Efficacy and Safety of Umbilical Cord Mesenchymal Stem Cell Therapy for Rheumatoid Arthritis Patients: A Prospective Phase I/II Study

BACKGROUND:

The traditional anti-inflammation disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs) have limited therapeutic effects in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients. We previously reported the safety and efficacy of umbilical cord mesenchymal stem cell (UC-MSC) treatment in RA patients that were observed for up to 8 months after UC-MSC infusion. The aim of this study is to assess the long-term efficacy and safety of UC-MSC along with DMARDs for the treatment of RA.

METHODS:

64 RA patients aged 18-64 years were recruited in the study. During the treatment, patients were treated with 40 mL UC-MSC suspension product (2 × 107 cells/20 mL) via intravenous injection immediately after the infusion of 100 mL saline. The serological markers tests were used to assess safety and the 28-joint disease activity score (DAS28) and the Health Assessment Questionnaire (HAQ) to assess efficacy.

RESULTS:

1 year and 3 years after UC-MSC cells treatment, the blood routine, liver and kidney function and immunoglobulin examination showed no abnormalities, which were all in the normal range. The ESR, CRP, RF of 1 year and 3 years after treatment and anti-CCP of 3 years after treatment were detected to be lower than that of pretreatment, which showed significant change (P < 0.05). Health index (HAQ) and joint function index (DAS28) decreased 1 year and 3 years after treatment than before treatment (P < 0.05).

CONCLUSION:

UC-MSC cells plus DMARDs therapy can be a safe, effective and feasible therapeutic option for RA patients.