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Term Definition
Abl A kinase (signaling protein that adds phosphates to proteins) involved in regulating cell division and other cellular events.
Absorption A pharmacokinetic property of a drug (or anything else entering the body) relating to its incorporation into cells, tissues, or organs, especially as it relates to the gastrointestinal, renal (kidney), or circulatory (blood vessel) system. Also called uptake.
ACE Inhibitor Any of several drugs that inhibit the biological activity of angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE). ACE activity is fundamental to the formation of the protein angiotensin II. Angiotensin II facilitates blood vessel constriction (vasoconstriction), and in so doing raises blood pressure. Thus, ACE inhibitors lower blood pressure by diminishing angiotensin II formation, thereby allowing arterial relaxation (vasodilation). Lowering peripheral blood pressure and, thus, diminishing the resistance against which a heart must pump, crucial especially for those with failing hearts, have been the main sources of clinical value for these drugs. ACE inhibitors can also slow the progression of diabetic kidney disease in type II diabetes. These drugs were originally isolated from the venom of a poisonous Brazilian snake.
Acetylcholine (Ach) The acetic ester of choline, it is a neurotransmitter that transmits nerve-to-nerve signals in the brain, causes dilation of blood vessels, inhibition of specific cardiac functions related to pumping force and beating rate, and promotion of gastrointestinal motility (peristalsis). Its depletion in Alzheimer disease is the basis for therapies that increase its availability.
Acetylcholinesterase (AchE) The enzyme responsible for breaking down acetylcholine after it is used in a nerve-to-nerve or nerve-to-muscle signal.
Acetylcholinesterase Inhibitor An agent that interferes with the enzyme, acetylcholinesterase, that breaks down acetylcholine. Used to increase the amount of acetylcholine in the brain of Alzheimer patients, which improves memory and cognition.
Activated Protein C Biologically functioning protein C, also known as APC. Protein C, when activated, functions as an anticoagulant in a system of multiple proteins (the coagulation cascade) that, in the body, maintain the consistency of blood such that people experience effects of neither clotting nor bleeding. In sepsis, APC is depleted.
Acute Of short duration; not chronic.
Acute Coronary Syndrome Aggregate term for acute events in ischemic heart disease: unstable angina, acute myocardial infarction (heart attack), and sudden cardiac death"
Acute Disseminated Encephalomyelitis (ADE) A neurodegenerative disorder characterized by inflammation of the brain and spinal cord caused by damage myelin sheath. Typically, it occurs as a complication of a bacterial or viral infection.
Acute Myelogenous Leukemia (AML) A group of cancers of myeloid-derived blood cell precursors (including those of promyelocyte, myelomonocyte, monocyte, erythrocyte precursors, and megakaryocyte origin) characterized by a rapid onset and often having readily seen, microscopic, specific, distinguishing, somatic chromosomal abnormalities.
Acute Myocardial Infarction A heart attack. Heart muscle (myocardium) tissue, due to abrupt (acute) circulating blood and oxygen deprivation, dies. Tissue death (necrosis) due to oxygen deprivation is known as ""infarction." Blood flow interruptions are typically caused by arteriosclerosis accompanied by coronary artery narrowing. Eventually, a thrombosis (clot) occludes the coronary artery, preventing the flow of blood, and therefore limiting the oxygen supply, to the myocardium.
Acute Necrotizing Hemorrhagic Encephalomyelitis A condition resembling ADE that includes bleeding and a more rapid course of a specific type of cell death.
Acyl CoA Cholesterol Aceyltransferase (ACAT) An enzyme involved in normal cholesterol production in every cell, it has also been recently shown to have a role in Ab formation in Alzheimer disease.
Adeno Associated Virus (AAV) A gene therapy vector which has been gaining popularity recently in the medical community for its excellent safety profile. Targeted Genetics and Avigen are leaders in the use of AAV.
Adenovirus A family of naturally occurring DNA viruses which can cause flu-like symptoms in people. The most popular gene delivery system until the death of an adenovirus trial participant last year. Now out of favor but still actively pursued by several companies including Onyx and Introgen.
Adhesion Molecules Cell surface molecules that mediate attachment between cells and attachment of cells to other substrates such as extracellular matrix. Adhesion molecules are like Velcro, with one adhesion molecule on the first cell or surface binding to its complementary adhesion molecule on the other cell. Adhesion molecules include ICAM, VECAM, and the family of molecules known as integrins.
Adipose Fat or fat cells.
Adjunctive Ancillary or secondary drug or treatment.
Adjuvant Contributing to the treatment of disease. Often adjuvant chemotherapy is that which follows surgery. Adjuvant chemo has the theoretical advantage of eliminating residual cancerous cells so as to improve survival. Neoadjuvant chemo is also known as primary or induction therapy, and is when chemo is given prior to surgery instead. With neoadjuvant therapy the physicians are able to monitor drug sensitivity in the intact primary tumor and determine what definitive local management is in order.
Admark Assays (Elan) Tools that identify the forms of, potentially predisposing genetic markers, ApoE, a patient has, and measure the biochemical markers, tau and the bamyloid peptide, in cerebrospinal fluid.
Adrenoleukodystrophy A rare, genetic disorder characterized by central nervous system myelin destruction and progressive dysfunction of the adrenal gland. A boy with this condition was the subject of the acclaimed movie, Lorenzo’s Oil.
Adverse Effect Profile Inventory of characteristic adverse effects, often evaluated along a spectrum from low to high corresponding with a small to large inventory. "
Adverse Event A problematic medical occurrence that may have a causal relationship with a treatment. A problematic occurrence may be an unfavorable or unintended symptom, sign, disorder, disease, or something else untoward that is temporally associated with administration of an intervention.
Aerisolize To disperse as a suspension of fine solid or liquid particles into the air or the lungs.
Affinity The strength of binding between two molecules, such as how strongly a monoclonal antibody binds to its antigen.
Affinity Maturation The natural process by which B cells producing higher affinity antibodies are selected during an immune response. This process leads to the production of high affinity antibodies.
Agonist A molecule that binds to and triggers the effect of another molecule.
AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome) An epidemic disease caused by infection with Human Immunodeficiency Virus, which induces failure of the immune system.
Akt Also known as Protein Kinase B, it is an intracellular signaling enzyme central to a range of biological processes within most human cells. Akt often exists as a complex with other regulatory and signaling proteins.
Allele One version of a DNA sequence that occurs at a given chromosomal locus.
Allergic Rhinitis Hay fever, a condition characterized by nasal congestion, runny nose, sneezing, nose and eye itching, and tearing eyes. It is an immune reaction that mimics a chronic cold. Literally, “rhinitis” means “inflammation of the nose.”
Allergies A group of symptoms precipitated by an immune response to substances not typically triggering an immune response in most individuals. Specific symptoms depend on the specific allergen (inciting substance), the body part exposed, and individual variation in immune responsiveness.
Allogeneic Coming from the same species but a different individual, usually referring to transplants. Grafts can also be from one's self or one's identical twin (autologous, syngeneic) or from another species (xenogeneic).
ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis or Lou Gehrig disease) A neurodegenerative disease of unknown cause which causes progressive loss of nervous input to muscles. This leads to voluntary and involuntary muscle atrophy, weakness, respiratory failure, and death. Symptoms are caused by the destruction of nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord.
Altered Peptide Ligands (APLs)

A peptide (short string of amino acids) that can bind to MHC molecules. APLs are designed to be similar to known peptide antigens that stimulate T cells. By making slight changes in the peptide sequence, the APL can change the response of the particular T cell. This can lead to the suppression of an immune response, particularly desirable in the case of autoimmune responses such as lupus or type I diabetes.

Alzheimer Disease A degenerative brain disorder that primarily effects the elderly. Symptoms include cognitive and memory decline, confusion, language disturbances, personality and behavior changes, and impaired judgment.
Amino Acid The building blocks of proteins. 20 amino acids, such as cystine, methionine, and related molecules containing amino groups are strung together as dictated by genes. The specific sequence in which they are strung together dictates the form and function of each specific protein. A child needs to ingest 9 so-called essential amino acids in order to form all the necessary body proteins, whereas adults must ingest 8. The remainder can be formed in the body. When the body breaks down or otherwise metabolizes protein, many more than 20 amino acids can be formed.
Ampakines Compounds that enhance the activity of the AMPA-type glutamate receptor, a complex of proteins that is involved in most "excitatory" communication between nerve cells in the human brain. Ampakines are under investigation for Alzheimer disease, stroke, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, schizophrenia, depression, anxiety, and Fragile X syndrome.

A pancreatic islet cell hormone, secreted with insulin, that plays a role in the maintenance of glucose regulation. Amylin is predominantly manufactured in pancreatic b cells and to a lesser extent in other organs of the gastrointestinal tract and nervous system. Its physical and functional replenishment, like that of insulin, tends to modulate the effects of diabetes mellitus. The degree to which this provides therapeutic benefit is currently under intense investigation. Also under investigation are its potential as a diagnostic and prognostic marker in pancreatic cancer and its correlation to the formation of amyloid.

Amyloid Any of a group of proteins that are composed of specifically arranged aggregated fibrils. Deposition of amyloid in the brain is the defining feature of Alzheimer disease, systemic amyloidosis, and amyloidosis associated with the failure of virtually every organ/organ system, and can be a feature of multiple myeloma, monoclonal B-cell tumors, the chronic kidney failure associated with hemodialysis, medullary thyroid carcinoma, renal osteodystrophy, carpal tunnel syndrome, and other diseases.
Amyloid Plaques Protein deposits made out of bamyloid peptide that form on the brain of AD patients.
Amyloid Precursor Protein (APP) A protein most often associated with the harmful material in the brains of Alzheimer disease patients, but whose normal activity is likely to be essential for normal brain function, including a role in the repair of injuries to neurons.
Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (Lou Gehrig Disease) A neurodegenerative disease of unknown cause which causes progressive loss of nervous input to muscles. This leads to voluntary and involuntary muscle atrophy, weakness, respiratory failure, and death. Symptoms are caused by the destruction of nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord.
Analgesia A condition in which the perception of pain is altered. Stimuli typically perceived as painful are no longer interpreted this way, often with sedation and without a loss of consciousness.
Analgesic A compound that produces analgesia.
Analog A molecule similar in structure to another molecule. In drug discovery, analogs of promising drug candidates are made and tested for increased efficacy and decreased side effect profiles. "
Anaphylaxis An allergic reaction. Also, the colloquial name for a severe allergic reaction that can lead to anaphylactic shock, a circumstance during which a widespread allergic reaction rages out of control. Symptoms and signs of anaphylactic shock include dizziness, loss of consciousness, labored breathing, tongue and breathing tube swelling, low blood pressure, heart failure, and death. Typical known inciting agents are bee and wasp stings, various plants, peanuts, drugs, and shellfish.
Androgen Any of the various hormones that promote development and maintenance of male sex characteristics. The primary androgen is testosterone.
Anemia Any condition characterized by a reduced number of red blood cells, amount of hemoglobin, or amount of blood.

(1) Loss of sensation or the state of loss of sensation. Typically this occurs as a result of neurological disease or pharmacologic supression of nerve function. (2) Colloquial for anesthesiology.

Anesthesiologist A physician specializing in the delivery of anesthetic agents or study of anesthesiology and related areas.
Anesthesiology The study of anesthesia and related fields.
Angina Chest pain, often crushing and just behind the breastbone, due to an inadequate oxygen supply to the heart muscle. Patients tend to complain of pressure and a feeling of suffocation rather than sharp pain.
Angiogenesis Establishment of new blood vessels from preexisting ones. Also called neovascularization. Preventing angiogenesis is being investigated as a treatment for cancer.
Angioplasty A procedure during which a balloon-tipped catheter is passed through specific blood vessels to a coronary artery (or arteries) such that its inflation alleviates the artery's narrowing . Also known as Percutaneous Transluminal Coronary Angioplasty (PTCA).
Angiostatin EntreMed’s formulation of a proplasminogen cleavage product. Its anti-angiogenic properties, though poorly understood, have made it an investigational agent in several anti-cancer settings.
Angiotensinogen (AGT) Gene The AGT gene controls the production of angio-tensinogen, an enzymatic protein which is part of a regulation system that plays a part in, amongst other functions, regulating blood pressure. "
Anistreplase A purified thrombolytic (clot buster) also known as streptokinase, derived from a class of bacteria known as group C beta-hemolytic streptococci.
Ankylosing Spondylitis A chronic, debilitating disease characterized by progressive spinal fusion (ankylosis), arthritis,and physical deformity.
Antagonist A molecule that binds to and blocks the effect of another molecule. Antagonists are the opposite of agonists, which binds to and activate the target molecule.
Anthrax A serious bacterial infection caused by the bacterium Bacillus anthracis. Anthrax is the Greek word for burning coal, resembling the appearance of the infectious cutaneous (skin) lesion, a carbuncle (cluster of ulcerating boils) with a hard black center surrounded by bright red inflammation. Most human anthrax infection comes from skin contact with contaminated animal products. The pulmonary (lung) form of the disease is contracted by inhaling a large dose of spores, typically in an enclosed space protected from direct sunlight. Untreated pulmonary anthrax is usually fatal. Intestinal anthrax is caused by eating contaminated meat. "
Antibiotics A drug used to treat infection. Antibacterials are the most common sorts of antibiotics in the U.S. and western Europe, and often the two words are used interchangeably.
Antibody A protein produced by immune system B cells. Antibodies defend against invasion by foreign agents like viruses, bacteria or cancer cells. They work by binding to a marker called an antigen.
Antibody Dependent Toxicity Type of cell destruction in which specific cell surface markers of doomed cells are coated with antibody allowing, typically, natural killer cells to identify and help destroy the ill-fated cells. Antibody dependent toxicity is sometimes referred to as antibody-dependent cell-mediated cytotoxicity.
Anticholinergics Any of a group of agents designed to interfere with the activity of acetylcholine.
Anticoagulant An agent used to prevent blood clot formation
Antigen Any substance that can be recognized by the immune system. Antigens provoke the production of antibodies. Antigens include proteins and other molecules on the surface of bacteria, viruses, tumors or other foreign tissues.
Antigen Presenting Cells White blood cells, including macrophages and dendritic cells, which present bits of bacteria, viruses, and other foreign material to T cells.
Antioxidant Any substance that inhibits oxidation or reactions promoted by oxygen or peroxides (compounds in which oxygen is molecularly joined to oxygen). Cells naturally manufacture antioxidants that convert free radicals into harmless oxygen, water, and other chemicals. Oxidation can be thought of as either combining with oxygen, eliminating hydrogen, or both. Oxidation changes a compound by increasing the proportion of the electronegative part or change (an element or ion) from a lower to a higher positive valence — removing one or more electrons from an atom, ion, or molecule. Antioxidants interfere with this process, which causes interference with processes associated with specific types of inflammation and decay.
Antisense (1) An engineered oligonucleotide whose sequence is complementary to a specific mRNA, and thus has the ability to block protein production from that mRNA when introduced into cells. (2) The name of the strand of naturally occurring DNA that is subject to transcription— making mRNA. The other strand, the “sense” strand has the same sequence as the initially formed mRNA.
Aphthous Stomatitis A small, tender ulcer crater in the lining of the mouth (multiple causes). Commonly called a canker sore.
Aplastic Anemia Pancytopenia due to failure of the bone marrow to produce red blood cells, white blood cells, platelets, and other blood cells. Most often, a cause for the marrow failure is elusive. It can be caused by chemicals (benzene, toluene, insecticides, solvents), drugs (chemotherapy, gold, seizure medications, antibiotics, many others), viruses (HIV, Epstein-Barr), radiation, immune conditions (systemic lupus erythematosus, rheumatoid arthritis), pregnancy, paroxysmal nocturnal hemoglobinuria, and inherited disorders (Fanconi anemia and others). Contemporary drug therapy may include discontinuation of all bone marrow-suppressing medications and institution of androgens, marrow stimulating growth factors, and often prophylactic antibiotics. Blood transfusions may be frequent. Bone marrow transplantation may be in order plus or minus immunosuppression with antithymocyte globulin, steroids, and cyclosporine.
ApoE Apolipoprotein E, a protein that is a critical mediator of cholesterol and phospholipid transport between cells. Specific polymorphisms of its gene are associated with Alzheimer disease and coronary heart disease risk.
Apoptosis Programmed cell death through activation of an internally controlled, genetic suicide program.
Aptamers Pieces of RNA, DNA, or modified nucleic acids that can bind to specific proteins.
ARDS An acronym for the adult/acute respiratory distress syndrome, the dramatic “wet lung” manifestations of the diffuse capillary leak syndrome. This is a late-stage, often end-stage, manifestation of the sepsis spectrum during which patient's lungs fail due to fluid leaking into them accompanied by cellular damage. Patients are progressively more unable to both extract oxygen from inspired air and exhale carbon dioxide, and thus require mechanical ventilation.
Aromatase An enzyme complex involved in estrogen production. Aromatase catalyzes the conversion of testosterone (and other androgens) to estradiol (and other estrogens). Aromatase is located in estrogen-producing cells in the adrenal glands, ovaries, placenta, testicles, fat, and brain. Some breast cancers grow from estrogen stimulation. A class of anti-estrogen drugs called aromatase inhibitors can be used to treat these estrogen-dependent cancers. Aromatase inhibitors act to lower the level of the estrogen called estradiol.
Arthritis Joint inflammation. The most common, chronic forms are osteoarthritis (OA) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA). OA, or degenerative joint disease, involves mechanical erosion of cartilage between bones, whereas RA involves autoimmune cartilage destruction.
Ascites Abnormal fluid accumulation in the abdomal cavity, typically the result of severe liver disease, metastatic disease involving the abdominal cavity, or both. "
Asthma Condition characterized by inflammatory constriction or congestion of the bronchial tree, causing wheezing, coughing and difficult breathing. Also known as reactive airway disease.
Ataxia The inability to execute coordinated, voluntary movement. "
Ataxia-Telangiectasia A progressive, degenerative, multi-organ system disease that typically has its onset during the second year of life. The initial sign of the disorder is most often ataxia characterized by a wobbly walk and slurred speech. Soon after, tiny, red "spider" veins, telangiectasias, may appear in the corners of the eyes or on the surface of the ears and sun-exposed cheeks.
Atherosclerosis A process of progressive thickening and hardening of the walls of arteries owing to the deposition of, amongst other things, fat on their inner lining. Risk factors include high levels of ""bad"" cholesterol, low levels of ""good"" cholesterol, high blood pressure (hypertension), smoking, diabetes, and a family history of atherosclerotic disease especially of early onset. Atherosclerosis predisposes an individual to coronary artery disease (angina, heart attacks, and sudden death), peripheral artery disease, and strokes.
Atherosclerotic Plaque Patchy areas of atherosclerosis, typically lining blood vessel channels, that can progressively be occlusive, leading to cardiovascular disorders such as angina, unstable angina, acute myocardial infarction, sudden cardiac death, transient ischemic attack, reversible ischemic neurological deficit, stroke, peripheral vascular disease, claudication, peripheral arterial occlusion, and gangrene.
Atrial Fibrillation An abnormal, irregular heart rhythm characterized by chaotic electrical signals eminating from the atria of the heart. Also known as atrial fib or a-fib. "
Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder A condition characterized by an individual’s inability to control their own behavior or impulses. The condition has many potential manifestations, often the most prominent of which, at least in childhood, is hyperactivity. When hyperactivity is not present, the principle manifestation is often inattentiveness.
Autoimmune Disease One of many related illnesses resulting from a person's immune system attacking tissues in the person's own body (immune system reaction against self-antigens). Type I Diabetes, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Lupus, Crohn Disease, and Multiple Sclerosis are a few of many illnesses in which autoimmune reactions have been implicated. "
Autoimmune Response An immune reaction against self-antigens, which leads to damage of one’s own tissues. Autoimmune diseases include lupus, type I diabetes, and rheumatoid arthritis.
Autologous Regarding transfusions and transplants, when the donor and recipient are the same person or are genetically identical such as in the case of identical twins.
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