Engineered botulism toxins could have broader role in medicine

November 30, 2011

already used medically in small doses to treat certain nerve disorders and facial wrinkles — could be re-engineered for an expanded role in helping millions of people with rheumatoid arthritis, asthma, psoriasis and other diseases, scientists are reporting. Their study appears in ACS' journal Biochemistry.

Edwin Chapman and colleagues explain that toxins, or poisons, produced by Clostridium botulinum bacteria, cause of a rare but severe form of food poisoning, are the most powerful toxins known to science. Doctors can inject small doses, however, to block the release of the neurotransmitters, or chemical messengers, that transmit signals from one nerve cell to another. The toxins break down a protein in nerve that mediates the release of neurotransmitters, disrupting nerve signals that cause pain, muscle spasms and other symptoms in certain diseases. That protein exists not just in nerve cells, but in other cells in the human body. However, these non-nerve cells lack the receptors needed for the botulinum toxins to enter and work. Chapman's group sought to expand the potential use of the botulinum toxins by hooking it to a molecule that can attach to receptors on other cells.

Their laboratory experiments showed that these engineered botulinum toxins do work in non-nerve cells, blocking the release of a protein from immune cells linked to inflammation, which is the underlying driving force behind a range of diseases. Such botulinum therapy holds potential in a range of chronic inflammatory diseases and perhaps other conditions, which could expand the role of these materials in medicine.

Explore further: Molecular structure reveals how botulinum toxin attaches to nerve cells

More information: “Retargeted Clostridial Neurotoxins as Novel Agents for Treating Chronic Diseases” Biochemistry, 2011, 50 (48), pp 10419–10421. DOI: 10.1021/bi201490t

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not rated yet Dec 03, 2011
I just received an injection of another product of these anaerobic wonders, an injectable collagenase from Clostridium perfringens. Bye Bye to my misplaced and disabling collagen. The "nastiest bugs" are those most able to disrupt our biochemical pathways, and therefore these critters represent a treasure trove of medicinal applications. Congrats to Chapman and company. I wonder what other new Clostridial products are in the pipeline?

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