London, Aug 14 : A single injection that can cure rheumatoid arthritis could be on sale within five years, claim British researchers.
Rheumatoid arthritis is a condition where the body's immune system attacks the joints, unlike oestoarthritis, which is more like wear and tear of the joints.
It is difficult to treat because it is caused by a malfunctioning immune system, causing inflammation in the wrong places.
The team at Newcastle University will now test the vaccine on volunteers with the disease.
"This is an important potential cure. It is possible one injection could switch off the abnormal immune response. If it works it could reverse the disease and stop further episodes," the Telegraph quoted Prof Alan Silman, medical director of the charity Arthritis Research Campaign, which funded the research, as saying.
The Newcastle team will test the effectiveness of the new vaccine in eight volunteers with rheumatoid arthritis from the Freeman Hospital as part of a pilot study, which could then lead to larger trials.
Using chemicals, steroids and Vitamin D, the team has devised a way to manipulate a patient's white blood cells so they surpress, rather than activate, the immune system.
It is thought the cells will then act as a brake on the over-reacting immune system and stop it attacking its own joints.
John Isaacs, Professor of Clinical Rheumatology at Newcastle University's Musculoskeletal Research Group, who is leading the team, said that although the work was in a very early, experimental stage it was "hugely exciting".
"Based on previous laboratory research we would expect that this will specifically suppress or down regulate the auto-immune response," he said.
Samples will be taken two weeks after the injection to establish whether it has induced the expected response.
The team also hopes to find out if the vaccine is effective only in the joints it is injected into, or whether the new cells spread throughout the body.