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B Cells Can Act Independent of T Cells In Autoimmune Diseases

Categories: ARTHRITIS | August 11th, 2008 | by Gloria Gamat | 2 comments

In autoimmune diseases, it has long been believed by scientists that B cells (the source of damaging autoantibodies) are activated only by when stimulated by T cells.

Now, new findings by Yale researchers showed that in systemic autoimmune diseases (such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis), B cells can be activated even in the absence of T cells — thereby leading to suggested news ways of intervention in tackling the process leading to autoimmune diseases.

Recently this same Yale group along with collaborators at Boston University discovered an unexpected role in autoimmunity of Toll-like receptors, previously thought to be stimulated by molecules expressed on microbial pathogens. Shlomchik and his colleagues showed that they can also recognize and react to “self” molecules, in particular mammalian DNA and RNA. When this occurs, these receptors help activate B cells that make the classical autoantibodies of lupus.

The new Yale study now shows that these signals substitute for T cells in starting the autoimmune process in B cells. The researchers propose that once B cells are activated via Toll-like receptors, they can subsequently recruit T cells and that this can lead to a “vicious cycle” of chronic autoimmune disease in which the two types of cell activate each other.

According to Mark Shlomchik, MD, professor of laboratory medicine and immunobiology at the Yale School of Medicine and senior author of the study:

“The findings were surprising because many scientists believed that B cells remain quiet in autoimmune diseases unless they are stimulated first by T cells.

It became a chicken or egg problem. If cooperation between T and B cells is needed to create an autoimmune disease, who falls off the fence first, and why?”

The findings of the said study may explain why treatments that target T cells fared very poorly while the newer treatments targeted at the B cells are working a lot better.

Here’s a brief explanation how B cells work in the immune system:

B cells react against invading bacteria or viruses by making proteins called antibodies. The antibody made is different for each different bug. The antibody locks onto the surface of the invading bacteria or virus. The invader is then marked with the antibody so that the body knows it is dangerous and it can be killed off.

The B cells are part of the memory of the immune system. The next time the same bug tries to invade, the B cells that make the right antibody are ready for it. They are able to make their antibody more quickly than the first time the bug invaded.

What happens here is that, the treatments to work should be able to intervene in the immune system’s attack to the body’s own tissue.

Read more details from Medical News Today.

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Orthokine Therapy: Long-Term Safe and Effective Against Knee Osteoarthritis

Categories: ARTHRITIS | August 6th, 2008 | by Gloria Gamat | 4 comments

Developed by Düsseldorf orthopaedic surgeon Dr. Peter Wehling and molecular biologist Dr. Julio Reinecke – the orthokine therapy is a treatment by which anti-inflammatory proteins from the patient’s own blood are the ones injected into the arthritic joint.

It is based on an understanding of the biological mechanisms that lead to of osteoarthritis and pain. In osteoarthritis, the body produces interleukin-1 (IL-1), a protein that contributes to the breakdown of cartilage.

To slow down or stop this process, the biological adversary of IL-1, the interleukin-1 receptor antagonist (IL-1Ra), is used. IL-1Ra neutralizes the effect of IL 1, and has anti-inflammatory, analgesic and cartilage-protective effects.

In the Orthokine method, various anti-flammatory proteins and growth factors such as IL-1Ra are obtained from the patient’s own blood and injected back into the affected joint.

Now, results of a two-year study which compared treatments of hyaluronic acid, orthokine and placebo in osteoarthritis of the knee, revealed that orthokine treatment is the safest and most effective treatment. This has been the GOAT study (German Osteoarthritis Trial) conducted by researchers at Heinrich Heine University in Düsseldorf.

They compared the effects of injections of Orthokine, hyaluronic acid and placebo in 310 arthritis patients over a two-year period. Hyaluronic acid, a joint lubricant, is widely used to treat arthritis. Saline was used as the placebo.

Two years after the series of injections, patients treated with Orthokine scored substantially better than those treated with hyaluronic acid or placebo on measures of pain and joint function.

Two years after the initial treatment, 188 of the 310 patients were still reporting improvements with respect to pain and joint function, while 122 had sought other treatments in the meantime such as surgery, injections, medication or acupuncture. The number of patients requiring further treatment was smallest in the Orthokine group.

According to Prof. Peter Wehling, chairman of the board of Orthogen AG and the co-developer of the orthokine therapy:

“The two-year results confirm our previous studies: Orthokine therapy provides long-term relief from pain and joint dysfunction in many patients and does so more effectively than comparable treatments”.

Findings appear in the journal Osteoarthritis and Cartilage. Read more details of this study from
The Medical News Today.

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Springing Back From The Flu, Some Tidbits On Living Life With Arthritis

Categories: ARTHRITIS | August 1st, 2008 | by Gloria Gamat | no comments

I’ve been bugged down by flu recently and so I had to rest for awhile and just sleep the night off than usual. But I am back and now it’s the first of August. Wow, time flies really!

Now it’s Friday. But before I close my week and take it easy the rest of the weekend, let me share with you all a few things that show how life with arthritis can be lived with some better quality, if we make some adjustments.

1. Kitchen adjustments and tools that can help those with arthritis

Diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis in 1987, Tuovi Cochrane, 67, of Rockford, has joined thousands of women in inventing new ways to create in the kitchen.

Using a specially designed ergonomic kitchen knife with a broad blade and sawlike handle that is easier to grip, Cochrane is able to slice, dice and chop.

For opening jar lids, she uses the adjustable Black & Decker Lids Off, which can handle even small prescription-pill containers.

2. Lower arthritis risks with simple changes

  • Keep your weight down: excess weight puts additional stress on the joints and is especially hard on the knees and hips.
  • Don’t avoid exercise: Although high-impact activities can irritate arthritis, keeping muscles strong and joints moving is therapeutic; try swimming, yoga or even golf.
  • Take stretch breaks at work: Don’t sit or stand in the same position for long periods of time. Stand up and move or stretch every 30 minutes.
  • Get your vitamins: everyone can benefit from a healthy, balanced diet, but getting adequate calcium and vitamin C is of particular importance to bone and joint health,
  • Wear comfortable shoes: Don’t sacrifice your health for fashion; high heels put added stress on feet and knees.

3. Wii Fit as indoor exercise for arthritis patients

Elaine Bartz would never lie to her doctor.

Since the 62-year-old grandmother bought a Nintendo Wii Fit system to help fight her arthritis, that hasn’t been a consideration.

“Every time I go to the doctor, she would ask me if I’d been exercising, because I do have high cholesterol, too,” Bartz said. “I would say, ‘Uh, no, I’m not.’ Now, when I go to her, I can say I am exercising daily.”

4. Yoga for arthritis

Thanks to fascinating advances in medication too, which has definitely saved an arthritic from the devastating side effects of steroids. But, have we hit the nail on its head? Have we been able to cure or prevent joint diseases? The answer is a clear ‘No’.

5. Cooking workshop that may help arthritis patients

This month, the Indiana Chapter of the Arthritis Foundation will team up with Whole Foods Market to offer a short series of FREE, fun and educational courses for the community called Healthy Cooking 101. These courses were created for Indiana residents who struggle with rheumatoid arthritis but still want to maintain some sort of independence in the kitchen.

Well, we all do need all the help we can get. Be it turning ergonomic, doing yoga or buying the Wii fit, i think I won’t hurt to try and see what’s going to work for you. Take your prescribed meds too! Most importantly, you gotta eat right.

That’s all for now and I wish you all a great weekend.

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Frankincense Against Knee Osteoarthritis

Categories: ARTHRITIS | July 31st, 2008 | by Gloria Gamat | 3 comments

An enriched extract of the frankincense herb may reduce the symptoms of osteoarthritis. Such were the suggested findings of a study recently reported at Arthritis Research & Therapy.

The authors of the said study have reported that patients who took the enriched herb experienced reduction in pain and increase in mobility in as little as seven days.

The herb was enriched with 30 percent AKBA (3-O-acetyl-11-keto-beta-boswellic acid), which exhibits potential anti-inflammatory properties by inhibiting the 5-lipoxygenase enzyme. This enzyme transforms essential fatty acids into leukotrienes, which use signals to regulate the body’s response to inflammation.

AKBA is believed to be the most active ingredient of the B. serrata herb.

“AKBA has anti-inflammatory properties, and we have shown that B. serrata enriched with AKBA can be an effective treatment for osteoarthritis of the knee,” said study leader Siba Raychaudhuri, a faculty member of the University of California, Davis.

“The high incidence of adverse effects associated with currently available medications has created great interest in the search for an effective and safe alternative treatment,” Raychaudhuri said.

Frankincense is something we knew that is used in incense and in perfumes. From wikipedia:

Frankincense is tapped from the very scraggly but hardy Boswellia tree through slashing the bark and allowing the exuded resins to bleed out and harden. These hardened resins are called tears. There are numerous species and varieties of frankincense trees, each producing a slightly different type of resin. Differences in soil and climate create even more diversity in the resin, even within the same species.

In the abovementioned study, the frankincense specie used is Boswellia serrata enriched with 30% 3-O-acetyl-11-keto-beta-boswellic acid (AKBA) — a product called 5-Loxin®.

5-Loxin(R) is a novel Boswellia serrata extract enriched with 30% 3-O-acetyl-11-keto-beta-boswellic acid (AKBA), which exhibits potential anti-inflammatory properties by inhibiting the 5-lipoxygenase enzyme. A 90-day, double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study was conducted to evaluate the efficacy and safety of 5-Loxin(R) in the treatment of osteoarthritis (OA) of the knee.

5-Loxin(R) reduces pain and improves physical functioning significantly in OA patients; and it is safe for human consumption. 5-Loxin(R) may exert its beneficial effects by controlling inflammatory responses through reducing proinflammatory modulators, and it may improve joint health by reducing the enzymatic degradation of cartilage in OA patients.

5-Loxin® is a new, patent-pending joint health ingredient from P.L. Thomas.

Story sources: FOX News, Arthritis Research & Therapy abstract

5-LOXIN is a new, patent-pending joint health ingredient that is steeped in the historic roots of boswellia serrata extracts. The boswellia plant has been used for thousands of years in traditional Ayurvedic medicine in India, and recent studies have shown its benefits in promoting joint comfort, knee mobility and walking distance.

The application of modern science by the researchers at the renowned Laila Impex Research Center in India has resulted in the identification of the most powerful boswellia compound, acetyl-11-keto-beta boswellic acid, or AKBA.

I’m guessing it won’t take too long before this product makes it to the market for public consumption. Soon enough this will be the new osteoarthritis anti-inflammatory/pain drug, don’t you think?

Story sources: FOX News and Arthritis Research & Therapy abstract

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Roche RA Drug Actemra Wins Support of US FDA Panel

Categories: ARTHRITIS | July 31st, 2008 | by Gloria Gamat | no comments

Roche is happy to announce that its rheumatoid arthritis drug Actemra (tocilizumab) has won the recommending approval of the US FDA‘s Arthritis Advisory Committee.

The committee’s vote was made after Roche presented results from five Phase III clinical trials. The clinical development program evaluated the effects of Actemra on signs and symptoms of RA, physical function, progression of structural damage, and health-related quality of life.

Of these five studies, three trials were conducted in patients with inadequate response to disease modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs), one trial was conducted in patients who failed anti tumor necrosis factor (TNF) therapy and one monotherapy study comparing Actemra to methotrexate, a current standard of care, was also conducted.

Results of these studies demonstrated that treatment with Actemra, alone or combined with methotrexate or other DMARDs, significantly reduced RA symptoms regardless of previous therapy or disease severity, compared with current DMARDs.

Actemra (already approved in Japan, but not yet in the US and Europe) is a novel interleukin-6 (IL-6) receptor-inhibiting monoclonal antibody, for reducing the signs and symptoms in adults with moderate to severe rheumatoid arthritis (RA).

Actemra is the result of research collaboration by Chugai and is being co-developed globally with Chugai. Actemra is the first humanized interleukin-6 (IL-6) receptor-inhibiting monoclonal antibody. An extensive clinical development program of five Phase III trials was designed to evaluate clinical findings of Actemra. T

he five studies have reported meeting their primary endpoints. Actemra is awaiting approval in the United States and Europe. In Japan, Actemra was launched by Chugai in June 2005 as a therapy for Castleman’s disease; in April 2008, additional indications for rheumatoid arthritis, polyarticular-course juvenile idiopathic arthritis and systemic-onset juvenile idiopathic arthritis were also approved in Japan.

With the FDA panel’s recommending approval, it is almost sure that the FDA will grant approval of Actemra in September.

According to William M. Burns, CEO of Roche’s Pharmaceuticals Division:

“We are pleased with the FDA advisory committee’s very positive recommendation for Actemra, which helps move this promising new therapy closer to becoming available for patients who suffer from the debilitating symptoms of RA.

Based on the compelling data presented, and this positive recommendation from the committee, we remain hopeful that the FDA will approve Actemra for the treatment of RA and provide a new option to patients who are not achieving adequate symptom relief with current therapies.”

Actemra is generally well tolerated, as reported by Roche. Now reports are saying that if the drug gets FDA approval, Actemra is a potential blockbuster. Well…from a patient’s perspective, let’s cross our fingers that the drug really works well against rheumatoid arthritis.

The overall safety profile of Actemra is consistent across all global clinical studies. Serious adverse events reported in Actemra clinical trials include serious infections, diverticular perforations and hypersensitivity reactions including anaphylaxis.

The most common adverse events reported in clinical trials were upper respiratory tract infection, nasopharyngitis, headache and hypertension. Increases in liver function tests (ALT and AST) were seen in some patients; these increases were generally mild and reversible, without injuries or any observed impact on liver function.

Laboratory changes, including increases in lipids (total cholesterol, LDL, HDL, triglycerides) and decreases in neutrophils and platelets, were seen in some patients without association with clinical outcomes.

Read more from the Roche press release or the report from Reuters.

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Free RA Worshop in North Platte

Categories: ARTHRITIS | July 29th, 2008 | by Gloria Gamat | one comments

What: Workshop On Rheumatoid Arthritis

When: 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Where: Holiday Inn Express (North Platte, Nebraska)

Sponsored by Great Plains Regional Medical Center (GPRMC) and North Platte Orthopedic and Sports Medicine, this workshop is free and open to the public.

If anybody reading this is near the area, you may want to drop by and listen to Dr. E. Scott Carroll present the seminar:

Dr. E. Scott Carroll, who will present the seminar, began practicing at GPRMC in April 2008. Carroll specializes in hand injuries and pathology. Specifically, he offers wrist arthroscopy, thumb basal joint procedures for arthritis, care of fractures and all hand trauma, including tendon, nerve and arterial repair.

Soft tissue flap coverage of the mutilated hand, as well as replantation of digits is performed here in North Platte. Distal radius fractures, ganglion cysts, fractures of the carpal bones, as well as carpal tunnel release are within the scope of his practice. He will also treat trigger fingers, Dupuytren’ s disease excision and tumors of the hand.

Carroll received a bachelor’s degree in biology from the University of Nebraska at Omaha, then attended the University of Health Sciences College of Osteopathic Medicine. Following his schooling, he held a rotating internship and general surgery residency in Des Moines, Iowa.

Carroll then accepted a residency in cardiothoracic surgery in New Jersey for three years. Following the program in New Jersey, Carroll then worked as a heart surgeon in Florida, and practiced in Kearney since March 2001.

It is good to know that such an expert is holding a free seminar. Pretty use he will attract more and more patients.

Which brings me to this other news saying that baby boomers are more like to seek arthritis care for their foot and ankle arthritis.

Foot and ankle surgeons say Baby Boomers are more likely than previous generations to seek care when arthritis develops in their toes, feet and ankles.

“Unlike their parents, Baby Boomers do not accept foot pain as a natural part of aging,” says John Giurini, DPM, a Boston foot and ankle surgeon and president of the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons (ACFAS). “When conservative treatments fail, they want to know what other options exist.”

“This generation has witnessed an explosion of new medical technology during its lifetime,” says Stephen Frania, DPM, a Cleveland foot and ankle surgeon. “They have high expectations, sometimes too high.”

Surgeons say many Boomers who seek treatment for arthritis assume they’ll be able to resume activities such as running or playing sports. Seeking treatment early can improve the odds of preventing irreversible joint damage. While there is no fountain of youth for arthritis, surgeons say there are more medical options available to Baby Boomers than ever before.

There are more  advanced treatment options these days, that is undeniable. Also the younger generation are enjoying the readily available resources that will urge them to seek healthcare when they feel something is wrong in their body.

Well the other extreme of that really is:  each one of us it at risk of the ‘knowing too much’ and the ‘reading too much information’ syndromes in this day and age. Like i have always said, information like the ones in this blog are for educational purposes only…don’t forget to seek the expert practicing doctor.

Let us not forget finding the right balance in all these.

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Muscuskeletal Ultrasound in Rheumatoid Arthritis

Categories: ARTHRITIS | July 28th, 2008 | by Gloria Gamat | 4 comments

Musculoskeletal ultrasound (MSUS) has been around for quite sometime and has turned into an established imaging technique for the diagnosis and follow up of patients with rheumatic diseases — such as rheumatoid arthritis. MSUS generates pictures/imaging of muscles, tendons, ligaments, joints and soft tissue throughout the body.

From Radiology Info, MSUS helps diagnose the following:

  • tendon tears, such as tears of the rotator cuff in the shoulder or Achilles tendon in the ankle
  • abnormalities of the muscles, such as tears and soft-tissue masses
  • bleeding or other fluid collections within the muscles, bursae and joints

One limitation however of this imagine procedure is that it has difficulty penetrating to the bones and so can only see the outer surface of bony structures. For imaging of the internals of the bones and joints, MRI comes in.

According to UK’s National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society:

Ultrasound is relatively inexpensive and safe, avoiding the exposure to radiation that is necessary for conventional x-rays, CT and MRI scans.

Traditionally, rheumatologists have referred patients to radiologists for all ultrasound examinations but recent developments have enabled them to conduct some scans themselves. The advent of portable ultrasound machines (figure 2) means that scans can be carried out at the bedside or in the outpatient clinic without the need for a second appointment in the x-ray department.

This speeds up the process of investigation and allows the rheumatologist to plan treatment without delay. Radiologists are expert at conducting detailed scans that often assist with a structural diagnosis. Rheumatologists tend to use ultrasound in a slightly different way. They may use it to guide them in carrying out difficult joint injections.

They also use it to detect subtle inflammation around tendons and small knuckle joints. This is important because clinical examination may not always identify inflammation, particularly in early arthritis. The earlier the diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis, the better the chance of dampening down inflammation and preventing joint damage.

Well I guess it is always better to see a rheumatologist for this procedure…though the combined ‘reading’ or interpretation of both rheumatologist and radiologist alike would be a lot of help. Has anybody reading this underwent MSUS, let us know about it. Was the procedure helpful in the diagnosis?

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ACR New Guidelines For Rheumatoid Arthritis Treatment

Categories: ARTHRITIS | July 27th, 2008 | by Gloria Gamat | 3 comments

Updated guidelines for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis has been issued by the American College of Rheumatology.

Co-authored by by physicians at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), the updated guidelines highlighted the fact that proven combinations of medicines and the introduction of new anti-arthritis drugs have significantly improved the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis (RA).

The strategies are updated in such a way that the goal is more focused on the prevention of joint damage and disability.

According to lead author Kenneth Saag, M.D., M.Sc., a professor in the UAB Division of Clinical Immunology and Rheumatology:

The new recommendations do not strive to replace individualized medical decisions. Instead, they are meant to guide rheumatologists and other health care workers toward the most updated recommendations.

The recommendations developed are not intended to be used in a ‘cookbook’ or prescriptive manner, or to limit a physician’s clinical judgment. They provide guidance based on clinical evidence and expert panel input.”

The last guidance issued by ACR is in year 2002. Some of the key recommendations included in the new guidelines are:

  • Methotrexate or leflunomide therapy is recommended for most RA patients.
  • Anti-TNF agents etanercept, infliximab, or adalimumab along with methotrexate can be used in new or early RA cases with worsening and severe symptoms.
  • Doctors should not initiate or resume treatment with methotrexate, leflunomide, or biologics if RA patients have active bacterial infection, shingles (herpes-zoster), hepatitis B, hepatitis C and active or latent tuberculosis.
  • Doctors should not prescribe anti-TNF agents to patients with a history of heart failure, lymphoma or multiple sclerosis.

For the complete guideline, the American College of Rheumatology has a pdf file.

The anti-TNFs popularly available in the market are:

1) Enbrel (entanercept) – product of Amgen and Wyeth

ENBREL is a type of protein called a tumor necrosis factor (TNF) blocker that blocks the action of a substance your body’s immune system makes called TNF. People with an immune disease, such as rheumatoid arthritis, juvenile idiopathic arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, psoriatic arthritis, or psoriasis, have too much TNF in their bodies.

ENBREL can reduce the amount of active TNF in the body to normal levels, helping to treat your disease. But, in doing so, ENBREL can also lower the ability of your immune system to fight infections.

2) Remicade (infliximab) – product of Centocor, Inc.

REMICADE is an advanced treatment that has been shown to have substantial benefits in patients with a number of inflammatory disorders involving the immune system. REMICADE targets specific proteins in the body’s immune system to help control the development of inflammation, significantly reducing painful symptoms in diseases such as plaque psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, adult Crohn’s disease, pediatric Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, and ankylosing spondylitis.

3) Humira (adalimumab) – product of Abbott

HUMIRA is a TNF Blocker.

TNF (tumor necrosis factor) blockers are a class of medications that fight both the painful symptoms and progressive joint damage of moderate to severe rheumatoid arthritis. They just might make a real difference in your fight against RA.

TNF blockers can slow down the rate at which RA causes damage to joints and bones. HUMIRA is one such TNF blocker.

For many patients, HUMIRA can provide relief to painful joints. It can help fight the fatigue. And it can help slow the progressive joint damage of moderate to severe rheumatoid arthritis.

As we already know, rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease causing the chronic inflammation of the joints. We already know too that with the proper treatment, therapy, diet, lifestyle, etc…rheumatoid arthritis need not be a death sentence. Discuss the options with your doctor in order to still have the best quality of life despite your condition.

Read more from Medical News Today or UAB News.

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Exercise Benefits Arthritis

Categories: ARTHRITIS | July 26th, 2008 | by Gloria Gamat | 3 comments

Countless time here, I have mentioned the importance of exercise in managing arthritis. While exercise (as shown by various studies) can relieve the pain, stiffness and swelling in joints caused by arthritis, we do not want an exercise that will strain the arthritis patient.

If you dig into my archives, the top 2 exercise for arthritis that will come out are:

1. Tai Chi

Tai Chi is most known to relieve stress and improve one’s agility. Recently however, it has been noticed as a beneficial exercise form for people with arthritis. From the Mayo Clinic‘s list of uses of tai chi, one cannot deny the fact that it can indeed help against arthritis:

  • Reduce stress
  • Increase flexibility
  • Improve muscle strength and definition
  • Increase energy, stamina and agility
  • Increase feelings of well-being

In the case of oseoarthritis, stress is a risk factor. Therefore tai chi in one way to relieve stress and improve one’s quality of life.

2. Water Aerobics or other water exercises

Exercising in water doesn’t strain the joints and so it offers a different way of exercising with too much stress to people suffering from arthritis. Besides, studies have attested to its benefits. It is better though to have a trainor for this or join a class. With the approval of course of your doctor.

From wikipedia:

In addition to the standard benefits of any exercise, the use of water in water aerobics supports the body and reduces the risk of muscle or joint injury. The mitigation of gravity by flotation places less stress on the joints when stretching, and can allow a greater range of motion. The mitigation of gravity makes water aerobics safe for any individual able to keep their head out of water, including the elderly.[2] Exercise in water can also prevent overheating through continuous cooling of the body. Most classes last for 45-55 minutes.

I couldn’t agree more. People with arthritis should exercise but with minimal to none injury to the muscle or joints.

Swimming and walking, am not to sure to add to this list. While it may be beneficial, it should with done with caution as we do not want to be strained, stress nor injured. Simple stretching exercises could be helpful as well. Nothing too fancy, I guess. It would be best to discuss with your doctor, it might be good to consider as well if you work with a professional therapist or trainor experienced in arthritis patients. At least from my reading about managing life with arthritis, that piece of info I has always bumped into.

Would you mind sharing to us here, what kinds of exercises have you found beneficial in living life with arthritis? We’d like to know.

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Grapefruit Pulp For Bone Health

Categories: ARTHRITIS | July 23rd, 2008 | by Gloria Gamat | one comments

The bone health ‘industry’ is dominated by Calcium and Vitamin D, as many people already know. I know this is an arthritis blog but for now I want to talk about our bone health. For somebody who has never been a religious milk drinker, I wanna take this opportunity to remind myself of the importance of starting early on milk. While I cannot take back  or even make up for the years lost of not drinking milk (I’m a true-blue coffeeholic!), I remain a work in progress in putting milk into my diet. (The time I was pregnant and breastfeeding and of course when I was a kid was the only times in my life I was on milk!)

There is always the option of taking the supplemental Calcium with Vitamin D. I was on this too when I got pregnant and even afterwards. However, I have always believed that taking the dietary sources are a lot better than taking the supplements. That’s why I have always resorted to other dairy products ( and other food sources rich in calcium) such as cheese and fruit yoghurt (yikes, i never thought the day would come I’d be brave enough to try yoghurt!). Just think non-fat dairy folks, that’s arthritis-friendly.

Speaking of grapefruit. Who likes it? It isn’t one of the nicest citrus fruits to eat but it has become popular in lose-weight fad diets. One time I bought grapefruit juice and was repulsed by the taste. Really. That time I thought maybe that’s why people lose weight with grapefruit because after eating (or drinking the juice) you feel horrible in the stomach and the mouth and then you can’t eat anything else anymore.

Now results of  Texas AMU research showed that red grapefruit pulp may compete with Calcium and Vitamin D for bone health, at least in their study using male rats:

The pulp of grapefruit may improve bone health and reduce the risk of developing osteoporosis, according to a new study with male rats.

Consumption of the red grapefruit pulp led to a slow down in bone resorption, and an increase in bone mineral build-up and calcium absorption, according to researchers from Texas A&M University.

If the results can be repeated in humans, grapefruit pulp may offer a new ingredient to the growing bone health market dominated by calcium and vitamin D.

Well…if grapefruit pulp later becomes a supplement, I guess I can take it better than eating fresh grapefruits! But then that’s just me. Other people may disagree and find grapefruit appealing to their taste buds.

So there, I’m just saying there goes maybe another option in the future for people who can’t drink milk. There are always substitute, even for people with cow’s milk allergy and even for the lactose-intolerant. Really I should be thankful because I only cannot take the smell and taste of fresh milk that’s why I have turned creative and put them in my fruit shake. Yum!

What about you, I want to here how you take care of your bones. And joints too!

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Eating Pineapple is Good For Your Joints

Categories: ARTHRITIS | July 23rd, 2008 | by Gloria Gamat | 2 comments

Honestly I never thought about it before, never bumped into the information as well until recently that I have been exchanging emails with an old college friend of mine that is working at Dole (Asia) and saw this in her email signature:

A Superfood for Your Joints – pineapple is the only source of the anti-inflammatory enzyme bromelain. Research has linked bromelain with significant reduction in knee pain. Learn more at dolesuperfoods.com.”

Then it so happened  that on Monday, my mother had pineapple slices in our fridge — the small varieties but lot sweeter (than those giant hawaiian pineapples) that thrives here in my region. Well you see I’m not such a fan of pineapples, I always find it too sour even when i was a young kid. If I force myself to eat some, I get sick in the stomach. Maybe that’s just because I have always been hyperacidic. Would your believe even the plain pineapple juice in cans (even the sweetened ones) make my stomach sick? Well until Dole (and Del Monte!) came up with their tropical mixes of juices such as pineapple-orange and pineapple-guava. I love the one with guava though, of course it is sweet and i never took it on an empty stomach.

But yeah, even from long ago I knew that pineapples have got natural chemicals in them that is good for the body and because it is fibrous it indeed good for washing away toxins in one’s intestines. Just watch the current tv ads of Del Monte pineapple juice and that’s what they always say. 😉

Now Dole has got dolesuperfoods.com and I am at a time in my life I’d eat and drink anything that will make my joints a lot better as long as they’re from natural sources. Yes folks I ate my own dust, I’m not ignoring pineapples anymore. That very day I described above? I ate 4 pineapple slices in one sitting! Good thing I didn’t get sick. It was right after my lunch of stir-fried-all-veggies-chinese-noodles that my mother whipped up in our kitchen.

Well…I’ve committed to eating healthier since towards the end of 2007 when osteoarthritis hit me in the face and I almost can’t walk. What i mean by eating healthier is not going on a diet to lose weight, but changing what I eat to more fish, sometimes chicken, a lot less pork and definitely no beef (i almost never ate beef anyway, due to allergy), more veggies and more fresh fruits.

Since then I still am leaner, my joints a lot better. I do walk our yard on a daily basis for  exercise and i prop up my feet while I work near our bed. That way my legs are less stressed, have better circulation and i have have my ginger rub in handy on days I forget and stressed my knees. These are indeed better days.

Now to my friend J at Dole: I need a truckload of Dole pineapples! Send them over, okay? Haha! Kidding.

[Disclaimer: This is not a Dole-sponsored post!]

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UK’s NICE Decision Regarding Arthritis Drugs Curtails Switching Treatments

Categories: ARTHRITIS | July 21st, 2008 | by Gloria Gamat | no comments

The UK’s National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice) decision on arthritis drug will prevent tens of thousands of arthritis sufferers to switch to powerful drugs.

In a separate post I already mentioned UK Nice’s ruling that do not allow switching of arthritis drug to more powerful ones, once the patient do not respond in one in the premise that it isn’t cost effective. Now the final draft on that ruling (before definitive guidance is issued) has been issued by Nice already.

Charity groups and arthritis patients alike are going berserk of course, simply because this ruling will prevent access of arthritis patients to hopefully better drugs to manage their arthritis.

The Telegraph reports:

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice), today issues a final appraisal document – the last draft before definitive guidance is issued – stating that patients who do not respond to one powerful drug cannot try another of the same type.

Currently doctors are able to try patients on three variants of a drug type which work by blocking the action of a chemical.

If one does not work or its effectiveness wears out over time, sufferers can switch to another, prolonging the period they can remain fit and active.

But the drugs are very expensive, with even the cheapest costing around £100 a week per patient.

Many rheumatoid arthritis patients live with the disease for decades. They argue that cutting down the options will leave them needlessly living in agony for years.

Cutting access to the drugs will speed their decline, meaning they are less able to work for a living and will have to rely more on benefits and care, campaigners say.

I don’t understand it either. I came from a country where regular citizens don’t have access to the best treatment just because they don’t have money nor the medical coverage. I always thought thought that in the first world, access to the best treatments and prescribed drugs isn’t a problem. But then I guess it all boils down to business. I don’t know how medical coverage in the UK works, but then I guess since the government seems to have a say in which drug to opt for in the case of anti-TNFs for rheumatoid arthritis, they are probably covering a huge bulk of the medical treatments.

The anti-TNF drugs currently available on the NHS are Enbrel (its generic name being etanercept), Humira (adalimumab) and Remicade (infliximab).

Scientists are not sure why one anti-TNF drug might stop working over time but doctors and patients agree being able to switch between them can be highly beneficial.

Once arthritis patients have exhausted the anti-TNF options, under NHS rules they can move on to another drug called rituximab, a ‘biologic’ which works by modifying the immune system.

Until recently they would have then been able to try a separate drug called abatacept, but in April Nice quashed that option, saying it was not cost effective.

However, it just doesn’t sound fair to declare some drug class to be not cost effective. Then why don’t they just charge the patient with the extra cost they don’t cover?! At least leave the doctors and patients to have more options for treatment, right? I don’t know…I’m just saying.

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Enbrel (etanercept)-Methotrexate Drug Combo For Remission of Rheumatoid Arthritis

Categories: ARTHRITIS | July 16th, 2008 | by Gloria Gamat | no comments

As reported by Wyeth – maker of the rheumatoid arthritis drug Enbrel – the combination of the drug Enbrel and methotrexate help improve to remission of rheumatoid arthritis.

Wyeth Pharmaceuticals (a division of Wyeth) and Amgen today announced the publication of data from the COMET (COmbination of Methotrexate and ETanercept in Active Early Rheumatoid Arthritis) trial demonstrating that half of patients treated with the combination of ENBREL and methotrexate achieved Disease Activity Score (DAS) clinical remission and nearly all had no progression of joint damage.

Enbrel is a tumor necrosis factor (TNF) blocker that blocks the action of a substance that the body’s immune system makes (called TNF) and is FDA-approved for the treatment of moderate-to-severe rheumatoid arthritis, plaque psoriasis, psoriatic arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis and juvenile idiopathic arthritis. It looks like that Enbrel is prescribedx for most types of the inflammatory autoimmune kind of rheumatic arthritis.

Combination therapy with ENBREL plus methotrexate also helped patients remain more functionally active. Based on the Health Assessment Questionnaire (used to assess certain daily life activities), 61 percent (n = 256) of patients treated with combination therapy demonstrated improvement in their functionality versus 44 percent (n = 241) of those treated with only methotrexate. Further, the COMET trial showed that patients who were treated with combination therapy had a nearly three-fold reduction in work stoppage compared with those who received methotrexate alone.

The above findings were published online on July 15 by The Lancet.

In the United States, Enbrel has the following indications (more in details as I have already enumerated above:

  • ENBREL is indicated for reducing signs and symptoms, keeping joint damage from getting worse, and improving physical function in patients with moderate to severe rheumatoid arthritis. ENBREL can be taken with methotrexate or used alone.
  • ENBREL is indicated for reducing the signs and symptoms of moderately to severely active polyarticular juvenile idiopathic arthritis in patients ages 2 and older.
  • ENBREL is indicated for reducing signs and symptoms, keeping joint damage from getting worse, and improving physical function in patients with psoriatic arthritis. ENBREL can be used in combination with methotrexate in patients who do not respond adequately to methotrexate alone.
  • ENBREL is indicated for reducing signs and symptoms in patients with active ankylosing spondylitis.
  • ENBREL is indicated for the treatment of adult patients (18 years or older) with chronic moderate to severe plaque psoriasis who are candidates for systemic therapy or phototherapy.

Read more from Wyeth’s press release and visit Enbrel’s website for more details about this drug. Remember, Enbrel is a prescription drug. Talk to your doctor about it if he hasn’t mentioned this already.

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Orencia (abatacept) For Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis

Categories: ARTHRITIS | July 15th, 2008 | by Gloria Gamat | one comments

Orencia (abatacept) – a product of Bristol-Myers Squibb –  is in the news today.

ORENCIA® (abatacept) is a prescription medicine that can reduce signs and symptoms in adults with moderate to severe rheumatoid arthritis (RA) — including those who have not been helped enough by other medicines for RA. ORENCIA can further damage the bones and joints which can also reduce signs and symptoms in children and adolescents 6 years of age and older with moderate to severe polyarticular juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA).

According to The Washington Post:

Children suffering from juvenile arthritis who haven’t had luck with other treatments may benefit from a drug called Orencia (abatacept).

The conclusions follow from a randomized trial of 122 patients aged 6 to 17 from 45 centers in Europe and in the United States. All participants had a history of juvenile idiopathic arthritis and had at least five joints with active disease. All had tried and failed at least one previous drug.

Participants were randomly assigned to receive 10 milligrams per kilogram of Orencia at 28-day intervals for six months or until the arthritis flared up, or a placebo given on the same schedule.

Just over half (53 percent) of patients on the placebo and 20 percent of those on Orencia experienced an exacerbation of their condition. The odds of a flare-up in patients on Orencia were only 31 percent of that for patients on the placebo. Side effects were similar.

Juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA) or juvenila rheumatoid arthritis is the RA that happens to children as the name suggests.

JRA or JIA causes joint inflammation for at least six weeks in children 16 years old or younger. From the Mayo Clinic on treatment and drugs for JRA:

Treatment for juvenile rheumatoid arthritis focuses on helping your child maintain a normal level of physical and social activity. To accomplish this, doctors may use a combination of strategies to relieve pain and swelling, maintain full movement and strength, and prevent complications.

Orencia offers what other treatments for JRA failed to do.

ORENCIA works in a fundamentally different way than any other rheumatoid arthritis treatment. ORENCIA works early in the RA inflammatory process at the T-cell level and can reduce the activation of T cells, which reduces the activation of other cells in the RA inflammatory process.

Visit Orencia‘s official website for more information. Talk to your doctor about it.

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RDEA806 Advances To Phase 2a Trial For Gout

Categories: ARTHRITIS | July 14th, 2008 | by Gloria Gamat | no comments

Gout is a form of arthrtitis. It is called metabolic arthritis and is caused by the build-up of uric acid in the body.

Gout is condition that results from crystals of uric acid depositing in tissues of the body. Gout is characterized by an overload of uric acid in the body and recurring attacks of joint inflammation (arthritis). Chronic gout can lead to deposits of hard lumps of uric acid in and around the joints, decreased kidney function, and kidney stones.

Gout has the unique distinction of being one of the most frequently recorded medical illnesses throughout history. It is often related to an inherited abnormality in the body’s ability to process uric acid.

Ardea Biosciences, Inc.‘s investigational drug for gout dubbed as RDEA806 has recently received regulatory approval to advance into a Phase 2a clinical trial.

According to Barry D. Quart, PharmD, Ardea Biosciences’ President and CEO:

“The Phase 2a trial should allow us to confirm RDEA594’s activity in the target population of patients with gout using its prodrug, RDEA806. Enrollment in the Phase 2a trial should begin shortly and we are on track to initiate a Phase 1 trial with RDEA594 in the second half of this year.

We also are extremely pleased to add Dr. Fernando Perez-Ruiz to our inflammatory diseases SAB. Dr. Perez-Ruiz has extensive experience treating gout patients with drugs of the same class as RDEA594.”

Gout can be painful and really debilitating, that’s for sure. Like the other arthritis types, this one can happen to younger people and not just men in their 40s (group with highest risk). I know somebody in college who had one. Well he wasn’t really very athletic and has to watch what he ate.

Ardea previously announced the designation of RDEA594, a major metabolite of RDEA806, the Company’s lead human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) development compound, as its lead development candidate for the treatment of patients with gout.

RDEA594 does not have antiviral activity, but is believed to be responsible for essentially all of the uric acid lowering effects seen with RDEA806. Uric acid lowering effects have been observed following administration of RDEA806 in Phase 1 and Phase 2 clinical trials that included over 100 subjects.

Okay…let’s see how this goes. It’s good to always have options in finding the right balance of treatment, nutrition and form of exercise in order to manage one’s arthritis. Since gout is more of a metabolic, I guess people with this condition has to watch what they eat more than anybody else.

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Farm-Raised Tilapia Bad Food for People With Arthritis

Categories: ARTHRITIS | July 13th, 2008 | by Gloria Gamat | no comments

According to researchers of Wake Forest University School of Medicine, the popular fish – the farm-raised tilapia has less very low levels of the beneficial omega-3 fatty acids and very high levels of omega-6 fatty acids.

The said combination is bad one, making tilapia not a good food for some people suffering from heart disease, arthritis, asthma and other allergic and auto-immune diseases (particularly vulnerable to an “exaggerated inflammatory response).

Inflammation is known to cause damage to blood vessels, the heart, lung and joint tissues, skin, and the digestive tract.

The study authors published their findings this month in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association:

“In the United States, tilapia has shown the biggest gains in popularity among seafood, and this trend is expected to continue as consumption is projected to increase from 1.5 million tons in 2003 to 2.5 million tons by 2010.

They say their research revealed that farm-raised tilapia, as well as farmed catfish, “have several fatty acid characteristics that would generally be considered by the scientific community as detrimental.

Tilapia has higher levels of potentially detrimental long-chain omega-6 fatty acids than 80-percent-lean hamburger, doughnuts and even pork bacon.

For individuals who are eating fish as a method to control inflammatory diseases such as heart disease, it is clear from these numbers that tilapia is not a good choice.

All other nutritional content aside, the inflammatory potential of hamburger and pork bacon is lower than the average serving of farmed tilapia.”

Well…that definitely gives a new meaning to intake of more fish in the diet. Then we gotta pick the fish we eat.

The American Heart Association now recommends that everyone eat at least two servings of fish per week, and that heart patients consume at least 1 gram a day of the two most critical omega-3 fatty acids, known as EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid).

I haven’t had tilapia in  a long time. Since I came home more than two years ago. Around here, a coastal town, bounty from the sea is more popular than farm-raised fishes such as tilapia. In a province that surrounds a bay where I stayed for some 18 years…it was there i learned to eat tilapia.

Now I gotta remember that it a potentially dangerous food for people with arthritis. But then, there are far more delicious, healthier oliy fish from the sea. So why settle for tilapia alone, right?

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Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis: Often Misdiagnosed?

Categories: ARTHRITIS | July 12th, 2008 | by Gloria Gamat | no comments

Many times here I have mentioned that arthritis in children isn’t uncommon anymore these days. Statistics show that the rate children being diagnosed with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis is increasing.

In the U.S. alone:

A recent Centers for Disease Control study estimates that nearly 300,000 children in this country suffer from some form of arthritis.

Also, experts are saying that the diagnosis of JRA in children are tricky. Often there is a risk of misdiagnosis.

According to Dr. Norman Ilowite, M.D., of Children’s Hospital at Montefiore:

“It’s often a surprise because most people are under the impression that arthritis is mostly a disease of adults and older adults.

Swelling in a joint, limited mobility, and redness as well as heat over a joint.

Those symptoms are often dismissed as growing pains, infection or injury in children.”

The most common form of arthritis in children is juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. From the Mayo Clinic:

Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis (JRA) — which causes joint inflammation for at least six weeks in children 16 years old or younger — is the most common type of childhood arthritis. In most cases, symptoms of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis may fade after several months or years.

Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis can be complicated. There are several types of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, classified based on the joints affected, symptoms and test results.

Treatment of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis focuses on preserving physical activity to maintain full joint movement and strength, preventing damage and controlling pain.

So what to do? Parents should indeed be vigilant and keep their eyes and ears open as to your child’s health. It pays to always to regularly visit your pediatrician. In the case of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, seek medical advice as soon as possible if you child is showing  joint swelling, stiffness or pain.

Also, if your child has a fever of 102 F that persists for longer than two or three days, take him or her to the doctor. A fever that signals juvenile rheumatoid arthritis may come and go one or two times during a day and last a few hours each time. It’s frequently noted in the afternoons or evenings.

If your child has received a diagnosis of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, take him or her to your doctor regularly to monitor the development of the disease and its treatment.

Children with pauciarticular JRA need regular screening for eye inflammation. A child diagnosed before age 7 with pauciarticular arthritis should have his or her eyes checked every three months if a blood test shows the child is anti-nuclear antibody (ANA) positive. Anti-nuclear antibodies are proteins generally found in people who have connective tissue or autoimmune disorders, such as arthritis.

It pays if the parents read about the condition and find a good doctor for your child. Probably those that that refer you to the best specialist.

Mayo Clinic is one rich resource of information on juvenile rheumatoid arthritis.

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Some Arthritis Patient Story

Categories: ARTHRITIS | July 9th, 2008 | by Gloria Gamat | no comments

Strong we can relate to ( in this case arthritis patient story) is something that can inspire us, learn lesson from or just plainly give strength that you are not alone in your woes.

Here are a few recent arthritis stories I found on the web, in case you miss it:

In an Indianapolis Zoo, a polar bear is suffering from arthritis in the legs and shoulders

Arthritis has settled into the bones of the 600-pound polar bear, the nation’s second-oldest in captivity. She’d probably be dead if she were in the wild, where the old and weak are often eaten or simply crawl away to die.

Instead, Tahtsa is one of about a dozen animals that are living past their prime in the back alleys of the Indianapolis Zoo — mostly outside the view of the general public and with special attention from a team of caregivers specializing in geriatrics.

Canadian singer finally feeling relief from nagging arthritis

Chantal Chamberland extends her hands for closer inspection.

“Look, no inflammation,” the Canadian jazz songbird says smugly. Her supple hands have looked like this for the last 18 months, and, she hopes, superstitiously knocking on the table in front of her, they’ll stay that way the rest of her life.

A joint effort in a woman’s fight against rheumatoid arthritis

An active mother of two sons, Laura Janson keeps appointments with her physician and her physical therapist, shows up for X-rays and tests and takes all the medications prescribed for rheumatoid arthritis.

Janson also is active in terms of self-care, working out twice a week to build muscular strength, which in turn reduces stress on her joints. She was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis in 2000. “We were living in Naples, Fla., at the time, and I was used to jogging three miles a day,” Janson says. “Then I started having trouble with my feet.”

MÖTLEY CRÜE Guitarist Says He Lost 6 Inches Through Arthritis

MÖTLEY CRÜE guitarist Mick Mars is a prisoner of his own home when he’s not on the road with his band — because a debilitating form of arthritis has left him unable to drive anywhere.

Mars was diagnosed with Ankylosing Spondylitis (AS) when he was 19 and reveals the degenerative disease has left him unable to move his head.

He tells Blender magazine, “If I could go places I would, but I’m stuck. This stuff I have won’t allow me to move my head, so I can’t drive. It’s quite an inconvenience.”

Wonder woman Jane’s life of pain

WONDER woman Jane Evans has defied doctors by overcoming a life of pain.
Crippled by rheumatoid arthritis for more than 30 years, she has undergone numerous operations to her joints.

Despite her condition, the 34-year-old has battled on to walk, drive and even have a child – all things experts warned she’d never do.

Just a few inspiring stories to let us know that arthritis need not be a life sentence. Have a nice read!

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Apitherapy for Arthritis and Heartland Apiculture Society’s Annual Conference

Categories: ARTHRITIS | July 7th, 2008 | by Gloria Gamat | no comments

I have read about the application of apitherapy against arthritis and might have mentioned it here in passing. Apitherapy is the medical use of honey bee products such as honey, pollen, propolis, royal jelly, and bee venom.

Though in arthritis, apitherapy refers more to bee venom therapy than the consumption of other bee products.

Bee venom therapy is claimed to be of use in arthritis, bursitis, tendonitis, dissolving scar tissue (e.g. keloids), Herpes zoster (shingles), etc.

The most abundant active component of the venom is melittin, which has a powerful anti-inflammatory action. However, bee venom is a complex mix of a variety of peptides and

proteins, some of which have strong neurotoxic and immunogenic effects.

There is no standardized practice as some purport the location of the sting is important, with the sting acting as a sort of acupuncture in combination with the effects of the venom, while others report the location is not important. The number of stings also varies widely from a few to hundreds and they may be administered either by live bees or by injection.


note of course that those with bee allergy cannot do apitherapy or risk death.

Speaking of apitherapy, the 2008 Heartland Apiculture Society’s (HAS) annual conference is happening at the Marshall University in Huntington, West Virginia (WV) on July 10-12.

From The Associated Press:

The buzz around Marshall University this week will be about the importance of honeybees.

About 300 beekeepers were expected to join 12 vendors and dozens more presenters at the Heartland Apiculture Society’s annual conference starting Thursday in Huntington.

Speakers will educate conference attendees about bees and stress their importance at a time when honeybee populations continue to decline, farmers face increased production costs and consumers could ultimately have to pay more for produce.

Gabe Blatt of Huntington and President of the Heartland Apiculture Society is using bee venom therapy to manage his arthritic left wrist — he takes a live bee and lets it sting him about once a month.

“My arthritis wasn’t that bad until it started flaring up. So I decided to try it out and see what happens. It cleared it right up. It does work. It has to be in the right spot. I can get stung in other places and it doesn’t quite work.

Oh, it hurts. But it’s not that bad.

For me, the next day I can tell the difference It will vary from person to person. And I’m sure there are people it won’t work for. It’s like any medicine. It doesn’t work for everybody, but it works for a good number of folks.”

I totally agree. Bee venom therapy isn’t for everyone. Again, I suggest to seek out professional advice before heading out to get this kind of treatment.

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Possible Master Switch Gene in Juvenile Arthritis, Identified

Categories: ARTHRITIS | July 2nd, 2008 | by Gloria Gamat | one comments

The ‘master switch’ gene that has been to play a role in some varities of rheumatoid arthritis in adults has now been identfied in all types of childhood arthritis.

Such were the findings of pediatric researchers at The Children’s Hopsital of Philadelphia. We all know arthritis isn’t an age-related condition anymore.

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that causes chronic inflammation of the joint. Of course the old notion that the condition is age-related still prevails. Well, even my own mother cannot believe that arthritis can happen to younger people. But then it really can.

Autoimmune diseases are illnesses that occur when the body tissues are mistakenly attacked by its own immune system. The immune system is a complex organization of cells and antibodies designed normally to “seek and destroy” invaders of the body, particularly infections.

Going back to the above findings. Researchers are claiming that the gene identifies may be the master switch’ that helps turn on rheumatoid arthritis.

Researchers at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia reported on the link between the gene region and juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA), formerly called juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. The genetic variant is on chromosome 9 in a region housing two genes, TRAF1 and C5.

The TRAF1 gene codes for a protein that regulates tumor necrosis factor, a chemical strongly associated with JIA. However, the researchers say further study is needed to determine whether the TRAF1 gene or the C5 gene is altered in the disease.

According to Terri H. Finkel, M.D., Ph.D — the chief of Rheumatology at Children’s Hospital and one of the study’s lead author:

“There are only a few genes that may act as master switches like this to regulate autoimmune diseases. This switch we discovered probably has to be an ‘ON’ gene and when it interacts with other genes and environmental triggers, a child may get juvenile arthritis.”

What are the implications of the above findings? For one, hopefully better targeted treatments that will benefit both children and adults suffering from rheumatoid arthritis. In children the condition is called juvenile idiopathic arthritis (formerly juvenile rheumatoid arthritis).

Edward M. Behrens, M.D. , a pediatric rheumatologist at The Children’s Hospital, said:

“We think this finding may be a clue to the specific disease pathway that leads to arthritis. We currently use medicines called tumor necrosis factor blockers to treat children with JIA.

However, not all children respond to these drugs, and other children may develop severe allergic reactions and other side effects. If we can fully identify all the genes that interact with environmental risk factors, we might develop more targeted treatments with fewer side effects.”

The abovementioned study appears in the July 2008 issue of Arthritis & Rheumatism.

Indeed this is an exciting development worth watching out for, don’t you think? We’ll see how this goes.

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