Fire ants may one day help psoriasis sufferers.
Scientists at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta found that in mouse studies compounds derived from solenopsins — the toxic component of fire ant venom — eases skin thickening and inflammation associated with psoriasis.
The chronic autoimmune disorder affects 7.5 million Americans, including TV reality star Kim Kardashian. Current treatments include topical steroids. While current options are effective in soothing red, flaky skin, side effects include skin thinning and easy bruising.
For the study, researchers tested two solenopsins on mice with psoriasis. Solenopsins are chemically similar to ceramides — molecules found in skincare products to maintain the barrier function of skin.
Rodents were given one of the two skin creams for 28 days. A control group of mice were given no treatment. At the end of the test period, treated mice had 30% less skin thickening than controls. They also had 50% fewer immune cells infiltrating the skin and attacking itself, which occurs in psoriasis.
“We believe that solenopsin analogs are contributing to full restoration of the barrier function in the skin,” said lead author Jack Arbiser, professor of dermatology at Emory. “Emollients can soothe the skin in psoriasis, but they are not sufficient for restoration of the barrier.”
Further research is needed and the use on people is down the road. But scientists hopeful that their fire ant research could lead to future treatments and be used in combination with existing ones to fight psoriasis.
The study, done in collaboration with Case Western Reserve, is to be published in the journal Scientific Reports.