Rheumatoid arthritis affects more than 580,000 people in England and Wales, the majority of sufferers are female and aged between 40 and 70, though it can occur at any age. The disease causes swelling, stiffness and pain in the joints (most commonly hands and feet) because the immune system, which normally fights infection, attacks healthy cells that line the joints.
For those who don’t respond well to general arthritis treatments or simply can’t afford them, rejoice. Alpaca antibodies could reduce the severity of your suffering, plus they are available in abundance and relatively inexpensive to produce. Antibodies are proteins located in the blood. They are produced when the body detects antigens (harmful substances) such as: micro-organisms (bacteria, fungi, parasites and viruses) or chemicals.
A Chinese study, whose lead authors were Ping Zhu, Yu Li and Zhinan Chen, was recently published in ‘Arthritis Research & Therapy’. The researchers conducted 3 trials to assess the effectiveness of the alpaca antibody sdAbA1 in treating rheumatoid arthritis. 2 trials involved mice and 1 involved human peripheral blood and synovial fluid (thick liquid surrounding the joint) being obtained from rheumatoid arthritis patients undergoing joint replacement surgery. A control was also carried out using healthy cartilage specimens obtained from non-arthritic patients with hip fractures.
The observed results were promising as the sdAbA1 antibody significantly reduced cartilage erosion and inflammatory cell infiltration. In fact the antibody decreased the number of inflammatory cells more than commonly prescribed arthritis drugs like Infliximab. Moreover the treatment showed no toxic effect on any cells.
Though, at this point the research is encouraging, further tests need to be conducted before human trials can commence, so it may be a long wait to see the treatment readily available for public use, but who knows in 2025 chemists shelves could be full of alpaca antibodies (including Jeremy “Jezza” Alpaxman’s, pictured above).