Rats given kalitoxin, from scorpion venom, enjoyed 84 percent less jawbone loss than those that didn’t get the injections. “We are very excited because this is the first demonstration that this type of compound may be useful in treating periodontal disease,” says Martin Taubman, Harvard professor of oral and developmental biology who chairs the Department of Immunology at the Forsyth Institute. “We hope that our findings will lead to success in alleviating the bone-ravaging effects of many other diseases.” Good candidates include rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. According to researcher Paloma Valverde, who had the original idea for the experiment, kalitoxin blocks Kv1.3, a protein that plays a major role in inflammation. When Kv1.3 is blocked, it decreases the activity of another protein that plays a key role in stimulating bone-eating cells known as osteoclasts. “This is the first study we know of to show that such a blocker can decrease alveolar (jaw) bone loss,” Valverde notes. “Furthermore, we observed no toxic side effects. Therefore, we now have a novel and apparently safe strategy to ameliorate bone destruction associated with periodontal disease.” Before experiments with humans begin, however, there will need to be toxicology tests. The rats came out fine, but the venom ingredient must be tested for safety in people.