Rat antibody used to fight arthritis

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The Independent Online
SCIENTISTS in Cambridge have developed a new treatment for rheumatoid arthritis using 'humanised' antibodies derived from rats, writes Liz Hunt.

According to a report in the Lancet, researchers from the Department of Immunology at Cambridge University 'reshaped' the rat antibodies using genetic engineering techniques so they resembled a human antibody. This means that the patient's immune system does not reject the antibody treatment.

The researchers gave the re- shaped antibodies to eight patients suffering from severe arthritis. Following a 10-day course, they found there was a reduction in joint swelling and inflammation lasting from 12 weeks to eight months.

The report says that '. . . adverse effects were negligible. Significant clinical benefit was seen in seven patients, lasting for eight months in one.' In three out of four patients who underwent another course of treatment, the benefits lasted for up to 200 days.

The technique overcomes one of the major barriers to the use of monoclonal antibodies in autoimmune diseases - where the immune system starts to attack the body. Monoclonal antibodies derived from animals are used by scientists to target particular cells in the body.

Dr John Isaacs, a member of the Cambridge team, said yesterday that the treatment would be suited to patients with joint inflammation in the earliest stages of the disease.