Scientists at Oregon State University are hunting for substitute chemicals for a toxic dioxin to fight diseases that are triggered by haywire immune systems attacking the body.
The dioxin, known as TCDD, has been shown to suppress the immune system in animals and prevent type 1 diabetes in mice. OSU researchers hypothesize that it could do the same in people. But they aren't considering it as a treatment because it has produced bad side effects in animals and can cause chloracne, a disfiguring skin disease in humans.
Instead, they're looking for safer alternatives that would function like TCDD, which is perhaps best-known for its presence in the jungle-decimating Agent Orange herbicide used during the Vietnam War.
If successful, the chemicals might be able to prevent and treat autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, psoriasis and type 1 diabetes.