State College, PA-- February 25, 1998 -- Science reported, in its 20 February 1998 issue, a novel AIDS directed technology developed by Dr. Marc Hellerstein of the University of California at Berkeley and the University of California at San Francisco.
The technology will be commercialized exclusively by SpectruMedix Corporation (OTC: SMDX), of State College, PA., which is playing a crucial ongoing role in developing the required instrumentation. Initial in vivo results of T cell proliferation rates in AIDS patients using isotope mass spectrometric techniques were announced Feb. 3, 1998 at the 5th Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections. The results are part of an ongoing collaboration designed to change the diagnosis and management of AIDS and to optimize its therapeutic approach by allowing physicians to rapidly measure the efficacy of a drug or treatment modality in an individual patient. This diagnostic technique may finally allow physicians to establish, based upon objective evidence, the proper time for an individual AIDS patient to begin taking medication and which medication is best suited for this particular individual. (A description of this new technique was published in the 20 January 1998 issue of The Proceedings of The National Academy of Sciences: 'Measurement of Cell Proliferation etc.')
Science reported that researchers have long sought such a technique to help reveal the intricacies of the battle between the immune system and HIV. Dr. David Ho, head of the Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Center in New York City is quoted in the article in Science as saying "I think they've made a genuine contribution to the field".
The results of this study indicate that the body's capacity to make new cells was in fact the key determinant of T cell counts and the patients' responses to protease inhibitor therapy in AIDS. T cells were indeed being destroyed with a higher degree of efficiency in AIDS patients than in healthy people without HIV infection, but more important is their body's capacity to form new cells.
"We at Berkeley/UCSF are very excited about the prospects for this technology," stated Marc Hellerstein, M.D., Ph.D., the Principal Investigator of the study. "We are delighted to be working with SpectruMedix with the goal of commercializing this technique at the earliest time. We anticipate that potential beneficiaries will include AIDS, cancer, osteoporosis, heart patients and others."
"The implications of the technology's capability to quickly and accurately monitor the status and progress of this disease in real time are significant", said Joseph Adlerstein, Ph.D., President and Chief Executive Officer of SpectruMedix. " A physician should be able to go beyond merely improving and optimizing the diagnosis and therapy by individually selecting the optimum treatment, pinpointing its initiation, duration and dosage."
Knowing the daily production and destruction rates of T cells and HIV virons explains a lot about the causes of immune deficiency. How can we tell if an individual cell is an old one or a newly formed one? How long will a particular cell live? The answer comes from a basic fact about biochemistry: a cell only makes DNA when it is dividing into two new cells. New cells can therefore be identified if new DNA chains can be tagged, or labeled. Cells containing the label in their DNA are new; cells without the label are old. The life-span of the labeled cells also can be followed in this way.
The technique works as follows. Small amounts of sugar (glucose) containing a naturally occurring, non-radioactive chemical deuterium are given to the patient. As cells replicate, they use glucose to build new DNA. The body does not differentiate between DNA molecules that contain deuterium and those that do not. Sophisticated instruments such as the mass spectrometers developed by SpectruMedix are capable of determining the amount of deuterium-labelled sugar, which indicates new cell development. In this manner, the daily rate of T cell formation and the life-span of T cells can be measured in each person individually. In addition, this technique allows researchers to measure the rate of change in new cell development, or the 'T cell kinetics'.
"The difference between kinetic and static measurements in biochemistry is analogous to motion pictures versus snapshots in photography," said Bernard Sonnenschein, Treasurer of Spectrumedix. "Just as a snapshot of a stormy sky or a baseball pitcher doesn't tell you what you really want to know - how fast are the rain clouds moving and how hard does the pitcher throw? - snapshots of T cell counts, blood cholesterol concentrations, or the BRCA-1 polymorphism, for example, do not tell physicians what they really need to know - how many T cells are being destroyed and regenerated each day, what is the flow of atherogenic particles in and out of the blood vessel wall, what is the rate of proliferation of breast epithelial cells? The new availability of a reliable and safe technique for measuring T cell production and destruction rates opens up a whole universe of clinical and research questions to direct measurement."
Initial in vivo results are the first step in the development process of this diagnostic technology.
SpectruMedix is a U.S. company with a strong focus on medical and scientific technologies and associated instrumentation. It manufactures nearly the entire range of magnetic sector mass spectrometers, as well as other analytical instruments and software packages. Using its expertise in analytical instrumentation, the Company is engaged in two research and development programs to expand its product base. The first program, a result of initial research conducted at the University of California, Berkeley, involves the development of analytical instruments which utilize a process referred to as diagnostic kinetics to diagnose, monitor and assist in the treatment of serious diseases. Initial disease targets for this technology include AIDS, cancer, cardiovascular disease and osteoporosis. The second program, developed in part from research efforts conducted at the United States Department of Energy -- Ames Laboratories' Institute for Physical Research and Technology/Iowa State University, involves the development of high-speed DNA/gene sequencing instrumentation for the acquisition, analysis and management of complex genetic information.
Additional information is available at www.spectrumedix.com