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Plant-based drug may halt multiple sclerosis progression

T20K was effective in mice, and researchers are moving toward clinical trials for the drug.

By
Stephen Feller
Oldenlandia affinis, pictured, has traditionally been used in childbirth in Congo and other parts of Africa, however a synthesized version of a peptide in the plant was found to lower symptoms of MS in mice. Photo by KalataB1/Wikimedia Commons
Oldenlandia affinis, pictured, has traditionally been used in childbirth in Congo and other parts of Africa, however a synthesized version of a peptide in the plant was found to lower symptoms of MS in mice. Photo by KalataB1/Wikimedia Commons

BRISBANE, Australia, April 11 (UPI) -- A plant-derived drug stopped progression of multiple sclerosis in mice, suggesting the drug could do the same for people with the disease, researchers in Australia said.

A University of Queensland study found the drug T20K, derived from the traditional medicinal plant Oldenlandia affinis, helped mice with MS, and researchers are starting to prepare for clinical trials as soon as 2018.

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The plant, used in the Congo and other parts of Africa for childbirth, was found to contain Kalata-peptides, or cyclic peptides. T20K is part of a group of drugs based on a synthetic form of the peptide called cyclotides.

"Cyclotides are present in a range of common plants, and they show significant potential for the treatment of auto immune diseases," Dr. Christian Gruber, a researchers at the University of Queensland, said in a press release. "The T20K peptides exhibit extraordinary stability and chemical features that are ideally what you want in an oral drug candidate."

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For the study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the researchers tested an oral treatment based on T20K, giving one group of mice a 10-milligram dose -- the same used for standard injectable MS treatments -- and another group a 20-milligram dose.

The mice treated with either dose had significant reduction of MS symptoms, and those receiving a higher dose had greater reduction in symptoms.

Gruber said a company established to develop T20K into a marketable drug has filed patent applications in several countries and is moving toward phase 1 clinical trials, which could happen as soon as 2018.

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

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