Stopping Inflammatory Arthritis at its Source

Compounds in the body may help reduce inflammation and prevent damage to healthy tissues for arthritis patients and patients with other inflammatory diseases.

Compounds in the body may help reduce inflammation and prevent damage to healthy tissues for arthritis patients and patients with other inflammatory diseases, according to findings published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

Researchers from the University of Edinburgh observed human cells to determine if inflammation in the body could be restricted in patients with arthritis or other inflammatory diseases could be controlled.

“This study reveals yet another layer of the immune system’s complex control system,” Stephen Simpson, Director of research and programs for Arthritis Research UK, who funded the study, explained in a press release. “Understanding how the immune system works both in health and disease is crucial if we are to develop new and improved treatments for inflammatory conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis.”

The researchers’ previous work led them to compounds called alpha defensins, which are absorbed by macrophages. The alpha defensins aid the body in stopping the spread and breeding of bacteria. The alpha defensins are released by apoptotic neutrofils, a peptide responsible for acute inflammation in response to tissue injury or infection.

When macrophages take in the alpha defensins, compounds prevent macrophages from producing cytokines — the cause of patients’ inflammation. The researchers believe that one path to limiting the body’s excessive inflammation is through restricting damage to healthy tissue while avoiding compromising the body’s ability to rid itself of the infection. They called the alpha defensins a “molecular brake” for macrophage related inflammation.

“This discovery opens the door to new approaches for the treatment and prevention of chronic inflammation,” Dr. Mohini Gray continued in the statement. “We are hopeful that with further research, these treatments could be exploited in the near future.”

The team believes that with further research, they may be able to prevent inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and psoriatic arthritis from flaring up in the first place. They also explained that their findings could lead to new therapies for chronic inflammatory disorders in the future.