Meclizine, an over-the-counter drug used to treat motion sickness, has been found to offer the potential for treating certain forms of cancer and infectious diseases.
In a new study reported in the Journal of Biological Chemistry, Texas A&M biochemist Vishal M. Gohil, M.D., found a compound in the drug inhibits "mitochondrial respiration" — a process that provides energy to cells — which makes it ideal for treating infectious diseases and targeting some tumors.
"Clearly this drug has many potential new applications," Dr. Gohil said. "And now that we know its new target within the cell, we can start to explore ways of using it to treat other diseases. We can 'repurpose' this drug.
"We found a particular enzyme which is inhibited by meclizine has been proposed [in other research] to be a drug target for the treatment of many diseases, including infectious diseases like malaria and African sleeping sickness. And this pathway has also been proposed to be a critical pathway for the proliferation of cancer cells."
Dr. Gohil said his research, which included collaboration with scientists at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital, had already shown that the drug also works in the treatment of heart attack and stroke.
Meclizine is an antihistamine, synthesized in the 1950s and later found to be useful for treating nausea, motion sickness and vertigo.
Dr. Gohil said for stroke, heart attack, and some neurological diseases, previous medical research has shown that if mitochondrial respiration can be turned down, it could be beneficial for treatment.
"The way many of the cells die during the heart attack or stroke is connected to mitochondrial respiration, so the idea was that if you can turn down the respiration, then it will prevent death," he said.
"This is exactly what we found when used meclizine in models of heart attack, stroke and even Huntington disease. We have a drug with a known clinical use and have identified a new biochemical target within the cells, so that opens up new applications."
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