Inflammatory arthritis is one of the most dangerous and widespread diseases. New studies give an insight how biological processes can lead to the painful condition. The ground-breaking research was conducted by the Massachusetts General Hospital and could pave the way for new methods of treatment.
Dr. Robert Emery, one of the major researchers of the study, is very optimistic about the outcome of the hard work: “We are the major research centre in the world and test people’s antibodies in their family history, if they don’t have the disease but the right genetics we do a lot of testing in their liver and other inner organs, which helps us to get an even deeper insight into this complicated topic.”
Inflammatory arthritis occurs when immune cells from the blood are chemically drawn into the joint, attacking healthy tissue to cause pain and inflammation. When the disease reaches a symptomatic stage, it is often difficult to determine the initial steps that set off the process. By understanding the biological process, which leads to inflammatory arthritis, therapies can be designed that interrupt the process of the painful disease: “We have pioneered the treatment. We try to get patients off therapy as quickly as possible because it is very likely that the therapy cures them”, says Dr. Emery.
It was revealed that the presence of immune complexes within the joint space leads to the production of a molecule called C5a, which is then displayed on the inner walls of adjacent blood vessels and causes immune cells called neutrophils to pass into the joint, setting off the process of inflammation. The study, published in the medical journal Science Immunology, used multiphoton intravital microscopy – an imaging technology that allows immune cell movements to be tracked in real time – to follow the development of arthritis in lab mice with rheumatoid arthritis, in order to better understand how this works.
The team of scientists is now looking to carry out further research to gain a better view of inflammatory arthritis. The control of immune cell entry into the joint represents a major point at which new therapies could be developed to reduce the symptoms of inflammatory arthritis. As Dr. Emery underlines Inflammatory arthritis “is an autoimmune disease that attacks what it means to live. We fund research to find better treatments and gain more insight into this painful condition, allowing effective treatment to begin much earlier than before. This is the focus of our flagship Arthritis Research UK Rheumatoid Arthritis Pathogenesis Centre of Excellence, where we have invested £2.5 million into understanding the causes of rheumatoid arthritis.” Understanding the biological functions involved in triggering inflammatory arthritis could prove instrumental in future efforts to design therapies that interrupt this process by shutting down crucial steps.
PHOTO Stella Taxidi