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Australian researchers have developed a breakthrough vaccine-style therapeutic approach to treat rheumatoid arthritis, a debilitating disease affecting over 450,000 people in the country. Lead researcher Ranjeny Thomas from the University of Queensland's Diamantina Institute said results from the phase one clinical trial demonstrate the new treatment is safe and effective in supressing the immune response.


Rheumatoid arthritis is a disease in which the immune system attacks healthy tissues, particularly in the joints, causing inflammation, pain and deformity. Thomas said the treatment targeted the underlying cause of rheumatoid arthritis. The disease affects over 450,000 Australians. "This treatment teaches the patient's immune system to ignore a naturally occurring peptide that is incorrectly identified as 'foreign,' resulting in the production of CCP antibodies and causing inflammation," Thomas said.


The results showing the treatment to be safe and effective have been published today in the journal Science Translational Medicine. Thomas, however, said that at this stage, the technique "would not be ideal for widespread treatment or prevention of rheumatoid arthritis because it's costly and time-consuming." "The promising results of this trial lay the foundations for the development of a more cost-effective, clinically- practical vaccine technology that could deliver similar outcomes for patients," Thomas said.

Thomas is working on a delivery technology with Dendright Pty Ltd (a UniQuest start-up company) in collaboration Janssen Biotech Inc, one of the Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson. If the delivery of this technology proves successful in patients with rheumatoid arthritis, it could also be applied to other autoimmune diseases such as Type 1 diabetes. PTI

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