Image of the Day: Scorpion Venom for Arthritis

A mouse model of rheumatoid arthritis reveals that a tiny protein in scorpion venom can deliver steroids to affected joints.

Amy Schleunes
Amy Schleunes
Mar 17, 2020
Therapeutic, scorpion venom–derived peptides accumulate in mouse knee joint cartilage. The white box in the second column is imaged at 20x in the third column and shows the peptides in red.
M.L. Cook-Sangar et al., Science Translational Medicine (2020)

Scorpion venom peptides that are coupled with a steroid and administered systemically accumulate within the cartilage of mice joints and alleviate inflammation, according to a study published on March 4 in Science Translational Medicine. Because the peptide delivery system avoids the systemic toxicity associated with non-targeted steroid treatment, the authors report, it shows promise for future arthritis therapies. 

“It's a pretty simple idea to take a mini-protein that naturally goes to cartilage and attach something to it so that you get targeted delivery of the drug, but it was challenging to accomplish,” says coauthor Emily Girard of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in a press release. “We had to learn and adapt the behavior of the mini-protein, the chemical linker and the steroid payload to make a product that would go to cartilage, stay as long as we needed it to, release the drug at the right rate, and have a local but not systemic effect. There is more development to be done, but I hope that this work results in a therapeutic that will help a lot of people.”

M.L. Cook Sangar et al., “A potent peptide-steroid conjugate accumulates in cartilage and reverses arthritis without evidence of systemic corticosteroid exposure,” Science Translational Medicine, doi:10.1126/scitranslmed.aay1041, 2020.

Amy Schleunes is an intern at The Scientist. Email her at aschleunes@the-scientist.com.