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Could Fire Ants Be Stockpiling the Next Psoriasis Treatment?

September 12, 2017 | Contact Author | By: Rachel Grabenhofer
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Keywords: Emory University | fire ant venom | ceramides | psoriasis | solenopsin | analogs | barrier restoration | repair

Abstract: Fire ants often are portrayed as swarming the nemesis in an action film, bringing forth a warranted demise. While their choreographed attack may leave your skin crawling, new research suggests their venom may, in fact, hold a key to treating psoriasis and its itchy, irritated traits.

New research from the Emory University School of Medicine suggests a compound in fire ant venom may hold a clue to treat psoriasis—an auto-immune skin disease characterized by thickened, red and itchy patches. According to a report by New Atlas, the compound of interest in the venom is solenopsin, and it resembles ceramides.

Ceramides are major components of the stratum corneum whose levels and mix vary in healthy or diseased skin. And according to Jack Arbiser, Ph.D., M.D., professor of dermatology at Emory, under certain conditions, ceramides are converted into an inflammatory molecule called sphingosine-1-phosphate (S1P).

He and other researchers from Case Western University therefore sought to develop solenopsin analogs that function similarly to ceramides but do not degrade into S1P. Their work was recently published in Nature. 

Acccording to the article abstract, the analogs biochemically acted as ceramides when applied via a topical skin cream, normalizing cutaneous disorders in a mouse model. They decreased T-cell infiltration, interleukin (IL)-22 transcription, reversed the up-regulation of calprotectin and Toll-like receptor (TLR) 4, and stimulated interleukin (IL)-12 production. These activities suggested barrier restoration and repair.