Injection To Cure Arthritis Can Be Available Within 5 Years
Injection To Cure Arthritis Can Be Available Within 5 Years
August 14, 2008
The Daily Telegraph

A single injection that could cure rheumatoid arthritis could be available within five years.

The "hugely exciting" treatment, being developed by British scientists, works like a vaccine. Cells would be taken from the body, altered, and then injected back into the affected joint.

A team at Newcastle University will now test the vaccine on volunteers.

There are 350,000 people in Britain with rheumatoid arthritis, which is caused by the body's immune system attacking the joints. Oestoarthritis is caused by wear and tear.

Rheumatoid arthritis is difficult to treat because it is caused by a malfunctioning immune system, leading to joint inflammation.

Alan Silman, the medical director of the Arthritis Research Campaign, the charity that is funding the research, said: "This is an important potential cure. It is possible one injection could switch off the abnormal immune response.

"If it works it could reverse the disease and stop further episodes."

The Newcastle team will test the effectiveness of the vaccine in eight volunteers with rheumatoid arthritis at the Freeman Hospital in a pilot study, which could lead to larger trials.

The vaccine works by reprogramming the body's own immune cells.

Using chemicals, steroids, and Vitamin D, the team has devised a way to manipulate a patient's white blood cells so that they surpress, rather than activate, the immune system.

It is thought the cells will then act as a brake on the overreacting immune system and stop it attacking the patient's joints.

Although a similar technique has been used in cancer research this is the first time it has been adapted to rheumatoid arthritis.

John Isaacs, a professor of Clinical Rheumatology at Newcastle University's Musculoskeletal Research Group, who is leading the team, said that although the work was in a very early, experimental stage it was "hugely exciting."

"Based on previous laboratory research we would expect that this will specifically suppress or down-regulate the auto-immune response," he said.

Samples will be taken two weeks after the injection to establish whether it has induced the expected response.

The team also hope to discover if the vaccine is effective only in the joints that it is injected into, or whether the new cells spread throughout the body.

Mr. Silman said it would be unlikely that the vaccine could be offered in local hospitals because of the expertise necessary to manipulate the cells in the laboratory.

It raises fears that the vaccine would have to go through the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence's cost-effectiveness tests.

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