Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Arthritis Sufferers Given Fresh Hope; University Experts Hail Breakthrough

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Arthritis Sufferers Given Fresh Hope; University Experts Hail Breakthrough

Article excerpt

Byline: Chris Robinson

NEWCASTLE University experts last night hailed what they called a hugely exciting breakthrough that could lead to an arthritis vaccine.

Researchers are pioneering a technique that uses the patients' own blood cells to suppress the rheumatoid form of the condition.

If successful, it could signal a major breakthrough in treating more than 350,000 sufferers across the country, and potentially a cure.

A pilot study is planned to begin next year using eight patients from the region. It follows from a similar technique used in cancer research.

The treatment is intended to switch off unwanted immune responses which attack arthritis joints, without damaging the overall immune system.

John Isaacs, professor of clinical rheumatology in the university's institute of cellular medicine, said that although work was in its experimental stage, it was hugely exciting.

The technique involves manipulating a patient's white blood cells and injecting them back into arthritic joints to become a vaccine.

Prof Isaacs said: "Based on previous laboratory research, we hope this will specifically suppress the auto-immune response."

Biopsies of cells in the joints will be taken two weeks after the treatment to establish whether it has induced the expected response.

The researchers also hope to discover if the 'vaccine' is effective only in the injected joint, or whether it is disseminated throughout the rest of the body.

If the treatment works as well as the researchers hope, they said it could eventually develop into a cure for the crippling condition.

Prof Isaacs said: "It is very exciting as this is not happening anywhere else in the world." The research carried out is being funded by medical research charity the Arthritis Research Campaign, which is providing pounds 216,000 over 18 months for it.

A spokeswoman said: "John Isaacs's research has enormous potential.

"If the pilot study is successful and leads to larger trials, we could be looking a completely new way of treating rheumatoid arthritis which is much more targeted than existing therapies and doesn't suppress the patient's immune system. …

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