Purine Prohibition — In a paper recently published in Chemistry & Biology, Dr. Vern Schramm and MSTP student Keith Hazleton describe a novel approach that may prove effective in treating malaria, the disease caused by the parasite Plasmodium falciparum that causes 800,000 deaths per year. Their research team used acyclic immucilin phosphonates (AIPs) to inhibit hypoxanthine-guanine-xanthine phosphoribosyltransferase (HGXPRT). This enzyme is essential to the parasite for making purines, a group of organic compounds with many critical functions that include serving as one of the building blocks of DNA. The use of AIPs blocked HGXPRT’s function, resulting in the death of P. falciparum parasites that were in infected red blood cells, which are a primary target in human malarial infection. The duo’s findings validate HGXPRT’s viability as a potentially effective drug target for treating malaria. Dr. Schramm is the professor and chair of biochemistry, and the Ruth Merns Chair in Biochemistry.
Therapeutic Investigation — Dr. Alain Litwin has been awarded $3.7 million over five years from the National Institute on Drug Abuse to study models of care for injection drug users infected with hepatitis C virus (HCV), a potentially lethal virus that infects the liver and is spread by blood-to-blood contact. While HCV treatment leading to a sustained viral response is associated with improved survival, injection drug users have classically had poor access to care and limited success following such regimens. Dr. Litwin will conduct a randomized control trial of three models of care that incorporate new HCV therapies -- on-site primary care, substance abuse treatment, and psychiatric care within drug treatment clinics -- to determine which model is best and most cost-effective for successfully treating HCV-infected injection drug users. Dr. Litwin is associate professor of clinical medicine and of clinical psychiatry and behavioral sciences.
Crowning Achievement — Dr. Michael B. Prystowsky, professor and chair of pathology, has been elected Governor of the College of American Pathologists (CAP). He will be sworn in at the CAP 2012 meeting, on September 12, in San Diego.