Researchers at UC Davis, UC Irvine and other institutions have developed new drugs that successfully treated rheumatoid arthritis and prevented the onset of Type 1 diabetes in animals via a cellular structure long suspected of playing a key role in those diseases.
The new drugs, derived from the rue plant an herb used medicinally since the Middle Ages act on a specific opening, or ion channel, in the membranes of T cells. Heike Wulff, UC Davis assistant professor of medical pharmacology and toxicology and co-author of the study, originally identified the molecules from the rue plant used to develop the drugs.
In the process of developing the new drugs, the researchers confirmed that the ion channel targeted by the medications is responsible for a range of auto-immune diseases, including multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis and Type 1 diabetes. The study results appeared in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.