Dr. Joan Bushwell's Chimpanzee Refuge

When I encounter horrific articles like Hope for sex-boosting slimming pill , I would just as soon take a pencil and shove it in my ear because that would be more gratifying than giving such journalistic shattery any kind of serious consideration. But what the hey, this is the Chimp Refuge, where we toss scat with giddy abandon, so I’ll hold off on the pencil in ear and substitute a cathartic round of fisking.

At first glance, I thought I should be pissed off at the misogynistic overtones in this article. I mean, look at the byline:

Scientists are developing a pill which could boost women’s libido and reduce their appetite.

This sounds like a scenario from a Grade B horror movie shown at a tattered drive-in theater. Attack of the Skinny Vixens! Mad scientist concocts potion that makes women thin and horny. Nookie abounds, and dinner tabs decrease!

The hormone-releasing pill has so far only been given to female monkeys and shrews who displayed more mating behaviour and ate less.

A hormone releasing “pill?” Gonadotropin-releasing hormone II (GnRH II) is a peptide composed of 12 amino acids. These don’t take well to being formulated as orally administered pill. Such peptides are usually administered intravenously, or in the case of marmosets, which were examined for GnRH’s effects on sexual behavior, by intracerebroventricular (icv) cannulae. Yeah, that’s right. Tubes are surgically implanted into the monkeys’ brains, and the GnRh peptide delivered through them, thus bypassing the gut, circulation and the blood-brain barrier.

That makes me squeamish, too. I’d say it’s a stretch to describe this as a “hormone-releasing pill” unless some amazing subcutaneous depot delivery device has been used. Even then, there’s that pesky blood-brain barrier thing to consider. It’s not easy to get a peptide of that size across it.

The team from the Medical Research Council’s Human Reproduction Unit in Edinburgh believe a human version could be available within a decade.

Ten years from a peptide delivered via icv to an orally available pill? Riiiiiiight…

The Edinburgh team, led by Professor Robert Millar, have been looking at the properties Type 2 Gonadotrophin-releasing hormone.

When it was given to monkeys, they displayed mating behaviour such as tongue-flicking and eyebrow-raising to the males, while female shrews displayed their feelings via “rump presentation and tail wagging”.

Imagine the possibilities if such a wonder pill could be developed! No more guessing if she’s “interested” or not.

But the animals also ate around a third less food than they normally would.

And she’d be svelte, too.

It’s also premature to conclude that it is GnRH that has a direct effect on weight loss.

Professor Millar hopes to achieve a similar rise in libido and fall in appetite in a pill for women.

He told the Scotland on Sunday newspaper: “This hormone is distributed in the brain in areas that we suspect affect reproductive behaviour.

“It is considered a major pharmaceutical endeavour to address the area of libido.

It is so cute when academics like Millar think they have a clue as to what it really takes to develop an actual drug. It just makes me want to pinch their innocent little cheeks.

I can’t speak for the dark dominions of Glaxo SmithKline or Pfizer, but at dopey ol’ DOPI, we focus on trivial stuff like cardiovascular disease, inflammation, cancer, atherosclerosis, CNS disorders and diabetes. No erectile dysfunction meds or any kind of libido enhancers are in our portfolio. Not even on the radar screen.

“So the next stage is to produce a drug that simulates the actions of this hormone.

Ah, hahahahahaha! Man, Millar is killing me here. “The next stage.” Transitioning from a peptidic hormone that must be delivered icv, or at best injected and expected to cross the blood-brain barrier to a small molecule orally available “pill” is one hell of a “stage.” The targets are G-protein coupled receptors (GPCRs) so even if a small molecule could be developed for the targets, the potential for adverse side effects in the brain is pretty high, given the plethora of GPCRs in the brain.

“It is most likely that we will do it in partnership with a pharmaceutical firm. It could be available to women within the next 10 years.”

Uh, yeah, it’s unlikely that the MRC could achieve this on their own. That ten year time frame cracks me up, too. That’s moving along at a good clip for a tractable target and a small molecule with good properties, not a peptidic therapeutic with its target in the brain.

I expect that Glaxo, AstraZeneca, and Novartis are savvy as to how much work and dinero it would take to develop such a drug and that its chances of success, i.e., to that orally available pill, would be slim. The Big Pharmas prefer the lower hanging fruits with a high chance of a good return on their investment. This ain’t one of them even if the idea is, uh, “sexy.”

He said it may also be possible to develop a pill which worked for men, but he has so far not carried out any tests on male animals.

Bring on those GnRH’ed guys with abs of steel and 6% body fat, and let the phallocarp displays and penis fencing begin!

But psychologist Lesley Perman-Kerr said relationship problems usually had a psychological, rather than a biological, basis.

“Some women have problems specific to libido.

“But often if they go off sex, it’s more to do with their relationship than their level of libido.

I’ll resist a “Thank you, Captain Obvious” snark, and just say, yep, this is sensible. And it avoids icv delivery of a peptide into the noggin.

My impression is that Millar et alia have conducted and published a body of truly interesting work on GnRH family of peptides and receptors. Some wide-eyed journalist chose to turn this into a sensationalistic piece of crap that does not even qualify as “science-lite.” That, me droogs, offends me more than any misogynistic implications.

——————

Here are a couple of references, which are not filtered by beshatted journalistic buffoonery:

Gonadotropin-Releasing Hormone Receptors
(2004) Robert P/ Millar, et al. Endocrine Reviews 25 (2): 235-275

Gonadotropin-Releasing Hormone II Stimulates Female Sexual Behavior in Marmoset Monkeys,
(2006) Deborah K. Barnett et al. Endocrinology 147 (1) 615-623

Comments

  1. #1 Mustafa Mond, FCD
    May 1, 2007

    I would just as soon take a pencil and shove it in my ear

    Kids: do NOT try this at home!

  2. #2 natural cynic
    May 1, 2007

    Hey, it’s gotta be cheaper than replacing women with Stepford Wives.

  3. #3 Warren
    May 1, 2007

    Attack of the Skinny Vixens! Mad scientist concocts potion that makes women thin and horny. Nookie abounds, and dinner tabs decrease!

    Six months later civilization lies in ruins and the Mad Scientist, silhouetted against a bloody sky, shakes his fist at the havens and screams, WE HAD NO RIGHT TO PLAY GOD!

  4. #4 G Barnett
    May 1, 2007

    Six months later civilization lies in ruins and the Mad Scientist, silhouetted against a bloody sky, shakes his fist at the havens and screams, WE HAD NO RIGHT TO PLAY GOD!

    You forgot to add, “after which he is cornered by a pack of chemically-enhanced Maenads and is torn to shreds in their frenzy….”

  5. #5 hibob
    May 1, 2007

    Couldn’t they skip the oral availability goal and just deliver via nasal inhalation? Works well for some peptides, and often solves the blood-brain barrier problem as well.

  6. #6 Doc Bushwell
    May 1, 2007

    hb, very good point on intranasal delivery (avoids first pass metabolism, potential delivery to CNS) but that’s still not all that facile. There’s instrinically low absorption, enzymatic degradation, and mucociliary clearance which rapidly removes the therapeutic peptide from the nose.

    Six months later civilization lies in ruins and the Mad Scientist, silhouetted against a bloody sky, shakes his fist at the havens and screams, “WE HAD NO RIGHT TO PLAY GOD!” after which he is cornered by a pack of chemically-enhanced Maenads and is torn to shreds in their frenzy….”

    These now melded comments made my screed well worth the time it took to yammer and hammer it out on the keyboard.

  7. #7 Jennifer Ouellette
    May 1, 2007

    Yet another wonderfully funny post from Doc Bushwell…

  8. #8 kemibe
    May 1, 2007

    “When it was given to monkeys, they displayed mating behaviour such as tongue-flicking and eyebrow-raising to the males”

    Women have been sticking their tongues out at me since I was about 4 years old, and they have been raising their eyebrows at me for all of my adult life. I had no inkling that these were mating-oriented behaviors. No wonder my junk is a chronically underserved area.

    Seriously, I was unaware that there was a shortage of fucking going on, or that women had no access to all manner of slimming products, garments, secrets, etc. It’s really too bad that there’s no editorial oversight when it comes to medical journalism in the lay press — all it takes is one asscrack scientist like Millar to start running his mouth because no one at the newspaper end knows the difference between true and woo. They trust anyone with a Ph.D.

  9. #10 Torbjörn Larsson
    May 2, 2007

    mucociliary clearance

    Gesundheit!

    Perhaps they could develop a ciliary inhibitor. Of course, that ten year time frame starts to look rather packed by now. They won’t have much time for their own, uh, mating behavior.

  10. #11 Alan Kellogg
    May 2, 2007

    “Exhibited increased interest.”

    But not in you.

  11. #12 Bruce
    May 3, 2007

    10 years! Rats; I was hoping to not have to buy dinner next week.
    After reading the article, blood brain barrier, enzymatic degradation, and mucociliary clearance, I can only say “Medicine is hard.”

  12. #13 Dr Lesley Perman-Kerr
    February 4, 2009

    Sometimes Captain Obvious has to speak ………… because clearly it isn’t always obvious (it seems)