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      Efficacy and Safety of Umbilical Cord Mesenchymal Stem Cell Therapy for Rheumatoid Arthritis Patients: A Prospective Phase I/II Study

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          The traditional anti-inflammation disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs) have limited therapeutic effects in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients. We previously reported the safety and efficacy of umbilical cord mesenchymal stem cell (UC-MSC) treatment in RA patients that were observed for up to 8 months after UC-MSC infusion. The aim of this study is to assess the long-term efficacy and safety of UC-MSC along with DMARDs for the treatment of RA.


          64 RA patients aged 18–64 years were recruited in the study. During the treatment, patients were treated with 40 mL UC-MSC suspension product (2 × 10 7 cells/20 mL) via intravenous injection immediately after the infusion of 100 mL saline. The serological markers tests were used to assess safety and the 28-joint disease activity score (DAS28) and the Health Assessment Questionnaire (HAQ) to assess efficacy.


          1 year and 3 years after UC-MSC cells treatment, the blood routine, liver and kidney function and immunoglobulin examination showed no abnormalities, which were all in the normal range. The ESR, CRP, RF of 1 year and 3 years after treatment and anti-CCP of 3 years after treatment were detected to be lower than that of pretreatment, which showed significant change (P < 0.05). Health index (HAQ) and joint function index (DAS28) decreased 1 year and 3 years after treatment than before treatment (P < 0.05).


          UC-MSC cells plus DMARDs therapy can be a safe, effective and feasible therapeutic option for RA patients.

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          Most cited references 17

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          The American Rheumatism Association 1987 revised criteria for the classification of rheumatoid arthritis.

          The revised criteria for the classification of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) were formulated from a computerized analysis of 262 contemporary, consecutively studied patients with RA and 262 control subjects with rheumatic diseases other than RA (non-RA). The new criteria are as follows: 1) morning stiffness in and around joints lasting at least 1 hour before maximal improvement; 2) soft tissue swelling (arthritis) of 3 or more joint areas observed by a physician; 3) swelling (arthritis) of the proximal interphalangeal, metacarpophalangeal, or wrist joints; 4) symmetric swelling (arthritis); 5) rheumatoid nodules; 6) the presence of rheumatoid factor; and 7) radiographic erosions and/or periarticular osteopenia in hand and/or wrist joints. Criteria 1 through 4 must have been present for at least 6 weeks. Rheumatoid arthritis is defined by the presence of 4 or more criteria, and no further qualifications (classic, definite, or probable) or list of exclusions are required. In addition, a "classification tree" schema is presented which performs equally as well as the traditional (4 of 7) format. The new criteria demonstrated 91-94% sensitivity and 89% specificity for RA when compared with non-RA rheumatic disease control subjects.
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            Mesenchymal stem cells: mechanisms of inflammation.

            In adults, human mesenchymal stem cells (hMSCs) are found in vivo at low frequency and are defined by their capacity to differentiate into bone, cartilage, and adipose tissue, depending on the stimuli and culture conditions under which they are expanded. Although MSCs were initially hypothesized to be the panacea for regenerating tissues, MSCs appear to be more important in therapeutics to regulate the immune response invoked in settings such as tissue injury, transplantation, and autoimmunity. MSCs have been used therapeutically in clinical trials and subsequently in practice to treat graft-versus-host disease following bone marrow transplantation. Reports of successful immune modulation suggest efficacy in a wide range of autoimmune conditions, such as demyelinating neurological disease (multiple sclerosis), systemic lupus erythematosus, and Crohn's disease, among others. This review provides background information about hMSCs and also describes their putative mechanisms of action in inflammation. We provide a summary of ongoing clinical trials to allow (a) full comprehension of the range of diseases in which hMSC therapy may be beneficial and (b) identification of gaps in our knowledge about the mechanisms of action of therapeutic MSCs in disease.
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              Human adipose-derived mesenchymal stem cells reduce inflammatory and T cell responses and induce regulatory T cells in vitro in rheumatoid arthritis.

              Adult mesenchymal stem cells were recently found to suppress effector T cell and inflammatory responses and have emerged as attractive therapeutic candidates for immune disorders. In rheumatoid arthritis (RA), a loss in the immunological self-tolerance causes the activation of autoreactive T cells against joint components and subsequent chronic inflammation. The aim of this study is to characterise the immunosuppressive activity of human adipose-derived mesenchymal stem cells (hASCs) on collagen-reactive T cells from patients with RA. The effects of hASCs on collagen-reactive RA human T cell proliferation and cytokine production were investigated, as well as effects on the production of inflammatory mediators by monocytes and fibroblast-like synoviocytes from patients with RA. hASCs suppressed the antigen-specific response of T cells from patients with RA. hASCs inhibited the proliferative response and the production of inflammatory cytokines by collagen-activated CD4 and CD8 T cells. In contrast, the numbers of IL10-producing T cells and monocytes were significantly augmented upon hASC treatment. The suppressive activity of hASCs was cell-to-cell contact dependent and independent. hASCs also stimulated the generation of FoxP3 protein-expressing CD4(+)CD25(+) regulatory T cells, with the capacity to suppress collagen-specific T cell responses. Finally, hASCs downregulated the inflammatory response and the production of matrix-degrading enzymes by synovial cells isolated from patients with RA. The present work identifies hASCs as key regulators of immune tolerance, with the capacity to suppress T cell and inflammatory responses and to induce the generation/activation of antigen-specific regulatory T cells.

                Author and article information

                Drug Des Devel Ther
                Drug Des Devel Ther
                Drug Design, Development and Therapy
                19 December 2019
                : 13
                : 4331-4340
                [1 ]Cell Therapy Center, 986 Hospital of People’s Liberation Army Air Force , Xi’an, Shaanxi, People’s Republic of China
                [2 ]Cancer Center, Institute of Translational Medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Macau , Taipa, Macao SAR, People’s Republic of China
                [3 ]Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine Institution, Yi-Chuang Institute of Bio-Industry , Beijing, People’s Republic of China
                Author notes
                Correspondence: Shigao Huang Cancer Center, Institute of Translational Medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Macau , Room 3013, Building N-22, Taipa, Macau, People’s Republic of China Email huangshigao2010@aliyun.com
                Yongjun Liu Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine Institution, Yi-Chuang Institute of Bio-Industry , No. 35, Jinghai 3 Road Economic-Technological Development Area, Beijing, People’s Republic of China Email andyliuliu2001@aliyun.com

                These authors contributed equally to this work

                © 2019 Wang et al.

                This work is published and licensed by Dove Medical Press Limited. The full terms of this license are available at https://www.dovepress.com/terms.php and incorporate the Creative Commons Attribution – Non Commercial (unported, v3.0) License ( http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/). By accessing the work you hereby accept the Terms. Non-commercial uses of the work are permitted without any further permission from Dove Medical Press Limited, provided the work is properly attributed. For permission for commercial use of this work, please see paragraphs 4.2 and 5 of our Terms ( https://www.dovepress.com/terms.php).

                Page count
                Figures: 7, Tables: 1, References: 31, Pages: 10
                Original Research


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