News March 2013 Issue

In The News: March 2013

Powerful RA Pain Reliever Approved
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved a drug by the name of Xeljanz (tofacitinib) as an alternative to methotrexate for the severe pain caused by rheumatoid arthritis (RA). A pill taken twice a day, tofacitinib functions by inhibiting molecules known as “Janus kinases (Jaks),” which are crucial to the joint inflammation that characterizes RA. The new treatment option provides relief for those who have had an insufficient or poor response to the commonly used drug, methotrexate. The effectiveness and safety of tofacitinib were tested during seven clinical trials that included adult patients with moderate to severe RA. Trial participants were given tofacitinib or placebo. Those given tofacitinib showed improvement in physical mobility and clinical response compared to those who received the placebo, according to the study’s authors.

3-D Printer Used to Produce Artificial Cartilage
Using an inkjet printer and an electro-spinning machine, researchers have created a prototype of a low-cost fabrication process that produces personalized, artificial human tissue that could be used to restore aching joints. Researchers at the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine utilized a 3D printer that combines a traditional inkjet printer with an electro-spinning machine to create an electrical charge to draw fine fibers from a liquid and build structures made of both natural and synthetic materials. The research team has been working in bioprinting research for more than a decade. The combination traditional inkjet printer and electro-spinning technology allows the researchers to “print” a structure from both natural and synthetic materials. The synthetic materials ensure strength of the construct and natural gel materials provide an environment that promotes cell growth. The team hopes to use the technology for clinical trials within a decade and is projected to play an important part in regenerative medicine because of its ability to “design” personalized replacement organs or tissue from a patient’s CT scans.

Study Finds Fractures in RA Patients a Cue for Cardiovascular Disease
A new fracture in a patient with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) “should be considered a sentinel event that prompts further evaluation of their cardiovascular risk,” according to researchers at the Mayo Clinic. Their study compared 1,171 patients diagnosed with RA to 1,171 people who did not have RA over the course of 10 years (patients) and 12 years (non-patient controls). In those with RA who had a fracture at any major osteoporotic site (hip, spine, wrist or shoulder), the subsequent risk for cardiovascular disease was substantially higher than among those who did not have RA. The study also showed a significant increased risk for mortality from all causes after a moderate fracture, regardless of steroid use, seropositivity (a positive rheumatoid factor blood test), or the presence of nodules or erosions. Previous studies have also shown simple low bone mineral density to be a warning for increased cardiovascular risk.

Olive Oil-Rich Mediterranean Diet May Improve Bone Health
A new study suggests that a Mediterranean-style diet enriched with olive oil had higher levels of the protein osteocalcin. Known for its role in bone formation, osteocalcin is primarily provided through diets high in dairy. Published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, the study looked at 127 elderly Spanish men who ate an olive-oil rich Mediterranean diet. The bone-fortifying results add to positive studies that suggest the Mediterranean diet has the potential to lower cardiovascular risk, increase weight loss, lower cancer risk, improve diabetes and reduce pain and swollen joints in rheumatoid arthritis. Earlier studies have also shown lower rates of osteoporosis in the Mediterranean basin, compared to the rest of Europe. The Mediterranean-style diet consists of minimally processed fruits, vegetables, breads, beans, nuts and seeds. Olive oil is the main source of fat, while dairy, egg and red meat is limited.