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Breakthrough:a promising vaccine against rheumatoid arthritis

According to an American team of researchers, an experimental protein-based vaccine has shown great promise for the prevention of rheumatoid arthritis in mouse models. The next step will be to test the safety and effectiveness of this vaccine in clinical trials.

What is rheumatoid arthritis?

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is the inflammation of multiple joints induced by rheumatoid factors, antibodies directed against other antibodies in the same person. These rheumatoid factors are characteristic of autoimmune diseases which result from a dysfunction of the immune system leading it to attack the constituents of the body.

If osteoarthritis only affects the cartilage, rheumatoid arthritis affects all the elements of a joint . Inflammation leads to overproduction of synovial fluid. As a result, the synovial membrane thickens and the joint swells. The capsule and the tendons will then harden and become very painful. Then come cartilage erosions.

Rheumatoid arthritis appears gradually in the wrists, hands and feet, before attacking the knees or elbows. The joints stiffen and then become very painful, with peaks of pain that can occur at night. In fact, rheumatoid arthritis has sometimes very serious functional and psychological repercussions .

No miracle cure yet

The disease mainly affects people between the ages of forty and sixty. In this interval, it is four times more common in women than in men. Beyond the age of seventy, this gender difference disappears. It is estimated that this disease affects about 300,000 people in France, or about 0.5% of the population .

That said, today there is no cure for rheumatoid arthritis. However, early diagnosis can help relieve symptoms through the use of medications that can block the effects of chemicals released when the immune system attacks the joints.

Over the past few years, however, researchers at the University of Medicine and Life Sciences in Toledo have been working on a new treatment. Their work focused on a protein called 14-3-3 zeta likely to play an important role in inflammatory arthritis. They then hypothesized that this protein could be the trigger for the disease. In reality, it was quite the opposite.

Breakthrough:a promising vaccine against rheumatoid arthritis

A potentially revolutionary vaccine

In a trial, using gene editing, the researchers eliminated this protein in the organism of mouse models (mainly rats) affected by the disease in the hope that the rodents develop reduced inflammatory arthritis. In reality, they only made things worse, with the rats developing severe, early-onset arthritis.

In another approach, the researchers then offered different rats a vaccine filled with 14-3-3 zeta before they developed the disease. Amazingly, this resulted in the suppression of the onset of arthritis in all subjects.

"To our surprise, rheumatoid arthritis disappeared completely in animals that received a vaccine “, says Dr. Ritu Chakravarti, lead author of the study. “If we can get this vaccine to clinical trials, it will be revolutionary “.

According to the authors, this protein can therefore have a real immunosuppressive effect, preventing inflammatory immune markers from attacking the body's own cells. As with all animal studies, there is nothing to say that the safety and effectiveness of such a vaccine could also be observed in humans, but if successful, such an approach could relieve millions of people. around the world .

The team is now looking for a patent and partners to help them establish a preclinical trial.