations, and, sometimes, loss of consciousness. Epilepsy can develop at any age, in both humans and animals, and is most often due to genetics or a traumatic brain injury.

The biological process of developing epilepsy is called epileptogenesis (EPG). During this period, the brain forms new networks of neurons, and scientists believe that receptors on the surface of these neurons are activated in some way that makes them hyper-excitable. But very little is known about how this process works.

In the Department of Biomedical Sciences, at the OSU College of Veterinary Medicine, Dr. Sreekanth Puttachary’s team is studying mice to better understand EPG, so that they may eventually be able to slow down, or even prevent, the development of epilepsy.

Once epilepsy develops, it is extremely difficult to cure. “Even after a century of research,” says Dr. Puttachary, “epilepsy remains a disease that is not well understood.” Currently there are more than 25 anti-epileptic drugs on the market that provide relief from seizures, but those drugs have side effects, and increase the risk of seizure relapse when they are discontinued. “Fully one-third of epileptics don’t even respond to these medications,” says Dr. Puttachary. That is why his research is focused on catching epilepsy early. “There is a critical window of opportunity,” he says.

Cannabidiol is a compound found in marijuana that, in extensive clinical research, has demonstrated a strong potential for treatment of a wide range of conditions, including neurological disorders. “Neurons in the brain have cannabinoid receptors that, when activated by cannabidiol, reduce neuron excitability,” says Dr. Puttachary. His laboratory is investigating the use of cannabidiol during EPG, and its impact on the progression of epilepsy.

“My long-term plan is to develop a dedicated EEG facility at OSU to serve, nationally and globally, to provide expertise in identification, testing, and validation of intervention drugs that will prevent or cure epilepsy,” says Dr. Puttachary.