News of Note—Scorpions inspire brain treatment; PsiOxus and Parker Institute form immuno-oncology pact

Protein derived from scorpion venom shuttles drugs into the brain

Scientists at Barcelona’s Institute for Research in Biomedicine have determined how a small protein derived from a compound found in scorpion venom can transport drugs across the hard-to-penetrate blood-brain barrier. They synthesized chlorotoxin from the giant yellow Israeli scorpion and demonstrated that a peptide called MiniCTX3 can efficiently carry many different types of compounds into the brain, they reported in the journal Chemical Communications. They believe MiniCTX3 could be used as a shuttle for the 98% of drugs that could be therapeutic in the brain but that are unable to cross the blood-brain barrier. (Release)

PsiOxus partners with Parker Institute on gene therapy for solid tumors

PsiOxus Therapeutics announced that it is partnering with the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy, founded by former Facebook President Sean Parker, to investigate a virus-based gene therapy technology in treating solid tumors. PsiOxus’ platform, called T-SIGn, uses a viral vector to deliver therapeutic genes to tumors. The technology is designed to turn tumor cells into “drug factories” that churn out immune-boosting compounds, the company said in a statement. PsiOxus and the Parker Institute will work together to test different combinations of viruses and genes in preclinical models. (Release)

How a gut hormone’s 'stop eating' signal could fight obesity

An international team of scientists led by the Technical University of Munich has discovered a key interaction between brown fat and a hormone in the gut called secretin. Specifically, the two interact to relay signals to the brain during a meal that create a feeling of satiety, they said. They made the discovery by injecting hungry mice with secretin. When they did that, brown fat was “activated,” meaning it released more heat. They went on to measure secretin levels in 17 people about a half hour after a meal. They discovered that those with higher levels of secretin in their blood had more active brown fat. They believe that with further research, they’ll be able to identify specific foods that stimulate secretin production and thus promote a feeling of being full. (Release)