Experimental Stem Cell Therapy Shows Promise against Arthritis
Stem cells seem to be gaining increased attention in recent times, with studies showing positive results within the research. One of these is a clinical trial of a stem cell treatment developed by the Australian company Mesoblast, which has been found to be effective against rheumatoid arthritis.
Shares for the company even rose by 2.6%, to AUD$1.16 per share in early trade. Just one intravenous infusion of the mesenchymal precursor cell treatment, known as MPC-300, improved not only the symptoms and physical function, but also the disease activity. CEO Silviu Itescu stated,
“These results support the potential of our allogeneic cell therapy to be positioned as a first line treatment option.”
The term “allogeneic” means cells from the same species, but from a different person with different genes. This clinical trial was a Phase 2 study involving 48 patients with active rheumatoid arthritis. Most therapies and treatments need to complete all three phases to win approval.
Other Natural Solutions
Fortunately, people struggling with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), which affects the bones, cartilage, and other connective tissues of the joints, do not have to wait for relief or solely rely on a biotech company. Many natural therapies exist that can be used alone or alongside more technical therapies such as stem cells.
One of these is probiotics. A study of 45 RA patients found that the lactic acid-producing bacteria Bacillus coagulans, which can survive the acidic environment of the stomach, was effective in managing the disease.
Patients who received the probiotic could walk for 2 miles (over 3km) and participate in regular daily activities. They had lower back pain scores, less disability, and if you want a more objective measurement, reduced levels of the inflammatory indicator C-reactive protein (CRP). The patients all continued their usual RA treatment.
Evening Primrose Oil
Another study, a randomized, double-blind trial with 49 RA patients, tested the effects of evening primrose oil. After 12 months, the groups receiving evening primrose oil alone or with fish oil significantly reduced NSAID use, and saw significant subjective improvement. Evening primrose oil may reduce the production of destructive inflammatory mediators which NSAIDs do not touch.
Vitamin D deficiency has been linked with higher severity and incidence of RA. In one study, patients with RA received 60,000IU of vitamin D a week for 6 weeks, then 60,000IU per month for 3 months. The average DAS28-CRP score, a combination of the disease activity in 28 joints and CRP, significantly fell from 3.68 to 3.08.
Vitamin D can also reduce the recurrence of RA. A larger study of 337 patients found that those with normal vitamin D levels had a 16.7% chance of recurrence over the 24 month study period, compared to 29.5% among the volunteers with low vitamin D and no supplementation. However, those given vitamin D had a 19% risk of recurrence.
Cod Liver Oil and Pomegranate Juice
Additionally, a pilot study of 43 patients found that 1 gram of cod liver oil every day for 3 months reduced pain intensity by two-thirds, morning stiffness by half, and painful and swollen joints by 40%. Pomegranate juice has also been shown to reduce tender joints by 62% and disease activity by 17%.
While more research is needed, some natural remedies may also assist stem cells, such as cannabidiol. One laboratory study found that CBD was able to help recruit mesenchymal stem cells to a site of bone tissue regeneration, and support their differentiation into bone cells. While stem cell therapies do hold a lot of promise, they may work better when used with more traditional natural therapies than alone.