Botulism Toxins May Be Able to Treat RA and Other Conditions

Botulism toxins, already used to treat some nerve disorders as well as wrinkles in the form of Botox, can be re-engineered to potentially treat inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, asthma, and psoriasis, a new study finds.

Botulism toxins, already used to treat some nerve disorders as well as wrinkles in the form of Botox, can be re-engineered to potentially treat inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, asthma, and psoriasis, finds a study published last month in the journal Biochemistry.

Small doses of the Clostridium botulinum bacterium can be used to block the release of neurotransmitters that spread messages among nerve cells, thus blocking signals that cause pain, muscle spasms, and other disease symptoms. The bacterium works by breaking down a protein in nerve cells involved in the release of neurotransmitters. The same protein is found in other cells as well, though they do not have the necessary receptors to allow the botulinum toxins to enter and operate.

The researchers got around this problem by attaching a molecule to the botulinum toxins that would allow them to attach to receptors on non-nerve cells. They found that their re-engineered botulinum toxins could be made to work on immune cells, where they blocked the release of a protein called tumor necrosis factor-α that has been linked to inflammation, the underlying cause of a range of diseases. Therapy using such re-engineered botulinum toxins could potentially treat a range of chronic inflammatory diseases as well as other conditions.