Arthritis Vaccine – coming soon!

A vaccine-style therapy to prevent rheumatoid arthritis could soon become a reality – thanks to scientists at the University of Queensland Diamantina Institute.
Results from the phase one clinical trial, published in Science Translational Medicine, demonstrate that the new treatment is safe and effective in suppressing the immune response, says Lead Researcher Professor Ranjeny Thomas of the University of Queensland Diamantina Institute.
While current therapies only treat the symptoms and slow the progression of rheumatoid arthritis, this new treatment targets the underlying cause of the disease. It works by teaching the patient’s immune system to ignore a peptide it incorrectly sees as foreign.
How it works
This new vaccine-style immunotherapy treatment is designed specifically for individuals carrying high-risk rheumatoid arthritis genes and specific rheumatoid arthritis antibodies, called anti-CCP. This type of rheumatoid arthritis is called ‘CCP-positive’ and accounts for the majority of cases.
“Our immune system is made up of specialized cells that move through blood and tissue, preventing disease and fighting infection by distinguishing between what is the body’s own healthy tissue and what is foreign,” explains Thomas. “This treatment teaches the patient’s immune system to ignore a naturally occurring peptide that is incorrectly identified as ‘foreign,’ resulting in the production of CCP antibodies and causing inflammation.”
Details of the study
A personalized immunotherapy was prepared for each patient by taking a sample of their blood and extracting a particular type of immune cell called dendritic cells. The patient’s dendritic cells were then challenged with the ‘foreign’ peptide and an immune system modulator. The treated dendritic cells were then injected back into the patient.
A single injection of the patient’s own immune-modified dendritic cells was found to be safe and it helped suppress the immune response in rheumatoid arthritis. This in turn was associated with reduced inflammation.
What’s next?
At this stage, the technique would not be ideal for widespread treatment or prevention of rheumatoid arthritis because it’s costly and time-consuming. However, the promising results of this trial lay the foundations for the development of a more cost-effective, clinically-practical vaccine technology that could deliver similar outcomes for patients.
Professor Thomas and team are working on a delivery technology with Dendright Pty Ltd (a UniQuest start-up company) in collaboration Janssen Biotech Inc., one of the Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson.
If the delivery of this technology proves successful in patients with rheumatoid arthritis, it could be applied to other autoimmune diseases such as type 1 diabetes too.
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