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Fire ant venom inspires potential psoriasis treatment

A compound from fire ants might be able to help treat psoriasis.

Fire ants may be unwelcome guests at picnics, but their venom could prove useful in treating the common autoimmune disease psoriasis. Researchers at Emory and Case Western have developed two experimental compounds inspired by the fire ant that appear promising in treating the skin disorder, which causes painful thickening and rashes.

The main toxic ingredients in fire ant venom are called solenopsins. Structurally, these chemicals closely resemble ceramides, which are molecules that help maintain the skin’s barrier against foreign invaders. Ceramides are used in some skin products, but they’re not always beneficial, said Jack Arbiser, a professor at the Emory School of Medicine, in a press release. That’s because they sometimes transform into an inflammatory molecule called sphingosine-1-phosphate (S1P).

So the research team developed two analogs of solenopsin that can’t be converted into S1P. When they tested them in mouse models of psoriasis, they observed that the treated animals had 50% fewer immune cells invading their skin than did the untreated mice. The mice that received the compounds also experienced a 30% drop in skin thickness.

macro photography of small fire ant in Texas on a tiny flower with even smaller rain drops

Read on: Fire ant venom inspires potential psoriasis treatment | FierceBiotech

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