By retraining the patient's immune system to ignore a peptide, researchers are hoping to treat the incurable and painful rheumatoid arthritis.
Researchers from Australia's University of Queensland led by Professor Ranjeny Thomas, developed a vaccine-style therapeutic approach for the most common form of rheumatoid arthritis, known as CCP-positive.
People in this group carry high-risk rheumatoid arthritis genes and specific rheumatoid arthritis antibodies, called anti-CCP.
The treatment seeks to re-educate the body's immune system to leave a naturally occurring peptide alone, attacking which leads to the disorder.
Rheumatoid arthritis results in painful swelling and deformity of joints caused when immune cells incorrectly identify and attack healthy cells as foreign bodies.
Aggressive and varied drug treatments available can manage the swelling and pain caused by the inflammation.
Immune cells known as dendritic cells were extracted from the body and mixed with an anti-inflammatory drug and a natural peptide found in arthritic joints, before being injected back into the body once again.
Professor Thomas said a single injection of the patient's own immune-modified dendritic cells helped suppress the immune response in rheumatoid arthritis.
In its current state, the treatment is too expensive and time-consuming for widespread use.
But Thomas says the study's results are promising enough to explore using nanoparticles as a delivery mechanism.
This has been tried in animal models where the nanoparticle finds the dendritic cells and delivers the payload to them.
If proven successful the method could potentially be used to treat other autoimmune diseases, such as Type 1 diabetes and multiple sclerosis.
The research findings from the phase one of the clinical trial were published in the journal Science Translational Medicine.
There are over 300,000 people in the UK who are suffering from the disorder where inflammation wears down cartilage and causes the bones to rub against each other.