Despite significant advancements in antimalarial drugs and widespread efforts to prevent transmission over the past decade, deaths from malaria remain high, particularly in younger children. New drugs with novel modes of action are urgently needed to continue reducing mortality and address drug resistance in the malaria parasite, Plasmodium falciparum. While tens of thousands of compounds have been identified as potential candidates through massive screening efforts, scalable methods for identifying the most effective compounds are needed.
Enter firefly luciferase, a dynamic reporter tool to investigate drug action. By creating transgenic P. falciparum that express the luc reporter gene, the researchers could monitor drug action over time. When the parasite is killed, it stops making the luciferase reporter. Since there is no new production of luciferase, levels fall quickly after the parasite dies, and a luciferase assay can determine how fast each drug killed the parasite.
The ability to target protein interactions with low solubility or weak binding affinities can present a significant challenge when it comes to drug screening. The beauty of these types of challenges we often face in the lab is that finding solutions to these problems doesn’t necessarily require brand new tools. Sometimes we already have the right tools in our arsenal and, with just a little creativity and collaboration, they can be adapted to address the challenge at hand.
In the following video, Dr. Mohamed (Soly) Ismail, a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Downward Lab of the Francis Crick Institute, presents the perfect example of this with his novel approach to the NanoBiT® Protein:Protein Interaction Assay. Through a collaboration with Promega R&D Scientists, Dr. Ismail has translated the assay into a cell-free, biochemical format, termed the NanoBiT Biochemical Assay (NBBA).
Malaria affects nearly half of the world’s population, with almost 80% of cases in sub-Saharan Africa and India. While there have been many strides in education and prevention campaigns over the last 30 years, there were over 200 million cases documented in 2017 with over 400,000 deaths, and the majority were young children. Despite being preventable and treatable, malaria continues to thrive in areas that are high risk for transmission. Recently, clinicians started rolling out use of the first approved vaccine, though clinical trials showed it is only about 30% effective. Meanwhile, researchers must continue to focus on innovative efforts to improve diagnostics, treatment and prevention to reduce the burden in these areas.
Tissue culture using primary or cultured cell lines has long been a mainstay of testing compounds for inhibiting cell growth or promoting apoptosis during screening for cancer drugs. However, the standard culture conditions result in monolayers of cells, dividing and growing across the bottom of a well, plate or flask in a single layer. The drawback of this technique is that organisms do not come in monolayers; a three-dimensional (3D) spheroid is closer to the in vivo state, especially if the spheroids are made up of more than one cell type like tumors in multicellular organisms. Even more beneficial would be using 3D cultured cells in high-throughput screening to facilitate compound profiling for target effectiveness and cytotoxicity. In a recent PLOS ONE article, researchers used normal and breast cancer cells both in monoculture and coculture to test a set of compounds and found results differed between 2D and 3D cultured cells. Continue reading “Improving Cancer Drug Screening with 3D Cell Culture”
Working with bacteria and viruses that cause life-threatening diseases with no currently available treatment options takes guts. Most scientists are familiar with the routine requirements of good aseptic technique, are highly aware of laboratory safety requirements, and are more than familiar with autoclaves and sterilization issues, but if we make a mistake the consequences are usually only lost time or a spoiled experiment—not a lost life.
Scientists working with highly virulent organisms deal with a whole other level of risk that requires adherence to the strictest of safety regulations, and these containment regulations can sometimes place constraints on the type of experiment that can be performed with dangerous pathogens. A paper published in the April issue of Assay and Drug Development Technologies brought this to my attention and reminded me of the serious issues some scientists face on a daily basis as they research ways to combat infectious diseases. Continue reading “Screening for Antiviral Compounds under Level 4 Containment Conditions”
When you hold a position as a scientific communication specialist at a biotech company, you never know what you are going to need to write. Most of the time I really like the fact that I have to master new subject matter on a daily basis. I’m using my degree and my brain, and articulating science in a way that connects with the reader is incredibly rewarding. It’s why I do what I do.
Dysfunction of histone deacetylases (HDACs) is associated with many diseases including cancers, asthma and allergies, inflammatory diseases and disorders affecting the central nervous system. Because of their involvement in such a wide range of pathologies, HDACs have become a target for drug discovery. Traditional HDAC activity assays are either isotopic or fluorescent assays using artificial substrates that are prone to artifacts or fluorescence interference. There is a need for a functional assay that is sensitive, accurate and amenable to drug-screening activities.
The ability to analyze more than one cellular biomarker in a single sample is advantageous for a number of reasons. Multiplexing allows researchers to save money and time, while conserving precious samples. In addition, understanding the relationship between cell biomarkers can provide a more complete picture of cell health that can lead to improved predictive models for drug discovery. Understanding biomarker relationships can also minimize ambiguity in the data set and validate if a treatment effect is real or an artifact of the system. To avoid repeat experiments and extract the most biologically relevant data from multiplex assays, consider these tips when performing multiplex cell-based assays. Continue reading “Tips for Multiplex Cell-Based Assay Success”
Life is complicated. So is death. And when the cells in your multiwell plate die after compound treatment, it’s not enough to know that they died. You need to know how they died: apoptosis or necrosis? Or, have you really just reduced viability, rather than induced death? Is the cytotoxicity you see dose-dependent? If you look earlier during drug treatment of your cells, do you see markers of apoptosis? If you wait longer, do you observe necrosis? If you reduce the dosage of your test compound, is it still cytotoxic? Continue reading “Describing Life and Death in the Cell”