Rheumatoid arthritis: scientists study potential vaccine

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The authors of a new study hope their work will pave the way for a vaccine against rheumatoid arthritis. James Porter / Getty Images
  • Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease that causes inflammation, often in the joints. It is chronic and can be disabling.
  • Currently, there is no cure for RA.
  • A new study using an animal model suggests that a vaccine to prevent RA may be possible.

RA is a chronic, debilitating disease that affects the joints of the body. It can cause pain and decrease people’s ability to function. While individuals can manage the disease, there is no cure.

A new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reports that there may be hope for a vaccine to help prevent RA.

The study looked at a specific protein and its influence on the development of arthritis in rats.

Arthritis refers to joint inflammation. The term encompasses a wide class of conditions that impact the joints.

RA is an autoimmune disease, which means the body mistakenly attacks its own tissues. This causes joint inflammation and joint damage and can lead to chronic pain.

According to the Arthritis Foundation (AF), joint pain, swelling or stiffness typically lasts 6 weeks or more. RA usually affects the small joints in the body first, such as the bones in the wrists and hands, and symptoms occur in the same joints on both sides of the body.

Because there is no cure, pain management in people with arthritis is essential.

In a recent episode of the AF podcast “Live Yes with Arthritis”, occupational therapist Rebecca Gillett explained that “Pain is a personal experience that is influenced by many factors. […] There is no one-size-fits-all approach to pain, but one of the first steps is to identify the unique challenges and triggers. “

Today, people with RA manage the disease with medications and other strategies. For example, people with arthritis are encouraged to stay active, achieve or maintain a moderate body weight, and take steps to protect their joints from injury.

The authors of the recent study focused on a specific protein – 14-3-3 zeta – and its role in arthritis.

They initially hypothesized that this protein contributes to the development of arthritis. However, they found that when they removed the protein in an animal model of RA, the arthritis became more severe.

When you speak with Medical News TodayStudy author Dr. Ritu Chakravarti explained that this protein acts like an antigen, which means it triggers the immune system.

She said: “[T]The moment we saw that it was an antigen, we assumed it was a bad thing. You still have this bias that antigens are bad.

Scientists have studied the development of arthritis in relation to 14-3-3 zeta in rats. They used genetically engineered rats, which do not produce 14-3-3 zeta, and induced arthritis in them.

Compared to the rats that still produced 14-3-3 zeta, those that lacked the protein lost bone and body weight and developed severe joint inflammation.

In the experimental rats, there were three phases in the development of arthritis: a period without symptoms, a period with severe inflammation of the joints, and a period when the inflammation began to subside.

The researchers tested whether infusion of anti-14-3-3 zeta antibodies after the onset of arthritis would help relieve arthritis symptoms. They found that this treatment was ineffective.

Next, they tested whether an immunization containing 14-3-3 zeta would prevent symptoms of arthritis. They immunized the rats 1 day after induction of arthritis, during the symptom-free period. They also gave the rats a booster shot about 1 week after causing the arthritis.

They found that vaccination with the 14-3-3 zeta protein reduced joint inflammation and the severity of arthritis. It also helped preserve the quality of the bones.

Dr Chakravarti was excited about the study’s results, even though it wasn’t what the team initially expected to find. She said MNT:

“There is no cure for RA. And it’s probably one of the first studies to show you can prevent RA.

The study was conducted on rats, so scientists will need to do a lot more research. However, the study is an important step towards better treatment options for people with RA.

Dr Chakravarti has identified two major next steps in this investigation. First, “we have to see how it actually works in those affected. Can this vaccine really prevent disease in humans?

The second important element will be understanding how this particular protein influences the symptoms and development of arthritis.

Dr Chakravarti said MNT that researchers need to understand “how it works.” […] We really need to understand it in more detail, because once we know the mechanism of its action, then we will know for what other diseases we can use it. Can we prevent multiple sclerosis or can we prevent other musculoskeletal diseases? “

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