Historic Medical Breakthrough: Scientists May Have Finally Developed A Vaccine To Treat Arthritis

Historic Medical Breakthrough: Scientists May Have Finally Developed A Vaccine To Treat Arthritis

Researchers from Oxford University have developed a promising vaccine which helps block the root cause of the pain of osteoarthritis. Currently, it's being tested on mice, and the results have been largely positive.

Anyone who suffers from osteoarthritis, the most common form of arthritis, would know the kind of excruciating discomfort that the condition brings. Living with the disorder is equal to living with pain almost every moment. Even the tiniest movement seems like a Herculean task, especially without medicines and painkillers. There is however some good news that can spell hope for the many who suffer from it. Researchers at a university in England are working on a vaccine for osteoarthritis, the most common form of arthritis, that could bring much-needed relief for millions around the world reports the Daily Mail.  Osteoarthritis sufferers currently have to rely on medicines and painkillers to combat severe pain. Often people with the disorder are not able to engage in heavy work or even engage in activities such as sports and adventure since it requires a lot of bodily exertion. Many end up being rather inactive due to their condition. But researchers from Oxford University have developed a vaccine which blocks the root cause of the pain which is the nerve growth factor (NGF). The vaccine however is presently being tested only on mice.


The vaccine triggers the immune system to work against the naturally occurring NGF in mice, numbing their pain.  According to various estimates, as many as 30 million in the US and 9 million people in the UK suffer from osteoarthritis. The figures are much more around the world.  Despite such a large number of people suffering from the disorder, there is still no cure for the condition. The Oxord University research is, therefore, set to be on a breakthrough if it can be administered on humans and could pave the way for a more effective treatment. 


The research has been published in the journal, Annals of Rheumatic Disease.  "This is the first successful vaccination to target pain in osteoarthritis, one of the biggest healthcare challenges of our generation," said Professor Tonia Vincent, co-author of the study. The vaccine works by triggering the immune system to produce antibodies that would then work against the NGF.  The vaccine was tested on mice that had an uneven distribution of weight across the hind legs. This, the scientists said, was a sign of painful osteoarthritis.


Versus Arthritis, a charity that funded the research, described the vaccine as being "very promising" when it was shown that it visibly reversed the pain of the lab mice.  After the vaccine was administered, the mice stood with their weight more evenly distributed rather than leaning to one side due to the pain in their leg.  Higher levels of antibodies were also found in the mice who had been given the vaccine. This "appeared to be associated with an analgesic (acting to relief pain) response" said the published study. 

Named CuMVttNGF, the vaccine helped relieve pain in the mice when it was given both before and after the pain had taken hold. According to the report, arthritis is surprisingly, a disorder that takes a huge toll on the economy.  The total cost of osteoarthritis, that is also the most common joint disease, to the economy of developed countries is to the tune of around 1-2.5 per cent of the GDP according to the authors of report.


According to Arthritis UK, a body that tracks such cases, working days lost due to arthritis is estimated to reach 25.9 million by 2030. This is equal to an annual £3.43 billion hit to productivity to the economy. The report also said that this is set to increase to 27.2 million working days by 2050, at an annual cost of £4.74 billion. As much as 50 per cent of people older than 65 have evidence of osteoarthritis, according to NICE - a UK health watchdog by 2050. There are however limited treatment options. 

Despite the widespread nature of it, less than 25 per cent of patients have adequate pain control for their condition. Although painkillers are commonly used, it's long-term usage can have harmful affects. The team at Oxford said that a vaccine could be a much better and effective option.  "Whilst there are still safety issues that need to be considered before these types of approaches can be used in patients, we are reassured that this vaccine design allows us to control antibody levels and thus tailor treatment to individual cases according to need," said  Professor Vincent said. 


Dr. Stephen Simpson from the charity said, "We know that for the ten million people with arthritis, persistent pain is life changing.  Too many people living with pain do not get effective relief from the treatments that are currently available. And that is why the development of more effective pain killers, with fewer side-effects, is vital for people living with arthritis."

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