Health Watch -- Blocking Inflammation

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A new protein that blocks inflammation may help doctors treat rheumatoid arthritis, as well as other diseases.

Rheumatoid arthritis affects more than 2 million Americans, causing painful, stiff and swollen joints. It’s an autoimmune disease, where the body attacks its own tissue as if it were an outside invader, like viruses or bacteria. There isn’t yet a cure for rheumatoid arthritis, but scientists have found ways to treat the symptoms of the disease. One approach has been to keep a molecule that causes the inflammation associated with the disease from working, but some patients have developed antibodies to these drugs, making them less effective.

Now researchers at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas have verified that a new protein is effective against rheumatoid arthritis. In laboratory studies, the new protein decreased swelling up to 25 percent in rodents with a disease comparable to human rheumatoid arthritis.

Dr. Malu Tansey, the U-T Southwestern physiologist who led the study, says that this protein is very similar to proteins naturally produced by the body, so the body is less likely to see it as a foreign substance and react against it.

This research indicates that the proteins may be the basis for an effective treatment for rheumatoid arthritis. There’s also a strong possibility that they could be helpful against other diseases associated with inflammation, such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.