Arthritis Research News: Biostim to Vaccine

According to the CDC , from 2013-2015, 22.7% of U.S. adults—54.4 million people—had some form or arthrutis, rheumatoid arthritis (RA), gout, lupus, or fibromyalgia. By 2040, this is expected to rise to 26%, or 78 million U.S. adults. It is more prevalent in those aged 65 years and older and among women than men, and is a leading cause of work disability. Due to medical costs and lost wages, the national costs of arthritis are estimated at $304 billion. Recent research may lead to more effective treatments and perhaps a cure.

One recent arthritis study by the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research found a way to effectively reduce the symptoms of RA through noninvasive bioelectric stimulation administered through the outer ear. The highly-targeted painless shocks are delivered through the cymba concha, a curved ridge of the outer ear, and are meant to stimulate the vagus nerve system. The treatment significantly reduced swelling and inflammation in RA patients.

 Osteoarthritis pain is caused by cartilage breakdown. Researchers at MIT have designed a material that can help deliver medication deep into the cartilage and bones to heal damaged tissue. The research showed that this delivery method was more effective than injecting the same medication into the joint on its own.

 Scientists at Oxford University have developed a vaccine that "remedies the nerve growth factor (NGF) that is responsible for arthritis pain" and that could lead to a cure. In studies, the vaccine helped produce higher levels of antibodies to battle arthritis pain and could be a better alternative to the long-term use of painkillers like ibuprofen, which can increase the risks of infection.

 A discovery by arthritis researchers at the University of Virginia School of Medicine points to a potential new treatment for RA involving blocking a specific gene, ELMO1. Normally, the gene promotes inflammation via its function in white blood cells, which fights against bacterial infections. But a polymorphism of the gene leads to excess inflammation, causing arthritis. Researchers found that blocking the polymorphism alleviated arthritis inflammation (in lab mice) without causing other problems. This could also lead to a blood test for detection of increased risk.

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Stephanie Jones