More than 40 million Americans suffer from inflammation of one or more joints1. This disease is known collectively as arthritis. Arthritis is associated with inflammation and degeneration of the joints and surrounding connective tissue. Symptoms include pain, swelling, and stiffness of the affected joint, and the discomfort can range from a dull ache to a crippling pain1, 2. Osteoarthritis, the most common form of the disease, is responsible for nearly half of the reported cases of arthritis and results from degeneration of cartilage due to wear and tear and ligament laxity. Rheumatoid arthritis, an extremely crippling form of the disease, accounts for 2.1 million of the reported arthritis cases and is associated with an autoimmune inflammation of the joint synovium1.
The standard of medical care for arthritis ranges from prescribing analgesics to anti-inflammatory agents1, 3. At the one end of the spectrum, analgesics such as acetaminophen address the pain symptoms with minimal side effects. Even acetaminophen has potential deleterious side effects. At the other end of the spectrum are nonsteroidal and steroidal anti-inflammatories and immune system suppressors, which address the cause of the disease3. The latter medications are generally more expensive and must be monitored closely to prevent very common and serious side effects. Clearly a more benign and efficacious treatment would be beneficial, especially for the more common and less complicated osteoarthritis.