PHARMACY

Peptide and receptor found in stress response may play role in diabetes, study finds

BY Allison Cerra

NEW YORK A peptide, along with its receptor, that is released when the body responds to stress and causes insulin secretion from the pancreas may influence diabetes, researchers found.

These findings, which will be published in this week’s edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, may provide new insights into diabetes, particularly Type 1, as well as suggest novel targets for drug intervention. Researchers at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies found that corticotropin-releasing factor jump starts the stress process along the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis. The researchers also noted that CRF promotes the division of the insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas. CRF, in line with its receptor, CRFR1, has long been known as key to the body’s response to various forms of stress, but the pair is also involved in many more processes, including a number with direct ties to metabolism.

The pancreas is both an exocrine gland, producing enzymes that are secreted into the gut to help digest food, and an endocrine gland, secreting a cocktail of hormones, including insulin, which is manufactured by beta cells that reside in endocrine islets within the “sea” of exocrine tissue.

“We found that beta cells in the pancreas actually express the CRFR1 receptor,” explained Mark O. Huising, Ph.D., a postdoctoral fellow in the Clayton Foundation Laboratories and lead author of the study. “And once we had established the presence of CRFR1 in the islet, we started filling in the blanks, trying to learn as much about pancreatic CRFR1 as we could.

“The thinking is that Type 1 diabetic patients usually have a few beta cells left in their pancreas, so those remaining beta cells, though not enough to control glucose levels, may seed a population of regenerating beta cells,” Huising added.

“Anything we can find out that will drive proliferation or the division of beta cells is very interesting, and being able to stimulate beta cells to divide a little faster may be part of a solution that may ultimately, hopefully, allow management of Type 1 diabetes, ” co-author Wylie Vale said. “But because it is an autoimmune condition, making the cells divide won’t be enough. That is why researchers are working hard to solve the problem of destruction of beta cells.”

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FDA approves Ampyra

BY Alaric DeArment

ROCKVILLE, Md. The Food and Drug Administration has approved a new drug for improving walking ability in adults with multiple sclerosis, the agency announced Friday.

The FDA approved Acorda Therapeutics’ Ampyra (dalfampridine) extended-release tablets, designed to be administered in daily 10-mg doses. The agency’s approval was based on clinical trials that showed patients treated with the drug had faster walking speeds than those who received placebo. Ireland-based Elan will manufacture the drug using its technology platform, while Acorda will market it in the United States. Biogen Idec will market it in other countries.

“Trouble with walking is one of the most debilitating problems people with MS face,” FDA Center for Drug Evaluation and Research Division of Neurology Products director Russell Katz said.

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Cascade Health Solutions opens Primary Care Clinic

BY Antoinette Alexander

EUGENE, Ore. Cascade Health Solutions, a local nonprofit healthcare provider, is opening here on Feb. 1 a membership-based primary care clinic that will be staffed by a full-time nurse practitioner to treat members.

Unlike other retail medical clinics, the Primary Care Clinic will serve as a medical “home” for ongoing healthcare needs.

According to Cascade Health Solutions, the clinic will offer membership-based primary medical care to individuals and families who lack health insurance or who only have catastrophic coverage. The basic month-to-month membership cost is $45 for individuals; families of four or more enrolling together pay $40 per person each month. There is no enrollment fee to join and members will pay $20 per visit.

Membership will be initially limited to 750 members and will then grow to 2,500 in the first year.

Services include routine checkups, office visits, health education and counseling as well as treatment for such chronic illnesses as diabetes and high blood pressure. There are no caps for chronic conditions. Patients can visit the clinic as often as desired provided they pay their monthly membership costs and the $20 office visit fee for each visit. Preventive, birth control and mental health services are also available to members.

A variety of diagnostic tests also are available as part of the office-visit fee of $20, including throat cultures, PAP smears, and other standard tests and screenings.

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