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New molecule for rheumatoid arthritis may help in preventing cartilage destruction

Date: 16 December 2019 Tags: Miscellaneous


A specific fragment of a protein secreted by the parasitic worm liver fluke (Fasciola) has been found to protect the articular cartilage of joints from being destroyed by the body’s aberrant immune system, thus preventing rheumatoid arthritis from progressing. 



The research team also found that the protein prevented the joint bone from being destroyed. In rheumatoid arthritis, the joint bone starts getting destroyed following cartilage destruction.



  • Liver flukes secrete certain specialised proteins that help the parasites to evade recognition by the host immune system and also blunt the killing machinery of the immune system by dialling down the inflammatory responses.

  • The protein,Fasciola helminth defence molecule-1 (FhHDM-1), secreted by liver fluke has similarity with a human protein that mitigates inflammatory responses.

  • The peptide rapidly stops damage to the cartilage. The cartilage that has already been damaged is not repaired because the damage is irreversible in the case of rheumatoid arthritis.

  • In contrast to the currently used anti-rheumatic drug (methotrexate), the biggest advantage of using the liver fluke peptide is that it does not produce a wholesale suppression of the immune system.

  • Even the monoclonal antibodies that act against individual inflammatory molecules have inherent problems.

  • The monoclonal antibodies target and suppress the tumour necrosis factor (TNF alpha), which is the first line of defence against Mycobacterium. 

  • In such case, the anti-rheumatic drug and even the monoclonal antibodies that target TNF alpha will leave the person susceptible to infections, including TB.

  • The liver fluke peptide only produces selective protection to the joints and does not alter the systemic immune system. So the body’s ability to combat bacterial pathogens will remain intact. 

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