Arthritis and other inflammatory diseases could soon have a new treatment option, following research published in the Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases.
The study was based on previous findings made in Melbourne, which focused on a group of molecules that deal with the development of blood cells.
One of the substances identified – granulocyte macrophage colony-stimulating factor (GM-CSF) – was discovered to act at the location of inflammation, where it played the role of a messenger between cells.
Professor John Hamilton wondered whether blocking the action of GM-CSF could help people who suffered from rheumatoid arthritis.
Investigations found that depleting GM-CSF suppresses pain in these patients and could also be effective in the treatment of osteoarthritis.
Rheumatoid arthritis typically afflicts people in their 30s and 40s and is debilitating. In general, women are around three times more likely to suffer from the ailment than men.
According to the National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society, the disease can result in severe disability and impact a person's ability to cope with daily living.
If international private medical insurance policyholders who have the condition receive an early diagnosis and are given aggressive treatment quickly, they might be able to lead a normal life.
However, all people who develop the ailment have a better outlook than they used to, with international healthcare specialists creating a number of effective medicines that can assist those who do not respond to conventional treatment.
Investigations by Professor Hamilton and Dr Andrew Cook revealed using an antibody to block GM-CSF suppressed the ailment and clinical trials using this treatment model have already been shown to be beneficial to patients who suffer from rheumatoid arthritis.
If suppressing this substance can improve the outlook for people with osteoarthritis, Dr Cook suggested that governments and international healthcare providers could realise "massive benefits" in the future.
"With our ageing population, the more common condition of osteoarthritis impacts more on our community and medical resources," he stated.
"Without a doubt, quality of life and to be free from pain are important issues for people suffering with arthritis-related conditions," Professor Hamilton added.