A heart-shaped flower grows out of a small pot. Behind the flower are science equipment and floating diagrams.

The Potential of an RA Vaccine

Researchers at the University of Toledo recently reported the potential of creating a vaccine against rheumatoid arthritis by discovering a molecule that suppresses the disease in animals.1

The findings are in a paper published in the peer-reviewed journal: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, and explained the research in a press release.2

The 14-3-3 zeta protein

They studied a protein called 14-3-3 zeta and its role in various health problems including a cytokine (interleukin-17) that is related to autoimmune diseases.2

At first, they believed the protein may be a trigger for rheumatoid arthritis but, with further testing, they developed a new theory that the protein may protect against the disease.2

Does the 14-3-3 zeta protein protect against RA?

Based on this protective theory, the researchers created a vaccine based on a purified version of the protein grown in a bacterial cell. They tested the vaccine in animal models, finding it had a strong, fast, and long-lasting protection from the body’s immune system — in essence, a vaccine for RA.2

“Much to our happy surprise, the rheumatoid arthritis totally disappeared in animals that received a vaccine,” Chakravarti said.

Improved bone quality

In addition to stopping the appearance of RA, the vaccine also resulted in an improvement of bone quality. With these promising results, they have filed a patent on the discovery and are looking to conduct additional research towards human trials.2

The potential impact of an RA vaccine

While these results in possibly discovering a vaccine for RA are very exciting (possibly life-changing for millions!), they must be tempered by the fact that the research is early and conducted in animal models.

Unfortunately, plenty of promising treatments fizzle when they progress to more experiments and trials in human subjects.

A one-and-done treatment

However, considering the potential is very exciting indeed. If these results hold up under further research, the vaccine could not only stop RA in its tracks but also reverse at least some bone damage.

Perhaps the vaccine could be applied in the early stages (early diagnosis would be paramount) and stop an individual from progressing or even reverse RA damage to the bones.

A one-and-done treatment for RA would be life-altering. It would stop millions of people from experiencing potentially lifelong chronic pain, disabilities, surgeries, and other potentially debilitating aspects of a challenging chronic disease.

Use for other autoimmune diseases

For me, this could be potentially miraculous to consider. Additionally, if this treatment could be used on or adapted to other autoimmune diseases, then we may be looking at the end of autoimmune conditions altogether.

It would be truly amazing to not have to take expensive treatments that may or may not work and deal with the consequences of out-of-control immune systems and the permanent damage they leave behind.

Exciting developments awaiting in the future

It’s important to note that further development and human clinical trials are years (if not longer) away and no immediate vaccine will be available. Patience is required, but the potential is exciting to consider.

As we learn more about immune pathways and the proteins that interact with them in the human body, there are potentially many more exciting developments awaiting in the future. We need to encourage, fund, and support this type of research in order to reap the benefit of their lessons.

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The RheumatoidArthritis.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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