Millions suffering from rheumatoid arthritis, asthma, psoriasis and other diseases may find succour in an unexpected source — lethal toxins produced by the Clostridium botulinum bug, which causes a rare but severe form of food poisoning, could be re-engineered to benefit them, says a new American study.
These lethal toxins are already being used in treating nerve disorders and facial wrinkles. Doctors inject small doses of these toxins to block the release of the neurotransmitters, or chemical messengers, that transmit signals from one nerve cell to another.
These toxins break down a protein in nerve cells 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. The team led by Edwin Champan, study investigator and professor, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, wanted to expand use of the botulinum toxins by hooking it to a molecule that can attach to receptors on other cells.
Their lab 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, according to a Howard Hughes statement.
Such botulinum toxin therapy holds the potential in a range of chronic inflammatory diseases and perhaps other conditions, which could expand the role of these materials in medicine.
People with such conditions undergo a great deal of suffering. Because the inflammation often cannot be fully controlled, the patient is constantly on medications, and he or she can experience pain, fatigue, digestive problems, and other symptoms caused by the inflammation and side effects from the drugs.
Some examples of chronic inflammatory diseases include: celiac disease, vasculitis, lupus, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), irritable bowel disease, atherosclerosis, arthritis, and psoriasis.