Cobra venom is deadly stuff (about 20,000 fatalities a year globally), but it may also be a healer. A new drug derived from the venom has shown promise against multiple sclerosis (MS) and sister diseases affecting the nervous and immune systems. PhyloMed, a pharmaceutical company in Plantation, Fla., has synthesized a harmless peptide (small protein) from constituents of the snake’s venom, that acts as a kind of decoy. Attacks by immune system cells on myelin-the fatty material surrounding nerve fibers-disrupt signals between nerve cells to create characteristic MS lesions and paralysis. Neurotoxins from cobra venom paralyze nerve cells in much the same way. By binding to nerve cell receptors as a modified peptide instead of as a toxin, the venom-derived drug, called Immunokine, morphs into a therapeutic agent that can reverse MS’s debilitating effects. Clinical trials slated for this summer will target MS and adrenomyeloneuropathy (a progressive genetic disorder of the adrenal gland that results in nervous system deterioration).
10 Breakthrough Technologies 2024
Every year, we look for promising technologies poised to have a real impact on the world. Here are the advances that we think matter most right now.
Scientists are finding signals of long covid in blood. They could lead to new treatments.
Faults in a certain part of the immune system might be at the root of some long covid cases, new research suggests.
AI for everything: 10 Breakthrough Technologies 2024
Generative AI tools like ChatGPT reached mass adoption in record time, and reset the course of an entire industry.
What’s next for AI in 2024
Our writers look at the four hot trends to watch out for this year
Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review
Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.