New methods to treat arthritis may be working better than expected. “Microvesicles are very small subcellular structures (0.05 to 1 micrometer in diameter) that consist of fluid enclosed by a membrane. They are released by cells in copious numbers to transfer lipids and proteins to target cells, yet their role in disease has been poorly understood.
Some white blood cells’ microvesicles tend to accumulate in large numbers in the joints of rheumatoid arthritis patients. The biological impact of these microvesicles has been intriguing to researchers, because they are known to contain over 300 types of protein that vary in different situations.
Lead author Professor Mauro Perretti from QMUL’s William Harvey Research Institute said: “Cartilage has long been thought to be impenetrable to cells and other small structures, leading to strong limitations in our abilities to deliver therapies for arthritis. To our surprise, we’ve now discovered that vesicles released from white blood cells can ‘travel’ into the cartilage and deliver their cargo, and that they also have a protective effect on cartilage affected by arthritis.
“Our study indicates that these vesicles could be a novel form of therapeutic strategy for patients suffering from cartilage damage due to a range of diseases, including osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and trauma. Treating patients with their own vesicles may only require a day in hospital, and the vesicles could even be ‘fortified’ with other therapeutic agents, for example, omega-3 fatty acids or other small molecules.”
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