Progress In Arthritis Treatment

Credit: Wellcome Images

Arthritis is a crippling and painful condition caused by joint inflammation. Current treatment is often inadequate, but a promising new strategy has now been developed. 

A huge challenge in treating arthritis is actually getting a drug to the target cartilage in the joint. Arthritic cartilage was considered largely impenetrable and therefore extremely difficult to treat. If there was a way to enter the cartilage and deliver therapeutics, treatment could be much more effective. 

Finding a way in

Research at Queen Mary University of London has established that small structures called micro-vesicles released by cells are in fact able to enter arthritic cartilage. Micro-vesicles are tiny structures smaller than a cell, and are essentially a membrane bound package filled with fluid and various molecules. They are frequently used by cells to deliver material to another. 

"Cartilage has long been thought to be impenetrable to cells and other small structures, leading to strong limitations in our abilities to deliver therapies for arthritis. To our surprise, we've now discovered that vesicles released from white blood cells can 'travel' into the cartilage and deliver their cargo, and that they also have a protective effect on cartilage affected by arthritis"

The researchers found that engineered mice that produced fewer micro-vesicles showed more extensive cartilage damage, but increasing levels of them could slow the decline. They also found one receptor FPR2/ALX was associated with protecting cartilage from degradation, and could be another therapeutic target in the future. 

"Our study indicates that these vesicles could be a novel form of therapeutic strategy for patients suffering from cartilage damage due to a range of diseases, including osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and trauma. Treating patients with their own vesicles may only require a day in hospital, and the vesicles could even be 'fortified' with other therapeutic agents, for example, omega-3 fatty acids or other small molecules"

Read more at MedicalXpress