In a study of transgenic mice genetically engineered to have rheumatoid arthritis, French researchers have determined that the antioxidant vitamin E has the potential to prevent the destruction of cartilage tissue and inhibit pro-inflammatory proteins.
In a study published in the journal, Arthritis and Rheumatism (Volume 46, Issue 2, 2002) Michel De Bandt and collegues from the Centre Hospitalo-Universitaire Xavier Bichant in Paris investigated the effects of vitamin E on joint destruction and clinical inflammation in a mouse model of rheumatoid arthritis. The researchers found that although vitamin E failed to alleviate the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, it did have an effect on the loss of cartilage and amounts inflammatory substances caused by the autoimmune disease.
“Vitamin E treatment did not modify the clinical features of the disease, but it did prevent joint destruction, as measured by qualitative and semi-quantitative analyses,” reported the researchers in the study.
According to the report, potentially harmful forms of oxygen found in the body called reactive oxygen species, are believed to play a role in rheumatoid arthritis. In healthy individuals, these reactive molecules are neutralized by vitamins called antioxidants. However it has been reported that rheumatoid arthritis patients have deficient amounts of antioxidants in their blood. The researchers set out to find if an antioxidant treatment could have a beneficial effect on disease symptoms.
In the trial, mice genetically engineered to have rheumatoid arthritis were treated with oral vitamin E and assessed for a period of six weeks. The vitamin treated mice continued to show symptoms of the disease, however the progressive destruction of joint cartilage was significantly less than the control group. The study also showed a reduction in the inflammatory protein called interleukin 1-beta, a substance produced by the immune system and involved in joint destruction.
Despite the apparent benefits of vitamin E on joint and inflammatory health, the precise reason as to how vitamin E prevented joint destruction in the mice is unclear. The researchers concluded further testing needs to be done to determine what these processes are, and their potential treatment for rheumatoid arthritis in humans.
“Our results emphasize the potential interest of vitamin E in arthritis and deserve further evaluation in order to fully understand its precise mechanism of action,” the researchers said.