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When patients are diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder they often have many questions. How did this happen? What is happening inside me? What treatments are available? Autoimmune diseases can be extremely complex and are the subject of much current research. The immune system’s purpose is to identify and destroy threats to the body such as viruses, bacteria or parasites. However, when a person has an autoimmune disease such as Crohn’s Disease, Lupus, Sjogren’s (show-grins) syndrome the immune system becomes unable to distinguish foreign bodies from the body’s own healthy tissue. When this happens, the immune system begins to target healthy cells causing inflammation. Almost any aspect of the immune system can malfunction causing a plethora of conditions.

One such condition is Crohn’s Disease. Crohn’s is an autoimmune disease where the immune system specifically targets the gastrointestinal tract. Crohn’s can be difficult to diagnose due to the variety of symptoms associated with the disease. The symptoms vary from person to person and by which component of the GI tract is being targeted. If a doctor suspects Crohn’s Disease, diagnosis is confirmed via an upper and/or lower endoscopy. Those living with Crohn’s disease will agree that we need to find a cure ASAP!

Systemic Lupus Erythematosus(SLE) is a chronic autoimmune disease in which the immune system can cause damaging inflammation to any part of the body. Skin, joints and organs can all be affected. Flares can cause a wide variety of symptoms. Around half of those affected by lupus have what is called a butterfly rash on their face. Other common symptoms include inflammation or swelling of the joints, and fatigue.

Another inflammatory autoimmune disease is Sjogren’s Syndrome. Sjogren’s is typically identified by its most prevalent symptoms, which are dry eyes and dry mouth.   These symptoms occur because the immune system targets the glands that produce saliva.1  In the past treatment has almost entirely consisted of treating the symptoms of the disease.  However, new research is showing that Sjogren’s can lead to other complications and scientists are now working on specially devised treatments to nip the problem in the bud!

According to JCCR’s Steven Mathews, MD “the last generation of autoimmune treatments worked further down the mountain so to speak and focused on treating the avalanche of symptoms. Current treatments are looking at treating conditions higher up the mountain at the source and preventing the avalanche from occurring.” Richard Smith, RN elaborated that, “general immunosuppressants act like a hammer on the immune system, whereas the current drugs we are researching act like a fine scalpel only targeting the rogue immune cells.” Our mission at ENCORE Research Group has always been to help get cutting edge treatments approved by the FDA. We want to help deliver safe and effective treatments to everyone. This is only possible by conducting research studies on new investigational medications. If you are interested in taking part in one of our research studies call today.

 


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January 1, 2016 ArthritisBlog

Writen by: Mike Mass, MD

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease that is localized in the joints but may also result in serious systemic symptoms. In the joints, RA begins in the lining tissue known as synovium.  In RA inflammatory cells are stimulated in the synovium and release substances that will both activate other inflammatory cells and cause direct breakdown in the adjacent bone. If this inflammatory process is not interrupted it will immediately cause severe damage to the joint and, on occasion, other organs in the body.

Until recently, the only treatments available helped the symptoms of inflammation, such as pain and tenderness, but did little to stop the destructive process. The first drug that had some limited benefit was gold salts, but it was toxic and had to be monitored carefully. Low doses of a cancer drug (Methotrexate) were tried and proved effective in treating the symptoms of inflammation and also slowed down the destructive process in many patients and was a mainstay of therapy until the last decade.

As the understanding of the autoimmune abnormality increased, various substances released from inflammatory cells were identified.  Initially, the most promising of these was known as tumor necrosis factor (TNF). While in other studies it had affected some tumor growth, it was also found to be a major cause of damage in RA. A group of anti-TNF monoclonal antibodies is on the market and has proven to be quite effective in a large number of patients. The search has continued for other substances that will either modify the autoimmune response or inactivate substances that cause damaging inflammation. Recently another protein has been identified that is present in the synovium and when activated will initiate a whole range of responses that result in a proliferation of synovial cells which then go on to damage the joint. This particular substance is part of a larger group of proteins known as “Integrins.” It is hoped that by giving a monoclonal antibody directed against the particular integrin a major portion of damaging inflammation will be shut down.  A clinical trial of this antibody just opened at Jacksonville Center for Clinical Research University Blvd. Office and we are currently seeking volunteers. Call today to see if you qualify! 904-730-0166


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