Osteoarthritis forces patients to turn to painkillers to survive the agonizing pain. The new vaccine developed by researchers at Oxford University is on the verge of changing that.
Osteoarthritis is a painful disease that forces millions to turn to painkillers for relief. All that could soon change thanks to the tireless efforts of researchers at Oxford Univerisity. They have successfully created a vaccine that can block the nerve growth factor (NGF) which causes patients with osteoarthritis to feel excruciating pain. Although there is still a long way to go before the vaccine can be made available to people, the researchers have successfully tested the vaccine on mice, reports the Daily Mail. At least 20 million people in the US suffer from osteoarthritis. It is a condition that arises due to the thinning of the cartilage that covers the ends of bones, causing wear and tear within the surfaces of joints according to Arthritis Research UK. It is not to be confused with rheumatoid arthritis, which while also causing a great deal of agony to those afflicted by it, has a very different root cause. Rheumatoid arthritis is brought on by an improperly functioning immune system that gets the body to attack itself and cause painful, swollen, and stiff joints.
In extreme cases of osteoarthritis, patients often need to undergo major surgery to replace severely worn out and painful joints. Once the vaccine is made available, the daily agony of living with osteoarthritis can be minimized if not completely wiped away. The vaccine works by triggering the immune system to produce antibodies that would work against the pain causing NGF. This development is extremely encouraging considering there currently is no cure for osteoarthritis. Having to rely on painkillers just to get through the day is a less than ideal existence, especially as most of them come with an entourage of side effects.
The scientists involved in creating the vaccine isolated mice that had osteoarthritis by observing which ones showed a disproportionate distribution of weight on their hind legs. They then proceeded to test the vaccine on the mice, which to their delight yielded promising results. Instead of being forced to lean more towards one side to manage the pain, the mice began to show a more proportional distribution of weight on their legs. In addition to this, the vaccinated mice were found to have higher levels of antibodies which appeared to be linked to the analgesic response. The ground-breaking study was published in the Annals of Rheumatic Disease.
Professor Tonia L. Vincent, who co-authored the study said, "This is the first successful vaccination to target pain in osteoarthritis, one of the biggest healthcare challenges of our generation." It was observed that the vaccine visibly reversed the agonizing pain the mice were experiencing due to their condition. The vaccine which was named CuMVttNGF was administered to the mice both before and after the pain had gripped them. The results are definitely encouraging and pave the way for a possibly pain-free future for the millions who struggle with the dreaded condition.
According to NICE, a UK-based health watchdog, X-ray studies clearly indicate that at least 50 percent of people who are over the age of 65 possess evidence of osteoarthritis. Additionally, it was found that of the diagnosed patients, less than 25 percent have access to sufficient pain control. The authors of the study pointed out that osteoarthritis is an increasingly common joint disease, whose incidence is unwittingly impacting the economy of developed countries. The pain associated with osteoarthritis can be so debilitating that often times, those who have it need to take time off from work.
The economic impact of osteoarthritis is 1-2.5 percent of the GDP in developed countries, the study reveals. According to Arthritis UK, the number of working days estimated to be lost due to the condition could reach 25.9million by 2030, which equals an annual cost of £3.43billion in productivity. In 2050, these figures could climb to 27.2million working days at an annual cost of £4.74billion. The researchers at Oxford are convinced the vaccine can help correct this and that it is a far better alternative than the current cost and means of pain management.
Professor Vincent explained, "Whilst there are still safety issues that need to be considered before these types of approaches can be used in patients, we are reassured that this vaccine design allows us to control antibody levels and thus tailor treatment to individual cases according to need." The study was funded by charity Versus Arthritis. Dr. Stephen Simpson who is from the charity, commented, "Too many people living with pain do not get effective relief from the treatments that are currently available. And that is why the development of more effective pain killers, with fewer side-effects, is vital for people living with arthritis." He also added, "Although at an early stage, this is highly innovative research and these results are very promising. We are proud to support research such as this, which aims to tackle this urgent problem and discover new ways to help people overcome pain."Disclaimer : This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.