Researchers at Washington State University in Spokane have identified a potential new approach to combating the joint pain, inflammation and tissue damage caused by rheumatoid arthritis.
Their discovery is featured on the cover of Arthritis and Rheumatology, a journal of the American College of Rheumatology.
“Existing drugs for rheumatoid arthritis are expensive, immunosuppressive and sometimes unsuitable for long-term use,” said Salah-uddin Ahmed, the lead WSU researcher on the project.
His team evaluated a phytochemical called epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), which is a molecule with anti-inflammatory properties found in green tea. Their study suggests that EGCG has high potential as a treatment for rheumatoid arthritis because of how effectively the molecule blocks the effects of the disease without blocking other cellular functions.
“This study has opened the field of research into using EGCG for targeting TAK1, an important signalling protein, through which pro-inflammatory cytokines transmit their signals to cause inflammation and tissue destruction in rheumatoid arthritis,” said Ahmed.
The researchers confirmed their findings in a pre-clinical animal model of human rheumatoid arthritis, where they observed that ankle swelling in animals given EGCG in a 10-day treatment plan was markedly reduced.