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Blocking Inflammation: Vaccinating Against Arthritis, a Breakthrough?

Researchers Create Genetically Modified Stem Cells to Deliver Anti-Inflammatory Drug to an Arthritic Joint

A potential major advance in the treatment of arthritis and other chronic inflammatory conditions has been announced by researchers from Washington University School of Medicine and Shriners Hospitals, St. Louis, in collaboration with colleagues from Duke University and Cytex Therapeutics, Inc, Durham, North Carolina. The team used the gene-editing tool CRISPR to rewire stem cells grown from mice to induce them to produce a biologic anti-inflammatory response that combats inflammation. The discovery could lead to the development of new treatment approaches for arthritis that are both more effective and better targeted than currently available biologics. Senior author Farshid Guilak, PhD, summarized, “Our goal is to package the rewired stem cells as a vaccine for arthritis, which would deliver an anti-inflammatory drug to an arthritic joint but only when it is needed.” The research findings were published online last week in the journal Stem Cell Reports.

Current pharmacologic treatments for arthritis, such as Enbrel®, Humira®, and Remicade® work against the inflammatory molecule TNF-alpha, but are administered systemically rather than in a targeted approach. Side effects from these drugs include susceptibility to infection due to interference with the patient’s immune system. But the gene-edited cells created by the researchers can deliver a targeted response to localized inflammation. Dr. Guilak continued “If this strategy proves to be successful, the engineered cells only would block inflammation when inflammatory signals are released, such as during an arthritic flare in that joint.”

Read more about this discovery.

The research report can be read here.

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