UK closer to one-jab cure of rheumatoid arthritis

August 14th, 2008 - 10:41 am ICT by IANS  

London, Aug 14 (IANS) A single injection cure for rheumatoid arthritis may be possible in the next five years, British scientists say. The cost? £25,000. The treatment is simple: Cells would be taken from the body, altered, and injected back into the affected joint. As the injection ensures permanent cure, it is worth the expense, it is argued.

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

Rheumatoid arthritis is difficult to treat because it is caused by a malfunctioning immune system, causing inflammation in the wrong places. It is unlike oestoarthritis which is more like wear and tear of the joints.

Prof Alan Silman, medical director of the charity Arthritis Research Campaign which funded the research, says: “This is an important potential cure. It is possible one injection could switch off the abnormal immune response.

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 they surpress, rather than activate, the immune system. It is thought the cells will then act as a brake on the over-reacting immune system and stop it attacking its own 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, Professor of Clinical Rheumatology at Newcastle University’s Musculoskeletal Research Group, who is leading the team, says that although the work was in a very early, experimental stage it was “hugely exciting”.

Prof Silman says the treatment may prove expensive as each patient would have to have their own cells taken and manipulated rather than a drug which can be made in bulk and prescribed to all people with a condition.

It would be unlikely that the vaccine could be offered in normal local hospitals because of the expertise necessary to manipulate the cells in the laboratory, he is quoted in The Telegraph.

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