Help For Arthritis Sufferers?
The National Institutes of Health estimate that as many as 23.5 million Americans suffer from an autoimmune disease. Unfortunately, this number rises steadily each year and it is recognized as the tenth leading cause of death in women under sixty-four years of age. But now a new study gives hope that there may be a cure for autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, lupus and inflammatory bowel disease.
Scientists from the Imperial College of London have discovered a protein that acts as a master switch for inflammation in the body. They believe that this finding holds the key to developing new treatments and perhaps cures -- for autoimmune diseases.
Autoimmune diseases occur as the result of the bodys immune system turning against itself. When the autoimmune system kicks into over-drive, white blood cells called macrophages are released to those areas of the body that it thinks are foreign. The problem is that macrophages attack healthy tissue, resulting in excessive inflammation and causing painful and sometimes life-threatening conditions.
The new research identifies the master switch (the protein IRF5) thats responsible for telling the white blood cells what to do. Right now most patients with rheumatoid arthritis are treated with a class of medications called tumor necrosis factor (TNF) inhibitors. But as many as 30 percent of those patients do not respond well to the drugs, so experts say it is imperative to develop more widely effective treatment options for the debilitating condition.
The discovery of a master switch means that scientists may be able to now develop new anti-inflammatory treatments for a wide range of conditions.
Robin Westen is the ThirdAges medical reporter. Check for her daily updates. She is the author of Ten Days to Detox: How to Look and Feel a Decade Younger.
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