Page last updated at 15:40 GMT, Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Six major joints replaced and counting

Emma Suddaby

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"In a year I can lose whole parts of my body... I might lose my foot this year," says Emma Suddaby, who is facing a battle with a very aggressive form of arthritis.

At 22, she was healthy and fit. Then one day, she woke up with a sore knee and was hospitalised as doctors battled to control the aggressive onset of what later turned out to be rheumatoid arthritis.

Rheumatoid arthritis is a disease of the auto-immune system. Emma's immune system does not recognise her own tissue and attacks everything it sees.

Her condition has been complicated by the recent diagnosis of systemic vasculitis - an incurable, secondary condition, common in severe, end-stage rheumatoid arthritis. It attacks capillaries, veins, arteries and ultimately, organs.

Now Emma is investigating whether stem cell research offers her any hope.

Watch the full report on BBC iPlayer.

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