Antidepressant and Antianxiety Drugs by Alan Hecht
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About Antidepressant and Antianxiety Drugs by Alan Hecht
Antidepressant and Antianxiety Drugs by Alan Hecht: For thousands of years, humans have used a variety of sources with which to cure their ills, cast out devils, promote their well-being, relieve their misery, and control their fertility. Until the beginning of the twentieth century, the agents used were all of natural origin, including many derived from plants as well as elements such as antimony, sulfur, mercury, and arsenic.
The sixteenth-century alchemist and physician Paracelsus used mercury and arsenic in his treatment of syphilis, worms, and other diseases that were common at that time; his cure rates, however, remain unknown. Many drugs used today have their origins in natural products. Antimony derivatives, for example, are used in the treatment of the nasty tropical disease leishmaniasis. These plant-derived products represent molecules that have been “forged in the crucible of evolution” and continue to supply the scientist with molecular scaffolds for
new drug development.
Our story of modern drug discovery may be considered to start with the German physician and scientist Paul Ehrlich, often called the father of chemotherapy. Born in 1854, Ehrlich became interested in the ways in which synthetic dyes, then becoming a major product of the German fine chemical industry, could selectively stain certain tissues and components of cells.
He reasoned that such dyes might form the basis for drugs that could interact selectively with diseased or foreign cells and organisms. One of Ehrlich’s early successes was the development of the arsenical “606”—patented under the name Salvarsan—as a treatment for syphilis. Ehrlich’s goal was to create a “magic bullet,” a drug that would target only the diseased cell or the invading disease-causing organism and have no effect on healthy cells and tissues.
In this, he was not successful, but his great research did lay the groundwork for the successes of the twentieth century, including the discovery of the sulfonamides and the antibiotic penicillin.
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