Novel immunotherapy treatment shows potential for rheumatoid arthritis

25 October 2022

A University of Queensland study shows an immunotherapy treatment made from fat bubbles, called liposomes, is safe and reduced inflammation in rheumatoid arthritis.

UQ Diamantina Institute researcher Professor Ranjeny Thomas said results of the phase one clinical trial show that liposomes were tolerated and effective in reprogramming the rheumatoid immune response. 

People living with rheumatoid arthritis experience inflammation, pain and deformity as a result of their immune system attacking healthy tissues, especially in joints.

Professor Thomas said researchers tested the safety and effects of liposomes on immune cells in 17 patients being treated with the RA drug methotrexate.

“The study aimed to reprogram the rheumatoid immune response by using liposomes to transport vitamin D, an immune regulator, and a disease-related peptide, called Collagen II, to immune cells,” Professor Thomas said.

“Study participants were given a single injection of one of three different doses of the immunotherapy treatment, or a placebo.

“All participants receiving two of the liposome doses had low levels of RA inflammation eight weeks after receiving their dose.”

Analysis of immune cells helped identify the mode of action of this novel treatment, which will help the development and trials of future immunotherapies for RA and other autoimmune diseases.

Professor Thomas said new drugs were needed to reprogram immune tolerance and provide longer-term disease control than current medications.

“This trial is a good first step in that direction,” she said.

RA develops when immune tolerance breaks down in people at risk and has a huge impact on peoples’ lives.

This paper is published in the journal JCI Insight (10.1172/jci.insight.160964)

Although there are currently no trials of immunotherapies open for RA, the team is working towards RA prevention and is seeking parents, siblings and adult children of people living with RA for their research. For more information, please contact the team at