New research reveals joint pain protectors

Scientists at a medical university in Sweden have identified a series of proteins that can help prevent the autoimmune attacks that can cause joint inflammation and subsequent pain.

Autoimmune attacks, or diseases, occur when the immune system mistakenly attacks parts of the body that are functioning normally. When the immune system attacks the joints, it causes the type of inflammation and pain that affects millions of people.

Researchers at the Karolinska Institutet believe that the proteins, IL-4 and IL-13 appear to play an essential role in preventing autoimmune attacks. These two proteins have been shown to be successful in counteracting the behavior of an immune called a "neutrophil," which secrete non-tissue (e.g., bone) irritants and are the most common immune cell found in actively inflamed joints.

Chronic joint pain is a challenge for millions of Americans. A recent survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revealed that nearly 15 million people have to manage their severe joint pain on a daily basis.

Back pain, for example, is the leading cause of disability and accounts for over 264 million lost workdays in a given year. Approximately 80 percent of Americans will experience back pain at some time in their lives and will seek severe back pain treatment. 

Until the  Karolinska report, it was not known exactly how IL-4 and IL-13 are effective in neutralizing neutrophils. Scientists then found that IL-4 and IL-13 "stimulate an increase in neutrophil surface receptors, which [can] have an inhibiting effect on joint inflammation.

The results of the research are important in understanding how to regulate immune cell behavior to help prevent joint attacks. Ultimately, there is hope that a new medication may result from this research.

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