Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease that causes chronic inflammation of the joints. In RA the immune system – which is designed to protect our health by attacking foreign cells such as viruses and bacteria – instead attacks the body’s own tissues, specifically a thin membrane that lines the joints resulting in inflammation and fluid buildup. This causes pain in the joints and can also cause inflammation of the tissue around the joints. Rheumatoid arthritis is typically a chronic progressive illness that has the potential to cause joint destruction and functional disability. 62

Study Details

Although bone marrow mesenchymal stem cells (hB-MSCs) are being explored for the treatment of several autoimmune as well as other diseases, MSCs from the umbilical cord (hUC-MSCs) are now being considered as an alternative source of stem cells. Harvesting bone marrow as a source of stem cells requires an invasive procedure to extract the cells. In addition the number and differentiation potential, bone marrow MSCs decreases with age, whereas umbilical cord tissue stem cells can be isolated from a tissue that is otherwise discarded after birth. These stem cells have well-documented self-renewal and differentiation properties.

A group of researchers conducted a study to evaluate the immune suppressive effects of human umbilical cord MSCs on the proliferative, invasive behavior and inflammatory responses of fibroblast-like synoviocytes (FLSs) cells and T-Cells in RA.21 FLS cells live in synovial joints, which are the most common and most movable type of joint in the body of a mammal. FLS cells have the ability to stimulate both inflammation and tissue damage in RA which is why this cell type may be a unique target for treatment.63 Activated T-cells in RA patients are types of white cells called lymphocytes that are responsible for the auto-immune disease, whereas . T-regulatory T cells (Tregs) are known to control the activity of the immune system. When T-cells are less active the immune system becomes more activated. When T-cells are more active the immune system becomes less activated.

This study demonstrated that hUC-MSCs were able to reduce the growth of FLS and activated T cells. In addition, the hUC-MSCs  were able to induce higher numbers of Tregs, as well as reduce joint inflammation and destruction in a mouse model of arthritis. The researchers concluded that human hUC-MSCs suppressed various inflammatory effects in arthritis which suggests that hUC-MSCs might be a therapeutic strategy in RA.