Emory and Case Western University researchers released a new study which claims that the venom of fire ants could be useful in treating a skin problem, namely, psoriasis.
This is an autoimmune disease which can cause the bruising and thickening of the skin and which is usually treated with topical steroids. According to the release, these ants’ venom might help reduce the inflammation and skin thickening caused by psoriasis.
The Venom of Fire Ants Has a Compound Similar to Ceramides
The research team analyzed and tested a particular compound named solenopsin or the main toxic component in the fire ants’ venom. This compound’s chemical structure resembles that of ceramides, which are the lipid-like molecules required for maintaining the skin’s barrier function.
Scientists tested this compound on mouse models of psoriasis. Study findings showed that the solenopsin helped decrease the thickness of the skin caused by the disease. This was reduced 30 percent more when compared to the control group.
The research team created two solenopsin analogs, which resemble ceramides but at the same time cannot degrade into sphingosine-1-phosphate or S1P. This is capable of converting ceramides into inflammatory molecules.
“We believe that solenopsin analogs are contributing to the full restoration of the barrier function in the skin. Emollients can soothe the skin in psoriasis, but they are not sufficient for restoration of the barrier,” states Dr. Jack Arbiser, a professor of dermatology.
The researchers also noted that the mice treated with the solenopsin analogs also returned 50 percent fewer skin infiltrating immune cells.
So the scientists also applied the compound to an immune cells culture. By doing so, they increased the cells’ production of the anti-inflammatory signal IL-12 and decreased the one of the inflammatory IL-22.
Research results show that using solenopsin analogs helped turn down genes that get activated in current psoriasis treatments.
Arbiser considers that this compound in the venom of fire ants could come to be used as a treatment in combination with already existing therapies.
Study findings are available in the journal Scientific Reports.
Image Source: Flickr
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