Scientists have modified the main component of the venom of fire ants to create an analogue of molecules that restore the protective functions of the skin. In the future, the remedy will be able to help patients with psoriasis.
Researchers from the United States and Germany have developed a new technique to alleviate the symptoms of psoriasis. This disease, which mainly affects the skin, affects 2–4% of the world's population.
Today, there are no drugs that can permanently get rid of the manifestations of psoriasis.
The method is based on one of the components of the poison of fire ants of the genus Solenopsis, the alkaloid solenopsin. Scientists managed to synthesize several analogs of the solenopsin molecule, similar in structure to ceramides. These lipid molecules are part of the cell membrane, and are also involved in the processes of cell proliferation (tissue proliferation) and apoptosis ("programmed" cell death).
Ceramides restore the protective function of the skin, therefore they are included in many dermatological preparations, for example, for the treatment of eczema. However, in some cases, ceramides can degrade to form sphingosine-1-phosphate (S1P), a signaling molecule that “protects” cells from apoptosis. S1P can promote inflammation and tumor formation. The new molecules that the researchers have synthesized are structurally similar to ceramides and behave in a similar way, but they cannot degrade to S1P.
Ceramide analogs were tested in specially bred mice of the KC-Tie2 genetic line. Their skin is prone to the formation of red, dry plaques, characteristic of tissues affected by psoriasis. Eighteen mice received a cream formulation, and after 28 days they were compared with a control group of eight mice. The drug reduced the thickness of the skin of rodents by an average of 30%, and also by 50% reduced the activity of T-cells in the foci of the disease. T cells are activated when the skin keratinocyte cells are destroyed, and then are involved in the process of excessive growth and thickening of the skin on psoriatic plaques.
Researchers believe that in the future, analogs of solenopsin will be able to fully restore the protective function of the skin. It is assumed that drugs with these molecules will complement other existing methods of dealing with psoriasis. However, it should be borne in mind that for humans, the agent may not be as effective as for mice.
The research is published in Scientific Reports.
Previously, scientists from Canada concluded that depression increases the risk of developing psoriatic arthritis.