Thalidomide research to be discussed

Thalidomide research to be discussed

Thalidomide - the drug which caused in excess of 10,000 cases of birth defects worldwide - will come under the spotlight at a free talk in Aberdeen next week.

The controversial history of the drug, taken by mothers to relieve morning sickness in the 1950s and 60s, will be discussed by Dr Neil Vargesson, lead researcher and lecturer in Developmental Biology at the University of Aberdeen.

He will outline how the fallout from this medical disaster transformed the way in which drugs are tested and screened.

Dr Vargesson will also discuss the research he is leading into enhancing understanding of Thalidomide and how it could be developed into a safer form that maintains its clinical usefulness but does not cause birth defects.

His talk – Thalidomide: 50 years on – will it ever be safe? takes place at Waterstone’s Union Bridge branch on Wednesday October 13, beginning at 7pm.

It is the latest in the University of Aberdeen’s Café Scientifique series which provides a public forum for the discussion of scientific topics.

Dr Vargesson said: “Thalidomide caused what is arguably the single biggest disaster in medical history, dramatically altering the way drugs were tested and screened from the 1960s onwards.

“But whilst Thalidomide is tied up in the public consciousness with the catastrophic affects it caused in pregnant women, when used safely it can, and is, being used to effectively treat a number of diseases.

“In the UK Thalidomide has been used for over a decade to treat cancers including multiple myeloma, where it can prolong life by 18 months, and is in clinical trial for treatment of Chron’s disease and HIV.  Measures are in place to ensure patients prescribed with the drug are constantly checked for pregnancy.

“Worldwide it is used for the treatment of leprosy. Although in some countries – predominantly Africa and South America - a lack of patient understanding is resulting in expectant mothers taking Thalidomide for leprosy without realising the impact the drug could have on their unborn child.

“”My talk will provide an insight into the research I am conducting at the University into enhancing understanding of Thalidomide, including investigations into how the drug causes birth defects and how with this knowledge we may adapt the design of the drug into a form which is clinically beneficial but does not cause birth defects.”

Dr Vargesson’s talk will take place in the Costa Café area of Waterstone’s Union Bridge branch.

Entry is free and advance booking is not required.

For more information visit: www.abdn.ac.uk/science/cafescience/.