Tagged: Corticosteroids

Blessed are the suppressed

Recently a study was published in which the researchers had used a large dataset from the the United States Medicare system. The dataset held medical prescriptions for beneficiaries aged 60–90 years.

In their analysis, the researchers found that several diagnoses commonly treated with immunosuppressant medications were inversely associated with Parkinson’s – suggesting that perhaps the immunosuppressants may be reducing the risk of developing PD.

When they looked closer at the immunosuppressants, the investigators found that of the six categories of immunosuppressants, two were clearly associated with a lower risk of PD.

In today’s post, we will discuss what immunosuppression means, we will review the data, and  we will consider some of the issues associated with immunosuppressants.


George Hitchings and Gertrude Elion. Source: Achievement

After her grandfather died of stomach cancer and her fiance died of inflammation of the heart, Gertrude Elion dedicated herself to a future in medical research.

But despite a passionate love for laboratory research and having an excellent academic record, she was unable to get a graduate fellowship (or even an assistantship) due to the gender discrimination that existed at the time.

In the late 1930s, she enrolled in secretarial school with the goal of saving enough money to continue her education and achieve her goal.

After a year and a half of temporary secretarial and teaching positions, having saved up enough money, Elion enrolled as Master’s student in chemistry at New York University. She worked part-time as a receptionist and later as a substitute teacher to pay for her expenses. And she spent nights and weekends in the laboratory doing her research. She completed her degree in 1941.

George & Gertrude in action. Source: Wikimedia

In 1944, Gertrude was hired by George Hitchings who was working at what is now the pharmaceutical company GlaxsoSmithKline. It was the beginning of an amazing collaboration! And even though she never achieved a PhD, the work that she and Hitchings did together – research that won them the 1988 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine – not only changed the way we design new drugs, but also gave the world its first drugs for immunosuppression.

What is immunosuppression?

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