Dr George K Chandy, an alumnus of Christian Medical College (CMC) and presently a professor attached to the Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics at the School of Medicine, University of California, Irvine, USA, has stumbled upon a compound from the venom of sea animals that could be used to treat obesity and diabetes. A US-based company has already begun fine tuning the drug development process.
Chandy, who was here to take part in the three-day 11th Scientific Symposium on Endocrine Tumours, organised by CMC, in an exclusive interview to Express, said, the molecular gifts of toxic animals offered hope in the fight against a host of diseases. “Venom from many animals opened up new avenues of pharmacology, as the properties that make venom deadly also make it valuable,” he said.
In the 1990s, Chandy focused on the venom from the ‘sun anemone’ that contained peptides, which was found to be useful in treating autoimmune diseases. It was found that the compound targeted three compounds -- fat, cholesterol and blood sugar -- in one go. “The sun anemone venom also holds promise in treating diseases like multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis and lupus,” he added. The findings of the breakthrough study were published last month in the proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in the USA.
The study revealed a synthetic compound (ShK-186), derived from the sun anemone, selectively blocked the activity of a protein that promotes inflammation through the Kv1.3 potassium channel, which regulates cell membranes and a variety of cellular processes. The unique mechanism of ShK-186 is expected to have broad utilization across multiple therapeutic disciplines, such as autoimmune diseases and obesity.
How it Works
Chandy, who has 30 years experience in working with venom toxins, said, venom targets particular molecules; when it is these molecules that have to be controlled in order to threat a diseases, the venom becomes the best bet.
“Venom works fast and is highly specific. Its active components target particular molecules, fitting into them like keys into locks. Most medicines also work the same way,” he pointed out. Chandy said the compound worked by activating the body’s brown fat to reduce the white fat, present in the abdomen and liver.
The study also presented evidence that the drug candidate showed positive results in a phase 1 safety clinical trial. He said the drug could be out soon. “It is only a matter of time before it comes out,” he said.