Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Smart Cells

Cells woven into an injectable scaffold delivering anti-inflammatory molecules to rheumatoid arthritis-affected tissues

08 October 2021

Smart Cells

Swelling, tenderness and weakness of the joints are the painful symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. The condition – caused by the body’s immune system attacking its own healthy cells – can flare up and calm down over time, but can never be cured. And, if flare-ups are severe, they can even lead to bone erosion and deformity. Because standard anti-inflammatory drugs can cause unpleasant side effects with long-term use, researchers are developing so-called SMART cells (Stem cells Modified for Autonomous Regenerative Therapy) – pictured. These engineered cells are seeded onto a woven scaffold and grafted into the body wherein they secrete anti-inflammatory compounds only when flare-ups occur – when they detect inflammatory cytokines – thus minimising the chance of side effects. So far, the cells have been shown to respond to cytokines, suppress inflammation, and reduce bone damage in mice with a form of rheumatoid arthritis, all of which pave the way for human studies.

Written by Ruth Williams

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