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Centipedes used in traditional Chinese medicine offer leads for kidney treatment

Date: 3.5.2024 

A venomous, 8-inch centipede may be the stuff of nightmares, but it could save the life of those affected by kidney disease.

Kredit: Wikimedia Commons, Yasunori Koide, CC BY-SA 4.0.Researchers report in the Journal of Natural Products that the many-legged critter – used in traditional Chinese medicine – contains alkaloids that in cell cultures reduced inflammation and renal fibrosis, which both contribute to kidney disease.

Some 1,500 species of animals are used in traditional Chinese medicine, but little is known about many of the secondary metabolites their bodies produce for specialized functions such as immobilizing prey.

The few compounds that have been studied, such as toad venom for cancer treatment, have proved to be fruitful leads for drug development.

So, Yong-Xian Cheng and colleagues decided to examine the secondary metabolites produced by the Chinese red-headed centipede (Scolopendra subspinipes mutilans).

The venomous centipede has been used for thousands of years in treatments for conditions including epilepsy, tuberculosis, burns and cardiovascular disease.

In cell cultures, some of the alkaloids showed anti-inflammatory behavior, while a portion also reduced renal fibrosis. This buildup of connective tissue is associated with chronic kidney disease and is stimulated by inflammation.

Image source: Wikimedia Commons, Yasunori Koide, CC BY-SA 4.0.




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