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Biological Chemistry

Dendrimer Treats Joint Inflammation

Highly branched polymer relieves rheumatoid arthritis symptoms in mice

by Lauren K. Wolf
May 9, 2011 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 89, Issue 19

For sufferers of rheumatoid arthritis—the chronic inflammatory disease that induces pain, swelling, and eventual deformity in the joints of about 1% of the world’s population—more effective treatment could be on the way. Current medicines for the crippling disease typically target a signaling protein in the inflammatory pathway but don’t prevent eventual erosion of the bones in patients’ joints. Now, a research team led by Jean-Luc Davignon and Rémy Poupot of France’s National Institute of Health & Medical Research (INSERM) has shown in mice that a highly branched polymer, or dendrimer, with azabisphosphonate end groups can do both (Sci. Transl. Med., DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.3002212). The researchers believe that the multivalent dendrimer works by inhibiting a protein receptor on monocytes, which are white blood cells that respond to inflammation. Interaction of the dendrimer with the cells both stimulates the cells’ inflammatory response and prevents their transformation into bone cells that erode bone tissue. After only 12 weekly injections of 10 mg/kg of dendrimer, mice that had exhibited signs of rheumatoid arthritis had ankle joints with completely normal, intact cartilage and showed no signs of the bone cells that cause degradation.


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