Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic autoimmune inflammatory disorder that causes your immune system to mistakenly attack its own tissue and specifically affects the lining of the joints, resulting in painful swelling, bone erosion, and eventually permanent joint deformity.  

With an estimated 1.5 million people in the U.S. living with RA, the disease affects nearly three times as many women as men.  In addition to affecting the synovial joints and causing articular destruction and functional disability, an estimated 40% of those diagnosed with RA experience additional signs and symptoms that do not involve the joints; these affected areas often include most body systems and specifically the skin, eyes, lungs, nerves, heart, and blood vessels.

Multiple studies have demonstrated that bone marrow mesenchymal stem cells could be effective for treating a number of autoimmune diseases, including RA. However, little is known about the effectiveness of umbilical cord (UC)-MSCs as they relate to the treatment of autoimmune diseases, specifically RA.  

Considering this, it comes as little surprise to learn that bone marrow MSCs (BM-MSCs) have been the most common source of MSCs used in the study of immunosuppression of autoimmune conditions. However, the collection of BM-MSCs requires aspiration, which is an invasive procedure. Additionally, the number of BM-MSCs and the differentiating potential of BM-MSCs both decrease significantly with age.

UC-MSCs, on the other hand, are collected using non-invasive procedures after birth and before the umbilical cord is discarded. Additionally, UC-MSCs have been well documented to possess properties of self-renewal and multipotent differentiation, making them a potential candidate for alternative sources of stem cells.

In this study, Liu et al. examined the suppressive effects of UC-MCSs on the proliferation, invasive behavior, and inflammatory responses of fibroblast-like synoviocytes (FLSs) from patients with RA. 

At the conclusion of this study, the authors offered a number of key findings about the effectiveness of UC-MSCs in this application, including:

  • US-MSCs inhibited proliferation of FLSs from RA patients
  • US-MSCs suppressed the invasive behavior and MMP expression of FLSs from RA patients
  • US-MSCs suppressed the inflammatory response of FLSs from RA patients
  • UC-MSCs induced hyporesponsiveness of T lymphocytes from RA patients
  • UC-MSCs induced Tregs from RA patients
  • UC-MSCs prevented tissue damage and reduced inflammatory responses in CIA

The authors conclude by indicating the evidence provided by this study indicates that UC-MSCS can exert a profound inhibitory effect on FLSs and T cells from RA patients and that they might be a therapeutic perspective in RA. Source: “Therapeutic potential of human umbilical cord mesenchymal stem ….” https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21080925/.

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