Did Swiss Scientists Find a Cure for Rheumatoid Arthritis?

Doctor checking finger joints for rheumatoid arthritisWe’ve discussed some fairly interesting breakthroughs in the field of rheumatology on this blog, but this latest story may be the biggest one yet. Scientists from ETH Zurich, Switzerland confirm that an active compound was successful in curing mice of rheumatoid arthritis (RA). The unprecedented success of this research means human trials could be started as early as next year.

This biotechnologically active compound includes interleukin 4 (IL-4), a immunological molecule, and the corresponding antibody. After the compound is administered, the antibody is drawn to a specific protein that exists within the inflamed tissue (bringing the IL-4 along with it). Researchers already knew from previous studies how effective IL-4 could be in preventing permanent RA damage. The active compound adds a whole new level of precision.

“As a result of combination with the antibody, IL-4 reaches the site of the disease when the fusion molecule is injected into the body,” explains Teresa Hemmerle, one of the primary investigators for this study. “It allows us to concentrate the active substance at the site of the disease. The concentration in the rest of the body is minimal, which reduces side-effects.”

What Treatments are Currently Available for RA?

Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic autoimmune disease which is diagnosed based on the symptoms that manifest. There are a range of treatments available for people living with RA, but there is still no cure. The most common medications for RA include:

  • Painkillers and Steroids – designed to directly address the symptoms
  • Oral Medications – These work to slow down and inhibit the disease, while also addressing certain symptoms
  • DMARDs (Disease Modifying Anti-Rheumatic drugs) – Designed to address the underlying inflammatory disease.
  • Biologic Drugs – The latest and most advanced option to date, these biological drugs will target inflammatory proteins.

Contemporary RA treatments are designed specifically to stop or at least slow down disease progression. This new compound could open up all new possibilities if it proves to be similarly effective in humans.

For the sake of their clinical trial, this research team at ETH tested the active compound with other drugs like dexamethasone. This is an anti-inflammatory drug that we already use to treat rheumatoid arthritis symptoms. Treatment began as soon as the team identified physical symptoms.

Showing A Lot of Potential Early in the Game

On their own, both treatments proved that they could help slow the progression the disease. When they were used in conjunction, then swelling and other common indications disappeared within several days.

“In our mouse model, this combined treatment creates a long-term cure,” exclaimed Hemmerle.

The team also noted that various immune messengers concentrated together in blood and inflamed tissue (before the swelling came down). Following the success of this RA clinical trial, the team at ETH Zurich is already preparing to take the next big step in developing this major breakthrough.Check out their website for more information: www.ethz.ch