Researchers have identified lead compounds from Cuban sea anemone extract and the rue plant that may help treat autoimmune disease response in type-1 diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis. The compounds act by blocking the ion channel in autoimmune T lymphocytes and disabling these cells, while allowing other white blood cells to fight disease and infection.
In one set of tests using blood samples from type-1 diabetes patients and joint fluid from people with rheumatoid arthritis, the researchers found that both compounds suppressed the function of the autoimmune T-cells without affecting other T-cells that fight infections.
In another set of tests using rats, the compound from the rue shrub plant delayed the onset and reduced the incidence of disease in diabetic rats, while the venom compound stopped the progression of the disease and improved the joint function of rats with experimental autoimmune arthritis. In these rat tests, the compounds were nontoxic.
The study was published in the Nov. 6-10 in the Early Online Edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.