Rheumatoid Arthritis Vaccine Discovered ‘Accidentally’

Source: Freepik

Researchers at the University of Toledo have developed an experimental vaccine for rheumatoid arthritis that has shown good early results in animal models.

Rheumatoid Arthritis is one of the most common autoimmune diseases and affects approximately 1% of the world’s population. Over time, the body’s immune cells attack and damage healthy tissue in various joints. Most commonly, it affects the lining of the joints in the hands, wrists, and knees. As a result of the damage, inflammation, pain, and eventually, deformity of joints occurs. There is currently no cure for the disease. Although current treatment options help alleviate the pain and inflammation, they don’t completely rid a person of the disease. Moreover, they increase a person’s susceptibility to infections. Therefore, researchers believe a vaccine would be a revolutionary step in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis.

In spite of its high prevalence, there is no cure and we don’t entirely know what brings it on. This is true of nearly all autoimmune diseases, which makes treating or preventing them so difficult.

Dr Ritu Chakravarti, lead author

An Accidental Discovery

Dr. Ritu Chakravarti, an assistant professor in the UToledo College of Medicine and Life Sciences, has been on the search for an effective cure for years. Her team has spent the last few years studying a protein called 14-3-3 zeta. They considered the protein a potential trigger for rheumatoid arthritis. However, while researching the protein in an animal model, they found that removal of the protein caused early-onset arthritis in the rats. 

We happened to hit a wrong result, but it turned out to be the best result. Those kinds of scientific discoveries are very important in this field.

Dr Ritu Chakravarti, lead author

Thus, based on their new finding the team developed a protein-based vaccine for rheumatoid arthritis using purified 14-3-3 zeta protein grown in a bacterial cell. The vaccine led to a strong and long-lasting immune response in the animals. Moreover, it not only prevented the development of arthritis but also improved bone quality. The results of the study are available in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.


Joshua Kim et al, 14-3-3ζ: A suppressor of inflammatory arthritis, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (2021). DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2025257118


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