Medical

Vaccine-style treatment for rheumatoid arthritis retrains the immune system

Vaccine-style treatment for rh...
Research led by Professor Ranjeny Thomas has uncovered a promising new approach to preventing rheumatoid arthritis
Research led by Professor Ranjeny Thomas has uncovered a promising new approach to preventing rheumatoid arthritis
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Research led by Professor Ranjeny Thomas has uncovered a promising new approach to preventing rheumatoid arthritis
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Research led by Professor Ranjeny Thomas has uncovered a promising new approach to preventing rheumatoid arthritis
Thomas says the study's results are promising enough to continue development of more practical versions of the therapy, such as using nanoparticles as a delivery mechanism
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Thomas says the study's results are promising enough to continue development of more practical versions of the therapy, such as using nanoparticles as a delivery mechanism

According to the American College of Rheumatology, more than one million Americans suffer from rheumatoid arthritis. The disease gives rise to swelling and pain by causing the immune system to malfunction and attack healthy tissue. No cure is available, though aggressive and varied drug treatments can curb its effects. Now, success in an early clinical trial suggests that a new form of therapy could stop these symptoms taking hold by retraining the patient's immune system to ignore a peptide it normally identifies as a foreign foe.

Normally, our immune cells trawl through our blood and tissue, sorting foreign matter from healthy tissue to fight off signs of infection. Rheumatoid arthritis takes effect when these immune cells incorrectly identify healthy cells as foreign and attack them instead.

Rather than looking at ways to treat the effects once this chain of events has already played out, researchers from Australia's University of Queensland looked to zero in on the root cause. Led by Professor Ranjeny Thomas, the team developed a vaccine-style therapeutic approach, or immunotherapy, for people with the most common form of rheumatoid arthritis, known as CCP-positive.

The treatment is designed to re-educate the body's immune system to leave certain naturally occurring peptides alone, therefore preventing inflammation. To accomplish this, immune cells known as dendritic cells are extracted from the body and mixed with an anti-inflammatory drug and a natural peptide found in arthritic joints, before being injected back into the body once again.

"The dendritic cells are educators of the immune system," Thomas explains to Gizmag. "They show peptides to the immune system and the T lymphocytes (student soldiers) then get the message to either attack or do a peace-keeping mission for that peptide. When we deliver peptide and an anti-inflammatory drug to a dendritic cell, it teaches the T lymphocytes to keep the peace in that tissue, thus keeping it healthy."

In its current state, the treatment is too expensive and time-consuming to see it adopted for widespread use. But Thomas says the study's results, which indicate a single injection of the immune-modified dendritic cells can help suppress the effects of rheumatoid arthritis, are promising enough to continue development of more practical versions of the therapy, such as using nanoparticles as a delivery mechanism.

Thomas says the study's results are promising enough to continue development of more practical versions of the therapy, such as using nanoparticles as a delivery mechanism
Thomas says the study's results are promising enough to continue development of more practical versions of the therapy, such as using nanoparticles as a delivery mechanism

"We can use a nanoparticle to package the drug and the peptide," she says. "After injection, the nanoparticle finds the dendritic cells and delivers the payload to them in the body. So far this has been tested in animal models but we plan to test in RA (rheumatoid arthritis) patients in 2016."

If the approach is proven successful for sufferers of rheumatoid arthritis, it could potentially be used to treat other autoimmune diseases, such as Type 1 diabetes and and multiple sclerosis.

The research findings were published in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

You can hear from Thomas in the video below.

Source: University of Queensland

Professor Ranjeny Thomas

6 comments
Douglas Bennett Rogers
Rebuilding gut flora seems to help a lot.
JC
To say that our "immune system can go crazy and attack our own body" is as stupid as one can get. Our body is highly intelligent and knows exactly what it is doing. Every action taken by the body is purposeful and accurate. There is a cause for arthritis and this must be addressed. All other approaches will be doomed to fail, as ALL allopathic treatments are failing. The real cause is the toxin that has entered our body through our food and environment. Eliminate the toxins will naturally stop all forms of arthritis. Look into Gerson Therapy on how to detox the body.
Ralf Biernacki
Is that "innocuous" peptide that the immune system insists on attacking just an accident? If so, why is it consistently the same peptide in all rheumatoid arthritis cases? Is the peptide of human origin (is there a human gene that codes for it), or is it in fact the marker of an infectious agent? Where does the peptide come from, and is the immune system really wrong in reacting to it? I don't really believe in autoimmune diseases. What I do believe, is that there is something there that escapes medical detection, probably because it cannot be cultured in vitro. The immune system _does_ detect it and reacts to it---sometimes overreacts to it. But it is there.
Adrien
there's the bystander theory, where some illness can trigger the immune system because a sequence in the illness matches a sequence in a body cell that the immune system then starts to target. Or maybe we just play with our immune system too much.
Dave Andrews
Wow. Just... wow. I hope this proves successful and then is translated into treatments for other immune disorders. As a sufferer of Guillian Barre, Ankylosing Spondilitis, Iritis and several other immune system disorders, I would obviously very much like to see this succeed and grow.
Stewart Mitchell
the immune system is attacking a vaccine infection.