Stem cell therapy for rheumatoid arthritis
Rheumatoid Arthritis, or RA is an autoimmune disease that destroys the tissue that cushions the joints. It causes inflammation and in turn, stiffness, swelling and pain in and around the joint area.
When left untreated, the inflammation can extend to the cartilage area and cause loss of function and irreversible damage. Over time, rheumatoid arthritis can damage vital tissues such as the heart, skin, lungs, kidneys, and the eyes.
Current stem cell research is showing promise in terms of treating joint inflammation and the production of healthy cells. Scientists are also looking at stem cell therapy as a possible solution for rheumatoid arthritis and similar conditions.
Stem Cell Therapy
Stem cells are unique cells that have an innate ability to ‘differentiate’, or turn into a cell that your body needs for regenerative purposes. One of its functions is to replace diseased or severely damaged cells in the body.
Stem cells are collected either from an adult or an embryo, then placed under lab conditions for testing and proliferation. After the cells are coaxed into becoming a certain cell type, they’re injected back into the patient’s tissue or blood.
Stem Cells and RA
Researchers are looking into ways on how stem cells could regenerate damaged tissue, cartilage and bone cells and reduce inflammation in patients who are suffering from rheumatoid arthritis.
MSCs, or mesenchymal stem cells, hold promise as they can ‘differentiate’ to either a bone or cartilage cell. Synovial MSC is a kind of therapy that injects live MSCs to the tissues around the affected joint. It has been noted that mesenchymal stem cells are also able to suppress the patient’s immune system and control inflammation, positive markers when it comes to treating patients with RA.
Some clinics are already offering stem cell therapy as a way to alleviate arthritic conditions, but at this stage it’s not completely proven and therefore requires more exhaustive testing and analysis.
Research on MSCs and Rheumatoid Arthritis
In 2013, a group of scientists tested the effect of MSCs for people who were suffering from RA.
172 patients took their regular medication for RA, while a subset received 2 MSC therapies via intravenous means. Another group served as control and were given placebos.
It was observed that the group that received MSC showed significant remission when tested using the following tools – the College of Rheumatology improvement criteria, the Health Assessment Questionnaire and the 28-joint activity score. There was also an increased activity in the RTCs or regulatory T cells, which stop the body from attacking its own cells.
In 2015, a similar study was made with MSCs and RA-induced mice, which produced similar results.
Stem Cells and FDA Regulation
Currently, the Food and Drug Administration only approves the use of uHSCs, or umbilical hematopoietic stem cells, which are collected from the umbilical cord. These materials are mostly used to treat patients who are suffering from blood disorders.
MSCs are not regulated, but the FDA does approve of clinical trials that test the efficacy of this type of stem cell. These studies must be subject to the New Drug Application and meet the organization’s safety standards.
Stem Cell Therapy Side Effects and Potential Risks
Like any other conventional therapies and treatments, stem cells may have adverse effects in patients, some of which may include the following:
Cells that are taken outside the body may be contaminated with bacteria, viruses and external sources. When contaminated cells re-enter via injection, the pathogens can cause the patient to get sick or infected.
Rheumatoid Arthritis Exacerbation
In 2014, a study of synovial mesenchymal stem cells led to a patient suffering from exacerbated RA. Stem cells injected directly into the joint’s tissue can lead to synovial fibroblasts, cells that could trigger further inflammation and cell damage.
The same 2014 study showed how MSCs that were introduced via intravenous means may lead to a suppressed immune system, which in turn could allow for the formation of cancerous cells.
Long Term Risks
Stem cell therapy is still largely an unproven field of regenerative medicine, and scientists are conducting continuous tests and trials to explore the potential of stem cells as possible treatment for rheumatoid arthritis.
The FDA dictates that more studies are needed to establish the efficacy and possibilities of stem cells in terms of treating patients.
The Healing Miracle Team
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