Scientists at the University of Liverpool claim they have found a way of turning off one of the most painful aspects of rheumatoid arthritis.
Joints become swollen and sore, partly because the body sends white blood cells, or neutrophils, to the joints in order to combat the disease. But neutrophils also release a vast amount of toxins into the joints that can cause joint damage. Now scientists say they can be curbed, while still being effective. Professor Robert Moots, Director of Research and Development at the university’s Clinical Science Centre, and Professor Steven Edwards at the School of Biological Sciences claim to have identified a way of switching off the harmful function of neutrophils without affecting their ability to protect the body from infection. The team discovered neutrophils stop secreting toxins that attack the joints when a specific molecule on their surface is blocked by using certain antibodies. Professor Moots said: “This is a most exciting discovery because for the first time, we believe there is an opportunity to suppress disease in rheumatoid arthritis without the terrible cost of side effects, which is a major problem with all the other anti-rheumatic drugs.” (Source: University of Liverpool, BBC Health, December 2004)