Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis, or RA, is one of the most debilitating forms of arthritis. It affects tens of millions of Americans, as well as people around the world. It’s a chronic inflammatory disease that can affect every joint in the body, but is particularly prevalent in those within the hands and feet. In some cases, RA can even affect the body’s internal organs. There is no cure for rheumatoid arthritis – only treatments that offer varying levels of control over the disease and its symptoms. However, stem cell therapy may be a new, more effective solution.

What Is Rheumatoid Arthritis?

Unlike other forms of arthritis, which are largely related to normal wear and tear, rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune condition in which the body’s immune system attacks the joints. In severe cases, it may begin attacking inner organs, as well. The immune system’s attacks affect the joints in the hands and feet primarily, and the damage done can make even simple acts like gripping a glass agonizing. Notably, RA also affects both joints on each side of the body. So, if RA has affected the ring finger knuckle on your left hand, it will also affect the same knuckle on the right hand.

What Are the Symptoms of RA?

Patients may experience a number of different symptoms with rheumatoid arthritis, depending on the joint(s) being affected and the severity of their RA. Joint pain, swelling and stiffness are the most common. In some cases, loss of joint use can occur. Other symptoms can include the appearance of raised nodules on or around affected joints.

There are few ways to tell for certain that arthritis is RA and not another form. However, doctors can use rheumatoid factor tests, anti-CCP tests, antinuclear antibody tests, C-reactive protein tests, and more to determine whether you are affected by RA, or if your arthritis is different.

What Causes RA?

RA is caused by the immune system attacking the body’s joints. However, the underlying reason for this attack is not well understood. According to the Arthritis Foundation,

“No one knows for sure why the immune system goes awry, but there is scientific evidence that genes, hormones, and environmental factors are involved.”

One of those pieces of genetic evidence is a genetic marker called the HLA shared epitope. Those with this marker have five times greater risk for developing RA. There are other genes that seem to be connected with RA, as well, including:

  • STAT4
  • TRAF1
  • TRAFC5
  • PTPN22

What Are the Treatments for Rheumatoid Arthritis?

Treating RA can provide some relief from symptoms, but there is no cure for the disease. The goals of treatment are generally to stop the inflammation causing the pain, swelling and stiffness, and to prevent joint and organ damage. The most important task is to stop autoimmune system acting up and attacking your own body. Most Majority of patients with RA will have to take prescription medication, often for the rest of their lives. These medications include corticosteroids, anti-rheumatic drugs, biologics, and JAK inhibitors. Most of these have long-term side effects of their own. In some instances, surgery may be necessary. The treatment, at times, is damaging to areas of the body other than joints.

How Can Stem Cell Therapy Help with Rheumatoid Arthritis?

In order to understand the promise of stem cell therapy for treating RA, it’s necessary to know a bit more about stem cells and their role in the human body in the first place. To be clear, stem cells are present at all ages, within every area of the body to one degree or another. As infants, we have very high concentrations of stem cells, which are responsible for healing damage and providing cellular repair. They also transform into other cells and tissue types. Over time, many stem cells become specialized – heart cells, skin cells, liver cells, lung cells, etc.

Other changes take place with our stem cells over time, as well. Most importantly, they become less effective. Like all other cells in the body, stem cells age and die. Unlike other cells, they are able to clone themselves, self-replicating and creating more of themselves. However, with each regeneration, mutations are introduced at the genetic level. These errors build up and reduce the effectiveness of the cells in their jobs.

This is important for several reasons. Obviously, the older the patient, the less effective their own stem cells will be in healing and regenerating. However, it also applies to some forms of stem cell therapy. Autologous stem cells are derived from your body, multiplied in a lab or in an office, and then reinjected into the body. The problem with this is that these are old stem cells. They lack energy and vitality. They also carry a significant chance of triggering an autoimmune reaction, and for someone suffering from RA, that risk is even greater.

On the other hand, allogeneic stem cells are different. These are harvested from closely screened umbilical cord blood and tissue that has been banked voluntarily. These cells are young, and they are highly energetic. They also have no mutations that might degrade performance. Finally, and yet perhaps most importantly, they are invisible to your immune system. That means there is virtually no chance of an autoimmune reaction or rejection.

Is Stem Cell Therapy Right for You?

Stem cell therapy for treating rheumatoid arthritis is incredibly promising. There is the potential not only for a long-lasting treatment that alleviates symptoms, but a solution that might actually reverse the condition for long periods at a time. However, stem cell therapy is not FDA approved, so any treatment options available to you will be experimental only. It’s imperative that you work with a physician who understands the importance of using allogeneic stem cells rather than autologous stem cells, and who has the experience necessary to determine the best administration method to provide healing and regeneration for RA sufferers.



Indiana Polyclinic

201 Pennsylvania Parkway, Suite 200
Indianapolis, IN 46280
Phone: (317) 805-5500
Fax: (317) 805-5501
Business Hours: