The Legal Examiner Mark The Legal Examiner Mark The Legal Examiner Mark search twitter facebook feed linkedin instagram google-plus avvo phone envelope checkmark mail-reply spinner error close
Skip to main content

New Lead for Autoimmune Disease Posted by SR in News, tags: , ,

Do you like Hydrangeas?

dichroa febrifuga

They are beautiful flowering plants and now medical research has discovered a natural product in the Hydrangea, halofuginone, that may help patients with autoimmune diseases like multiple sclerosis, diabetes and many cancers.

To treat autoimmune diseases like MS you must stop tissue damage without what is known as general immunosuppression. US researchers think that an effective way to accomplish those competing goals is to selectively reduce what is called the TH17 response using halofuginone from the Hydrangea.


The June 5th edition of the journal Science reports that halofuginone specifically inhibits the development of TH17 cells which are believed to play a key role in tissue injury in autoimmune diseases such as inflammatory bowel disease, multiple sclerosis, type 1 diabetes, eczema and psoriasis. As reported in Drug Discovery this natural prod

When halofuginone was added to cultures of naïve mouse CD4+ T-cells containing cytokines that would normally induce differentiation into TH17 cells, the number of TH17 cells – but not TH1, TH2 or T regulatory cells – was substantially reduced. In cultured human CD4+ T-cells, halofuginone also selectively suppressed levels of IL-17, the main cytokine produced by TH17 cells. In mice with experimental autoimmune encephalitis (EAE), an artificially-induced immune disease resembling multiple sclerosis and marked by infiltration of TH17 cells into the central nervous system, treatment with low doses of halofuginone significantly reduced both the development of EAE and its severity.

To understand how halofuginone works, the researchers looked at alterations in gene expression in response to drug treatment and found that a cytoprotective signalling pathway, the amino acid starvation response (AAR), was activated. Inhibition of TH17 differentiation by halofuginone could be overcome by the addition of excess amino acids and was mimicked by AAR activation in response to selective amino acid depletion.

As reported in Forbes, Herb May Offer Hope for Autoimmune Diseases

"This is really the first description of a small molecule that interferes with autoimmune pathology but is not a general immune suppressant," said the study’s lead study author, Mark Sundrud, from the cellular and molecular medicine program and the Immune Disease Institute at Children’s Hospital Boston.

Autoimmune diseases occur when the immune system mistakenly attacks and destroys healthy tissues and organs.

The disorders, which include multiple sclerosis, lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, are difficult to treat because drugs that can suppress inflammatory attacks by the immune system on body tissues often have the side effect of suppressing the functioning of the immune as well.

Halofuginone is a synthetic analogue of febrifugine, the active principal of the Chinese herb, chang shan (Dichroa febrifuga), which has been used to treat fever and malaria for more than 2000 years. Febrifugine itself causes severe emesis and gastrointestinal irritation and, in the 1960s, a number of analogues – including halofuginone – were synthesized by U.S. Army scientists looking for novel antimalarials. Halofuginone also inhibits synthesis of collagenase and collagen type 1 and underwent clinical trials for the treatment of scleroderma, a chronic, autoimmune condition of the connective tissue. In animal husbandry, halofuginone (as Stenerol®) is used prophylactically to control coccidial infection in poultry flocks.


Comments are closed.

Of Interest