Breakthrough hope in battle against arthritis

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A drug that “blindfolds” white blood cells could provide a new way of treating rheumatoid arthritis, new research has shown.

The drug stops the destructive cells migrating to the joints, where they cause the typical damage associated with the disease.

Rheumatoid arthritis is an auto-immune disease in which elements of the immune system attack the body. White blood cells called T-cells are key players in the process.

Study leader Dr Graeme O’Boyle, from the University of Newcastle, said: “Imagine that the damaged joint is covered in flags which are signalling to the white blood cells.

“Traditional treatments have involved pulling down the flags one by one but what we have done is use an agent which in effect ‘blindfolds’ the white blood cells. Therefore, they don’t know which way to travel and so won’t add to the damage.”

Scientists used a genetically engineered mouse with a human-like immune system for the study, which was funded by Arthritis Research UK.

They discovered that a compound called PS372424 blocked the ability of activated T-cells to invade joints.

Only the specific T-cells implicated in rheumatoid arthritis are affected.