Anti-Malaria Drug to Treat Autoimmune Diseases
The topic of this article came to mind recently when I met a woman who was recently diagnosed with a rare disease that stops her body from producing fluid for her eyes and mouth along with drying up other glands. I listened to her story with horror as she explained to me that she only had two years left.
She was on plenty of medicine for this rare disease but unfortunately, there was nothing that could prevent the disease from worsening. She mentioned being on a malaria drug to help with the symptoms of this autoimmune disease and to provide relief of inflammation.
This caught my attention even more since I had spent many years traveling to coffee growing regions in tropical south and Central America. During the beginning of my adventures, I was prescribed chloroquine for malaria.
Who is at risk for Malaria?
Malaria is an infectious mosquito disease passed to humans by biting. It is widespread in tropical and subtropical regions, including much of Sub-Sahara Africa, Central America, South America, Southern North America and Asia. Malaria is prevalent in these regions because of the significant amounts of rainfall and consistent high temperatures; warm moist conditions, along with stagnant waters in which their larvae mature, provide mosquitoes with the environment needed for continuous breeding. The effects of malaria are flu-like symptoms, sweating, vomiting, high fever, shaky, chills and diarrhea.
Who else can benefit from this Malaria research?
Chloroquine is a widely used anti-malaria drug that inhibits the growth of parasites. For decades, chloroquine and its derivative amodiaquine have also been used as anti-inflammation drugs to treat diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, though the exact mechanism of how chloroquine affects the immune system has remained unclear. It is not that the effects are being tested and researched more thoroughly as to how this anti parasitic drug can be helpful in treating autoimmune disease such as; arthritis, multiple sclerosis and even cancer.
Autoimmune diseases arise when the body’s immune system mistakes otherwise healthy cells, tissues, and organs for pathogens and attacks them. These diseases can afflict any part of the body, but one symptom common to most autoimmune diseases is that of inflammation.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) lists more than 80 common autoimmune diseases including asthma, Crohn’s disease, Guillain-Barré syndrome, multiple sclerosis, myasthenia gravis, psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis, and some types of cancers among many others.
Dr. H. Eric Xu, Head of the VARI Center for Structural Biology and Drug Discovery, and his colleagues showed that chloroquine represses inflammation through synergistic activation of glucocorticoid signaling. Glucocorticoids are a class of steroid hormones that bind to the glucocorticoid receptor present in almost every vertebrate cell. They are among the most potent and effective agents for treating inflammation and autoimmune diseases. Researchers now have a clear path forward for undertaking projects to develop glucocorticoid and lysosomal inhibitors, and to improve the efficacy and potency of chloroquine as a therapeutic agent.
About Van Andel Institute
Established by Jay and Betty Van Andel in 1996, Van Andel Institute (VAI) is an independent research and educational organization based in Grand Rapids, Mich., dedicated to preserving, enhancing and expanding the frontiers of medical science, and to achieving excellence in education by probing fundamental issues of education and the learning process. VARI, the research arm of VAI, is dedicated to probing the genetic, cellular and molecular origins of cancer, Parkinson and other diseases and working to translate those findings into effective therapies. This is accomplished through the work of over 200 researchers in 18 on-site laboratories and in collaborative partnerships that span the globe. VARI is affiliated with the Translational Genomics Research Institute, (TGen), of Phoenix, Arizona.