Science, Now + Beyond

Reusing drugs might not be such a bad idea, after all

Reusing drugs? If you're a scientist, it might just help you get your next breakthrough.

At its heart, science is collaborative, and discoveries made in one field may have surprisingly positive effects on another. This is probably most obvious in the world of pharmaceuticals, where the repurposing of drugs occurs quite often. Most of these discoveries have been the result of happy accidents, which tends to be par for the course when it comes to science.

Researchers at King’s College London have recently discovered that a drug previously used to treat Alzheimer’s Disease could also assist in the regeneration of rotten teeth. At the moment, rotten teeth are either pulled or filled, because the body does not naturally replenish dentine, the mineral that protects your teeth.

Fillings can be finicky and painful, and may also need refilling during the course of a lifetime. These researchers have found a way to stimulate stem cells in teeth order to generate new dentine. This means a possible end to seeing that needle full of localized anesthetic enter your mouth, or the sound of a drill whirring in your ears.

Have a sweet tooth? This is one scientific advancement you might want to keep an eye on.

One of the molecules used by the team was Tideglusib, which has been used in a number of other clinical trials to treat neurological diseases, including Alzheimer’s Disease. The team is hoping to start clinical trials on humans within the year, pending positive results when tested in rats. After this, it might take anywhere from 3-5 years for the treatment to become available commercially. This doesn’t mean you should stop brushing your teeth or looking after your oral hygiene straight away. But if you’re prone to getting holes in your teeth (or maybe you just like candy?) keep your eyes peeled!

Viagra, or Sildenafil, is probably one of the most well known drugs around. It was initially designed in an attempt to treat symptoms of heart disease, such as hypertension and angina. However, during clinical trials, it was found to have a positive effect on treating erectile dysfunction in males, which it was then marketed for. It has also been the subject of a winning Ig Nobel Prize submission, where researchers from Argentina showed that Sildenafil had the ability to help hamsters combat the effects of jet lag. Interestingly, researchers are investigating whether other drugs used to treat erectile dysfunction may be able to help treat pulmonary hypertension.

Propecia, otherwise known as Finasteride, was originally devised as a treatment for prostate enlargement. It is still used to treat prostate enlargement in the form of Proscar, which contains 5mg of Finasteride. However, it was also found to have the ability to treat male-pattern baldness. Propecia, the resulting drug, contains just 1mg of Finasteride. Other interesting findings include the fact that it may be used to mask steroid use.

As a result, athletes are banned from taking it in any form.

  • Yen-Rong Wong

    Yen-Rong Wong is the founder of Pencilled In, a literary magazine dedicated to showcasing work by young Asian Australian artists. She hopes to put her literature and biomedical science degrees to good use through her writing.