19 Nov The versatility of melitherapy
We humans have many differences among us that allow us to stand out as individuals. But there is one similarity we all certainly share: our bodies are made up of trillions of cells. The variability in our cells is vast — for example, muscular cells differ from neurons, as they perform distinctive roles. However, all cells have one thing in common: they have a membrane that separates them from the rest of the environment. The lipid composition of this membrane determines its chemical and structural properties. This is relevant because, as we explained in a previous post, many cellular functions take place in or around this membrane and are often related with vital processes.
Consequently, many diseases show, to some extent, changes in the composition or structure of the cell membranes. Membrane Lipid Therapy or melitherapy harnesses these alterations to design therapeutic strategies that allow customized modifications to the membrane lipid composition and structure.
Here we present to you some examples of successful applications of this approach to treating diseases that are still a healthcare challenge.
One of the main issues with finding targets for cancer drugs is that there are differences between and within tumors. Several studies have shown that the composition of the cell membrane is often altered in cancer cells. This structure is involved in many signaling processes that trigger cell division – a process that is generally out of control in cancer cells, promoting tumor growth. Therefore, membranes are becoming an interesting target to treating cancer.
One example is glioblastoma multiforme (GBM), an aggressive brain cancer with low survival rate and no effective treatment available yet. GBM therapies are partly limited due to the blood-brain barrier, a tissue that hinders drugs from crossing over to the brain and reaching the tumor. Melitherapy can overcome this issue by addressing the membrane lipid alterations with a molecule that we have developed: LAM561.
Besides GBM, melitherapy is also being researched in other kinds of cancer such as breast cancer. This is the most common cancer type in women worldwide, and the second most frequent tumor overall. Some fatty acids have shown antitumoral effects in this cancer, mostly when administered to the patient along with chemotherapy.
The potential of melitherapy doesn’t stop with these two cancers – some genes associated with tumor onset and patient survival have been associated with lipid metabolism or fatty acid biosynthesis in cancers that have a high prevalence worldwide.
Changing the membrane lipid composition can have indirect effects on seemingly unrelated processes. This is how melitherapy can address the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease, the most common cause of dementia – a decline in thinking and social skills that affects the patient’s independence. We are currently developing LP226A1, a lipid that has shown interesting results in vitro and in vivo, regarding the molecular mechanisms underlying Alzheimer’s disease.
Melitherapy can be useful for other neurological conditions too. In spinal cord injuries that damage nerves and can lead to limb mobility loss, a treatment combining a fatty acid and a protein has shown promising results in vitro. Lipids such as hydroxamic acid may be useful for the treatment of other neuromuscular conditions as well. This innovative approach can even help with the treatment of psychiatric diseases!
During a brain stroke, the composition of the cell membrane is modified by the breakdown of a type of membrane lipids: phospholipids. This process triggers inflammatory responses that enhance the death of neurons, increasing the brain damage caused by the stroke.
Fortunately, melitherapy can address inflammation too! LP204A1, a polyunsaturated fatty acid that we are developing, has an anti-inflammatory activity similar to steroids but with less toxicity. We are currently collaborating with research groups to test this molecule in an animal model that mimics ischemic lesions.
Apart from neuronal protection after a stroke, other lipid molecules have been effective for other disabling and hard-to-treat diseases that have an inflammatory basis, such as atopic dermatitis or urticaria.
But wait, there’s more!
There are other diseases that can benefit from melitherapy including metabolic diseases such as diabetes type 2. Lipids are also involved in cardiac conditions such as hypertension that can lead to serious diseases if left untreated.
As you can see, melitherapy has enabled interesting leads for the treatment of many different diseases that are not necessarily related. Although its effectiveness is still being evaluated in several preclinical and clinical trials, what we can say for sure is that melitherapy represents a novel and interesting approach to treating diseases that still lack effective treatment. Hope we can bring some good news soon!