Sea anemones venom key to Multiple Sclerosis treatment

July 23, 2012
The purple sea anemone awaits passing prey, which it stings with its venom-filled tentacles. Credit: David Doubilet

(Medical Xpress) -- Sea anemones use venomous stinging tentacles to stun their prey, but one component of that venom is being used by researchers to treat the debilitating effects of Multiple Sclerosis (MS).

A new class of drug treatment is about to commence clinical trials, as the result of a decade-long investigation by Professor Ray Norton, from the Monash Institute of and his collaborators, who in the mid 1990s found a component of venom called ShK in the Caribbean .

The researchers found ShK blocks the Kv1.3 potassium channel located in , known as T-cells, which are known to produce in MS, one of the most common and debilitating diseases of the nervous system.

Professor Norton has since collaborated with a team of scientists in the United States investigating potassium channels as targets for the development of novel immunosuppressive agents.

With potassium channels controlling all sorts of key functions in the human body, developing a drug without unwanted side effects would have been impossible had it not turned out that the Kv1.3 potassium channel is found only on T-cells and in the nose. Because of this limited distribution, the researchers were able to develop a highly selective immune suppressant derived from the sea anemone peptide.

Professor Norton said that by blocking the , ShK prevented the T-cells from attacking the nervous system and causing the paralysis observed in .

"This research shows that we may be able to effectively treat the disease while protecting the immune system," Professor Norton said.

“Continuously blocking these T-cell channels with ShK should prevent further nerve damage, even after the initial onset of symptoms, including paralysis. If the clinical trials are successful, this could prove an effective treatment for MS.”

Professor Norton said ShK is one of the most potent inhibitors known for these channels.

“The next step is to find out what dose works best to treat MS and at what stage of the disease treatment should begin," Professor Norton said.

A close relative of corals and jellyfish, sea anemones spend most of their time attached to rocks on the sea floor or on coral reefs waiting for crustaceans and small fish to pass close enough to get entangled in their venom-filled tentacles.

Explore further: Scientists discover how to design drugs that could target particular nerve cells

Related Stories

Scientists discover how to design drugs that could target particular nerve cells

November 10, 2011
(Medical Xpress) -- The future of drug design lies in developing therapies that can target specific cellular processes without causing adverse reactions in other areas of the nervous system. Scientists at the Universities ...

MS research: Myelin influences how brain cells send signals

July 21, 2011
The development of a new cell-culture system that mimics how specific nerve cell fibers in the brain become coated with protective myelin opens up new avenues of research about multiple sclerosis. Initial findings suggest ...

A new drug to manage resistant chronic pain

April 30, 2012
Neuropathic pain, caused by nerve or tissue damage, is the culprit behind many cases of chronic pain. It can be the result of an accident or caused by a variety of medical conditions and diseases such as tumors, lupus, and ...

Scientists discover a ‘handbrake’ for MS

April 26, 2012
(Medical Xpress) -- The progression of the debilitating disease Multiple Sclerosis (MS) could be slowed or even halted by blocking a protein that contributes to nerve damage, according to a new study.

Recommended for you

How a poorly explored immune cell may impact cancer immunity and immunotherapy

November 17, 2017
The immune cells that are trained to fight off the body's invaders can become defective. It's what allows cancer to develop. So most research has targeted these co-called effector T-cells.

Asthma attacks reduced in tree-lined urban neighborhoods

November 17, 2017
People living in polluted urban areas are far less likely to be admitted to hospital with asthma when there are lots of trees in their neighbourhood, a study by the University of Exeter's medical school has found.

How the immune system identifies invading bacteria

November 16, 2017
The body's homeland security unit is more thorough than any airport checkpoint. For the first time, scientists have witnessed a mouse immune system protein frisking a snippet of an invading bacterium. The inspection is far ...

Can asthma be controlled with a vitamin supplement?

November 16, 2017
The shortness of breath experienced by the nearly 26 million Americans who suffer from asthma is usually the result of inflammation of the airways. People with asthma typically use albuterol for acute attacks and inhaled ...

Newly found immune defence could pave way to treat allergies

November 16, 2017
Scientists have made a fundamental discovery about how our body's immune system clears harmful infections.

Study finds asthma and food allergies predictable at age 1

November 15, 2017
Children at one year old who have eczema or atopic dermatitis (AD) and are sensitized to an allergen are seven times more likely than other infants to develop asthma, and significantly more likely to have a food allergy by ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.