Natural Treatments For Autoimmune Disease

March 31, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
Multiple sclerosis, juvenile diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis affect millions of Americans, yet doctors still aren't sure what causes autoimmune diseases.After 26 years with diabetes, Suzy Won Davidson knows the drill. And at 36 she's no longer the child who once dreamed of a cure.

"We'll find a cure. About five years. Give us five years. So every five years another five years would go by and I'd say, 'Wow. There's not a cure yet,'" Won Davidson recalls.

Not yet, but she finds renewed hope in a lab at the University of California, Irvine.

In tests on human blood cells, researchers blocked destructive cells responsible for juvenile diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and multiple sclerosis, actually stopping the diseases in rats.

Their weapons? Modified compounds from sea anemone venom and a compound from a shrub.

"At this stage we don't know if it'll be a long term treatment or if treatment for a period of time will completely suppress the disease and prevent it from coming back," says Christine Beeton, Ph.D., a physiology researcher at the University of California, Irvine.

In autoimmune diseases, the immune system attacks the body's own tissue. The attacking cells need ion channels to function. But using compounds from a rue plant and a sea anemone, researchers blocked those channels without blocking cells needed to fight infection.

"It gives us more clues. It's sort of like putting a jigsaw puzzle together where the more pieces you can fill in, the easier it is to fill in the rest of the puzzle," Won Davidson says.

A puzzle that could lead to clinical trials ? perhaps a new treatment in the years ahead. Won Davidson's heard that promise before, but this time she's old enough to help make it happen. She helps raise money to fund UC Irvine's center for diabetes treatment and research in her spare time.

Now that researchers have proven the compounds work in-vitro on human cells and in animal tests, they hope to begin testing in humans in the next few years.

FOR MORE INFORMATION, PLEASE CONTACT:
Christine Beeton, Ph.D.
cbeeton@uci.edu

or

George Chandy
gchandy@uci.edu


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