Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis is a systemic autoimmune disorder that occurs when your body’s immune system mistakenly attacks your own healthy tissues. In approximately 40% of people diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, the inflammation caused by the disorder, can affect more than just the joints. It can also affect non-joint structures such as the; skin, eyes, kidneys, blood vessels, nerve tissue, bone marrow, heart, and lungs. The Stem Cells Transplant Institute in Costa Rica, uses adult autologous stem cells for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis.

Transplantation of stem cells is a very promising approach for the treatment of different autoimmune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis. Treatment at the Stem Cells Transplant Institute could help improve the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis:

  • Pain
  • Stiffness
  • Swelling, warmth and redness
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Sweating
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss

What is Rheumatoid Arthritis?

Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic inflammatory disease that primarily affects the joints, causing destruction of the articular cartilage resulting in; pain, stiffness, and inflammation of the synovial membrane.1,2 The immune system is designed to protect healthy tissue from foreign invaders such as; bacteria, viruses, and germs however, rheumatoid arthritis occurs when the immune system mistakenly attacks the synovium, the healthy tissue membrane that surrounds the joints. This results in inflammation that thickens the synovium, eventually destroying the cartilage and bone within the joint. As the joint is destroyed the tendons and ligaments holding the join together are damaged and the joint is no longer supported. The exact cause of the disease is unknown but researchers believe it is a combination of genetic and environmental causes.1,2

Rheumatoid arthritis increases your risk of other serious health problems including:

  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Infections
  • Lung disease
  • Lymphoma
  • Obesity
  • Osteoporosis

 Standard Treatment for Rheumatoid Arthritis

Standard of care includes; non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, steroids, disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs and biologic agents. A combination of these drugs can alleviate symptoms but they are costly and are associated with serious side effects. Half of rheumatoid arthritis patients will discontinue the use of the biologic agents within 2 years because of the side effects and/or reduced efficacy.4

Despite advances in FDA approved treatments the following problems remain3:

  • Up to 30% of patients fail to respond to current treatment options
  • Even with resolution of inflammation, joint damage can continue to occur
  • Already damaged joints will not heal and continued joint damage may occur

 Can stem cell therapy improve symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis?

Researchers are focusing on developing treatment options that will not only treat the symptoms associated with rheumatoid arthritis, but ultimately repair and replace the damaged tissue and reduce inflammation, preventing future tissue damage. Physicians are studying the safety and efficacy of mesenchymal stem cells because of their ability to suppress the immune system, reduce inflammation, and repair tissue.3,4

Stem cell therapy for rheumatoid arthritis has been found to be safe.4,5 Additionally, two clinical trials evaluated the efficacy of mesenchymal stem cells in 225 patients with rheumatoid arthritis. Results showed patients treated with mesenchymal stem cells did better than patients in the control arms.  Patients treated with mesenchymal stem cells had beneficial reductions in their symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.4,6,7 Research is ongoing, but with the urgent need for more effective treatments for Rheumatoid arthritis, particularly for those patients with the more progressive forms of the disease, the Stem Cells Transplant Institute believes the potential of all types of cell therapies must be explored.

What type of stem cells are used?

The Stem Cells Transplant Institute uses autologous mesenchymal stem cells for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis.  Autologous means the stem cells are collected from the recipient so the risk of rejection is virtually eliminated. Mesenchymal stem cells are one type of adult stem cells that are found in a variety of tissues including; adipose tissue, lung, bone marrow, and blood.  Mesenchymal stem cells are a promising treatment for rheumatoid arthritis because of their; immunosuppressive properties, anti-inflammatory capabilities and cell regenerative properties. Treatment at the Stem Cells Transplant Institute may improve the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.

How are the stem cells collected?

A team of stem cell experts developed an FDA approved method and protocol for harvesting and isolating adipose derived stem cells for autologous reimplantation. The collection and use of adult stem cells does not require the destruction of embryos and for this reason, more U.S. federal funding is being spent on stem cell research.

How are the stem cells administered?

Stem cells are administered locally into the affected joint(s) and intravenously.

About the Stem Cells Transplant Institute

Costa Rica has one of the best healthcare systems in world and is ranked among the highest for medical tourism. Using the most advanced technologies, the team of experts at The Stem Cells Transplant Institute believes in the potential of stem cell therapy for the treatment of autoimmune diseases. We are committed to providing personalized service and the highest quality of care to every patient.



1.Xin Yan, Yurong, Cen, Qin Wang. Mesenchymal stem cells alleviate experimental rheumatoid arthritis through microRNA-regulated IκB expression. Scientific Reports | 6:28915 | DOI: 10.1038/srep28915 (2016) 2.Straub, R. H. Rheumatoid arthritis: Stress in RA: a trigger of proinflammatory pathways? Nat Rev Rheumatol 10, 516–518 3.De Bari. Are mesenchymal stem cells in rheumatoid arthritis the good or bad guys? Arthritis Research & Therapy (2015) 17:113 4.A.G. Kay et al. Chapter 8 Mesenchymal Stem Cell Therapy in Rheumatoid ArthritisP. Van Pham (ed.), Bone and Cartilage Regeneration, Stem Cells in Clinical Applications,149-176.5. Iyer SS, Rojas M. Anti-infl ammatory effects of mesenchymal stem cells: novel concept for future therapies. Expert Opin Biol Ther. 2008;8(5):569–81.6.Alvaro-Gracia JM, Jover JA, Garcia-Vicuña R, Carreño L, Alonso A, Marsal S, et al. Phase IB/Iia study on intravenous administration of expanded allogeneic adipose-derived mesenchymal stem cells in refractory rheumatoid arthritis patients (abstract). Arthritis Rheum. 2013;65(Suppl 10):2644. doi:10.1002/art.2013.65.issue-s10. 7.Wang L, et al. Human umbilical cord mesenchymal stem cell therapy for patients with active rheumatoid arthritis: safety and efficacy. Stem Cells Dev. 2013;22(24):3192–202. doi:10.1089/ scd.2013.0023

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