Researchers discovered a new form of medicine for arthritis produced from the arthritis patients’ own body. The study shows that microvesicles from the bone marrow can penetrate the once thought to be “impenetrable” cartilage cells and possibly treat cartilage erosion.
There are over 100 types of arthritis affecting around 52.5 million adults and 294,000 children in the U.S. In United Kingdom, 1 in 4 children have persistent problems with arthritis. Data also shows that around 8.75 million people living in the UK have seen their health care providers to seek treatment for osteoarthritis and there are also new cases of different types of arthritis every year.
Sadly there is no cure for arthritis at this present time. The treatment for arthritis is only focused on ways to reduce pain and swelling and to slow down joint damage. But, most of the drugs cannot completely reverse the damage that has been done to the affected joints. Why is this so?
The ability of the treatment providers to deliver therapies to the affected joints is limited because the arthritic cartilage has been considered impenetrable. It is difficult for cells and other tiny particles, to pass through the cartilage- a stiff, connective tissue in between the joint and the bones. Cartilage doesn’t have a blood supply.
Common Treatment for Arthritis
Regardless of whether you’re suffering from osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis or gout, discomfort and stiffness interferes with your daily life. Doctors usually recommend a whole range of medications to relieve your arthritis pain and protect your joints including nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). They reduce pain and discomfort by inhibiting prostaglandins-the chemicals in your body that trigger inflammation, pain and fever. However, NSAIDs can increase the risk for stroke, heart attack, stroke and other cardiovascular conditions.
Biologics, a new disease-modifying drug also help deal with the symptoms of arthritis, but they usually come with a hefty price tag, as high as $ $20,000 annually, Corticosteroids also offer provide speedy relief from pain and inflammation but these immune-suppressing drugs can increase the risk of osteoporosis, cataracts and infection. For patient suffering from chronic arthritis pain, doctor may recommend anti-depressants. Drugs like these must be used under the doctor’s supervision because they can result to drug dependence.
But then, there is a new study that offers hope for an effective and lasting relief.
Microvesicles – a cure in itself and a drug transporter to the arthritic cartilage
The newest discovery made by Prof. Mauro Perretti and his team, from the William Harvey Research Institute at the University of London reveals that microvesicles can penetrate the cartilage.
Microvesicles are tiny fragments of plasma membrane which are 1 micrometer or less in diameter. They transport proteins, messenger RNA and micro-RNA to target cells. Microvesicles also play an important role in the intercellular communication.
The research shows that neutrophils-the highly motile but short-lived white blood cells formed from stem cells inside the bone marrow release microvesicles that can enter the patient’s cartilage.
There are two things that microvesicles can do that can change the way arthritis treatment work. First, microvesicles can pass through the cartilage. Second, they protect the cartilage with arthritis. The moment microvesicles get inside they activate the body’s repair mechanisms to promote cartilage regeneration inside the joint. The microvesicles contain Annexin-A1, an anti-inflammatory protein that prevents the death of cartilage cells and stimulates these cells to regenerate the tissue by producing more cells. If microvesicles are fortified with therapeutic agents like Omega-3, the tissue repair may work faster.
The researchers concluded that the microvesicles can be a new therapeutic strategy for individuals not only with arthritis but also those who are suffering from any type of cartilage damage. The doctors can also introduce medicine or supplements to speed up the healing process by fortifying the microvesicles with therapeutic agents. The procedure may only require the patients to stay in the hospital for a day.
Prof. Perretti and his team used mice models to study the effects of the microvesicles on the cells of the human cartilage. They genetically modified the mice so that they will have lesser vesicle production. The mice which developed inflammatory arthritis showed cartilage damage. But, the cartilage degradation decreased when they were treated with microvesicles. ‘FPR2/ALX’, a cellular receptor found in the vesicles also protected the cartilage tissue.
The study was funded by Wellcome Trust, Nuffield Foundation and Arthritis Research UK.
Dr. Stephen Simpson, the medical director of research says that microvesicles are effective transport systems of the body that will not only be able to get inside the cartilage but carry the therapeutic agents to the cartilage cells as well. According to him, this new discovery can possibly reduce joint damage, lessen the pain and disability and possibly improve the quality of life of those people are suffering from arthritis in the country.
The authors of the study say that while these are only the initial results and further studies in humans are still needed, the fact that microvesicles can pass through the cartilage is a good start. This novel discovery about microvesicles may open the gateway for better therapeutic approach of treating arthritic joints and other cartilage conditions resulting from various causes.