Australian Researchers Discover how to Stop Rheumatoid Arthritis
Posted Dec 02 2010 2:00pm
In one of the most exciting discoveries, researchers at the Hanson Institute in Adelaide and the St. Vincent’s Institute in Melbourne believe they have made great progress on developing a new treatment which will ‘stop’ leukemia and inflammatory diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis and asthma.
The discovery relates to the way a protein receptor on the surface of white blood cells controls functioning and production of the cells and how the protein causes malfunctioning white blood cells to be produced. These malfunctioning cells cause inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and leukemia.
The research team has taken nearly a decade to create the first 3D image of the protein receptor. Because they know exactly what the receptor looks like and how it works they are able to start design on new drugs to target the abnormal cells.
“It’s called a receptor because it interacts with a hormone… in this case a hormone called GM-CSF,” said lead researcher Professor Michael Parker.
The GM-CSF hormone binds to the receptor and passes a signal to the cell to reproduce. When the receptor is damaged, the signals result in an over production of white blood cells, or cells that persist too long, which results in inflammatory conditions and leukemia.
The current treatment for leukemia generally includes chemotherapy that destroys the abnormal cells and bone marrow in addition to normal cells. New treatments based on this research will target the abnormal protein and not the normal white cells.
The team has signed an agreement with Australian pharmaceutical company CSL to develop a new treatment to stop the protein from creating abnormal white blood cells.
According to Dr. Parker, “Normally drugs can take 10 to 15 years; with antibodies, it can be quite a deal faster. We’re very lucky because the protein receptor resides on the outside of a cell so the molecules we develop don’t have to get inside the cells; so it makes the drug development easier and quicker.”
Andrew Nash, CSL Director of Research, says that it could take about 2 years to determine if an antibody could be produced that will attach to the receptor. Once that is accomplished they could begin trials on patients.
Their research was published in the science journal Cell.