By Ariel Serafin
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Monday, September 19, 2005
UA scientists are involved in national research that could develop new medications for many illnesses and diseases including sexual dysfunction, eating disorders and cancer in the next few years.
Chemists have discovered that by altering peptides, which are small groups of amino acids within the body, it is possible to prevent and treat certain afflictions.
The research is based on the concept that peptides are a major part of intercellular communication, which controls virtually all human behaviors, including our interest, ability and instinct to eat, drink, feel pain, have sex, learn or concentrate, said Victor Hruby, regents professor in the Department of Chemistry.
Hruby said that people’s peptides and hormones are the product of both their genetics and their lifestyles.
“The way these hormones express themselves depend on your genes and then how you behave,” Hruby said.
Peptide research is so advanced that some companies that have made financial agreements with the UA are already involved in clinical trials for their medications.
One of these treatments would assist people who suffer from skin pigmentation and sensitivity to the sun by providing them with a patch that would cause their skin to tan, rather than burn or break out into hives in the sun, Hruby said.
Another clinical trial is testing a nasal spray to encourage sexual motivation. The medication is different from sexual dysfunction treatments like Viagra or Cialis because those medications only encouraged blood flow, Hruby said.
“(The nasal spray) is different because it affects the brain, where sex really occurs,” Hruby said.
It may be only a short matter of time until the medications are available.
“In principle, once you’re in phase three of trial it could be two to three years (until the product is available on the market),” Hruby said.
Chemistry researcher Chad Park said he thinks the biggest benefit of peptides versus regular medications is that peptides are naturally occurring.
“They’re native compounds that are very natural, so they’re not rejected (by the body) that often,” Park said.
The medications being developed are innovative because they will have fewer side effects than typical treatments, said James P. Cain, a chemistry graduate student who is also working on the research.
“The best thing about them clearly is the toxicity issue,” Cain said. “You’re going to have less unintended interactions in the body.”
Hruby said that spectrum of illnesses that could potentially be treated was excitingly broad.
“There are so many (potential treatments) you can’t even imagine,” Hruby said.