Rewriting Life

Saved by the Snake?

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).

Uh oh–you've read all five of your free articles for this month.

Insider Premium

$179.95/yr US PRICE

More from Rewriting Life

Reprogramming our bodies to make us healthier.

Want more award-winning journalism? Subscribe and become an Insider.

  • Insider Premium {! insider.prices.premium !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Our award winning magazine, unlimited access to our story archive, special discounts to MIT Technology Review Events, and exclusive content.

    See details+

    What's Included

    Bimonthly home delivery and unlimited 24/7 access to MIT Technology Review’s website.

    The Download. Our daily newsletter of what's important in technology and innovation.

    Access to the Magazine archive. Over 24,000 articles going back to 1899 at your fingertips.

    Special Discounts to select partner offerings

    Discount to MIT Technology Review events

    Ad-free web experience

    First Look. Exclusive early access to stories.

    Insider Conversations. Join in and ask questions as our editors talk to innovators from around the world.

  • Insider Plus {! insider.prices.plus !}* Best Value

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Everything included in Insider Basic, plus ad-free web experience, select discounts to partner offerings and MIT Technology Review events

    See details+

    What's Included

    Bimonthly home delivery and unlimited 24/7 access to MIT Technology Review’s website.

    The Download. Our daily newsletter of what's important in technology and innovation.

    Access to the Magazine archive. Over 24,000 articles going back to 1899 at your fingertips.

    Special Discounts to select partner offerings

    Discount to MIT Technology Review events

    Ad-free web experience

  • Insider Basic {! insider.prices.basic !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Six issues of our award winning magazine and daily delivery of The Download, our newsletter of what’s important in technology and innovation.

    See details+

    What's Included

    Bimonthly home delivery and unlimited 24/7 access to MIT Technology Review’s website.

    The Download. Our daily newsletter of what's important in technology and innovation.

You've read of free articles this month.