modified cells for arthritis 'cure'

Rheumatoid arthritis is one of a family of autoimmune diseases, in which the body's defense systems launch attacks on its own tissues. Newcastle University -is about to create small-scale safety test of the punch, which will hopefully stop the immune system attacking the joints. This project was funded by The Arthritis Research Campaign, said if this treatment is successful it would be revolutionary and it could be available with in 5 years.

In the case of rheumatoid arthritis, this means painful inflammation and progressive damage to the joints, eased only slightly by courses of painkillers and immune dampening drugs.

The precise trigger for these attacks is not known, but the latest technique, so far tested only on cells in the laboratory, aims to "reset" the immune system back to its pre-disease state.

These cells are then injected back into the joint of the patient.

Professor John Isaacs, who is leading the research, said: "Based on previous laboratory research we would expect that this will specifically suppress or down regulate the auto-immune response."