Advances In Treatment Of Immune-mediated Inflammatory Diseases
For a long time treatment for these conditions was geared toward decreasing inflammation and steroids were used. In some cases, steroids are still used but advances in medications have given several more effective treatment options. The latest group of drugs in this area of medicine are called biologics. These drugs are genetically engineered from living organisms and their components: proteins, genes, and antibodies.
Their mode of operation is that they interfere with the body’s inflammatory response. They do this by targeting specific molecular structures. Among such structure are cytokines, which are specialized proteins that aid in decreasing and increasing inflammation. The target cytokines are tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-alpha, interleukins, adhesion molecules and colony-stimulating factors among others. By interfering with the inflammatory response, biologics provide an opportunity to lower and maintain a decrease in inflammation.
The biologic drugs that are used to treat the above conditions are actually second-generation products. First generation biologics consist of vaccines, insulin, blood, and blood components. The difference between first and second generation biologics is the biotechnology used to manufacture the latter.
Unlike vaccines, which stimulate the immune system to build ‘protection’ against a specific invader, or insulin which assists the body to metabolize sugars (both being a treatment of the symptoms of disease), second generation biologics actually start from the beginning. They target the specific cells that cause a condition and change the way the immune system reacts to them. This changed response interrupts the cascade of reactions that lead to the destructive symptoms of these diseases. This means that in people with rheumatoid arthritis the immune system will not signal immune cells to attack joint tissues and initiate the inflammatory process that causes symptoms of swollen, stiff joints that become deformed with nodules. For those suffering from Crohn’s disease, immune cells will not attack cells in the intestinal tract and cause inflammation.
Of course, this is a very simplified description of the technology required to obtain such life changing medications but it is an attempt to shed light on a very real opportunity for those suffering to regain a level of wellness and increased quality of life. Most of these drugs are administered intravenously at regularly scheduled intervals in an attempt to decrease and sustain low levels of inflammation, which in turn slows progression of disease and destruction of target body systems.
Remicade, Rituxan, Tysabri, Enbrel, Herceptin and Avonex are among the list of biologic drugs. Many people suffer from chronic, progressive and eventually debilitating diseases. These drugs and this advanced technology offers hope and help for relief, longer lifespan and better quality of life for those who suffer. It is amazing what science and technology can and continues to do!