In this medical health video learn about pain relievers and cancer killers, see how researchers are finding cures on land and at sea.
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Paul Jensen: One way to find these new medicines are to look to nature. Dr. Dean Edell: When we take medicine, we don't usually think about its origin; all we want to know is if it will heal us and make us feel better. So, you might be surprised that right now, researchers are deriving medicines from sources which at first glance would appear unlikely, even toxic. From cancer killers to pain relievers, the land and the sea yields an ocean of opportunity. Bradley Moore: This is a picture of the bacterium that we are working with, called salinispora tropica. Dr. Dean Edell: In other words, it's a cancer killer. Bradley Moore: This bacterium makes a really potent anti-cancer agent. Dr. Dean Edell: The mud-dwelling bacteria was discovered in ocean sediments 17 years ago, but only recently biochemists unlocked its genetic sequence and its hidden potential. Bradley Moore: The only reason we are able to do is -- take the enzymes out of the cell, put them in a test-tube and make new chemistry. Dr. Dean Edell: Pharmaceutical researchers are now looking at ways to use this discovery to treat bone marrow cancer. Paul Jensen: There is a major search underway for better drugs to treat cancer and microbes in the ocean turnout to be an unexplored resource. Dr. Dean Edell: Another small but potent sea dweller is helping fight pain. The Conus sea snail strikes its prey with venom, a thousand times more powerful than morphine. Female Speaker: Where would you rate your pain on the scale of 1 to 10? Dawn Campbell: I’d put it at six. Dr. Dean Edell: Now a synthetic form of that venom called Prialt is helping patients like Dawn Campbell who suffer from chronic pain. Dawn Campbell: It just eats at you all the time. Dr. Gladstone McDowell II: She had severe pain. She had taken all the types of medicines. Dr. Dean Edell: Prialt has advantages over other strong painkillers. Dr. Gladstone McDowell II: It does not have any addictive properties, it does not have tolerance that develops to it as you have with other opioids. Dawn Campbell: You can’t feel anything, just but the needle stick. Dr. Dean Edell: A pump in Dawn’s abdomen feeds her dose to a spinal catheter; the drug binds to nerves that transmit pain signals and stops the pain. Dr. Gladstone McDowell II: In about four months, Dawn told me that she did more than she had done in the previous ten years. The pump has really made her much more functional. Dr. Dean Edell: Have you ever had chili so hot that it numbs your tongue? Female Speaker: A lot of the hotness of the chili is in the seeds and in the veins. Dr. Dean Edell: The same compound, capsaicin, that gives hot peppers and chili sauce their heat can numb knee pain too. Ron Johnson: There was a constant pain in both knees and doing stairs was virtually, the most painful thing you could do; it hurt like the Dickens. I used to go like this and now I can do this. Dr. Dean Edell: Funeral Director, Ron Johnson has osteoarthritis. He became part of a study, testing an ultra-purified form of capsaicin called Adlea injected right into his knee. Dr. Charles Birbara: It allows the entry of calcium which desensitizes the nerve for a prolonged period of time, weeks and months. Dr. Dean Edell: Because it targets just the knee, patients reports few side effects, except an initial burn when first injected. Ron Johnson: If you can take it in your stomach, you certainly can put it in the knee joint. Dr. Dean Edell: Ron says he can take the heat and exchange for mobility he hasn’t had in decades. Ron Johnson: Back when I was 50-years-old, I walked like I was 85-years-old. Now I am 70 year, almost 71 and I have no trouble walking at all. Dr. Dean Edell: Researchers are now testing Adlea in surgical patients to see if it helps reduce the need for post-operative pain medication.