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The Promise of Cell Therapy Using Peptides

Cell therapy using peptides is one of the most promising new therapies currently being developed by medical researchers. Introducing drugs into cells has always proved difficult for researchers since cell membranes are extremely permeable, requiring a drug to have either extremely small molecules or be highly lipophilic. In 1998, however, the first cell-permeable peptide was discovered. Cell permeable peptides have shown themselves capable of delivering biologically active substances into the interior of the cell. Since this initial discovery, the number of cell permeable peptides has grown and the first drug containing a CPP reached the phase II clinical trial stage in 2003.

What are peptides? These are organic compounds that are formed from organic molecules that have two or more amino acids. When there are fifty of these molecules then the compound is a peptide; when the exceed fifty, however, the compound becomes a protein. Peptides perform a wide variety of functions in the body, ranging from regulating hormones to serving as an antibiotic. In addition, the body can recycle peptides from the food that you eat; for instance, if you eat meat, the enzymes in your digestive system break down its proteins to create peptides.

What are the therapeutic applications of peptides? One promising area is in the treatment of cancer. Researchers have discovered that some peptides can enter cancer cells quite easily. Some peptides have also been found to be able to disrupt communications between cancer cell colonies, making them more vulnerable to treatment. One particular type of cancer that may benefit from therapeutic approaches using peptides is breast cancer. The approach taken by Dr. Wei-Zen, who is at the forefront of research into cell therapy using peptides, is to attempt to prevent the development of breast cancer through immunotherapy using a DNA vaccine mixed with a cocktail of specific peptides. The hope is that this will induce an immunity response against cancer tumors.

Many start-up pharmaceutical companies are also now researching cell therapy using peptides to create a new generation of drugs that are safer and whose therapeutic effects last longer. For example, many researchers are studying the possible use of milk peptides to create hypertension drugs. Milk peptides are a type of peptide known as tripeptides because they are composed of molecules with just three amino acids. Another promising tripeptide is Leupeptin, which is currently used to cure ear infections.

One of the best known tripeptides is Glutathione. Glutathione is naturally produced in the body and its main function is to provide antioxidant activity in the body to help prevent cellular damage from free radicals. This substance protects our eyes, skin, liver, kidneys and other vital organs from toxic byproducts resulting from alcohol and drug use as well as from external environmental factors such as air pollution. The presence of Glutathione is also seen to be essential in maintaining a healthy immune system. Experimental cell therapy using peptides is currently being undertaken to possibly treat aged-related medical conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. People suffering from auto-immune disorders, such as those afflicted with AIDS, may also benefit from supplementing the levels of Glutathione in their body.

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