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1.  Treatment of Murine Cerebral Malaria by Artemisone in Combination with Conventional Antimalarial Drugs: Antiplasmodial Effects and Immune Responses 
The decreasing effectiveness of antimalarial therapy due to drug resistance necessitates constant efforts to develop new drugs. Artemisinin derivatives are the most recent drugs that have been introduced and are considered the first line of treatment, but there are already indications of Plasmodium falciparum resistance to artemisinins. Consequently, drug combinations are recommended for prevention of the induction of resistance. The research here demonstrates the effects of novel combinations of the new artemisinin derivative, artemisone, a recently described 10-alkylamino artemisinin derivative with improved antimalarial activity and reduced neurotoxicity. We here investigate its ability to kill P. falciparum in a high-throughput in vitro assay and to protect mice against lethal cerebral malaria caused by Plasmodium berghei ANKA when used alone or in combination with established antimalarial drugs. Artemisone effects against P. falciparum in vitro were synergistic with halofantrine and mefloquine, and additive with 25 other drugs, including chloroquine and doxycycline. The concentrations of artemisone combinations that were toxic against THP-1 cells in vitro were much higher than their effective antimalarial concentration. Artemisone, mefloquine, chloroquine, or piperaquine given individually mostly protected mice against cerebral malaria caused by P. berghei ANKA but did not prevent parasite recrudescence. Combinations of artemisone with any of the other three drugs did completely cure most mice of malaria. The combination of artemisone and chloroquine decreased the ratio of proinflammatory (gamma interferon, tumor necrosis factor) to anti-inflammatory (interleukin 10 [IL-10], IL-4) cytokines in the plasma of P. berghei-infected mice. Thus, artemisone in combinations with other antimalarial drugs might have a dual action, both killing parasites and limiting the potentially deleterious host inflammatory response.
doi:10.1128/AAC.01553-13
PMCID: PMC4135990  PMID: 24913162
2.  Dihydroquinazolinone Inhibitors of Proliferation of Blood and Liver Stage Malaria Parasites 
Drugs that target both the liver and blood stages of malaria will be needed to reduce the disease's substantial worldwide morbidity and mortality. Evaluation of a 259-member library of compounds that block proliferation of the blood stage of malaria revealed several scaffolds—dihydroquinazolinones, phenyldiazenylpyridines, piperazinyl methyl quinolones, and bis-benzimidazoles—with promising activity against the liver stage. Focused structure-activity studies on the dihydroquinazolinone scaffold revealed several molecules with excellent potency against both blood and liver stages. One promising early lead with dual activity is 2-(p-bromophenyl)-3-(2-(diethylamino)ethyl)-2,3-dihydroquinazolin-4(1H)-one with 50% effective concentrations (EC50s) of 0.46 μM and 0.34 μM against liver stage Plasmodium berghei ANKA and blood stage Plasmodium falciparum 3D7 parasites, respectively. Structure-activity relationships revealed that liver stage activity for this compound class requires a 3-dialkyl amino ethyl group and is abolished by substitution at the ortho-position of the phenyl moiety. These compounds have minimal toxicity to mammalian cells and are thus attractive compounds for further development.
doi:10.1128/AAC.02148-13
PMCID: PMC3957893  PMID: 24366746
3.  Repositioning: the fast track to new anti-malarial medicines? 
Malaria Journal  2014;13:143.
Background
Repositioning of existing drugs has been suggested as a fast track for developing new anti-malarial agents. The compound libraries of GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), Pfizer and AstraZeneca (AZ) comprising drugs that have undergone clinical studies in other therapeutic areas, but not achieved approval, and a set of US Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved drugs and other bio-actives were tested against Plasmodium falciparum blood stages.
Methods
Molecules were tested initially against erythrocytic co-cultures of P. falciparum to measure proliferation inhibition using one of the following methods: SYBR®I dye DNA staining assay (3D7, K1 or NF54 strains); [3H] hypoxanthine radioisotope incorporation assay (3D7 and 3D7A strain); or 4’,6-diamidino-2-phenylindole (DAPI) DNA imaging assay (3D7 and Dd2 strains). After review of the available clinical pharmacokinetic and safety data, selected compounds with low μM activity and a suitable clinical profile were tested in vivo either in a Plasmodium berghei four-day test or in the P. falciparum Pf3D70087/N9 huSCID ‘humanized’ mouse model.
Results
Of the compounds included in the GSK and Pfizer sets, 3.8% (9/238) had relevant in vitro anti-malarial activity while 6/100 compounds from the AZ candidate drug library were active. In comparison, around 0.6% (24/3,800) of the FDA-approved drugs and other bio-actives were active. After evaluation of available clinical data, four investigational drugs, active in vitro were tested in the P. falciparum humanized mouse model: UK-112,214 (PAF-H1 inhibitor), CEP-701 (protein kinase inhibitor), CEP-1347 (protein kinase inhibitor), and PSC-833 (p-glycoprotein inhibitor). Only UK-112,214 showed significant efficacy against P. falciparum in vivo, although at high doses (ED90 131.3 mg/kg [95% CI 112.3, 156.7]), and parasitaemia was still present 96 hours after treatment commencement. Of the six actives from the AZ library, two compounds (AZ-1 and AZ-3) were marginally efficacious in vivo in a P. berghei model.
Conclusions
Repositioning of existing therapeutics in malaria is an attractive proposal. Compounds active in vitro at μM concentrations were identified. However, therapeutic concentrations may not be effectively achieved in mice or humans because of poor bio-availability and/or safety concerns. Stringent safety requirements for anti-malarial drugs, given their widespread use in children, make this a challenging area in which to reposition therapy.
doi:10.1186/1475-2875-13-143
PMCID: PMC4021201  PMID: 24731288
Malaria; Anti-malarial drugs; Drug repositioning; in vitro; in vivo; Plasmodium falciparum; Plasmodium berghei; Candidate drug re-profiling
4.  The Discovery of Novel Antimalarial Compounds Enabled by QSAR-based Virtual Screening 
Quantitative structure–activity relationship (QSAR) models have been developed for a dataset of 3133 compounds defined as either active or inactive against P. falciparum. Since the dataset was strongly biased towards inactive compounds, different sampling approaches were employed to balance the ratio of actives vs. inactives, and models were rigorously validated using both internal and external validation approaches. The balanced accuracy for assessing the antimalarial activities of 70 external compounds was between 87% and 100% depending on the approach used to balance the dataset. Virtual screening of the ChemBridge database using QSAR models identified 176 putative antimalarial compounds that were submitted for experimental validation, along with 42 putative inactives as negative controls. Twenty five (14.2%) computational hits were found to have antimalarial activities with minimal cytotoxicity to mammalian cells, while all 42 putative inactives were confirmed experimentally. Structural inspection of confirmed active hits revealed novel chemical scaffolds, which could be employed as starting points to discover novel antimalarial agents.
doi:10.1021/ci300421n
PMCID: PMC3644566  PMID: 23252936
Antimalarial activity; quantitative structure–activity relationships; virtual screening; experimental confirmation
5.  Synthesis and evaluation of 7-substituted 4-aminoquinoline analogs for antimalarial activity 
Journal of medicinal chemistry  2011;54(20):7084-7093.
We previously reported that substituted 4-aminoquinolines with a phenylether substituent at the 7-position of the quinoline ring and the capability of intramolecular hydrogen bonding between the protonated amine on the side chain and a hydrogen bond acceptor on the amine’s alkyl substituents exhibited potent antimalarial activity against the multi-drug resistant strain P. falciparum W2. We employed a parallel synthetic method to generate diaryl ether, biaryl, and alkylaryl 4-aminoquinoline analogs, in the background of a limited number of side chain variations that had previously afforded potent 4-aminoquinolines. All subsets were evaluated for their antimalarial activity against the chloroquine-sensitive strain 3D7 and the chloroquine-resistant K1 and cytotoxicity mammalian cell lines. While all three arrays showed good antimalarial activity, only the biaryl-containing subset showed consistently good potency against the drug-resistant K1strain good selectivity with regard to mammalian cytotoxicity. Overall, our data indicate that the biaryl-containing series contains promising candidates for further study.
doi:10.1021/jm200636z
PMCID: PMC3697074  PMID: 21910466
6.  Smoking and intention to quit in deprived areas of Glasgow: is it related to housing improvements and neighbourhood regeneration because of improved mental health? 
Background
People living in areas of multiple deprivation are more likely to smoke and less likely to quit smoking. This study examines the effect on smoking and intention to quit smoking for those who have experienced housing improvements (HI) in deprived areas of Glasgow, UK, and investigates whether such effects can be explained by improved mental health.
Methods
Quasi-experimental, 2-year longitudinal study, comparing residents’ smoking and intention to quit smoking for HI group (n=545) with non-HI group (n=517), adjusting for baseline (2006) sociodemographic factors and smoking status. SF-12 mental health scores were used to assess mental health, along with self-reported experience of, and General Practitioner (GP) consultations for, anxiety and depression in the last 12 months.
Results
There was no relationship between smoking and HI, adjusting for baseline rates (OR=0.97, 95% CI 0.57 to 1.67, p=0.918). We found an association between intention to quit and HI, which remained significant after adjusting for sociodemographics and previous intention to quit (OR 2.16, 95% CI 1.12 to 4.16, p=0.022). We found no consistent evidence that this association was attenuated by improvement in our three mental health measures.
Conclusions
Providing residents in disadvantaged areas with better housing may prompt them to consider quitting smoking. However, few people actually quit, indicating that residential improvements or changes to the physical environment may not be sufficient drivers of personal behavioural change. It would make sense to link health services to housing regeneration projects to support changes in health behaviours at a time when environmental change appears to make behavioural change more likely.
doi:10.1136/jech-2012-201828
PMCID: PMC3595139  PMID: 23213114
Smoking; Mental Health; Longitudinal Studies; Housing; Health Behaviour
7.  Plate reader-based assays for measuring cell viability, neuroprotection and calcium in primary neuronal cultures 
Journal of neuroscience methods  2011;203(1):141-145.
Drug discovery and development efforts critically rely on cell-based assays for high-throughput screening. These assay systems mostly utilize immortalized cell lines, such as human embryonic kidney cells, and can provide information on cytotoxicity and cell viability, permeability and uptake of compounds as well as receptor pharmacology. While this approach has proven extremely useful for single-target pharmacology, there is an urgent need for neuropharmacological studies to screen novel drug candidates in a cellular environment resembles neurons in vivo more closely, in order to gain insight into the involvement of multiple signaling pathways. Primary cultured neuronal cells, such as cortical neurons, have long been used for basic research and low-throughput screening and assay development, and may thus be suitable candidates for the development of neuropharmacological high-throughput screening approaches. We here developed and optimized protocols for the use of primary cortical neuronal cells in high-throughput assays for neuropharmacology and neuroprotection, including calcium mobilization, cytotoxicity and viability as well as ion channel pharmacology. Our data show low inter-experimental variability and similar reproducibility as conventional cell line assays. We conclude that primary neuronal cultures provide a viable alternative to cell lines in high-throughput assay systems by providing a cellular environment more closely resembling physiological conditions in the central nervous system.
doi:10.1016/j.jneumeth.2011.09.007
PMCID: PMC3221776  PMID: 21968036
Primary neuronal culture; Cytotoxicity; Calcium mobilization; Drug screening; Neuroprotection; High-throughput screening
8.  Optimization of Propafenone Analogues as Anti-Malarial Leads 
Journal of medicinal chemistry  2011;54(21):7477-7485.
Propafenone, a class Ic antiarrythmic drug, inhibits growth of cultured Plasmodium falciparum. While the drug’s potency is significant, further development of propafenone as an antimalarial would require divorcing the antimalarial and cardiac activities as well as improving the pharmacokinetic profile of the drug. A small array of propafenone analogs was designed and synthesized to address the cardiac ion channel and PK liabilities. Testing of this array revealed potent inhibitors of the 3D7 (drug sensitive) and K1 (drug resistant) strains of P. falciparum that possessed significantly reduced ion channel effects and improved metabolic stability. Propafenone analogues are unusual among antimalarial leads in that they are more potent against the multi-drug resistant K1 strain of P. falciparum compared to the 3D7 strain.
doi:10.1021/jm2005546
PMCID: PMC3208124  PMID: 21955244
propafenone; malaria; microwave epoxide ring opening; hERG
9.  Synthesis of Artemiside and Its Effects in Combination with Conventional Drugs against Severe Murine Malaria 
This research describes the use of novel antimalarial combinations of the new artemisinin derivative artemiside, a 10-alkylamino artemisinin. It is a stable, highly crystalline compound that is economically prepared from dihydroartemisinin in a one-step process. Artemiside activity was more pronounced than that of any antimalarial drug in use, both in Plasmodium falciparum culture and in vivo in a murine malaria model depicting cerebral malaria (CM). In vitro high-throughput testing of artemiside combinations revealed a large number of conventional antimalarial drugs with which it was additive. Following monotherapy in mice, individual drugs reduced parasitemias to nondetectable levels. However, after a period of latency, parasites again were seen and eventually all mice became terminally ill. Treatment with individual drugs did not prevent CM in mice with recrudescent malaria, except for piperaquine at high concentrations. Even when CM was prevented, the mice developed later of severe anemia. In contrast, most of the mice treated with drug combinations survived. A combination of artemiside and mefloquine or piperaquine may confer an optimal result because of the longer half life of both conventional drugs. The use of artemiside combinations revealed a significant safety margin of the effective artemiside doses. Likewise, a combination of 1.3 mg/kg of body weight artemiside and 10 mg/kg piperaquine administered for 3 days from the seventh day postinfection was completely curative. It appears possible to increase drug concentrations in the combination therapy without reaching toxic levels. Using the drug combinations as little as 1 day before the expected death of control animals, we could prevent further parasite development and death due to CM or anemic malaria. Earlier treatment may prevent cognitive dysfunctions which might occur after recovery from CM.
doi:10.1128/AAC.05006-11
PMCID: PMC3256061  PMID: 22006004
10.  Evaluation of Diarylureas for Activity Against Plasmodium falciparum 
ACS medicinal chemistry letters  2010;1(9):460-465.
A library of diarylurea IGFR inhibitors was screened for activity against chloroquine-sensitive (3D7) and chloroquine-resistant (K1) strains of Plasmodium falciparum. The 4-aminoquinaldine-derived diarylureas displayed promising antimalarial potency. Further exploration of the B ring of 4-aminoquinaldinyl ureas allowed identification of several quinaldin-4-yl ureas 4{13, 39} and 4{13, 58} sufficiently potent against both 3D7 and K1 strains to qualify as bone fide leads.
doi:10.1021/ml100083c
PMCID: PMC3019604  PMID: 21243104
Malaria; diarylurea
11.  Evaluation of Diarylureas for Activity Against Plasmodium falciparum 
ACS Medicinal Chemistry Letters  2010;1(9):460-465.
A library of diarylurea insulin-like growth factor 1 receptor inhibitors was screened for activity against chloroquine-sensitive (3D7) and chloroquine-resistant (K1) strains of Plasmodium falciparum. The 4-aminoquinaldine-derived diarylureas displayed promising antimalarial potency. Further exploration of the B ring of 4-aminoquinaldinyl ureas allowed identification of several quinaldin-4-yl ureas 4{13, 39} and 4{13, 58} sufficiently potent against both 3D7 and K1 strains to qualify as bone fide leads.
doi:10.1021/ml100083c
PMCID: PMC3019604  PMID: 21243104
Malaria; diarylurea
12.  Metabolic oxidation regulates embryonic stem cell differentiation 
Nature chemical biology  2010;6(6):411-417.
Metabolites offer an important unexplored complement to understanding the pluripotency of stem cells. Using mass spectrometry-based metabolomics, we show that embryonic stem cells are characterized by abundant metabolites with highly unsaturated structures whose levels decrease upon differentiation. By monitoring the reduced and oxidized glutathione ratio as well as ascorbic acid levels, we demonstrate that the stem cell redox status is regulated during differentiation. Based on the oxidative biochemistry of the unsaturated metabolites, we experimentally manipulated specific pathways in embryonic stem cells while monitoring the effects on differentiation. Inhibition of the eicosanoid signaling pathway promoted pluripotency and maintained levels of unsaturated fatty acids. In contrast, downstream oxidized metabolites (e.g., neuroprotectin D1) and substrates of pro-oxidative reactions (e.g., acyl-carnitines), promoted neuronal and cardiac differentiation. We postulate that the highly unsaturated metabolome sustained by stem cells makes them particularly attuned to differentiate in response to in vivo oxidative processes such as inflammation.
doi:10.1038/nchembio.364
PMCID: PMC2873061  PMID: 20436487
13.  Chemical genetics of Plasmodium falciparum 
Nature  2010;465(7296):311-315.
Malaria caused by Plasmodium falciparum is a catastrophic disease worldwide (880,000 deaths yearly). Vaccine development has proved difficult and resistance has emerged for most antimalarials. In order to discover new antimalarial chemotypes, we have employed a phenotypic forward chemical genetic approach to assay 309,474 chemicals. Here we disclose structures and biological activity of the entire library, many of which exhibited potent in vitro activity against drug resistant strains, and detailed profiling of 172 representative candidates. A reverse chemical genetic study identified 19 new inhibitors of 4 validated drug targets and 15 novel binders among 61 malarial proteins. Phylochemogenetic profiling in multiple organisms revealed similarities between Toxoplasma gondii and mammalian cell lines and dissimilarities between P. falciparum and related protozoans. One exemplar compound displayed efficacy in a murine model. Overall, our findings provide the scientific community with new starting points for malaria drug discovery.
doi:10.1038/nature09099
PMCID: PMC2874979  PMID: 20485428
14.  Generation of RNAi Libraries for High-Throughput Screens 
The completion of the genome sequencing for several organisms has created a great demand for genomic tools that can systematically analyze the growing wealth of data. In contrast to the classical reverse genetics approach of creating specific knockout cell lines or animals that is time-consuming and expensive, RNA-mediated interference (RNAi) has emerged as a fast, simple, and cost-effective technique for gene knockdown in large scale. Since its discovery as a gene silencing response to double-stranded RNA (dsRNA) with homology to endogenous genes in Caenorhabditis elegans (C elegans), RNAi technology has been adapted to various high-throughput screens (HTS) for genome-wide loss-of-function (LOF) analysis. Biochemical insights into the endogenous mechanism of RNAi have led to advances in RNAi methodology including RNAi molecule synthesis, delivery, and sequence design. In this article, we will briefly review these various RNAi library designs and discuss the benefits and drawbacks of each library strategy.
doi:10.1155/JBB/2006/45716
PMCID: PMC1559919  PMID: 17057364

Results 1-14 (14)