From Space Discovery to Immune System Discovery
We are anxiously awaiting another manned space launch scheduled today from Kennedy Space Center. There is nothing like a launch to get my imagination revved up.
Because of this anticipation, I’m thinking about a recent phone conversation with our son. He is an aerospace engineer researching rocket propellants. He does advanced imaging of propellants for his thesis. I guess you could call him a radiologist for rocket fuel.
The topic of this chat was all about the challenges to safely make a trip to Mars. Fascinating.
After hanging up from the conversation I was struck by his passion for exploring the unknown. The desire to solve problems. Go where no one knows what is there.
But because of MY passion my thought process shifted to the discovery of the immune system. From the vastness of outer space to the intricacy of the microscopic immune system. Fascinating.
Because of my rheumatoid arthritis (RA) diagnosis, I spend a lot of time reading about the immune system. It is personal and I desire to get this problem solved. Knowing the power of our mind, my initial thought was to visualize my body fighting this disease successfully. My rheumatologist, a leading researcher at the time, responded to the idea with, “Where do you start? It is so complex.”
Why this matters:
Because the cause of RA is the immune system gone awry and attacking your own body tissues, it makes sense to understand the workings of the system. That is a tall order.
The book titled An Elegant Defense by Matt Richter, a New York Times bestselling author, describes the immune system in a wondrous way by using the medical situation of four individuals to explain it. Although something is amiss with my immune system, I want to support all that is going right with it. That is where my *FRESH*™ strategy comes in! Helping my biologic manage the disease.
How this applies to RA treatment:
The drugs used to treat RA that actually modify the disease course are called DMARDs (disease modifying anti-rheumatic drugs).
An article authored by Onecia Benjamin; Pankaj Bansal; Amandeep Goyal; Sarah L. Lappin titled “Disease Modifying Anti-rheumatic Drugs (DMARD)” best describes the mechanism of action of DMARDs as follows:
“Each DMARD has a unique mechanism of action ultimately interfering with critical pathways in the inflammatory cascade. Methotrexate, for example, stimulates adenosine release from fibroblasts, reduces neutrophil adhesion, inhibits leukotriene B4 synthesis by neutrophils, inhibits local IL-1 production, reduces levels of IL-6 and IL-8, suppresses cell-mediated immunity, and inhibits synovial collagenase gene expression. Other medications in this class serve to inhibit proliferation or cause dysfunction of lymphocytes. Leflunomide inhibits dihydroorotate dehydrogenase resulting in inhibition of pyrimidine synthesis hence blocking lymphocyte proliferation. Sulfasalazine mediates its anti-inflammatory effects by preventing oxidative, nitrative and nitrosative damage. Hydroxychloroquine, on the other hand, is a very mild immunomodulatory agent that inhibits intracellular toll-like receptor TLR9.
Biologics, on the other hand, are very selective in their mechanism of action. The overarching functions of biologics include (1) interfering with cytokine function or production, (2) inhibiting the “second signal” required for T-cell activation, or (3) depleting B-cells or inhibiting factors that active B-cells. Tofacitinib is a small molecule inhibitor of JAK, a protein tyrosine kinase involved in mediating cytokine signaling.”
All these pathways are in some way a part of the immune system.
So, as I await the launch of the Spacex rocket to explore outer space, I am thinking about all the brilliant researchers exploring our microscopic immune system to advance RA management. Both fascinating!
XXOO Cathy of Arthritis Wisdom
photo credit: Spacex