Concern of spreading Ebola has been the hot topic in recent news. Latest reports on the disease involve the death of Dr. Martin Salia on Nov 17th 2014, a surgeon who contracted the virus whilst living in Sierra Leone, and who was flown to Nebraska to be treated. To date there is no specific treatment which has been approved for this devastating disease, which history has been outlined in a previous AG Scientific blog post, Ebola: Hope for a Vaccine.
As the race for an Ebola treatment or vaccine continues, the spotlight has landed upon Aethlon Medical, a company situated in San Diego. Several products are currently in their pipeline including the Aethlon Hemopurifier. This medical device is a dialyzer which aims to remove viral pathogens from a patient's blood, including the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and Hepatitis C Virus (HCV).
It is also hoped that the device is capable of removing viral particles from a person's blood which are responsible for Ebola. This experimental dialysis device has been tested on a Ugandan doctor who, like Dr. Salia, also contracted the virus while treating patients in Sierra Leone. The Ugandan patient receiving dialysis treatment however was able to make a full successful recovery.
Before beginning the dialysis treatment, the patient had a high level of 400,000 virus particles per milliliter of blood. Dialysis treatment was performed for six and a half hours before levels were measured again to reveal a substantial drop to only 1,000 virus particles per milliliter of blood, as confirmed by the Chief of Nephrology at Frankfurt University Hospital in Germany, the institute where the patient received care.
Although a clear decrease in virus particles was evident in the patient's blood, it is not clear whether the Hemopurifier can receive all the praise, as it was used in conjunction with several other therapies in their experimental phase. This also included a dialysis machine already being used to treat the patient for kidney failure, which the Hemopurifier was added to. And although the patient was in a critical state when treatment began, his Ebola virus blood levels had already peaked and were beginning to decrease, it was reported.
Even though the Hemopurifier cannot take full credit for the patient's recovery from the potentially fatal disease, Scientists think it is extremely likely that the medical device works at removing Ebola virus particles from the blood. After the treatment, the device was flushed and researchers from Philipps University of Marburg were able to measure the virus levels found. It was recorded that approximately 242 million Ebola viruses were captured, confirming the proof of concept of the dialyzer.
The Hemopurifier's structure is in theory what allows it to remove Ebola virus particles from blood. The cartridge, shown in Figure 1 below, contains around 2,800 hollow porous fibers which allows for the movement of blood while filtering it. The pores are permeable to particles smaller than 250 nanometers, which includes Ebola virus particles that are only 80 nanometers in diameter. The virus particles are removed from the fibers and enter the cartridge which contains proteins called lectins. Lectins have a high affinity for viral particles and so the Ebola particles are sequestered and removed from the blood. Red blood cells are too large to pass through the pores and so remain inside the fibers, ready to re-enter the patient's bloodstream.
Figure 1:The Hemopurifier, a first-in-class medical device with broad-spectrum capabilities against viral pathogens.
Clinical trials are now necessary in order to test the efficiency of the medical device on its own for the treatment of Ebola. The Hemopurifier is already in a human clinical study in India for use in combination with HCV standard of care drug therapy and Aethlon has already submitted plans to begin trials in the United States.
Another use which has been found for the Hemopurifier involves the capturing of exosomes which have been linked to several forms of cancer. Exosomes were initially thought only to re-direct cellular garbage to locations where it could be degraded and removed. In recent years however, major research breakthroughs occurred which suggested that they are actually of major significance in the immune response and intercellular communication. This has led to an exponential growth in exosomal publication activity.
Aethlon have expanded their exosome research programs following a collaborative agreement with the Sarcoma Oncology Center in California. The aim of their research is to test the ex-vivo effectiveness of the Aethlon Hemopurifier in removing immunosuppressive exosomes from the blood in advanced-stage cancer patients. The study will evaluate 25 patients, five patients with metastatic cancer of the following types; non-small cell lung cancer, prostate cancer, melanoma, head and neck cancer, and sarcoma.
Recently it has emerged that exosomes released by cancers are an important therapeutic target in cancer care, as they are implicated in cancer survival, growth, and metastasis. It was also identified that cancer-released exosomes assist tumors in evading the response of the immune system.
Further information on Ebola and Exosomes can be found in AG Scientific's previous blog posts.