Using a new gene-editing technology, scientists have rewired mouse stem-cells to fight inflammation owing to arthritis and related chronic conditions. The technology used is known as CRISPR, which stands for Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats.
Such rewired stem cells are referred to as Stem cells Modified for Autonomous Regenerative Therapy (SMART) cells. These develop into cartilage cells which secrete a biologic anti-inflammatory drug. This drug will work to replace arthritic cartilage while also protecting joints and other tissues from the damaging effect of chronic inflammation.
The scientists took mice skin cells and transformed those into stem cells. Then they used the CRISPR tool in culture-grown cells to remove an important gene involved in inflammation, and replaced it with a gene involved in releasing an inflammation-combating biologic drug.
The currently used drugs in arthritis treatment are given systemically rather than just targeting the joints. This interferes with the body’s immune system, making the patient susceptible to side effects. So, the team wants to use their gene-editing technology for delivering targeted therapy in response to localized joint inflammation.
If this strategy proves to be successful, they plan to use it as a vaccine against arthritis.