A stem cell-based medication has done well in phase II trials. There’s hope it can be a future drug for people with RA.

A phase II stem cell treatment is the talk of the rheumatology community.

Stem cell treatments have been a topic of conversation among many people with autoimmune and degenerative forms of arthritis.

Now, an Australian pharmaceutical company is trying to figure out if this type of regenerative medicine could play a key role in treating or managing rheumatic diseases like rheumatoid arthritis (RA).

Mesoblast has developed a stem cell therapy that is administered intravenously to people with RA who didn’t experience success taking anti-TNF drugs like Remicade, Enbrel, and Humira.

Read more: Stem cell therapy possible treatment for rheumatoid arthritis »

The phase II study followed 48 patients who received one injection of the stem cell therapy.

These patients received therapeutic benefits as long as nine months after the initial dosing, company officials reported.

While more studies will be conducted in a phase III trial in order to validate the results, the results could mean positive things for the many people with RA who don’t fare well on TNF-inhibitors.

Anti-TNF drugs are a billion dollar industry as well as a source of relief for many people with RA.

However, 20 to 40 percent of people treated with these medications either have an adverse reaction, or find no relief.

Perhaps the best news for people with RA who are sensitive to medications or experience pharmacophobia is that unlike some other treatments, little toxicity or side effects were indicated in the studies of Mesoblast’s stem cell treatment.

Read more: Green tea for rheumatoid arthritis »

The treatment uses mesenchymal precursor cells (MCPs).

Because the immune system doesn’t recognize these MCPs as foreign or invaders, they don’t tend to produce a negative response.

The MCP cells are adult stem cells, not embryonic stem cells.

The cells work because they contain certain receptors targeting the RA response and altering the way the body’s immune system works — or, in the sense of RA, the way it malfunctions.

According to a published statement to the press from Mesoblast, “The way the cells work is, they have receptors on their surface that are activated by every major cytokine that is important in progressive rheumatoid arthritis, including TNF, IL-1, IL-6, IL-17. Those cytokines drive the disease and also bind to receptors on our cells. And when they bind to our cells they activate the cells to release other factors that switch off the very cells that made those cytokines.”

There continues to be more research done on stem cell therapy as a way to treat immune, autoimmune, and inflammatory diseases.

In the United States, a company called Regenexx shares some stem cell success stories on their website, often pertaining to healing osteoarthritis or injury.

While in the past, stem cells were only used to treat orthopedic injuries and conditions, newer research — like the targeted regenerative stem cell therapy that is being created by Mesoblast — also aims to treat other forms of arthritis like RA.

Read more: Biologic treatments for rheumatoid arthritis »