Drug could treat arthritis by stopping immune system from attacking joints
A drug that could ‘stop arthritis in its tracks’ is being tested in a British laboratory.
In ‘very exciting’ but early-stage tests, the drug prevented the inflammation responsible for the pain, swelling and stiffness of rheumatoid arthritis.
Much more work is needed but the research could lead to an effective and inexpensive way of treating the condition that affects 350,000 Britons.
An arthritic hand: This coloured X-ray shows joint damage caused by severe rheumatoid arthritis. As the cartilage is worn away, new bone grows as part of the repair process, causing stiffness and deformity of the fingers
The disease causes chronic pain and inflammation in affected joints, and is triggered when elements of the immune system attack the body.
White blood cells known as T-cells are integral to the process.
Study leader Dr Graeme O'Boyle, from the University of Newcastle, said of the research development:
'Imagine that the damaged joint is covered in flags which are signalling to the white blood cells.
'Traditional treatments have involved pulling down the flags one by one, but what we have done is use an agent which in effect 'blindfolds' the white blood cells.
'Therefore, they don't know which way to travel and so won't add to the damage.'
The research was funded by the charity Arthritis Research UK, and published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Using tests on a genetically engineered mouse with a human-like immune system, the team discovered that a compound called PS372424 blocked the ability of T-cells to invade joints.
A possible cure Professor Alan Silman, medical director of Arthritis Research UK, said the research was in its early stages but described it as 'very exciting'
Only the white blood cells implicated in rheumatoid arthritis are affected, meaning there is no wider suppressant effect on the body's immune system.
Professor Alan Silman, medical director of Arthritis Research UK, said: 'Although modern treatments have changed the outcome for many patients with rheumatoid arthritis, firstly not all patients respond to them and secondly, even in those patients who do respond in some way, we can't completely get rid of the inflammation that damages their joints.
'This research is very exciting, as although it is in its early stages, if it can be transferred to humans it could shut down the inflammation that causes rheumatoid arthritis.'
Work will now be conducted to improve the drug-like properties of PS372424 with a view to preparing it for clinical trials.