9 Dec 2010

Starfish slime could help cure arthritis

10:45 pm on 9 December 2010

The humble starfish is attracting attention from an unlikely source.

Scientists at Kings College London believe it may contain a solution to inflammatory conditions such as arthritis, which causes misery to millions of people.

Existing treatments, including steroids, can often cause unwanted side- effects.

Lurking in the Scottish seas is an unlikely candidate for a medical breakthrough, but scientists believe the creature could hold the key to a new treatment for medical conditions from asthma to arthritis, the BBC reports.

The species they are interested in is the spiny starfish (Marthasterias glacialis), and in particular the slimy goo that covers its body.

While most man-made structures that are placed in the water rapidly get caked with a mixture of marine life, the coating on the starfish keeps its surface clear.

Researchers say non-stick chemicals in the slime also stop the sticky build-up in blood vessels that lies at the heart of inflammatory diseases.

The team is now creating their own versions of these chemicals in the laboratory, which they say could form the basis of new medicines.