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Can Rheumatoid Arthritis Treatment Also Prevent Alzheimer's Disease?

New research from Oxford University and the NIHR Southampton Biomedical Research Centre shows that the drugs used to treat rheumatoid arthritis could also help prevent the development of another life-altering condition: Alzheimer's disease.

Autoimmune Arthritis

Roughly 400,000 people are living with rheumatoid arthritis in the U.K., and, according to the Arthritis Foundation, 1.5 million Americans have the disease.

Rheumatoid arthritis develops when an individual's immune system attacks the body, causing inflammation, redness, numbness, pain, swelling and stiffness in the joints. The condition can also impact the eyes, heart and lungs.

"For many people living with rheumatoid arthritis, life is painful, mobility is impacted, and their quality of life is diminished," said Dr. Bill Johnson.

Johnson is a Dallas, Texas, physician who treats patients who are living with rheumatoid arthritis.

How Drugs for Rheumatoid Arthritis May Help Prevent Alzheimer's Disease

Over 850,000 people are living with Alzheimer's disease and dementia in the U.K. In the U.S., the Alzheimer's Association estimates the number of people living with Alzheimer's disease is nearly 5.5 million.

The study analyzed the health records of over 5,800 people living with RA in the U.K. Researchers examined the charts of 3,876 patients who took medications known as disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs) and the often-prescribed medication methotrexate, compared to 1,938 patients who did not take DMARDS.

These medications help to slow down the progression and reduce the inflammation that causes pain in the joints.

The British researchers found that individuals who took the anti-inflammatory medications for their rheumatoid arthritis had nearly half the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease and dementia than their counterparts who did not use the DMARD medications.

The theory behind the reduction in the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease is that, because the rheumatoid arthritis drugs reduce inflammation in the joints, they also help to prevent inflammation from developing in the brain.

The Problem With Inflammation

Inflammation is the body's response to injury or illness, but chronic inflammation can cause significant problems for some individuals over time.

"When your body experiences chronic inflammation, it can have serious and negative effects on your overall health. Inflammation for long periods of time can disrupt cell function and cause cancer, diabetes, heart disease and Alzheimer's disease," Johnson said.

Johnson treats patients with Alzheimer's disease and dementia using autologous adipose fat stem cell therapy.

Like DMARD drug therapy, adipose fat stem cell therapy can also reduce inflammation in the brain and body, Johnson said.

"Stem cells can reduce inflammation in the body by healing damaged tissues and restoring cells to their normal function," he said.

The Future of Alzheimer's Treatment?

This possible connection between DMARD use and a reduction in risk of Alzheimer's disease is exciting for researchers because there is currently no cure for the condition. Conventional treatments are designed to slow the progression of the condition or reduce some of its symptoms.

Unfortunately, these treatments do not work for all individuals, Johnson said.

"Conventional medical treatments for Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia such as drug therapy are designed to slow down the progression of the disease but do not benefit all patients, or they may benefit them only for a limited time. There are also patients who cannot tolerate these medications at all," he said.

While adipose fat stem cell therapy can help reduce inflammation, and the Oxford study may hold the key to reducing the risk of developing the disease, finding ways to prevent the development of Alzheimer's disease is a critical next step.

"Finding ways to prevent Alzheimer's disease is a large part of developing effective treatments," Johnson said.


The Telegraph. Arthritis drugs could halve the risk of Alzheimer's disease, study suggests. 12 February 2018.

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