Scientists have identified a compound in green tea that could be used to treat the joint pain, inflammation, and tissue damage caused by rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Their study, “Regulation of Transforming Growth Factor b–Activated Kinase 1 Activation by Epigallocatechin-3-Gallate in Rheumatoid Arthritis Synovial Fibroblasts,” was published in the journal Arthritis & Rheumatology.
While the discovery of highly effective biologic therapies in the last decade has transformed the therapeutic landscape for RA, the ever-increasing numbers of non- or partial responders, the cost of the drugs, and their associated morbidity pose significant socioeconomic and clinical challenges.
“Existing drugs for rheumatoid arthritis are expensive, immunosuppressive and sometimes unsuitable for long-term use,” Salah-uddin Ahmed, the project’s lead researcher at Washington State University, said in a university news release.
Scientists evaluated a phytochemical called epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), a molecule with anti-inflammatory properties found in green tea. The results revealed that EGCG has the potential to be used as a treatment for RA because the molecule blocks the effects of the disease without blocking other cellular functions.
The findings were confirmed in a preclinical animal model of RA, where the researchers observed a marked reduction in the ankle swelling of animals that received EGCG during a 10-day treatment plan.
“This study has opened the field of research into using EGCG for targeting TAK1 — an important signaling protein — through which proinflammatory cytokines transmit their signals to cause inflammation and tissue destruction in rheumatoid arthritis,” concluded Dr. Ahmed.
Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic condition that causes pain, swelling, and stiffness in the joints. The swelling progresses into cartilage damage, bone erosion, and joint deformity. While the cause of rheumatoid arthritis is not clear, it is believed to result from a combination of genetic and environmental factors. The underlying mechanism involves the body’s immune system attacking the joints, resulting in inflammation and a thickening of the joint capsule. It also affects the underlying bone and cartilage.