Northwestern University researchers have reported the first successful use of interleukin-13 (IL-13) cytokine gene therapy to treat and prevent rheumatoid arthritis in an animal model.
Arthritis researchers James M. Woods, M.D., research assistant professor of medicine, and Alisa Koch, M.D., professor of medicine, Northwestern University Medical School, described the new gene therapy in an article in the Feb. 10 issue of the journal Human Gene Therapy.
IL-13 reduces the production of inflammatory cytokines, such as tumor necrosis factor, that are involved in joint inflammation. Previous studies have shown that levels of IL-13 are low in the joints of rats with arthritis, as well as in the human rheumatoid joint. It is therefore believed that in rheumatoid arthritis, production of inflammatory cytokines is improperly regulated.
In their study, the Northwestern researchers developed a virus that contains the IL-13 gene. When the virus was injected into the joints of a rat model of arthritis, IL-13 was produced, resulting in the suppression of joint inflammation.
In addition, injection of the gene into normal rat joints prevented the development of arthritis.