Up to Speed Health
[display_ad post_id="252" adunit="leader" position="A"]

New Rheumatoid Arthritis Research Revealed

Optimistic Research for Rheumatoid Arthritis Sufferers

Is there ongoing research to improve the treatments available to people with RA?

Over the last several decades, research has greatly increased our understanding of the immune system, genetics, and biology. This research is now showing results in several areas important to rheumatoid arthritis. Scientists are thinking about rheumatoid arthritis in exciting ways that were not possible even 10 years ago.

Scientists are looking at the immune systems of people with rheumatoid arthritis and in some animal models of the disease to understand why and how the disease develops. For example, small studies are looking at the role of T cells, which play an important role in immunity and in the progression of rheumatoid arthritis. Findings from these studies may lead to precise, targeted therapies that could stop the inflammatory process in its earliest stages. They may even lead to a vaccine that could prevent rheumatoid arthritis.

Researchers are studying genetic factors that predispose some people to developing rheumatoid arthritis, as well as factors connected with disease severity. For example, by studying genetically engineered mice, scientists supported by the NIH discovered that immune cells called mast cells play a key role in the development of rheumatoid arthritis. Findings from these studies should increase our understanding of the disease and will help develop new therapies, as well as guide treatment decisions.

In a major effort aimed at identifying genes involved in rheumatoid arthritis, the NIH and the Arthritis Foundation have joined together to support the North American Rheumatoid Arthritis Consortium. This group of 10 research centers around the United States is collecting medical information and genetic material from 1,000 families in which two or more siblings have rheumatoid arthritis. It serves as a national resource for genetic studies of this disease.

To help identify the multiple factors that predict disease course and outcomes in rheumatoid arthritis in African Americans, the NIH is supporting the Consortium for the Longitudinal Evaluations of African Americans with Early Rheumatoid Arthritis (CLEAR) Registry at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. This registry aims to collect clinical and x-ray data and DNA to help scientists analyze genetic and nongenetic factors that predict disease course and outcomes of rheumatoid arthritis.

Scientists are also unearthing the genetic basis of rheumatoid arthritis by studying rats with a condition that resembles rheumatoid arthritis in humans. NIAMS researchers have identified several genetic regions that affect arthritis susceptibility and severity in these animal models of the disease. These genetic regions are important because they can assist scientists in predicting the symptoms and severity of rheumatoid arthritis. Replacing malfunctioning genes with healthy genes (gene transfer) is being tested in mice, and it may eventually be used in humans to treat rheumatoid arthritis.

Researchers are also uncovering the complex relationships between the hormonal, nervous, and immune systems in rheumatoid arthritis. For example, they are exploring whether and how the normal changes in the levels of naturally produced steroid hormones (such as estrogen and testosterone) during a person’s lifetime may be related to the development, improvement, or flares of the disease. Scientists also are researching how these systems interact with environmental and genetic factors. The results of this research may suggest new treatment strategies.

A growing body of evidence indicates that infectious agents, such as viruses and bacteria, may trigger rheumatoid arthritis in people who have an inherited predisposition to the disease. Scientists are trying to discover which infectious agents may be responsible and how they trigger arthritis.

Researchers are searching for new drugs or combinations of drugs that can reduce inflammation and slow or stop the progression of rheumatoid arthritis with few side effects. Already, the new biologic response modifiers infliximab and etanercept are proving to be extremely effective for some people. Studies show that these treatments are more effective at slowing joint damage than methotrexate alone. Combination treatment with etanercept and methotrexate or infliximab and methotrexate has been found even more effective than either of the new treatments alone. (Methotrexate was used for comparison because it is a commonly prescribed “front-line” treatment.) The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently approved adalimumab (Humira) for slowing the progression of structural damage in adults with moderate to severe rheumatoid arthritis who have not responded well to one or more disease modifying antirheumatic drugs.

Investigators have also shown that treatment of rheumatoid arthritis with minocycline, a drug in the tetracycline family, has a modest benefit. Other studies have shown that the omega-3 fatty acids in certain fish or plant seed oils also may reduce rheumatoid arthritis inflammation. However, many people are not able to tolerate the large amounts of oil necessary for any benefit.

Scientists are examining many issues related to quality of life for people with rheumatoid arthritis and the quality, cost, and effectiveness of the health care services they receive. Some new techniques for managing symptoms under investigation include tai chi (a form of movement-based meditation), and cognitive-behavioral therapy (a technique that teaches you to anticipate and prepare yourself for the situations and bodily sensations that may trigger painful symptoms). Scientists have found that even a small improvement in a patient’s sense of physical and mental well-being can have an impact on his or her quality of life and use of health care services.

Optimistic for the Future

Scientists are making rapid progress in understanding the complexities of rheumatoid arthritis: how and why it develops, why some people get it and others do not, why some people get it more severely than others. Results from research are having an impact today, enabling people with rheumatoid arthritis to remain active in life, family, and work far longer than was possible 20 years ago. There is also hope for tomorrow, as researchers begin to apply new technologies such as stem cell transplantation and novel imaging techniques. (Stem cells have the capacity to differentiate into specific cell types, which gives them the potential to change damaged tissue in which they are placed.) These and other advances will lead to an improved quality of life for people with rheumatoid arthritis.

Content Created/Medically Reviewed by our Expert Doctors
del.icio.us digg Google Mixx Reddit StumbleUpon Yahoo

Related Articles

    [display_ad post_id="889" adunit="leader" position="B"]

    Created/Medically Reviewed by our Expert Doctors.
    Copyright © 2008-2017 · Men's Health Base · All Rights Reserved

    Use of this site constitutes acceptance of Men's Health Base's Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. The material on this site is for informational purposes only. This is not a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment provided by a qualified health care provider.

    Men's Health Base Men's Health Base

    Switch to mobile version