Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic inflammatory condition that can affect the joints, as well as several body systems. As an autoimmune disease, RA is characterized by the body’s immune system mistakenly attacking its own healthy tissue. While other forms of arthritis, such as osteoarthritis, are caused by general wear and tear, RA targets the joint lining, resulting in swelling that will eventually erode the joints and bones.
In some cases, the inflammation can cause widespread damage throughout bodily systems such as the eyes, skin, lungs, heart, and blood vessels. Although there have been treatments available to control the symptoms of RA, in some severe cases, physical disabilities may still occur.
Can Stem Cell Therapy Help Treat Rheumatoid Arthritis?
Typically, RA is treated with immune suppressive medications such as steroids. While they may offer temporary relief, long-term use isn’t advised, as it can suppress the body’s immune response. Thus, such medications leave patients more vulnerable to infections and other illnesses. Disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs) may be prescribed as well, or biologics if needed. Nonetheless, these medications fail to address joint damage which has already occurred. Moreover, many patients fail to see significant results.
Recently, stem cell therapy has emerged as a studied and researched option to target inflamed tissue and trigger the development and anti-inflammatory agents. Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs), in particular, have been shown to produce T regulatory cells, which help to safeguard against the self-attacking immune response seen in RA. One study on MSCs for RA demonstrated a significant decrease in pro-inflammatory agents, absent of the long-term side effects caused by traditional RA therapies.
Which Type of Stem Cells Are Used to Treat Rheumatoid Arthritis?
MSCs are a commonly used stem cell therapy option for managing symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis. These cells are derived from either adipose (fat) tissue from the patient or the umbilical cord (Wharton’s Jelly) following healthy births. The mothers undergo rigorous screening to ensure the safety of the cells. Because umbilical cord-derived stem cells are some of the youngest, they have longer cell lives than those derived from adults.
What Are the Benefits of Mesenchymal Stem Cells?
Since they are do not come from the blood, MSCs are considered safe and do not require phenotypic or Hyman Leukocyte Antigen (HLA) matching. Cell rejection is therefore not a concern. Mesenchymal stem cells exert a number of beneficial effects on the cells of the immune system. Mesenchymal stem cells can help fine-tune the immune system by inducing the action of regulatory T-cells potentially shifting the balance from harmful to helpful immune system function.
The benefits of MSCs leave researchers optimistic about the future of stem cells as an option for those with autoimmune conditions such as Rheumatoid Arthritis. The therapy is a worthwhile option to explore for patients seeking potential improvements for their day to day quality of life. Contact a Care Coordinator today for a free assessment!
In a recent edition of JAMA, the results of a 30-year study examining the possible connection between stress and autoimmune disease were revealed. The findings don’t simply demonstrate a link; instead, they reveal that stress-related disorders are significantly associated with risks of developing the subsequent autoimmune disease. In the study of over 100,000 subjects, the correlation showed that individuals with a diagnosed stress-related disorder were 30-40% more likely to later be diagnosed with one of many possible autoimmune diseases.
What is a Stress-Related Disorder?
The type of stress study subjects encountered is not to be confused with the stressors we encounter during everyday life. Sitting in traffic or worrying about being late for a meeting, for example, are examples of acute stress. These forms of short-term stress generally come and go but fail to create the sort of long-term damage produced by chronic stress, or stress-related disorders.
Stress-related disorders are mental health conditions resulting from short- and long-term anxiety from mental, physical, or emotional stress. Examples of these include post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), obsessive-compulsive disorder, acute stress reaction, and adjustment disorder.
Which Types of Autoimmune Disorders Are Linked to Stress?
According to the study’s findings, individuals with stress-related disorders were more inclined to be diagnosed with one of 41 autoimmune disorders. Among the many autoimmune diseases observed by the research were psoriasis, Crohn’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and celiac disease.
Interestingly, additional variables seemed to further increase – or decrease – one’s risks of developing an autoimmune disease. Being diagnosed with PTSD at a young age, for instance, increased risks, while receiving antidepressant treatment shortly after being diagnosed with PTSD lowered rates of subsequent autoimmune disease diagnosis. Thus, it could be inferred that receiving treatment for a stress-related disorder may help to treat not only the stress itself but also minimize the lasting implications caused by it, including increased risks of disease.
What Causes the Connection?
Further research must still be conducted to pinpoint the precise long-term effects stress has on the body, and more specifically, on the immune system. Experts speculate that factors such as changes in cortisol levels and pro-inflammatory cytokine levels may need to be examined. Another hypothesis set forth by researchers is that individuals living with conditions such as PTSD might be more inclined towards unhealthy behaviors such as drinking more alcohol or sleeping less.
Although further research into this connection has yet to be conducted, one important takeaway from the findings is the fact that seeking treatment for stress-related disorders should now be considered more critical than ever. By consulting mental health professionals, individuals living with these conditions can pursue a tailored treatment approach to support short- and long-term improvements in overall wellness. For those with an auto-immune condition, see how stem cell therapy may help your symptoms and improve quality of life.