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An overview of joint disease formulation

  • Joints take a beating over time, especially those in the weight-bearing lower half of our bodies.
  • Small traumas to cartilage occur at all ages, but go unnoticed in younger individuals.
  • In time, these traumas result in exposed fibres of collagen in the cartilage - the early silent signal for a devastating chain of events.
  • Normally sealed off from the immune system, newly exposed microscopic collagen fibres are now mistaken as “foreign” cells.
  • The body’s alarm goes off, indicating a foreign invasion that triggers a complex and destructive immune response.
  • An army of “killer” T-cells is sent to the joint, followed by the release of inflammatory cytokines, which in turn draw in more “killer” T-cells. This culminates in the release of cell-destroying protein clusters which bind themselves to chondrocytes (cartilage-producing cells), causing them to secrete protein compounds as well as other inflammatory chemicals and enzymes, chewing up the matrix of cartilage.
  • Researchers found that as cartilage fibres are destroyed by the immune system, the destroyed cells release various by-products. These damaging breakdown products directly reactivate the immune system - driving a vicious and continuing cycle of joint-tissue damage.
  • Small, surface fibres trigger the initial immune response.
  • Then the secondary cycle of trigger-damage eventually eats away the healthy cartilage within the joint - creating the pain, friction, and grinding known as osteoarthritis.

Proving this joint formulation theory

To prove this chain of events is the origin of osteoarthritis, mice were bioengineered so that they lacked a key protein, without which the complement cascade (a specific set of events that set off an immune response) cannot be triggered. Following a cartilage tear – which in this special case did not trigger the normal immune-attack cascade – the mice maintained their ability to walk normally and did not suffer any osteoarthritic or immune reaction.1

Understanding rheumatoid arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis occurs when the immune system mistakenly identifies exposed cartilage – or other joint elements such as synovial fluid or the synovial membrane – as “enemies.” An inflammatory response ensues that is considered to be high-grade, which is why rheumatoid arthritis is categorised as a true autoimmune disease. As in osteoarthritis, exposed collagen triggers a destructive immune response that eventually destroys the joint surfaces and normal function.

Treating symptoms only

Because arthritis has been considered impossible to cure, standard medical treatment has focused on drugs for inflammation and pain and in some cases, immune suppressants. These pharmaceuticals include NSAIDs such as ibuprofen, and corticosteroids such as prednisone. However, these substantially increase the risk of life-threatening disorders, including obesity, kidney disease, diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. In addition, they only blunt symptoms while having no impact on the origin of the disease itself. So, scientists have long sought ways to short-circuit the immune response to exposed collagen.

Re-educating the immune system

Now aware that both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis are substantial immune reactions triggered by exposed collagen, scientists sought ways to target the common immune origin of these joint-destroying diseases. The ideal prevention would be to re-educate the immune system to differentiate between exposed collagen fibres and foreign bodies. This would inhibit overreaction to proteins normally found in joint cartilage, and prevent immune-mediated attacks on the joints. Fortunately, a number of studies have shown that a form of natural collagen does just that!

Chicken soup - for joints

Researchers came across the surprising finding that something in chicken soup exerted an anti-inflammatory activity, protecting sites of inflammation from attack. When scientists later investigated type II chicken collagen, they discovered its potential to act along natural immune pathways to induce tolerance to exposed collagen in joint cartilage. At that time, osteoarthritis was still seen as simply the mechanical wearing down of cartilage with use and ageing. So, chicken collagen was initially tested only on the known autoimmune joint condition, rheumatoid arthritis.

Arthritis remission with type II collagen

In a randomised, double-blind study of the effect of type II chicken collagen on 60 patients with active rheumatoid arthritis, the number of swollen and tender joints decreased in the collagen group, but not in the placebo group – within just 3 months. However, the study team observed another dramatic finding: an unheard-of 14% of those patients receiving type II chicken collagen had a complete remission of their rheumatoid arthritis.¹

These findings for type II chicken collagen were confirmed with similar results in a larger trial of 274 patients with active rheumatoid arthritis.2

Scientists tested oral type II collagen on patients with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, an especially aggressive form of this disease that begins in childhood. In just 12 weeks, 80% of the patients in the type II collagen group responded to treatment with an average reduction of 61% in the number of swollen joints, and an average reduction of 54% in the number of tender joints.3

Eventually, researchers conducted a conclusive phase III clinical trial on over 500 rheumatoid arthritis patients, which was published in the journal Arthritis Research & Therapy in 2009. They found that supplementing with type II chicken collagen resulted in reduced disease activity and beneficial effects –exerted specifically, in the words of the study authors, “through inducing oral tolerance”.4

As it became increasingly apparent that osteoarthritis – like rheumatoid arthritis – is an immune disorder, scientists began testing type II chicken collagen on this most prevalent form of joint disease too.

Reference:

  1. Trentham, D., E., et al. (1993). Effects of oral administration of type II collagen on rheumatoid arthritis. Science, vol. 24, 1727–1730.¹
  2. Barnett, M., L., et al. (1998). Treatment of rheumatoid arthritis with oral type II collagen. Results of a multicenter, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Arthritis Rheum, vol. 41, iss. 2, 290–297.
  3. Barnett, M., L., et al. (1996). A pilot trial of oral type II collagen in the treatment of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. Arthritis Rheum, vol. 39, iss. 4, 623–628.
  4. Wei, W., et al. (2009). A multicenter, double-blind, randomized, controlled phase III clinical trial of chicken type II collagen in rheumatoid arthritis. Arthritis Research & Therapy, vol. 11.