Computational analysis has been used to design two peptides inspired from snake venom neurotrophin molecules that hold promise as future therapeutics for preventing and treating neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease.

Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s are among the most commonly found neurodegenerative disorders. There are no medications to stop, slow, or prevent these diseases.

This has spurred exploration into the molecular and cellular processes that lead to neurodegeneration.

Prof Ashis Kumar Mukherjee, Director, Institute of Advanced Study in Science and Technology (IASST), Guwahati, worked on snake venom and found it to be a “treasure house of drug prototypes” for various biomedical applications.

They can be moulded into lifesaving drug prototypes for cancer, cardiovascular disease, and covid-19, among other conditions.

However, the researchers point out that drug development from a native toxin of snake venom is tedious.

To overcome this problem, Mukherjee and his collaborators developed two novel custom peptides (commercially produced peptides for use in biomedical laboratories) — TNP and HNP, inspired by snake venom neurotrophin, that regulate the development, maintenance, and function of vertebrate nervous systems.

These peptides show selective binding to human TrkA receptor of nerve cells and, hence, can improve the selectivity and specificity of drug molecules toward the receptor, thereby enhancing the therapeutic potency of those drug molecules.

Mukherjee emphasises that the low molecular weight, structural stability, small size, and target sensitivity of the peptides make them powerful tools for conquering the limitations of using endogenous neurotrophins as therapeutic agents.

This drug-like peptide discovered by the group can potentially reduce the progression of neurodegenerative diseases through an entirely new strategy.

The treatment would be most effective for people with fewer symptoms earlier during the onset of the disease.

Bacteria-busting water

Researchers from IISc have demonstrated the generation of plasma-activated water containing reactive oxygen and nitrogen species such as hydrogen peroxide, nitrogen dioxide and nitrate in high strengths.

This high-strength plasma-activated water (hs-PAW) was found capable of inactivating even hyper-virulent multidrug-resistant pathogens.

The study, led by Lakshminarayana N Rao and Dipshikha Chakravortty, also shows that plasma-activated water is neutral, making it suitable for biomedical applications, says IISc’s in-house newsletter Kernel.

The team found that the reactive species in hs-PAW disintegrates the bacteria’s outer cell membrane by perforation, arresting the metabolic activity, eventually inactivating or killing the bacteria.

The team also found that the hs-PAW could retain its bactericidal activity even after 15 days.

They suggest that hs-PAW can be used in several medical applications, such as wound healing, apart from tackling hard-to-treat multidrug-resistant pathogens.

Anemia mukht Bharat

The Central Salt and Marine Chemicals Research Institute in Bhavnagar has developed a ‘Double Fortified Salt’ using “an innovative new cost-effective fortified food product”. Using this salt helps in delivering small but crucial amounts of iodine and iron in our diet. This helps in improving mental capacity, maternal and infant survival and human productivity with an endeavor of “Anaemia mukht Bharat”, says CSMCRI.

Both iron (Fe3+) and iodine are very stable in this salt. “The additional nutrition that one gets out of this salt is magnesium, an important nutrient that helps in preventing diabetes mellitus,” says CSMCRI website.