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Gene Therapy May Provide Relief From Arthritis

Scoop Report: Gene Therapy Tests May Provide Relief From Arthritis

By Marietta Gross – Scoop Auckland.

United States physicians have successfully tested a gene therapy to treat arthritis. Earlier attempts to use a virus as a gene transmitter had caused leukaemia. But scientists say recent studies show the technique to be safe.

Christopher Evans and his colleagues from the Harvard Medical School in Boston, Massachusetts, have extracted tissue from inflamed finger joints of nine women between 1996 and 1999. The scientists added a virus to the genetic material. The cells were then injected into the joints of the patients.

The cells and the artificially added gene produced a protein which reduced inflammation in the arthritic joints, report the scientists in the magazine “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences”.

Five years after the procedure concluded, researchers found no genetically modified cells to have wandered into tissue outside of the joints. The gene therapy is considered effective and safe, reports the team.

But the procedure is time-intensive and expensive. Evans and other authors of the study suggest injecting the gene for the inflammation inhibitor IL-1Ra directly into the inflamed joint tissue. Therefore they want to use another virus. The so called Adeno-associated Virus (AAV) is better suited for the integration of genes into the heritable information and animal test studies show it to be a secure gene transmitter.

Due to security reasons gene therapies were so far tested to treat life threatening diseases. The actual study shows, that this method could also be applied for non-fatal illnesses such as arthritis. But further research over the next few years is necessary before security can be granted, said the British arthritis expert Ailsa Bosworth to the online edition of the BBC.


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