Researchers at the Butantan Institute in São Paulo, Brazil, have made an exciting discovery regarding a molecule found in the venom of the Thalassophryne nattereri, a venomous toadfish. In a recent study published in the journal Cells, scientists found that this molecule has the ability to control lung inflammation, making it a promising candidate for the development of a more effective asthma drug.
The Thalassophryne nattereri is a small fish that resides in shallow coastal waters in North and Northeast Brazil. It possesses venomous spines or stingers connected to venom glands, which act as a defense mechanism against predators. When the fish feels threatened and the spine penetrates its victim, venom is released, causing intense pain, swelling, and potentially necrosis.
The research team initially began studying the venom of the T. nattereri in 1996 with the goal of analyzing its toxins to develop treatments for injuries caused by accidents involving the fish. To their surprise, they discovered a novel peptide molecule with anti-inflammatory properties. This small molecule, which had not been previously identified, showed promising effects during laboratory studies, prompting further investigation.
In the study, mice treated with the T. nattereri peptide (TnP) demonstrated reduced airway hyperreactivity and lung remodeling. The molecule acted both systemically on secondary lymphoid organs and locally on the lungs, inhibiting the production of cytokines Th2 and Th17. Additionally, it prevented the hyperplasia of mucus-producing cells and reduced the thickening and deposition of sub-epithelial collagen. These findings suggest that TnP could be a potential therapeutic option for treating airway remodeling associated with inflammatory diseases such as asthma.
Mônica Lopes-Ferreira, a biologist at the Center for Research on Toxins, Immune Response, and Cell Signaling (CeTICS), expressed the significance of the discovery. She explained that many diseases involve inflammation, and the choice of asthma as a testing ground for TnP in animal models proved its safety and efficacy in improving lung inflammation. Lopes-Ferreira emphasized the importance of protecting this Brazilian discovery by filing for a patent. The researchers intend to continue their investigations and explore the potential of TnP in treating other diseases. They also hope to collaborate with a pharmaceutical company interested in investing in TnP to facilitate the development of a medical drug.
It is worth noting that a study conducted under the auspices of CeTICS in October 2016 had previously identified another molecule in T. nattereri with potential actions against sclerosis. This study’s findings were published in the journal Toxicon.