A new study has discovered that targeting fatty acids could potentially be used to treat arthritis.
Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, US found that the enzymes the body uses to turn carbohydrates into fats also have an impact on the health of specialist white blood cells known as neutrophils. These are the most common form of white blood cells and play a prominent role in inflammation, which is one of the main symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.
The study, which was based on mice, discovered that those animals that were unable to make the necessary enzymes to create a certain type of fatty acid had very low white blood cell counts, including neutrophils.
As a result, the scientists concluded that targeting these fatty acids could potentially reduce the number of neutrophils in inflammatory diseases like rheumatoid arthritis and also leukemia.
Assistant professor of medicine at Washington University School of Medicine Irfan Lodhi said the results of the study were surprising.
“We had never thought about treating rheumatoid arthritis or leukemia by targeting enzymes that produce fatty acids, but this work supports that line of thinking.”
The scientists believe limiting, rather than completely eliminating, the fatty acids may be the best course of action as neutrophils also play an important role in fighting infections.
Professor Clay Semenkovich stated: “This may be a pathway to limit inflammation. If we could reduce the activity of these enzymes without eliminating them entirely, it could … potentially help patients with leukemia and inflammatory diseases such as arthritis.”
Full details of the study were published in the journal Cell Metabolism.
An Arthritis Research UK spokesperson said “Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder which occurs the immune system produces an over-active immune response, causing the body to start attacking its own cells, in this case the joints. Many current treatments for rheumatoid arthritis work by suppressing the immune response, although many of these carry the risk of serious side effects including susceptibility to infection,
“This is an interesting study which sheds new light on molecules involved in the immune response. Further work is now required to identify whether supressing the action of these molecules has potential as a new treatment target in rheumatoid arthritis without the risk of side effects.” –