ependymin - (billytea)

  1. 840 Posts.


    I recently read your post in regards to ependymin & found the following article.

    Sounds a little far fetched - but what if.............?

    Meanwhile, just try & consume 30lbs (14kg) of fruit & vegetables a day for the same effect :-)

    Sunday Herald - 22 June 2003

    This Man Could Help You Live To 120.

    To combat the damage sustained to our bodies as we age, you would have to eat 30lbs of fruit a day. But Scot Steve Parkinson is working on a simple pill that could provide the high levels of anti-oxidants needed to help us repair the body and stay vigorous and healthy. This is not the future. Trials begin in Edinburgh next year, writes Noel Young.

    WHEN Steve Parkinson walked out of Liberton High School in 1975 to take an office job, he wasn't exactly a man with a mission. He didn't have a care in the world and, he admits, not a lot of direction either. With just two Higher English and history to his credit, the slimness of his qualifications didn't really worry him.
    'I hadn't put a lot of effort into my last couple of years in school. When I left I just wanted to get drunk, get laid, and have a good time, just like any other 18-year-old,' he says.

    When Steve stepped back into the school a few weeks ago for the first time in 28 years, the transformation was complete. Now a full-blown American entrepreneur and company president -- and a founding member of the Global Scot network -- he was keeping a promise to First Minister Jack McConnell. He had volunteered to mentor the pupils of his old school, encourage them to have a go themselves and not be afraid of risk.

    Steve might be described as a textbook mentor. He has certainly seen more than most of business risk and excitement. From a low of seeing his 'secure' job at Johnson And Johnson in Livingston vanish in redundancy -- to a high of seeing the US firm he founded reach a market valuation of $250 million. From the despair of seeing personal fortune of $25 million evaporate in the biotech meltdown -- to the exhilaration today of being president of a Boston biotech firm which he believes will be a billion-dollar company in ten years' time.

    A billion dollars is an impressive figure, although not unusual in the modern world of 'big pharma'. But it is on the day-to-day level of ordinary humanity that Steve and his colleagues at CereMedix in Boston really take the breath away. The Scots American team believe years can be added to everyone's life, without altering genes without taking expensive drugs, using a system that already exists in everyone's body. And they insist these extra years, instead of being marred by declining health, memory loss and infirmity, will be active years with a vigour comparable to that of youth.

    All of this is based on a single startling finding by the company's chief scientist and founder, Professor Victor Shashoua: that elements of the brain, protein ependymin, itself discovered by Shashoua 30 years ago, have the potential to repair and restore the body's defences as they become crippled by age. Parkinson, Shashoua and company are well aware of the cynicism that surrounds 'long life' claims. So both downplay the hype. Parkinson insists that their project 'is not the fountain of youth'. Shashoua says modestly, 'All we are aiming for is to provide healthy life expectancy.' But pressed, he admits that 'healthy life expectancy' is between 120 years and 160 years, according to the Genome project.

    'When we are born, we have programmed into our DNA when we might expect to die. And for most people that is estimated to be at least 120 years down the line,' says Shashoua . The snag is that over the years, the body's defences wilt and break down -- and we shuffle off this mortal coil well ahead of schedule. 'The universal culprit,' he says, 'in Alzheimers, in heart disease, in stroke, in diabetes -- you name it -- is oxidative stress.'

    For years the world has known that anti-oxidants, found in many substances from tea to fruit and vegetables, have a major role to play on the health maintenance front. 'The trouble is that they have to be taken in such vast quantities that in reality they have little effect,' says Parkinson. 'Just to stand still -- 'maintain stasis' in medical jargon -- you would have to eat 30lbs of fruit and vegetables a day.'

    And that is the battlefield the CereMedix team has chosen in their drive to get the body to repair itself. Two prescription drugs based on Professor Shashoua's discovery are already set for clinical trials. One for lung disease, designed to repair the damage caused by smoking, among other things, is under discussion for testing on Edinburgh patients, putting Scotland in the forefront of the development of the new drugs. The other drug aims to alleviate the trauma caused by heart surgery, making it easier for the patients to pull through unimpaired.

    The CereMedix drug aimed at lung disease may well have have its first big clinical trial in Edinburgh, reflecting in part Parkinson's desire to 'do something for Scotland'.

    Professor Bill MacNee, of the University of Edinburgh and the city's royal infirmary, is enthusiastic about the American scientists' concept of 'upregulating' the protective mechanisms in the lungs called anti-oxidants.

    'The idea of stimulating the body's own system to do this has been around for a very long time -- but we haven't had potent enough anti-oxidants,' says Professor MacNee.

    'They have been mainly derived from things you find in your diet such as Vitamin C and Vitamin E -- and they haven't been very successful. 'The CereMedix idea is very novel. If it works, it will have all sorts of implications, not only for lung conditions but any other disease in which oxidative stress plays a part. It would be a new anti inflammation treatment.'

    Professor MacNee says they would first carry out tests in the university's department of respiratory medicine to establish if the ependymin drug had the same effect on lung cells and tissue as in the brain. They will also check for side effects because, 'after all we will be manipulating the genetic machinery. But if all goes to plan, we hope to proceed to a clinical trial testing the new drug on local patients within two years.

    'For smokers and others suffering from lung disease, the only drugs we have to offer at the moment are palliative. Even smokers who have given up suffer from breathlessness and worse. One hope is that the new drug can reverse this.'

    Parkinson is confident the drug will meet the safety standards. 'After all what we are doing is simply restoring your defence system to what it was when you were young,' he says. And there may even be another bonus for Scotland as Parkinson is looking at establishing a subsidiary company there to make use of Scottish expertise.

    But, it is a third product which is most likely to capture the public imagination. This is a nutraceutical, something you can buy over the counter of a health food store just like you buy multivitamins. In its raw state it is a white powder -- but will be made into pills. They will not be expensive -- around 70p each is one estimate -- and no lengthy period of trials is required.

    'All we have to do is prove that it is safe to swallow and as it is a synthetic replica of a natural substance -- a peptide -- found in the brain, we do not see that being an obstacle,' says Parkinson.

    The pill will stimulate the body to produce natural anti-oxidant enzymes with a much more dramatic effect than the anti-oxidant compounds we ingest from our diet. 'Just one of our pills each day will stimulate the body into producing its own enzymes to achieve the same anti-oxidant effect as that 30 pounds of fruit and vegetables,' says Parkinson.

    The pill, he says, will set up a chain reaction in which the body's disease-fighting enzymes will be activated. 'Everyone taking a pill will feel better and have more energy.'

    THE transformation in lifestyle will be great, but possibly no greater than the change in Steve Parkinson's prospects when he moved with his family from Penicuik to Boston in Massachusetts just ten years ago in February this year. 'Sometimes I really to have to pinch myself,' he says. 'I just can't believe how lucky I have been been. To be in at the start of not one but two companies right on the cutting edge of science.'

    His luck and his life turned round after he quit his first job (he hated office work) and instead became a technician at Lasswade Veterinary lab, a scientific civil service post. 'That was where I got the biotech bug. I found something I could get my teeth into. I knew this would be my life's work. Suddenly I started to study really hard for my ONC. And when the government offered to pay my way through a BSc at Heriot Watt University, I jumped at it.'

    Parkinson, by now married to Julie, a lab co-worker, finished up with an honours degree, taking the Louis Fletcher Microbiology prize as student of the year. But cutbacks meant that his civil service job was no longer there. After a spell as a manager at a small bio company, Parkinson moved to Johnson And Johnson at Livingston, 'for security', he reflects ruefully. When they closed the plant, he was made redundant.

    Yet that too was lucky. He joined PPL Therapeutics, in the years prior to Dolly, as they moved into transgenics -- human proteins produced in animals for therapeutic use. Parkinson travelled the world as the company's commercial development manager. Then, visiting Genzyme in Boston, the Americans took him aside and asked him to lead the business development effort of their own transgenics company. 'I took the job without checking out the Boston winter weather,' he laughs. 'If I had known it would have been anything like we've had this year, I might have thought again.' In fact he almost trebled his salary. He, Julie and their two daughters, moved to Boston where they now have a home with six acres of land.

    Next Parkinson and some colleagues raised $250,000 for the launch of their own comopany TranXenoGen, which floated on the London AIM stock exchange on July 4, 2000, raising £12.5 million in the initial public offering. As the bio market soared, its market capitalisation soared, to $250 million. 'I started looking for potential acquisitions,' says Steve. 'That was when I met Victor. CereMedix wasn't right for TranXenogen as a company -- but on a personal level I was really excited about the anti-ageing concept. When Victor offered me the job of CEO I accepted.'

    As befits a risk taker, Steve accepted a low salary at TranXenoGen but with a big stock package. 'The shares were worth £5.40 each at their height and mine were worth £16 million($25 million). Then the bio bubble burst. Today they are 4p. I have to admit that was hard. But I suppose the money has got to be in the bank before you can call it your own.'

    That loss might have dampened some people's taste for biotechnology. Not Steve. In ten years in America, he has truly adopted the glass half-full mentality of our American cousins.

    'In Scotland I found that people tended to believe you could never do anything,' he says. 'How could a wee guy start a big company? Here they believe that anything and everything is achievable. Why not, is what they say. Business people are also programmed to deal with disappointments. So I just had to get on with it and set my sights on making a fortune all over again.'

    THE nerve centre of the CereMedix drive to redefine old age is a bustling laboratory on the campus of Northeastern University in Boston. Shashoua was researching memory almost 30 years ago when he disovered the brain protein ependymin. At the time, he likened it to a 'glue' in memory formation. Fascinating though it was, there was no obvious commercial application. Then in 1999, Shashoua decided on a hunch to investigate ependymin in a different way. He tested fragments of the whole protein to see whether they had any function of their own in the body.

    These, he discovered, had a powerful and unsuspected capability: they stimulated the cells of the body into re-energising their natural defence system.

    'At first my interest was in brain applications, such as Parkinson's and Alzheimers -- but then I discovered that the repair effect applied throughout the body, he says. 'This was of enormous signifcance. We had stumbled upon a natural defence and repair system to retain a youthful body and fight age related diseases.'

    Four years on, the team believe their family of drugs and products will transform the world of health care. 'We believe we can mobilise the body's own defence and repair mechanisms,' says Shashoua, 'and arrest the tide of premature ageing.'

    They have seen astonishing results in animals. Shashoua tells of one day's work with rat models which convinced him that he and his team were on the right track. Stroke was induced in two rats and then one was given the medicine. Shashoua says: 'Around 6pm we left the laboratory for a meal. When we returned two hours later, the control rat -- the one which had had no treatment -- was still flat out, paralysed. The other was moving around feeding and drinking. The effects of the stroke had been almost completely reversed.

    'Later when the animals brains were dissected, we could see the normal damage that one might expect from the stroke had been almost completely prevented. The brain appeared near normal.'

    Geriatric mice at the end of their lives were given an ependymin derived peptide. Then their activity was monitored as they criss-crossed closed boxes, breaking light beams .

    'They were rejuvenated to such an extent that their activity level was close to that of very young mice,' said Parkinson. 'They were running about, very active. In every single measure they had regained the vigour of youth. And the effect did not wear off.'

    The main ingredient in the over the-counter pill will also almost certainly go into cosmetics. In what he describes as 'a very unscientific experiment,' Shashoua the scientist did what an ordinary man or woman might do. He tried it out on himself .

    On one hand he put a regular moisturising lotion and on the other the cream containing the peptide. After a week, the hand with the peptide was much smoother, 'but of course that is a meaningless experiment,' insists Shashoua. Meaningless or not, a major cosmetic company is in talks with CereMedix.

    Parkinson is well aware of the raft of lurid claims made for products currently available in health food stores. 'We want to quash right away the remarks about 'not another dietary supplement',' he insists. 'Our product will be very different indeed.'

    He also distances their concept from that of other researchers who are investigating the genes of centenarians, in the hope of finding a switch that will prolong life. 'I want to emphasise that we are not trying to manipulate genes. Our idea, like all the best ideas, is essentially simple. We are merely using the equipment that is already there in the body.'

    Shashoua, who took a degree in London before moving to the US after the war, was a major figure at Harvard and MIT for 30 years. He was a founder of Protarga, another Boston biotech company, which currently has an anti-cancer drug in phase three clinical trials, the last stage before it is allowed on the market.

    What impresses medical professionals is that CereMedix, in addition to the over-the-counter product, is pursuing a parallel course for prescription drugs. Dr Rajan Madhok, a consultant at Glasgow Royal Infirmary, says, 'Any way of exploiting the body's natural defence system has to be good. The problem has always been the quantity in which anti-oxidants had to be delivered. Linus Pauiling advocated huge, but indigestible, amounts of Vitamin C.

    'If these results can be achieved with one pill a day, that would be huge progress and could, I believe, significantly lower the impact of age-related diseases.'

    CereMedix now has 19 worldwide patents covering thousands of applications of its products and technology. The company has already licensed a stroke diagnostic technology to Genzyme, the comany that first brought Parkinson to the States. Now he's currently negotiating with investors for the $10 million in funding for the new trials. He says it has been tough in the current market but believes things are turning round. The CereMedix products will have a flying start, he says, because the substances involved are derived from a naturally occurring protein. 'Instead of pumping the patient full of chemicals, we will be giving a more natural drug,' says Parkinson. And, reflecting on the perfection of having the body heal itself, he adds, 'You have to have trust in the system we are endowed with. The more you get into it the more beautiful it is. It's a symphony.'

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