Medical

Laser light used in targeted treatment of arthritis

Laser light used in targeted t...
A demonstration of the low-power laser utilized in the study
A demonstration of the low-power laser utilized in the study
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A demonstration of the low-power laser utilized in the study
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A demonstration of the low-power laser utilized in the study

While there are drugs that help reduce the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis in the joints, those medications can have unpleasant side effects in other parts of the body. An experimental new light-based system, however, is being designed to change that.

One of the problems with existing rheumatoid arthritis drugs lies in the fact that after they've been ingested or injected, they're distributed throughout (and are active within) the entire body. This means that if they're taken in the quantities needed to reduce inflammation of the joints, they may produce side effects such as stomach aches or insomnia.

If they could only become active when they were at the joints, then much smaller doses would be required, resulting in fewer side effects. That's where the new system comes in.

Developed by scientists at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, it involves attaching an existing drug to specially-engineered vitamin B12 molecules. Those molecules are then loaded into red blood cells, which get injected into the bloodstream.

As long as those cells aren't subsequently exposed to long-wavelength tissue-penetrating laser light, the drug remains trapped and inactive within them for up to two hours. If a laser is held to the skin at an arthritic joint, however, even low levels of its light within that joint trigger the nearby B12 molecules to release their drug payload from within the red blood cells. As a result, the medication only kicks in once it's at the target joint.

In lab tests, the technology was successfully used to deliver the arthritis drug dexamethasone to the arthritic paws of mice. When compared to simply injecting pure dexamethasone straight into the bloodstream, the laser-activated system required a three-fold lower dose to achieve the same therapeutic effect.

"We hope that our drug delivery platform will better control drug delivery and decrease the amount of systemic exposure and off-target effects," says team member and doctoral candidate Emilia Zywot. "We envision that it will be useful for any drug that can be synthetically attached to our light-responsive system, making it amenable to applications beyond arthritis."

The abstract for a paper on the research was recently published in The FASEB Journal.

Source: Experimental Biology via EurekAlert

5 comments
guzmanchinky
Ok that's a cool idea... I have moderate arthritis sometimes, maybe this will help me later...
los_kiosk
I'm glad to hear about this. My mice often suffer from arthritis in their paws.
Oh wait, it's too late, the cat got them :-(
Stephen Lee Phillips
Interesting, novel approach... however, what is the longevity of such treatments (that would require medical practitioner appointments, as opposed to self-administered products for relief)?
JDC1
Interesting to combine it with drug therapy. Veterinarians have been using Infrared Lasers to treat lame animals for years. I learned that from my daughter. Also Chiropractors use them on humans. I bought my own laser set up a few years ago and it has helped my knee arthritis greatly.

You may see them marketed as "Cool laser therapy".
Kpar
JDC1, you are quite correct. A friend of mine brought his wonderful old Golden Retriever to put down as he could no longer stand or walk. The vet suggested the laser treatment, instead, and it worked!

Ely (the dog) lasted another three years before age finally caught up with him, but he was comfortable in the meantime.

For humans, the Willow Curve was marketed- a much lower power IR laser than the ones used at vets. I don't know how effective it is/was, but the idea of using B-12 in conjunction certainly is interesting.