Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that causes inflammation of the joints. It is the most common autoimmune disease of the joints and left untreated the uncontrolled inflammation not only causes pain but also bony remodelling of the joints, which can lead to deformation and disability. The condition often requires lifelong treatment with medications that are not without side-effects.
A team of boffins (they look about 12 years old to me, I must be getting old) at Friedrich-Alexander Universitat in Erlangen, with the help of research from an international project, has discovered that a type of cell called innate lymphoid cells are instrumental in the resolution of inflammation. Furthermore, in patients with Rheumatoid Arthritis it appears that these cells become dormant, they, in effect, go into a state of hibernation. When they are awoken they put an end to the inflammatory process and the pain and destruction associated with it.
The possibility of treatments which increase the numbers of innate lymphoid cells in future may lead to much better outcomes for patients with, not just rheumatoid arthritis but also potentially any condition based on chronic inflammation, these might include conditions as varied as Crohns disease and ulcerative colitis, psoriasis and even cirrhosis of the liver.
Read the press release here