Research Highlights

POSTECH Scientists Develop a New Treatment for Rheumatoid Arthritis

2015-07-24 607
Professor Sei Kwang Hahn


A research team, led by Department of Materials Science and Engineering Associate Professor Sei Kwang Hahn and graduate student Hwiwon Lee, has published research on a new rheumatoid arthritis treatment. 

The article “Hyaluronate – Gold Nanoparticle/Tocilizumab Complex for the Treatment of Rheumatoid Arthritis” was published in the April 2014 edition of the ACS Nano, a monthly scientific journal published by the American Chemical Society.  

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic inflammatory immune disease that affects 0.5 to 1 percent of the adult population worldwide and can damage joints and organs. Lee and Hahn along with scientists from Seoul National University, the Catholic University of America, and the Wellman Center for Photomedicine at the Massachusetts General Hospital developed a new rheumatoid arthritis treatment using a hyaluronate – gold nanoparticle/tocilizumab complex. 

Gold nanoparticles (AuNPs) have been widely used for various biomedical applications and are a potential antioxidant. Tocilizumab (TCZ) has gained popularity for rapidly suppressing inflammation and preventing joint destruction. TCZ is also the first monoclonal therapeutic antibody against interleukin 6 (IL-6) signaling by binding IL-6 receptor (IL-6R), which antagonizes the interaction of IL-6 with IL-6 receptor (IL-6R). IL-6 is a pleiotropic cytokine that is overexpressed in the synovial tissue of RA patient. Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) and IL-6 aggravate and sustain joint inflammation. 

In this new research, the research team used hyaluronate (HA) on the surface to improve the HA-AuNP/TCZ complex and reduce its nonspecific binding to serum proteins in the body and simultaneously target VEGF and IL-6R. Collagen-induced arthritis (CIA) animal models with an arthritic ankle treated with the HA-AuNP/TCZ complex were shown to have the most improvements in the reduction of swelling. The results indicate that the HA-AuNP/TCZ complex has a better therapeutic effect than those of TCZ as well as HA-AuNP, possibly because of the long-term synergistic dual effect of the HA-AuNP/ TCZ complex. These findings might lead to the HA-AuNP/TZ complex to be developed as a dual targeting drug candidate to VEGF and IL-6R and can be used for various therapeutic applications.