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Fighting Fire with Fire

The Big Idea

By Emily Sullivan 18C

2 red antsMany of us are familiar with the quick, painful sting of the tiny red fire ant.

But a recent study has shown that there might be a way to put that venom to good use.

Compounds derived from fire ant venom can reduce skin thickening and inflammation in a mouse model of psoriasis, Emory and Case Western Reserve scientists have shown.

These findings could lead to new treatments for psoriasis, a common autoimmune skin disease, by restoring the skin’s barrier function. “Emollients can soothe the skin in psoriasis, but they are not sufficient for restoration of the barrier,” says lead author Jack Arbiser, professor of dermatology at Emory.

Topical steroids are frequently used for mild to moderate psoriasis, but they have side effects such as skin thinning and easy bruising. Venom-derived compounds, Arbiser says, could be used in combination with existing approaches.

Related Story

"Fire ant venom may lead to skin treatments" (Sept. 26, 2017)

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