BOSTON, Feb. 27 (UPI) -- Harvard researchers say gold helps treat autoimmune disease by stripping bacteria and virus particles from the grasp of a key immune system protein.
The finding, published in the Feb. 27 issue of Nature Chemical Biology, give researchers a mechanism of gold drug action that can be tested and explored directly in diseased tissues.
"We were searching for a new drug to treat autoimmune diseases," study co-author Brian DeDecker, a post-doctoral student in the Department of Cell Biology, said in a release. "But instead we discovered a biochemical mechanism that may help explain how an old drug works."
Gold drugs have been used since the 1930s as an effective treatment for rheumatoid arthritis and other autoimmune diseases such as Lupus, but treatment can take months for action and sometimes presents severe side effects, which have diminished their use in recent years, reseachers said.
With this new understanding of how these metals function, it may now be possible to develop a new generation of gold-based drugs for treating rheumatoid arthritis and other autoimmune diseases that are more effective with fewer side effects.