Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune, inflammatory disorder in which the immune system attacks healthy tissues. The joints are commonly affected, though the condition can also affect other organs. An estimated 1.5 million people in the U.S. have this condition, with three times as many women as men developing it.
RA can significantly impact a person’s daily life, making the activities they once enjoyed challenging or even unbearable. Conventional treatments typically focus on managing symptoms, but many patients find that the common approaches are either ineffective or have frustrating side effects.
Commonly, RA is treated with medications to help relieve pain and swelling and control flare-ups:
- DMARDs: Disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) change the immune system’s response, but pose serious risks. Side effects could include liver damage, suppression of bone marrow, and serious lung infections.
- Biologics: These medications are similar to DMARDs, but deliver a more targeted effect to control inflammation instead of suppressing the entire immune system.
- Steroids: When patients have considerable pain and inflammation, they may be prescribed steroids. Yet, these drugs should only be used on a short-term basis, as long-term use can lead to worsening symptoms, including permanent, advanced joint damage.
In severe cases, surgeries such as joint replacements and fusions may also be recommended, though they are usually reserved for cases in which joints are damaged beyond repair. As with the treatments listed above, surgery poses its own inherent risks.
In addition to taking medicine, patients may also be advised to adopt certain lifestyle modifications to help alleviate their symptoms. Low-impact exercise, ample rest, and an anti-inflammatory diet could deliver some relief.
Stem Cell Therapy for Rheumatoid Arthritis
For decades, researchers have been exploring alternative therapies to control the immune response in patients with RA. Stem cell therapy for Rheumatoid Arthritis has recently emerged as an attractive option.
Stem cells can control inflammation throughout the whole body by regulating the immune system, thus reducing RA symptoms. Moreover, stem cells have the ability to help repair some of the joint damage that has already occurred. These cells can release regenerative growth factors, which trigger the development of healthy cells—including joint tissue. And, unlike conventional treatments, stem cells appear to be well-tolerated with few to no side effects.
The cells work by regulating pro-inflammatory T-cells, preventing them from differentiating into rogue cells that contribute to RA. Then, regulatory T-cells would then be able to step in and facilitate healing, which stem cells also promote.
Research backs these theories, with a 2013 study of more than 170 patients showing that all participants who received stem cell therapy reported improved activity disease score for their RA. There were also no serious side effects from the stem cell injections. Another 2019 study evaluated patients over a longer period of time, and even three years after treatment, there were no abnormalities linked to the treatment, despite patients experiencing improved activity disease scores.
While research continues to be performed to see which exact stem cell protocols may work best for various RA patients, the findings from studies already performed suggest that this form of regenerative medicine could be one of the safest and most effective treatment options on the horizon.
This post was written by a medical professional at Stemedix Inc. At Stemedix we provide access to Regenerative Medicine for the joints, also known as stem cell therapy for joints! Regenerative medicine has the natural potential to help improve symptoms sometimes lost from the progression of many conditions.