Inflammation is a primary effect of many joint diseases like osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Reducing inflammation can relieve pain, prevent injury, and strengthen joints in patients with arthritis. New research by the Imperial College of London has provided a novel new way in which inflammation can be reduced in arthritis patients.
The research study
This research is mainly based around what scientists call the Krebs cycle. The Krebs cycle is a complex loop of reactions which cells use to feed on sugar and generate molecules of ATP (the universal energy for cells). In recent years, studies have shown that normal Krebs cycle pathways are interrupted in immune cells such as macrophages, which breaks the Krebs cycle. Researchers have since been trying to figure out how to prevent the Krebs Cycle from being broken.
Researchers at the Imperial College of London, Queen Mary University of London, and Ergon Pharmaceuticals set out to find alternative solutions to stopping the pathway interruptions in the Krebs cycle. The first thing that the researchers did was study the interruption of the Krebs cycle and what was happening. Essentially, the immune cells would divert their metabolism from creating macrophages and other bacteria-fighting cells due to a particular enzyme in the body called BCAT 1. BCAT 1 would prevent and regulate the creation of another enzyme that was used to create anti-inflammatory agents in immune cells. Researchers hypothesized that if they could find a way to block the creation of BCAT 1, they may be able to increase the body's ability to fight inflammation through the Krebs cycle.
The researchers used an experimental compound called ERG240 developed by Ergon Pharmaceuticals. ERG240 mimics the amino acid leucine, one of the building blocks of proteins, which is linked by BCAT 1. Adding ERG240 to the immune cells basically overworks the BCAT 1 by forcing it to try and link together the ERG240 molecules. By stopping the BCAT 1 from overregulating the other anti-inflammatory agent producing enzyme, researchers were able to prevent the pathway interruptions and fix the typical broken Krebs cycle.
The study's promising results
The study was done using mice that showed symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis and inflammation. ERG240 was injected into the bloodstream while the mice's joint was examined over time. The research team found that mice who had been given ERG240 had half as much joint inflammation as was found in earlier examinations, and joint integrity was overall improved. As an added bonus, no toxic side effects in the mice were reported.
The researchers concluded that targeting the metabolism of the immune cells could help fix a broken Krebs cycle and could help reduce joint pain and inflammation. The biggest issue now is that researchers have to find a balancing point of how much ERG240 to give. If they give too little, BCAT 1 will not be busy enough and will divert resources from making anti-inflammatory agents. If they give too much, BCAT 1 could be so busy that it won’t serve its other purpose, which is protecting against bacteria invading immune cells. There also would need to be clinical trials done on real patients to determine the effects on human joints and inflammation. Overall, this study gives some hope that there could be a relatively effective way to treat inflammation in those suffering from joint pain and different types of arthritis.
What you can do in the meantime
The study described above is still in the beginning stages of development and most likely won't be usable for quite some time.
However, there many natural ways that arthritis sufferers can reduce joint pain and inflammation:
- Stay hydrated: Drinking lots of water can help reduce inflammation and joint pain. Water helps facilitate chemical reactions in the body that can introduce anti-inflammatory agents into the bloodstream. As an added bonus, water also flushes toxins and other inflammatory agents out of the body. One key thing to mention is that in certain places the tap water may be rife with inflammatory chemicals that could get in the way of reducing joint pain. Drinking distilled and filtered water is often best for reducing inflammation. If you want to keep inflammation at a minimum, staying hydrated is essential.
- Drink green tea: Green tea is often known as one of the healthiest beverages available. In terms of fighting inflammation, it is especially useful because it contains catechins. Catechins are key antioxidants that are needed to fight free radicals. Free radicals are essentially highly reactive chemical agents that are volatile and can clog the bloodstream and lead to inflammation. Most health professionals recommend arthritis patients drink at least 3 cups of green tea per day.
- De-stress regularly: It is widely accepted that a healthier mind will lead to a healthier body, so taking care of your mental health is extremely important if you suffer from inflammation. Having a ton of stress built up will take a toll not only on your mental health, but your physical health was well. If the mind is stressed it won't be able to send signals to the body properly, and enzymes and agents that fight inflammation will not be nearly as effective. Life for most can be busy and hectic, but make sure to take some time for yourself to relax and calm your mind. It will do wonders for your joints in the long run.
- Stay active: Having strong and healthy joints is an important part of fighting inflammation. Many arthritis patients avoid regular exercise for fear of overextension or overworking joints, leading to even worse pain. While you certainly shouldn't be doing rigorous exercise when suffering from joint pain, being sedentary is almost as bad. Weakened joints are more prone to inflammation and will cause worse pain. Consider doing low impact exercises like light jogs or speed walking. Stretches are also great for loosening the joints and preventing tightness and pain. Many arthritis patients report daily yoga routines as being particularly beneficial for loosening and strengthening the joints and relieving joint pain and stiffness.
- Get good sleep: Getting poor sleep will almost guarantee worsening joint pain and inflammation. For those with irregular or poor sleep patterns, inflammatory agents reproduce at an astoundingly fast rate. Getting good sleep will keep inflammatory agents at bay and help your body function more effectively and efficiently. Make sure that you avoid using any electronic devices an hour before bed, as the light from the screen will throw off your circadian rhythm and cause poor sleep patterns.
The advancements being made in arthritis treatments bodes very well for those suffering from joint pain and stiffness. The groundbreaking research by those at the Imperial College of London is especially important for creating effective treatments for arthritis patients in the future. In the meantime, you should take time to ensure that you are doing everything you can to reduce inflammation naturally. Keeping your mind and joints as healthy as possible will put you in great shape to get rid of joint pain and keep the inflammation to a minimum.