Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Mesenchymal stem cells may be a better candidate than drugs for Rheumatoid Arthritis

A new study on rodents by a collaborative team of researchers from Osiris Therapeutics and Novartis Research indicates that mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) may be a better treatment for rheumatoid arthritis (RA) than the currently available drugs are.

Patients with RA overproduce a protein called "tumor necrosis factor" (TNF) which in turn causes inflammation and damage to the bones, cartilage and other tissues. One of the most commonly used drugs for RA is a TNF inhibitor called Etanercept (trade name Enbrel). The researchers explain that Etanercept provides pain relief and reduces inflammation, however it has a big disadvantage. It can’t target specific regions and as a result high doses are required which may cause several adverse effects. Some of the side effects listed on ENBREL's website are:
  • Allergic reactions
  • Autoimmune reactions
  • Blood problems which sometimes may be fatal 
  • Inflammation of the nerves of the eyes
  • Nervous system problems like multiple sclerosis and seizures
  • New infections or worsening of prexisting infections like Hepatitis B 
  • New or worsening heart failure

In this study the researchers, led by Joseph Mosca, investigated whether MSCs can be used as an alternative delivery system. First, they created human MSCs  that would act as "vehicles", delivering the TNF inhibitor.

“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 Mosca

The cells were then injected into mice with RA ((Jackson Laboratory; 6–7 weeks old) that were monitored for a period of seven days. For comparison purposes, the researchers also treated another group of mice with Etanercept®.

Human Mesenchymal Stem Cells

The findings were quite promising, as the MSCs yielded the same anti-inflammatory effect as Etanercept did, except that they were faster. Nevertheless, more research is needed to confirm that MSCs do have fewer side-effects, said Mosca.

“If this translates into fewer and/or lower compliance remains to be seen,” Dr. Mosca said. “In either case, these results illustrate the ability of stem cells to deliver proteins of therapeutic value and demonstrate their potential clinical utility in rheumatoid/osteoarthritis and other TNF-related diseases where anti-TNF biologic drugs have already shown promise.” he added.


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Reference
LINDAN. LIU, GANGWANG, KYLEHENDRICKS, KEUNMYOUNG LEE, ERNST BOHNLEIN, UWE JUNKER, & JOSEPH D. MOSCA (2013). Comparison of Drug and Cell-Based Delivery: Engineered Adult Mesenchymal Stem Cells Expressing Soluble Tumor Necrosis Factor Receptor II Prevent Arthritis in Mouse and Rat Animal Models Stem Cells Translational Medicine : 10.5966/sctm.2012-0135

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