Monday, November 20, 2006

Anemone, Shrub Compounds Battle Rheumatoid Arthritis

(HealthDay News) -- Natural compounds from a sea anemone extract and from the rue shrub plant block autoimmune disease responses in both type 1 diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis, U.S. researchers report.

Scientists at the University of California, Irvine, conducted tests on rats and on blood samples from people with type 1 diabetes and on joint fluid from rheumatoid arthritis patients. They found that these compounds worked to deter the effects of destructive T-cells.

Both SL5 (from the sea anemone) and PAP-1 (from the rue shrub) block an ion channel in the T-cells, which prevents these cells from proliferating and producing chemicals called cytokines. These cytokines can attack healthy cells in people with autoimmune diseases.

The findings were published this week in the early online edition of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The researchers say it may be possible to use the compounds to develop new autoimmune disease treatments that target the destructive T-cells but still allow other white blood cells to fight disease and infection in the body.

"Autoimmune diseases affect millions of Americans, and any new therapies that can aid them will have great significance," researcher George Chandy of the university's School of Medicine, said in a prepared statement.

"What's promising about this study is that we identified a protein target on the T-cells that promotes autoimmune activity and the compounds that can selectively block the target and shut down the destructive cells," Chandy said.

He and his colleagues are currently conducting preclinical safety studies on PAP-1 and SL5 in collaboration with AIRMID, a San Francisco-area biotech company.

More information
The U.S. National Women's Health Information Center has more about autoimmune diseases.

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