Tuesday Threefer: Phthalates, statins, and maraviroc

A couple of notes on three news articles that recently came to my attention:

California has passed a law that limits the levels of phthalates, a group of chemicals that are added to plastics to make 'em all bendy and soft-like, in products intended for kids under 3. The maximum concentration has been set at 0.1 percent. Governor Ah-nold, who in the humble opinion of this blogger was totally robbed of a Best Actor for the beautiful film that is Twins, said something about how important it was to prevent kids from being exposed to these chemicals. In that wonderful Austrian accent of his. In contrast to the views of the Californian legislature, my peeps at Health Canada claim that the levels of phthalates currently found in children's products do not represent a significant health risk. As is usually the case for sketchy chemicals like aspartame and saccharin, the scientific literature on phthalates is mixed. They have been shown to mess with reproduction and development in lab animals, and are suspected to be endocrine disruptors in humans. I'm betting that Schwarzenegger and some lawmakers just wanted to pat themselves on the back. And it's not really a ban, as everyone is saying, if they are just setting a limit. It's still in there!

A study by researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health (Public Health represent!) found that statins, a class of drugs given to lower the levels of bad cholesterol in your blood in order to slow the progression of cardiovascular disease, also slow the decline in lung function that occurs in the elderly and in smokers. Can't wait to see how the tobacco companies spin this one. Seriously, watch for it. Those bastards will take what they can get. Anyway, it all has something to do with the supposed ability of statins to reduce lung-based inflammation and smoking-induced injury while providing protection against oxidative damage. I love how they always hide the important science bits at the end of an article. The groups in the study were not randomized and a control group was not used, two important things that researchers usually try to do in order to strengthen their findings. Plus, let's remember here, it's just one paper. It's entirely possible that response papers contesting the findings are being written as I type (typed as I type?).

Finally, Health Canada has approved a new HIV drug. It's called maraviroc (Celsentri) and it's the first of a newfangled class of HIV-fighting drugs called CCR5 antagonists. CCR5 is a receptor found on T cells and a couple of other types of white blood cells that HIV uses as an entry point into the cells. By blocking the receptor, maraviroc prevents HIV from getting into T cells (No Stairway - Denied!), which means less cells getting infected. It's always great to get a new type of HIV drug on the market, since it represents another figurative gun in the arsenal of drugs used to fight HIV. Maraviroc is particularly crucial for people who have a variety of HIV that has become resistant to existing medications. Hooray for new drugs!

Appetite suppressants such as amphetamine and phentermine are drugs that act on your brain to prevent you from feeling hungry. A new appetite suppressant, a hormone called obestatin, was recently discovered and is currently in development. You have to be careful with amphetamine, because like a number of other drugs it can be addictive, and you don't want to end up in drug rehab. Make sure that you get educated on the risks associated with drug use.

- Heudorf U, Mersch-Sundermann V, Angerer J. Phthalates: Toxicology and exposure. Int J Hyg Environ Health. 2007 Oct;210(5):623-34.
- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CCR5

2 chemically inspired comments:

Ian said...

Phthalates have been established as a cause of testicular atrophy for a long time; so watch where you put that paint soaked rag guys!

Toaster Sunshine said...

I posit that it is the mechanistic link between statins and the purported reduction of age- and smoking-related lung inflammation. Statins work by inhibiting HMG-CoA reductase, which is upstream of the path that produces cholesterol and dolichol and other good things. Dolichol is attached to proteins to help mediate intracellular trafficking and anchor sugars, and has been found to accumulate in cells over time as an indicator of aging. Given that aging is generally associated with an increased incidence of inflammation and that dolichol levels and aging are positively correlated, it stands to reason that the reduction of dolichol production with statins would result in fewer age-associated motifs that could lead to inflammation.
Statins are pretty. There's a picture of mevastatin interacting with the LDL receptor out there somewhere that I had set as my desktop wallpaper for a long time at one point.