Fibroblast finding may lead to new approach to arthritis treatment
Technical and clinical advances have led to a discovery that could change the way that arthritis is tackled, researchers report in Nature. It seems that different types of fibroblasts – the most common cells of connective tissue in animals – are organised in different layers in the joint and are responsible for two very different forms of arthritis: osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
This new finding should mean targeted therapies that alter the behaviour of fibroblasts to reduce inflammation and tissue destruction in rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis without the need for long-term immunosuppression or joint replacements.
“If we compare fibroblasts to soil, this research has shown for the first time that not all soil is the same,” explains lead investigator, Prof Chris Buckley. “Just as there are different layers of soil in our gardens – topsoil and subsoil – there are different types of fibroblasts in our joints – and each layer seems to be associated with a different type of arthritis. The topsoil is what goes wrong in osteoarthritis, whereas in rheumatoid arthritis it’s the subsoil that is at fault.”
First author Dr Adam Croft comments:
“Thanks to advances in technology we have now, for the first time, been able to identify which fibroblasts are pathogenic in arthritis and how they contribute to disease.
“Importantly, we found that by getting rid of these fibroblasts from the joint we could reduce the influx of immune cells to the joint, leading to less inflammation and destruction.
“These findings mean we now have a clear rationale for developing drugs that can target joint fibroblasts directly and provide more effective treatment for persistent disease.”
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