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Stem Cells Might Beat Drugs in Delivering Relief Faster, More Effectively to Rheumatoid Arthritis Sufferers
Date:4/16/2013

Durham, NC (PRWEB) April 16, 2013

Can stem cell therapy outperform a drug commonly considered the gold standard for treating rheumatoid arthritis? A new study in rodents published in the current issue of STEM CELLS Translational Medicine indicates perhaps so.

The findings could lead to a faster, safer, more effective way to bring relief to the up to 70 million people estimated to suffer from this disease worldwide.

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic condition that causes pain, stiffness, swelling and limited motion and function of many joints. While it can affect any joint, RA tends to settle mainly in a patient’s hands and feet. The results can be debilitating.

People who have RA overproduce a protein called tumor necrosis factor (TNF), which causes the inflammation and damage to the bones, cartilage and tissue. Anti-TNF drugs can block the action of the protein and reduce inflammation. Etanercept® (marketed under the trade name Enbrel) is a type of anti-TNF drug called a biologic that for years has been prescribed to treat RA. However, it can’t be targeted specifically to the site of the arthritis and, thus, requires higher doses that can cause serious side effects including fatal infections, multiple sclerosis, seizures, heart failure, cancer and more.

“Moreover, biologics in general require intense development and manufacturing processes that are challenging for reproducibility, even within the same company. So we wanted to see how delivering treatment through a very targeted system such as that which can be done using stem cells compared to a biologic drug such as Etanercept®,” said Joseph Mosca, Ph.D. He led the team of researchers from Osiris Therapeutics, Inc. Baltimore, Md., and the Novartis Research, Basel, Switzerland, in conducting the study.

The researchers began by genetically altering human mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) in the lab to become vehicles for the
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