Anti-leprosy drug promising as therapy for auto-immune diseases

January 31st, 2009 - 4:39 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Jan 31 (IANS) A century-old drug that failed to treat tuberculosis but has worked well as anti-leprosy medicine holds promise as potential therapy for multiple sclerosis and other auto-immune diseases, says a new study.”We never expected that an old antibiotic would hit this target that has been implicated in multiple sclerosis, psoriasis and type-1 diabetes,” said Johns Hopkins pharmacologist Jun O. Liu, who led the study.

“People have been working for years and spending tens of millions of dollars on developing a drug to inhibit a specific molecular target involved in these diseases. And here we have a safe, known drug that hits that target,” he said.

The finding about Clofazimine, known as the Kv1.3 potassium channel, a synthetic compound made in the 1890s, was made during an ongoing and exhaustive screening of the drugs approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to identify new uses for them.

The Hopkins team was specifically hunting for immune system control agents within the Johns Hopkins Drug Library, a collection assembled over the past seven years by Liu and colleagues of more than 3,000 drugs in pharmacies or being tested in phase II clinical trials.

The Johns Hopkins scientists say they were surprised to discover that Clofazimine interferes with a molecular pathway important in orchestrating the human body’s immune response, said a Johns Hopkins release.

“Until now, Xlofazimine’s presumed target was not human cells, but bacteria,” says Liu, professor of pharmacology and molecular science.

“But we discovered the drug has a tremendous effect on human immune cells that are heavily involved in both the initiation and execution of an effective immune response,” he added.

The finding appeared in the Public Library of Science.

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