Arthritis The Enigma
Recently, a programme in the BBC series "Wider
Horizons" compiled a compelling documentary of the search for the
cause and ultimately a cure for one of the most debilitating diseases,
rheumatoid arthritis. It included archeological data from skeletal remains
to make the point that this form of arthritis was unknown until comparatively
modern times which implicates factors of our present civilization in
this disease. The course of this tale took us through searches for a
bacteriological and viral agent, psychological, dietary and environmental
contributors, as well as malfunctioning genes, all the while poignantly
demonstrating our pitiful inability to offer sustained relief for the
millions of arthritis sufferers. Maniacal excitement first generated
by the "miracle cure" cortisone eventually gave way to despair,
as the severe side effects of steroids became manifest. Today, treatment
for arthritis is still empirical at best, with patients having to cope,
day by day, with the painful effects of this illness.
Arthritis is a disease of the immune system, commonly
referred to as an "autoimmune" disorder. The synovium, the
membrane surrounding a joint, becomes inflamed, resulting in a buildup
of lymphoid cells, resulting in the degeneration of bone, cartilage,
ligaments and tendons. Some agent, perhaps the Epstein-Barr virus, may
trigger the initial joint inflammation, resulting in the production
of antibodies. Now this is where the gene factor comes in. The product
of a congenitally defective gene then alters this antibody so that it
is recognized as foreign to the body. The immune system then mounts
a massive defense against this factor. This immune response gone awry
results in the painful swelling and inflammation characterized by arthritis.
Due to the autoimmune characteristics of rheumatoid arthritis, immunosuppressive
measures usually help to alleviate the pain, although sometimes with
drastic effects. Interestingly, doctors have long observed that during
pregnancy, women's arthritis often subsides, presumably due to immunosuppressive
factors that may be involved in preventing her body from "rejecting"
that of her foetus.
Metals have been used since the 1920's to treat
rheumatoid arthritis. These include gold, platinum, ruthenium and metallocene.
Organic Germanium has been used in animal and human clinical studies.
In addition to the encouraging results emerging is a growing understanding
of the mechanisms underlying the success of organic Germanium. Thus,
again, scientific progress has proceeded synchronously with holistic
use, with the result that we have some insight into how Germanium works.
Animal Studies Point Out Immune
Parameters Of Germanium
The immunology group of Smith Kline and French Laboratories,
directed by Michael DiMartino, has been conducting studies to evaluate
the anticancer and antiarthritic properties of Spirogermanium (21).
The arthritis studies have used rats, in which arthritis is experimentally
induced by a single injection of a bacterium (Mycobacterium butyricum)
into the left hindpaw footpad of male rats. The primary lesion is the
inflammation induced in the injected leg; the secondary lesion is the
inflammation in the noninjected leg 16 days later. The results are as
- The development of both primary and secondary lesions
isinhibited (17% and 27%, respectively), by oral administration of Spirogermanium.
- Spirogermanium administered during a 27 day period,
significantly suppressed hindleg lesions on established hindleg inflammation.
Furthermore, the injected hindleg lesions remained significantly suppressed
for the 17 days following the drug treatment. The non-injected inflammation
tended to increase in the postdrug period.
- Spirogermanium restored enhanced levels of IL-1
to normal levels. IL-1, present in the synovial fluid of patients with
chronic inflammation, is a product of activated macrophages involved
in immunoregulation and the stimulation of synovial cells to produce
collagenase and prostaglandins.
- Spirogermanium can induce or enhance suppressor
cell activity in vivo in both nonarthritic as well as arthritic rats.
These induced suppressor cells are radiation resistant (4). Defective
suppressor cell activity has been implicated in the pathogenesis of
autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis.
These studies suggest mechanisms to explain organic
Germanium's antiarthritic activity. First of all,organic Germanium may
work on arthritis through modulating macrophage functions, which are
involved in inflammation and immunoregulation. The inhibition of macrophage
functions could interfere with antigen presentation to helper T-cells
which could lead to the induction of suppressor cells. Also, the inhibition
of IL-1 production in the inflamed joint could result in the reduction
of local inflammation and tissue destruction.
Seventeen patients with rheumatoid arthritis were
treated with either Ge-132 alone or with small doses (under 5 mg per
day) of prednisone (1). Immune parameters were monitored, including
circulating lymphocytes, T and B lymphocytes, natural killer (NK) cell
activity, interferon and antibody dependent cell mediated cytotoxicity
(ADCC). The results of this study were as follows:
- Clinical improvement of joint pains and morning
stiffness were observed in fourteen out of seventeen patients.
- Ge-132 treatment normalized reduced T lymphocytes,
ADCC, NK cell activity as well as interferon activity.
The conclusions reached in this study were that
"Ge-132 is useful in ...rheumatic disorders as an immunomodulator
of immunosuppressive treatment".