Stem cell therapy rheumatoid osteoarthritis

Hope offered by stem cell treatment

The possibility of a stem cell more info based drug to treat rheumatoid arthritis (RA) has moved closer after a new medication has done well in a phase II trial.

Stem cell treatment has been talked about for a long time and now an Australian company, Mesoblast, has developed a potential treatment involving stem cells to give to people with RA.  Patients who have not responded well to anti-TNF treatment would be given the stem cell therapy intravenously.

Therapeutic benefits of up to 9 months were felt by the people on the trial carried out on 48 patients. Further studies will need to be carried out in a phase III trial but this type of treatment, if successful, will be beneficial for many people, for example those who do not respond well on anti-TNFs. Initial results suggest that unlike other drugs used to treat RA, these have little toxicity or side effects.

The treatment uses cells derived from adult stem cells, known as mesenchymal precursor cells (MCPs). They do not provoke a negative reaction in the body’s immune system when introduced to the body. They change the way in which the immune system works in a person with RA.

A statement from Mesoblast said that:

“The way the cells work is, they have receptors on their surface that are activated by every major cytokine (substances secreted by certain cells of the immune system) that is important in progressive RA. Those cytokines drive the disease and also bind to receptors on our cells. When they bind to our cells they activate the cells to release other factors that switch off the very cells that made those cytokines.”

Major research is being carried out in the area of stem cell therapy to treat immune, autoimmune and inflammatory diseases and hopefully new treatments based on this type of research will prove fruitful. However, stem cell therapy is still in its early days and its potential as a treatment for RA is a long way off.

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