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B Cells May by Key in Autoimmune Diseases

British study says B-cell depletion therapy benefits people with joint disease

(HealthDay is the new name for HealthScoutNews.)

FRIDAY, Aug. 1, 2003 (HealthDayNews) -- The findings of a British study suggest that more research should be done into the role of antibody-making B cells in autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis (RA).

The study included 22 people with active RA. They were given an experimental course of B-cell depletion therapy using the drug rituximab, which is approved and widely used for treating lymphoma.

Most of the people showed a marked clinical improvement in RA symptoms after two to four weeks of B-cell depletion therapy. The higher the dosage, the better the results, says the study, which appears in the August issue of Arthritis & Rheumatism.

RA is a form of arthritis caused by the dysfunction of the immune system. The cause of the disease has long focused on T-cells, which regulate immunity. Various forms of treatment that target T-cells have been used with limited success.

This study raises new questions about the role of B cells in RA and about B cells and autoimmunity. It should prompt further study of the role that B cells play in the human immune system and the diseases that affect it.

More information

Here's where you can learn more about rheumatoid arthritis.

SOURCE: John Wiley & Sons Inc., news release, Aug. 1, 2003
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