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Rheumatoid Arthritis and Autoimmune Diseases new Understanding Why Gold works for Treatment

February 26th, 2006

Rheumatoid Arthritis and Autoimmune Diseases new Understanding Why Gold works for Treatment

Gold Bars

Researchers from the Harvard Medical School found out why special forms of gold, platinum and other types of medicinal metals help treat autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis. They found that these metal help to strip away bacteria and virus particles from a key immune system protein.  The findings are reported in the February 27th issue of Nature Chemical Biology.

Gold has been used to treat autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis for the past 75 years.  Gold was first used in 1890 by a German doctor named Robert Koch who found that it was able to kill the bacteria that caused tuberculosis.  In the 1930ís there was belief that rheumatoid arthritis and tuberculosis were related and a French doctor, Jacques Forestier, began treating his rheumatoid arthritis patients with gold.  The gold worked and was used for many years, but is being phased out in the last few years because of serious side effects.


Brian DeDecker, PhD, a post-doctoral student in the Department of Cell Biology and one of the studies co-authors explains, "We were searching for a new drug to treat autoimmune diseases.  But instead we discovered a biochemical mechanism that may help explain how an old drug works."

What the Harvard researchers were looking for was a new drug that would suppress MHC class II proteins, which are important parts of the immune system.  It is normal for MHC class II proteins to hold onto invading bacteria and viruses on the surface of these antigen presentation cells.  By doing this holding on tactic it tells other specialized recognition cells called lymphocytes to react causing an immune system response.  The response is intended for harmful bacteria and viruses, but sometimes the immune system overreacts causing the immune system to attack a persons own body.  Juvenile diabetes, Lupus and rheumatoid arthritis are autoimmune diseases that have this malfunction of the immune system which cause damage to the personís own body.  


The researcher looked at thousands of compounds.  They came across a cancer drug called Cisplatin, which contains the metal platinum.  This drug stripped away the virus and bacteria molecules from the MHC class II protein.  After this discovery they tested a special form of gold and also caused the same results.

The researchers continued to explore gold compounds.  They found that in a cell culture that the gold compounds caused the immune system antigen presenting cells to become inactive.  Their next research will be to test the gold drug with diseased tissues. 


The researchers should with modern advances in technology, be able to develop a safer drug with the gold compound that will help treat these autoimmune diseases.  The sooner that these autoimmune diseases can be successfully treated the less damage to the body is done.

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Nicole Wilson
Best Syndication

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