MS symptoms include fatigue and blurred vision. Istock

A drug derived from a traditional medicinal plant could be effectively used to stop the progression of Multiple sclerosis (MS) and, when taken orally, has the potential to greatly improve patients' quality of life, claim researchers working at an Australian University.

Today, treatment options are still limited for people who suffer from this auto-immune disease. Most medicine needs to be administrated by parenteral application and are not 100% efficient.

The new drug is derived from plant called Oldenlandia affinis. The scientists, from the University of Queensland (Australia), have isolated from the plant cyclic peptides Kalata B1, which have been found in the past to have a therapeutic properties.

With in-vitro experiments, they confirmed the peptides silenced the proliferation of T-cells, a subtype of lymphocytes which play a central role in the evolution of MS. The next step was showing that it also worked on animals.

Blocking the symptoms

The latest research, published in PNAS, investigates the effects of the drug in-vivo, using a mouse model. The Kalata B1 based drug, which was labelled "T20K", was given orally to affected mice.

The scientists subsequently noted an improvement of the animal's normal clinical symptoms. Notably, no significant secondary effects were observed.

"The T20K peptides exhibit extraordinary stability and chemical features that are ideally what you want in an oral drug candidate", senior author Dr Christian Gruber points out. "This is a really exciting discovery because it may offer a whole new quality of life for people with this debilitating disease."

The success in animal models could pave the way for clinical trials. Dr Grueber believe they could happen as early as 2018.