Microvesicles are key to new potential strategy for treating arthritis

microvesicles, rheumatoid arthritis, arthritis digest magazineArthritic cartilage, previously thought to be impenetrable, could be treated by a person’s own microvesicles, discovers a team from Queen Mary University of London.

Microvesicles are tiny structures that consist of fluid enclosed by a membrane. Some white blood cells’ microvesicles build up in large numbers in the joints of people with rheumatoid arthritis. We know that they are released by cells in copious numbers to transfer fats and proteins to target cells but their role in disease is not well understood. The experts make three discoveries:

• Mice with inflammatory arthritis had less cartilage degradation when treated with microvesicles;
• Microvesicles led to cartilage protection when repeated in human cells;
• One particular receptor (known as FPR2/ALX) played a role in protecting cartilage tissue and so could be targeted by new small molecules for the treatment of cartilage erosive diseases.

“Cartilage has long been thought to be impenetrable to cells and other small structures, leading to strong limitations in our abilities to deliver therapies for arthritis,” says lead author Prof Mauro Perretti. “To our surprise, we’ve now discovered that vesicles released from white blood cells can ‘travel’ into the cartilage and deliver their cargo, and that they also have a protective effect on cartilage affected by arthritis.

“Our study indicates that these vesicles could be a novel form of therapeutic strategy for patients suffering from cartilage damage due to a range of diseases, including osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and trauma. Treating patients with their own vesicles may only require a day in hospital, and the vesicles could even be ‘fortified’ with other therapeutic agents, for example, omega-3 fatty acids or other small molecules.”

The early results reveal a possible new therapeutic approach for treating damaged cartilage of arthritic joints but further studies in humans will be needed to confirm the therapeutic potential of the new approach. Stephen Simpson from Arthritis Research UK comments:

“By using the body’s own transport system to get new and current therapeutic agents directly into the cartilage, holds the promise that we will be able to reduce joint damage more effectively than ever. A healthy and intact joint results in less pain and disability improving the quality of life of millions of people living with arthritis in the UK.”

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