Sydney: A team of researchers has demonstrated that a new plant-derived drug can block the progression of multiple sclerosis.
Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a disease that affects the brain and spinal cord and is also a chronic incurable condition marked by attacks that bring gradual deterioration in the patient's health. It has affected nearly 2.5 million people worldwide.
The new drug -- named T20K -- was extracted from a traditional medicinal plant, the Oldenlandia affinis.
"This is a really exciting discovery because it may offer a whole new quality of life for people with this debilitating disease," said Christian Gruber, researcher at University of Queensland in Australia.
The findings demonstrated in an animal model showed that T20K stopped progression in the normal clinical symptoms of MS.
The new treatment arose from a synthesised plant peptide, a class of drugs known as cyclotides.
"Cyclotides are present in a range of common plants, and they show significant potential for the treatment of auto immune diseases," Gruber noted in the paper published in the journal PNAS.
The new drug is to be taken by mouth, in contrast to some current MS treatments where patients need to have frequent injections.
"The T20K peptides exhibit extraordinary stability and chemical features that are ideally what you want in an oral drug candidate," Gruber stated.
The breakthrough could be a step forward in preventing and treating MS and other autoimmune diseases, the researchers concluded.