A UNIVERSAL therapy option for rheumatoid arthritis has been revealed following new research carried out in South Korea, providing a promising treatment alternative for the >400,000 people affected by rheumatoid arthritis in the UK alone. Although there are treatment options currently available, they are not effective for every patient, leaving some patients with uncontrolled effects of the autoimmune disease.
The research, led by Dr Kim Won Jong, Institute for Basic Science, Daejeon, South Korea, has resulted in the production of a gel that can detect nitric oxide, which, while essential to body functioning, is a leading contributing factor to the deterioration of joints, commonly seen in arthritis. Dr Jong outlined: “Nitric oxide is like a double-edged sword. It regulates inflammation and protects our body by killing external pathogens; however, when in excess, it is toxic and may cause rheumatoid arthritis, as well as other autoimmune diseases, cardiovascular diseases, and cancer.”
The non-toxic polymeric acrylamide hydrogel, designed by the research team, forms a drug barrier between molecules through cross-linking agents; the barrier traps therapeutic drugs to control the release into the joint. The structure of the hydrogel pouch is altered in response to excess nitric oxide, resulting in a release of anti-arthritic drugs to the affected area and absorption of excess fluid from the arthritic joint. As a result of this novel method of action, symptoms can be treated and pain relieved at specific sites around the body.
The hydrogel is still in the early stages of testing and currently, nano-sized hydrogels are being trialled in mice with rheumatoid arthritis. Although the new technology requires future research efforts before acceptance into everyday clinical practice, the early results are promising, and combined with the ease of application, the hydrogel could be utilised for other disorders that stem from an overexpression of nitric oxide.
Devi Sagar, Arthritis Research UK, Chesterfield, UK, summarised the research project, stating: “Although this is a preliminary study, this new technology may have the potential to be developed into an effective treatment for this condition. We welcome having as many options available as possible, so that people with arthritis have access to a treatment that works best for them.”