Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune condition in which the immune system mistakenly attacks tissues in the body, primarily joints. Symptoms include warm, swollen, and painful joints which worsen following rest. Other tissues may also be affected such as the lungs and heart.

The cause of RA is unknown, but it is thought to involve both environmental factors as well
as genetics.

There is no cure for RA and side effects from pharmaceutical treatments can be quite severe. Common drugs include anti-inflammatories, immunomodulators, immunosuppressants,
and steroids.

Researchers are looking to try and decrease the inflammation associated with RA through the immunosuppressive properties of stem cells and their bioactive components. Currently, stem cell treatment aims to decrease the frequency of flare ups and suppress the inflammation associated with RA while at the same time trying to regenerate and repair cartilage that has been damaged by the disease.

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The most current research regarding stem cells and RA is given below:

Are mesenchymal stem cells in rheumatoid arthritis the good or
bad guys?

Cosimo De Bari

Abstract: The advancements in our understanding of the inflammatory and immune mechanisms in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) have fuelled the development of targeted therapies that block cytokine networks and pathogenic immune cells, leading to a considerable improvement in the management of RA patients. Nonetheless, no therapy is curative and clinical remission does not necessarily correspond to non-progression of joint damage. Hence, the biomedical community has redirected scientific efforts and resources towards the investigation of other biological aspects of the disease, including the mechanisms driving tissue remodelling and repair. In this regard, stem cell research has attracted extraordinary attention, with the ultimate goal to develop interventions for the biological repair of damaged tissues in joint disorders, including RA. The recent evidence that mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) with the ability to differentiate into cartilage are present in joint tissues raises an opportunity for therapeutic interventions via targeting intrinsic repair mechanisms. Under physiological conditions, MSCs in the joint are believed to contribute to the maintenance and repair of joint tissues. In RA, however, the repair function of MSCs appears to be repressed by the inflammatory milieu. In addition to being passive targets, MSCs could interact with the immune system and play an active role in the perpetuation of arthritis and progression of joint damage. Like MSCs, fibroblast-like synoviocytes (FLSs) are part of the stroma of the synovial membrane. During RA, FLSs undergo proliferation and contribute to the formation of the deleterious pannus, which mediates damage to articular cartilage and bone. Both FLSs and MSCs are contained within the mononuclear cell fraction in vitro, from which they can be culture expanded as plastic-adherent fibroblast-like cells. An important question to address relates to the relationship between MSCs and FLSs. MSCs and FLSs could be the same cell type with functional specialisation or represent different functional stages of the same stromal lineage. This review will discuss the roles of MSCs in RA and will address current knowledge of the relative identity between MSCs and FLSs. It will also examine the immunomodulatory properties of the MSCs and the potential to harness such properties for the treatment of RA.



Therapeutic potential of human umbilical cord mesenchymal stem cells in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis
Yanying Liu, Rong Mu, Shiyao Wang, Li Long, Xia Liu, Ru Li, Jian Sun, Jianping Guo, Xiaoping Zhang, Jing Guo, Ping Yu, Chunlei Li, Xiangyuan Liu, Zhenyu Huang, Dapeng Wang, Hu Li, Zhifeng Gu, Bing Liu, and Zhanguo L

Abstract: Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a T-cell-mediated systemic autoimmune disease, characterized by synovium inflammation and articular destruction. Bone marrow mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) could be effective in the treatment of several autoimmune diseases. However, there has been thus far no report on umbilical cord (UC)-MSCs in the treatment of RA. Here, potential immunosuppressive effects of human UC-MSCs in RA were evaluated.