Arthritis: A surprising body part could pave the way for new treatments says study

Dr Hilary discusses arthritis drugs tocilizumab and sarilumab

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There’s no cure for arthritis, but there are many treatments that can help slow it down. Treatment for rheumatoid arthritis aims to slow the condition’s progress and minimise joint inflammation. A new study has found a surprising body part could be key for future treatments for arthritis.

The spleen is the main filter for blood-borne pathogens and antigens.

The integration of the spleen in the regulation of immune responses could pave the way for inflammatory and degenerative diseases such as arthritis.

A new study hypothesised that by targeting the spleen it could be used as therapeutic purposes for future treatments for the condition.

An international team of researchers, led by University of Houston Cullen Endowed Professor of biomedical engineering Mario Romero-Ortega, has progressed electroceutical research for treatment of diseases including rheumatoid arthritis.

Published in the Nature Journal of Communications Biology, the work builds on previous studies and has the potential to treat medical conditions with minimal invasion and side effects.  

Researchers used sutrodes which produces a fibre that is ultrathin (half the diameter of a human hair), yet incredibly strong and flexible.

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The sutrode, created using the fabrication technique known as fibre wet spinning, combines the electrical properties of an electrode with the mechanical properties of a suture. 

“The flexibility and superb sensitivity of the sutrode is allowing us to expand our understanding of how the nervous system controls main body organs, a critical step towards developing advanced therapies in bioelectronic medicines,” reports Romero-Ortega.

He continued: “Our collaborative work uncovered that the spleen is controlled by different terminal nerves, and that the sutrode can be used to control them, increasing the precision in which the function of this organ can be modulated.” 

Professor Gordon Wallace, a co-author on the paper, said the sutrode can be integrated with delicate neural systems to monitor neural activity. 

He added: “This work has widespread implications for regulating the function of the spleen, particularly the efficient regulation of the immune response for electroceutical treatment of range of diseases.

“We have highlighted the ongoing need to develop systems with increased fidelity and spatial resolution.

“This will not only bring practical applications to the forefront but will enable the unattainable exploration of the human neural system.” 

The spleen is a site where immune responses can be regulated offering hope for future treatment for arthritis.

The research also reveals the ability to simultaneously interrogate the four individual neural inputs into the spleen.

This new technical and biological achievement will not only bring about practical applications, but also enable a previously unattainable exploration of the human neural system.
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