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A strong immune system can help you fight off everything from coughs, colds and runny noses to infections caused by bacteria.
But if your immune system response goes overboard, it attacks your body as if it were the enemy.
When this happens, autoimmune problems can develop. And one of the worst of the worst is rheumatoid arthritis.
Sadly, because no one knows exactly why one person’s immune system works perfectly, while another’s sets out to destroy their joints bit by bit, treatments that work have been few and far between.
This is especially true if you’re looking for a treatment where the side effects aren’t worse than the condition itself.
Now however, there’s hope on the horizon with research from Osaka University revealing not only a protein complex responsible for promoting the progression of rheumatoid arthritis, but also a natural extract with the power to block that complex — and possibly rheumatoid itself.
Where rheumatoid starts
The protein complex the researchers found to be behind the painful march of rheumatoid is made up of two separate proteins, known COMMD3 and COMMD8.
“We had previously shown that the COMMD3/8 complex potentiates the humoral immune response, yet its role in autoimmune diseases remained unclear,” said study senior author, Kazuhiro Suzuki.
So the team created a mouse model that allowed the expression of one of the proteins — COMMD3 — to be switched off.
And the celebration began.
The researchers found that deleting COMMD3 caused the second protein, COMMD8, to degrade and the protein complex itself to completely disappear. And when the complex disappeared, the immune response driving autoimmunity disappeared too.
In fact, in a mouse model of rheumatoid arthritis, the researchers showed that blocking COMMD3 as soon as the mice exhibited symptoms stopped the progression of the disease.
From cause to potential cure
But they didn’t stop there…
“Once we had established the importance of the complex in autoimmunity, we set about identifying a compound that could interfere with the formation of the complex,” explained Suzuki.
And they found it in an extract from the root of a medicinal plant, known to have potent anti-inflammatory properties, commonly called the “Thunder God vine.”
“Our chemical screen identified celastrol as the most potent inhibitor of the COMMD3/8 complex,” said Suzuki.
The study showed that celastrol actually binds to COMMD3 and prevents the formation of the COMMD3/8 complex, halting an immune system gone haywire and blocking the progression of rheumatoid arthritis.
Because of this, the researchers believe that celastrol is a particularly exciting lead for developing treatments against rheumatoid arthritis and even other autoimmune diseases.
This means that hopefully, not too far in the future, autoimmune problems could be a thing of the past.
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A herbal compound to fight autoimmunity – EurekAlert!