Pharmaceutical jargon decoded
The clue to the meaning of this term lies in the word kinetics, which is the study of motion and its causes. Pharmacokinetics therefore refers to the movement of drugs into, through and out of the body. In determining the pharmacokinetic properties of a drug, scientists are looking at how it is absorbed into the body, how it is distributed throughout the body, what chemical changes the drug undergoes as it is metabolised and how it is excreted once it has done its job.
Pharmacokinetics is often studied in conjunction with pharmacodynamics, which is another division of pharmacology that looks specifically at the interaction of drugs with target tissues. The two are easily confused, but the easiest way to remember the distinction is that pharmacokinetics is the study of what the body does to the drug, while pharmacodynamics is the study of what the drug does to the body.
Bioavailability is one of the principal pharmacokinetic properties of a drug. It is a measure of the amount or rate at which a drug is accessible to the body following administration, and it is calculated according to its concentration in the bloodstream. In pharmacology, bioavailability is denoted by the letter 'F' and expressed as a percentage.
When a drug is injected, bioavailability is said to be 100 per cent. When is it ingested orally, bioavailability will depend on the rate and extent of gastrointestinal tract absorption. Other factors that can influence bioavailability include the physical properties of the drug, its formulation and interactions with other drugs or foods in the body.
A xenobiotic is a foreign chemical substance - typically a synthetic one - that is found within an organism. It is not expected to be present and is not naturally produced by that organism. Many prescription medicines are xenobiotics when taken by humans, as the human body does not produce them and they are not ingested as part of the normal diet.
Xenobiotics, or drugs, are deactivated and excreted from the human body in a process called xenobiotic metabolism, which happens mainly in the liver. During this process, the chemical structure of the drug is modified and broken down. It is then either detoxified by the body or put to use within the body's tissues. In some cases, the reactions that occur in the body during xenobiotic metabolism can have adverse reactions.
Theranostics - as the term would suggest - is a combination of diagnostics and therapy. It is an emerging tool in drug development that is being used to tailor treatments by targeting therapy to the subtype and genetic profile of an individual's disease or condition. The treatment of HER2 positive breast cancers with Herceptin is an example of a commercialised theranostic.
The term personalised medicine is often used to describe theranostics, since that's essentially what is it. It is creating individualised therapies for various diseases and disease sub-types to make sure that the right patients are given the right treatments. Theranostics is helping to improve patient outcomes by allowing drug developers to move away from trial and error medicine and take a much more targeted approach.
This is a term that is used to describe the use, management, analysis, organisation, dissemination and visualisation of chemical information. It essentially combines chemistry, computer science and information science and it allows pharmaceutical companies to turn data into knowledge that can be used to improve decision making within the area of drug lead identification.
Cheminformatics is playing an important role in modern drug discovery, providing researchers with a better understanding of the complex structures of chemical compounds and allowing them to design and filter the most appropriate compounds to work with. This can reduce both the time and the cost of the drug development cycle, from conceptualisation to reality.