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Posted by Michael Dobbs on November 01, 2000 at 02:47:08:

October 29. My friend has IPF - and I found this out surfing the net. The following breakthrough in England may help many auto-immune disorders:

UK scientists discover cure for arthritis - paper

LONDON, Oct 29 (Reuters) - British scientists have announced what they say is the first evidence of a cure for rheumatoid arthritis, the Sunday Telegraph newspaper reported on Sunday.

A research team at University College in London says it has discovered what causes the body's defences mistakenly to attack healthy joints and tissue. Its cure focuses on the role of so-called B-cells, white blood cells that defend the body against viruses and bacteria by making antibodies that attack the hostile microbes.

B-cells often accidentally make antibodies that attack healthy tissue and some of these errant antibodies also trigger the production of copies of themselves. The University College team told the Sunday Telegraph that the result is a huge self-sustaining attack on joints and tissue, which appears in the sufferer as rheumatoid arthritis.

"It probably takes just one genetic mistake in a lifetime to trigger this reaction but once it gets going it becomes a vicious circle," said Professor Jonathan Edwards, who is leading the team. The team said it had found a way to break the circle, using drugs that seek out and destroy B-cells.

"Unlike with other cells in the immune system, most people can live without any B-cells for a while," Edwards said. "By the time we reach adulthood we have already made most of the antibodies we need."

The body responds to the destruction of all its B-cells by

making fresh ones. The chances are small that these new B-cells will make the same mistake as their predecessors and trigger a return of rheumatoid arthritis.

Of 20 patients who underwent 18 months of treatment, five now have only some residual pain from the damage already done.

"They have returned to leading a more or less normal life, with one going to the gym and one taking up gardening for the first time in ages. So far, of the total of 20 patients only two have had no benefit at all," Edwards said.

The patients have had rheumatoid arthritis for an average of 20 years, he added.

Edwards said the B-cell based therapy might also offer hope to patients with other auto-immune diseases, such as Crohn's disease, lupus and even multiple sclerosis.

The team will announce the results of its research on Monday at the annual scientific meeting of the American College of Rheumatology in Philadelphia. The findings will be also published in the leading journal Rheumatology.

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