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New research gives insight into RA development

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Scientists at Cardiff University have made a discovery that could help prevent the onset of an aggressive and hard-to-treat form of rheumatoid arthritis (RA).

Reporting their findings in the Journal of Experimental Medicine, the team of immunologists describe how an immune system protein, interleukin-27, regulates the inflammatory process in lymphoid-rich rheumatoid arthritis, which causes the characteristic symptoms of swollen and painful joints.

Rheumatoid arthritis affects 700,000 adults in the UK and this form of the disease accounts for up to 40% of diagnoses.

The Cardiff team have broken new ground in being able to explain how this variant of the disease develops. They say that understanding this process will allow doctors to divide patients into different sub-groups based on the (often greatly) varying patterns of disease, which are influenced by how much interleukin-27 is present in each patient´s joints.

A patient´s disease sub-group will influence the course of therapy they receive, meaning a more tailored approach to treating their condition and offering them a much better chance of overcoming it, the university says.

What´s more, the researchers hope that their identification of interleukin-27 involvement in this specific disease context will kick-start the search for new drugs that manipulate the pathways controlled by this factor.

Dr. Gareth Jones, from the School of Medicine´s Institute of Infection & Immunity, said: “In all forms of rheumatoid arthritis, it is widely understood that early intervention offers the best chance for clinical remission. The sooner treatment begins, the more effective the therapeutic response is likely to be.

“The key is identifying which drug is best suited for an individual patient. Making the correct treatment decisions, sufficiently early in the disease process will improve disease outcome, enhance a patient´s wellbeing and overall quality of life.”

The research at Cardiff is funded by Arthritis Research UK.