Plant Peptide May Halt Symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis

Specially synthesized plant peptide cyclotide found to suppress onset of multiple sclerosis.

The specially synthesized plant peptide cyclotide demonstrated a delayed or halted effect of multiple sclerosis (MS) in animal models during a recent study.

As MS progresses, the symptoms manifest as attacks and episodes. Although treatment options are available intravenously, they have significant side effects.

Cyclotides are macrocyclic plant peptides that can be isolated from all the main plant families. This means that they can represent a large ranging group of natural substances.

Furthermore, it can be administered orally, compared with current MS treatments administered intravenously. The cyclotides act by suppressing interleukin-2, initiating the division of T cells that act as killer cells in human immune system response.

A study published in PNAS found that symptoms in the MS animal models were reduced when cyclotides were administered.

“As soon as functional neurological problems occur and an MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) scan identifies early pathological changes in the central nervous system, the drug can be given as a basic therapy,” said researchers Christian Gruber and Gernot Schabbauer of MedUni Vienna in a press release. “In an animal model for MS, symptoms were considerably reduced by the oral administration of cyclotides. It is therefore possible that we could extend the interval between episodes or possibly prevent an onset of the disease.”

This new discovery offers hope for the disease potentially being halted at an early stage, or at least delay its progression.

“The one-off oral administration of the active agent brought about a great improvement in symptoms. There were no further attacks of the disease.” Gruber said. “This could slow down the course of the disease in general.”

Currently, MedUni Vienna has teamed up with Freiburg University Hospital. Patent applications have been filed in several countries and licensed them out to the company Cyxone, which will carry out further development.

Together, researchers hope to develop an orally active drug that is both safe and effective for the treatment of MS. Additionally, a phase 1 clinical trial could start at the end of 2018.