The study of how the microscopic creatures called tardigrades can survive extreme scenarios has led to a significant breakthrough that could go on to make lifesaving treatments available to people where there is no possibility of refrigeration. The research has been conducted under the purview of the University of Wyoming.
The assistant professor of molecular biology, Thomas Boothby, along with his colleagues have shown that natural as well as engineered versions of tardigrade proteins can be used to stabilize a significant pharmaceutical that is used to treat people with hemophilia as well as other conditions, and that too without the need of any refrigeration when the temperatures are high and there happen to be challenging conditions. The findings have been detailed in the Scientific Reports, which happens to be an online and open access journal from the publishers behind Nature.
The pharmaceutical that is human blood clotting Factor VIII happens to be a vital therapeutic that is used to treat genetic diseases as well as instances of strong bleeding. In spite of being critical as well as effective when it comes to treating patients in such circumstances, Factor VIII happens to have a serious shortcoming, and that’s being inherently unstable. The fact remains that without stabilization within a specific temperature range, Factor VIII is going to break down.
According to Boothby, in the underdeveloped regions of the world, during natural disasters, access to refrigerators and freezers to run such infrastructure can be in short supply. This means that people who are in dire need of Factor VIII will not get it. He adds that their work provides proof that they can go on to stabilize Factor VIII and also many pharmaceuticals that happen to be in a stable state at room temperature or even higher temperatures by making use of proteins from tardigrades, and therefore provide important lifesaving drugs to everyone wherever they are.
Tardigrades that measure less than half a millimetre long are also known as water bears, and they have the ability to survive without being completely dried out, frozen, or even in the vacuum of outer space. They happen to be able to do so in part by creating a sugar known as trehalose and a protein by the name of CAHS D.
As per the research paper, Boothby and his colleagues have fine-tuned the biophysical properties of CAHS D as well as trehalose so as to stabilize Factor VIII, noting that CAHS D happens to be the most suitable for the treatment. The stabilization helps Factor VIII be available in austere conditions, and that too without any refrigeration.
The researchers are of the opinion that the same thing can be made possible with other biologics—pharmaceuticals derived from living organisms like stem cells, antibodies, and vaccines, as well as blood and blood products.
Boothby as well as other researchers hope that these discoveries can be applied to other societal and global health issues, such as water scarcity. For instance, there might be better ways to generate engineered crops that can cope with rough environments.