One of the biggest problems associated with most pharmaceuticals is toxicity. Toxicity tends to be relative to dose though. Many pharmaceuticals are beneficial and safe at low doses, but become dangerous at high doses. Unfortunately, high doses of certain pharmaceuticals are also necessary to produce an effect. If there were some way to protect the body while administering high doses of certain drugs, they could be made more effective. New evidence about the (non-pharmaceutical) peptide called hexarelin, a ghrelin analogue and growth hormone (GH) secretagogue, suggests that this 6-amino-acid-long peptide can protect the pancreas from high doses of the cancer medicine streptozotocin1. This news is not only important for cancer care, but opens up the possibility that other short peptides may be useful in protecting tissues and organs from toxic side effects of certain drugs.
The Toxicity Problem
All pharmaceuticals have the potential to be toxic. In fact, just about everything on the planet can be toxic if taken in a large enough quantity. The key with pharmaceuticals is to balance toxicity against positive effects. This is nowhere more apparent than with antibiotics.
Most antibiotics are safe at lower doses and downright deadly at higher doses. Unfortunately, many bacteria today are demonstrating resistance to antibiotics that could once successfully kill them. The resistance is relative though. The antibiotics will work, but must be used at higher doses than they were in the past. In some cases, a dose increase is safe and acceptable. In other cases, a high enough dose cannot be achieved without putting the patient at risk. What if we could protect animal cells with a peptide, but still leave bacteria susceptible to the antibiotic? What if we could administer a substance that allowed us to ratchet up the dose of medications as high as necessary without causing any serious harm? Hexarelin is providing the first clues as to how science might do just that. Read latest news at http://www.thejournal.ie/medicines-seizure-donegal-3279704-Mar2017/?utm_source=shortlink
The Protective Effects of Hexarelin
Streptozotocin is an anti-cancer drug used to treat pancreatic tumors. It is exceptionally effective against cancer, but is also extremely toxic to healthy cells in the pancreas. This problem is hardly unique to the treatment of pancreatic cancer though. In fact, most chemotherapeutic agents are highly toxic. The toxicity of these drugs is the reason that cancer treatment causes hair loss, gastrointestinal problems, bone issues, and even other cancers. If there were some way to protect healthy cells from the effects of chemotherapy, doses of the drugs could be increased and it would become easier to treat cancer.
New research finds that hexarelin can protect pancreatic cells in rats from the effects of streptozotocin. Even more interesting was the fact that hexarelin was able to ameliorate damage already caused by streptozotocin1. These findings suggest that hexarelin may be useful not just in the protection of pancreatic cells during administration of chemotherapy, but also in the management of diabetes.
A great deal more research in animal models needs to be done, but the implications are clear. Short peptides can be manufactured to not only treat disease, but to ward off damage caused by other therapies. If scientists can modify these peptides so that they protect healthy cells and leave cancerous cells, bacteria, viruses, fungi, etc. vulnerable, then it will be possible to increase drug dosages and achieve better results without putting patients at risk.
The Hexarelin peptide is still under scientific research and is not yet approved for human use by the FDA.