Monkey See, Monkey Do, Monkey Cure RA?
As most of us living with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) know all too well, many of the treatments currently available to treat RA only achieve mild to moderate improvements in disease symptoms. While these improvements are most certainly better than no treatment at all, for most of us “remission” seems to be a magical word that’s hopefully still hidden somewhere in the future.
Luckily, scientists are continuing to search for new treatment options that could potentially provide better results in the future – and sometimes it seems this search for answers leads to the very strangest places! A recent study from the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California has determined that old world monkeys could be key to a new, powerful RA therapy.1
It turns out that this particular primate – mostly found in Asia, the Middle East, and Africa – has a particular peptide that isn’t found anywhere else in nature. A peptide is an organic substance that is structurally like a protein, only smaller. Traditionally, peptides are defined as molecules that consist of between 2 and 50 amino acids, whereas proteins generally have 50 or more amino acids. Peptides also tend to be less well defined in structure than proteins.
The particular peptide that researchers found in the old world monkeys is called RTD-1. Researchers believe that it may actually have the potential to stop or even reverse the progression of RA. Previous studies had demonstrated that RTD-1 peptide was able to modulate lethal inflammation in animal models of infection. Based on those findings, the researchers in this study predicted that RTD-1’s protective mechanisms would also translate to RA, a disease in which chronic inflammation produces irreversible joint damage.
To test their hypothesis, the researchers administered RTD-1 to rats with arthritis for 11 days and then observed whether the treatment had any positive effects on the rats’ arthritis. Within 24 hours of RTD-1 being administered, it had significantly reduced arthritis progression in the rats. At the end of the 11 days, the rats that had received RTD-1 also had markedly lower arthritis severity scores as compared to the control rats that had not received RTD-1.
The same process was then completed on rats with more severe arthritis. The research team discovered that RTD-1 produced a rapid reduction in arthritis severity within 48 hours of treatment. Within 15 days of initiating this treatment, the treated rats had experienced complete resolution of clinical disease.
Lastly, the researchers compared the RTD-1 treatment to traditional RA treatments methotrexate and etanercept (Enbrel). They tested these three treatments on rats with severe arthritis and found that of the three options, the RTD-1 achieved the highest rate of complete disease remission.
The study concluded that RTD-1 has excellent potential as a completely new agent for treating RA. The researchers also hypothesized that RTD-1-like molecules could also be potentially effective in the treatment of other inflammatory diseases, or even cancer.
While it’s always exciting to see potential new treatments for RA being researched, wouldn’t it be even more fun to be able to say: a monkey cured my RA!
Quiz: Which is NOT a common risk factor for osteoporosis?