New Hope for Rheumatoid Arthritis
Reported November 12, 2008
(Ivanhoe Newswire) -- People with
rheumatoid arthritis are generally either lacking a gene needed to keep
their immune system from attacking their own body, or have a dysfunctional
form of the gene.
British researchers are working to reverse this process. In an animal study,
they were able to successfully inject a correct copy of the gene, known as
Foxp3, into animals where it was missing. “We have generated a modified form
of Foxp3 which can be introduced into immune cells using genetic engineering
techniques and then activated by a simple injection,” study author Dr.
Alexander Betz, from the Medical Research Council’s Laboratory of Molecular
Biology, was quoted as saying. “When administered to and activated in animal
models of arthritis, the modified cells inhibit or even reverse the disease
While excited about their discovery, Dr. Betz
and his colleagues emphasize much more work remains before the treatment can
be used in people. Not only must they develop a human form of the gene, they
also have to make sure it will not impact the remainder of the human immune
system, which is needed to fight off dangerous infections.
However, they are hopeful these obstacles can be overcome. “If Foxp3
functions as a key developmental switch in human immune cells, [the]
potential for a new avenue of therapy development that could transform
arthritis treatment is substantial,” notes Dr. Betz.
SOURCE: PLoS Biology, published online November 11, 2008