Arthritis breakthrough as stem cell treatment gives cure hope

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A University of York spin-out company hopes the breakthrough therapy will stimulate repairs of joint tissue, something no other treatment does.

The potentially devastating condition, which affects 500,000 people, occurs when the immune system – the body’s natural defence system – goes awry and attacks joints, causing pain, swelling and inflammation. This can lead to permanent damage and disability.

The treatment – developed by new biopharmaceutical firm Mesenbio with the charity Versus Arthritis – involves nano-sized “messengers” from engineered human stem cells designed to kick-start the regeneration process.

Professor Paul Genever, from the University of York’s Biomedical Research Institute and co-founder of Mesenbio, said: “It has proved successful in laboratory tests but this new company will allow us to move toward human clinical trials.

“We have been able to engineer structures from human stem cells to target its anti-inflammatory and tissue-regeneration capabilities, which is what you need to treat arthritis – the ability to take away the pain but also repair the damage.”

And Dr David Kuntin, the company’s CEO, added: “This method and its scalability makes it much more likely we can create a drug that can be administered via injection that can not only halt the damage to tissue but repair and reduce the immune system overreaction.”

Professor Kimme Hyrich, a consultant rheumatologist and expert in arthritis at Manchester University NHS Trust, called the research for a much-needed treatment “exciting”.

She added: “Although it could take some time to prove safety and efficacy of these drugs, there is a significant need for new treatments for rheumatoid arthritis which can have a dramatic impact on patients, families and their carers due to the suffering, chronic pain and loss of function it causes.”

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