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New Treatment May Block Rheumatoid Arthritis

Experimental Drug Stops Destruction of Joints Caused by Rheumatoid Arthritis
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WebMD Health News

Sept. 26, 2004 -- An experimental new treatment may stop the destruction of the joints caused by rheumatoid arthritis (RA) without the side effects of currently available medications.

A new study shows that the drug selectively targeted immune cells involved in the destruction of joint tissue and stopped the progression of the disease in mice while leaving the rest of the immune system intact.

If further studies confirm these results, researchers say the findings suggest that inhibiting this antibody may offer a new approach in the treatment of the disease, which affects about 1% of the adult population.

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder in which the body's defense system, the immune system, turns against the body. In RA, antibodies produced by the immune system attack the joints and destroy the tissue within them, causing severe pain and disability.

Current treatments help slow the progression of the disease by suppressing the immune system. But these drugs have serious side effects and may leave the body more susceptible to infection.

In this study, published in the October issue of Nature Medicine, researchers tested the effect of an experimental drug on mice bred to have rheumatoid arthritis.

Researchers say the drug, which changes the way immune cells function, was more effective than currently available treatments in blocking the progression of the disease in the mice. The treatment led to a decrease in production of destructive antibodies, thus blocking disease progression.

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