New Drug May Stop Multiple Sclerosis in Its Tracks, Scientists Say

Team investigates plant-derived peptide

A new plant-derived drug could be a step forward in preventing and treating multiple sclerosis (MS) and other autoimmune diseases, according to Dr. Christian Gruber, a researcher at the University of Queensland in Australia.

“This is a really exciting discovery because it may offer a whole new quality of life for people with this debilitating disease,” he said.

The research was published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America.

The new drug––called T20K––is a synthesized peptide derived from Oldenlandia affinis, a traditional medicinal plant. The treatment belongs to a class of drugs known as cyclotides.

“Cyclotides are present in a range of common plants, and they show significant potential for the treatment of autoimmune diseases,” Gruber explained.

The drug blocked the progression of MS symptoms in an animal model. If it reaches human use, it is expected to be taken by mouth, in contrast to some current MS treatments, in which patients require frequent injections.

“The T20K peptides exhibit extraordinary stability and chemical features that are ideally what you want in an oral drug candidate,” Gruber said.

“Phase 1 clinical trials could begin as early as 2018,” he added. “Licenses have been assigned to Cyxone, a company established last year to develop this new class of drugs for the treatment of autoimmune diseases. Cyxone’s immediate focus is on bringing T20K through the preclinical program required for delivering a safe, orally active drug.”

Sources: University of Queensland; April 11, 2016; and PNAS; March 28, 2016.