Things as simple as standing, walking and moving your hands can inflict serious pain on people suffering from arthritis.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that about 54 million adults experience arthritic symptoms, and we’re not just talking grandmas and grandpas.
“I think many people think of arthritis as an old person’s disease,” said Dr. Richard Siegel, Clinical Director at the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. “Inflammatory arthritis, unlike osteoarthritis, can start very early in life, even in childhood.”
Although osteoarthritis, associated with wear and tear, is one of the most prevalent forms, the National Institutes of Health focuses its research on inflammatory forms of arthritis.
“We have treatments for inflammatory arthritis that actually modify the disease, [with] what we call disease-modifying-agents, that actually change the course of the disease and can prevent joint destruction,” said Dr. Siegel.
Since the completion of the human genome, combating arthritis can involve a more articulated strategy, where researchers can target specific molecules.
“Now that we know who the players are, we can then try to figure out exactly what they do in different diseases,” said Dr. John O’Shea, Scientific Director at NIAMS, NIH. “Then you can take a strategy, saying, ‘I think this guy is a bad actor,’ and so we can make a drug that targets that guy.”
Not only can you make a drug that targets specific molecules, but you can repurpose one for it, which is what the NIH is currently trying to do with tofacitinib, a drug initially approved for rheumatoid arthritis and now being tested to treat lupus.
“As serious as these problems are, we should be optimistic that if we keep investing in trying to cure and treat these diseases, that we will succeed,” said Dr. O’Shea.
The CDC projects that by 2025, 67 million people in the U.S. will have arthritis.
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