A new venom treatment could be used to combat diseases like arthritis, diabetes, and even obesity. The treatment is derived from the toxins in sea anemones, along with its fellow creature the cone snail.
The idea of using venom to treat maladies certainly sounds strange, and going the more natural route is an about-face in an industry concentrating more and more on chemical-based medicines.
But Seattle-based biotech company Kineta is doing exactly that. Komo News reports that Kineta is currently conducting clinical trials on a synthetic compound called ShK-186.
The compound was derived from a sea anemone toxin and is tested as a treatment for autoimmune diseases like multiple sclerosis, psoriatic arthritis, and lupus.
Dr. Snawn Iadonato, the company’s chief scientific officer and executive vice president, explained of the venom treatment research:
“We think the natural route is still underexplored, and there are lots of opportunities for new drugs that are very effective and potent.”
If it proves an effective treatment, the venom-derived compound could replace current treatments for the diseases, like steroids and methotrexate. Both options also suppress the immune system — something the new treatment doesn’t do.
MSN Now notes that the naturally-derived compound also has an added bonus — weight loss. Kineta unexpectedly discovered that the venom treatment could also enhance metabolic activity, which could mean a more natural treatment for obesity.
Along with the ShK-186 compound, Kineta is also working on the Rg1a peptide found in the venom of cone snails. The peptide was used to create Conotoxin Rg1a, which can block pain signals from transmitting to the brain. The compound does this without affecting the brain itself.
The company is working with the US Army on post-surgical research using the cone snail toxin on injured and surgical patients to find out if it can help the heart and lung function of the injured.
But don’t expect one of these venom therapies in a prescription from your doctor anytime soon. The therapies are still in the early stages of development and probably won’t be available to the public for at least five to seven years.
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