Turning nature’s defenses against human disease

The sea anemone produces a toxin that defends it from its natural predators. This toxin, ShK, can be engineered to bind selectively to human receptors that modulate the immune response. Modelling the interactin of the ShK with potassium channels reveals how the toxin can be modified to improved it binding affinity and selectivity. Selective inhibitors of these potassium channels may have utility in the treratment of auto-imune diseases including multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis and diabetes.