|Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic, systemic inflammatory disorder that may affect many tissues and organs, but principally attacks synovial joints. The process produces an inflammatory response of the synovium (synovitis) secondary to hyperplasia of synovial cells, excess synovial fluid, and the development of pannus in the synovium. The pathology of the disease process often leads to the destruction of articular cartilage and ankylosis of the joints.
Various treatments are available. Non-pharmacological treatment includes physical therapy, orthoses, occupational therapy and nutritional therapy but do not stop progression of joint destruction. Analgesia (painkillers) and anti-inflammatory drugs, including steroids, are used to suppress the symptoms, while disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) are required to inhibit or halt the underlying immune process and prevent long-term damage.
Stem cell therapy has been demonstrated to induce profound healing activity in various forms of arthritis. Besides healing of damaged tissues, stem cells have the unique ability to modulate the immune system so as to shut off pathological responses while preserving ability to fight off disease. Stem cells and specifically, mesenchymal stem cells home to inflamed tissue and start producing anti-inflammatory agents. These mediators act locally and do not suppress the immune response of the patient’s whole body. Additionally, mesenchymal stem cells induce the production of T regulatory cells, a type of immune cell whose function is to protect the body against immunological self-attack.