Scientists harness power of worms to treat arthritis

Sep 16, 2008
Scientists harness power of worms to treat arthritis

(PhysOrg.com) -- Glasgow scientists are aiming to harness a substance secreted by parasitic tropical worms to help them find a more effective treatment for inflammatory types of arthritis. A team of scientists at the Universities of Glasgow and Strathclyde plan to take advantage of the anti-inflammatory properties of a large molecule secreted by parasitic filarial nematode worm, called ES-62.

ES-62 circulates in the bloodstream of tens of millions of infected people in the Tropics, to prevent the massive inflammatory responses that the worms are otherwise capable of producing in conditions such as elephantiasis. ES-62 has no known adverse effect on general health, nor does it inhibit the ability of infected people to fight other infections.

The team, led by Professor Margaret Harnett, at the University of Glasgow’s Division of Immunology, Infection and Inflammation, aim to produce a synthetic derivative of ES-62 in order to ultimately develop novel anti-inflammatory drugs that will effectively combat auto-immune, inflammatory conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis.

“In our study, we will exploit a mechanism optimised by human/parasite interactions over millennia to develop anti-inflammatory drugs,” said Professor Harnett.

“This is because we will be focusing on mechanisms of combating hyper-inflammation that have developed naturally and with apparent acceptance by humans during their co-evolution with parasites,” said Professor William Harnett from the University of Strathclyde.

It is becoming increasingly clear within the scientific community that there is an inverse relationship between worm infections and conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, type-1 diabetes and multiple sclerosis, with auto-immune diseases being rare in countries endemic for parasitic worms.

“ES-62 appears to act like a ‘thermostat’ to effectively turn down disease-causing inflammation which leaving essential defence mechanisms intact to fight infection and cancer,” said another member of the research team, Professor Experimental Medicine at the University of Glasgow, Iain McInnes. “This property also makes ES-62 a unique tool for scientists to identifying how such disease-causing inflammation occurs.”

The team hopes that ultimately, it will be possible to correct a whole range of autoimmune inflammatory diseases by fine-tuning specific types of inflammation, by treating them with “cocktails” of several ES-62 derived drugs.

The research is being funded by a three-year grant of £213,700 from the Arthritis Research Campaign.

Provided by University of Glasgow

Explore further: Global Ebola conference seeks end to W.Africa outbreak

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Honeybee hive sealant promotes hair growth in mice

Dec 10, 2014

Hair loss can be devastating for the millions of men and women who experience it. Now scientists are reporting that a substance from honeybee hives might contain clues for developing a potential new therapy. ...

Recommended for you

Global Ebola conference seeks end to W.Africa outbreak

3 hours ago

Leaders of Ebola-hit countries in west Africa will attend an international conference in Brussels Tuesday to mobilise a final push to end the outbreak and ensure the delivery of nearly $5 billion in aid pledges.

High prevalence of HCV in baby boomers presenting to ER

13 hours ago

(HealthDay)—The prevalence of unrecognized chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) is high among baby boomers presenting to the emergency department, according to a study published online Jan. 28 in Hepatology.

The hidden burden of dengue fever in West Africa

13 hours ago

Misdiagnosis of febrile illnesses as malaria is a continuing problem in Africa. A new study shows that in Ghana, dengue fever is circulating in urban areas and going undiagnosed. The authors of the study hope to use the findings ...

Teenager with stroke symptoms actually had Lyme disease

13 hours ago

A Swiss teenager, recently returned home from a discotheque, came to the emergency department with classic sudden symptoms of stroke, only to be diagnosed with Lyme disease. The highly unusual case presentation was published ...

Understanding lung disease in aboriginal Australians

15 hours ago

A new study has confirmed that Aboriginal Australians have low forced vital capacity—or the amount of air that can be forcibly exhaled from the lungs after taking the deepest breath possible. The finding may account for ...

User comments : 0

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.