About 400,000 Britons suffer from rheumatoid arthritis (RA). The factors determining a person´s risk of developing this debilitating autoimmune disease are divided into two groups: genetic and environmental. Now researchers from King´s College London and the University of Manchester have come up with a computer model that combines factors from both groups to identify people highly likely to develop RA.
The genetic markers are identified through a simple blood test, while information about smoking habits is used to assess the impact of environmental factors. According to lead researcher Ian Scott, a member of the Department of Genetics & Molecular Medicine at King´s College London, this new method can also help identify people likely to develop RA at a younger age.
As doctors and researchers continue to improve their understanding of RA risk factors, it´s hoped that the technique could prove effective in screening for RA before people develop any symptoms, Scott stated further. This is extremely important for the advancement of efforts to find ways of stopping the disease before it hits.
The prediction modelling technique is unlikely to lead to the identification of many higher risk individuals within the general population. However, it can be used for targeted screening of patients already known to be at greater risk of developing RA, for example patient relatives. With enough high-risk individuals identified, researchers will be able to explore ways of preventing the disease. Early treatment of RA can minimise joint damage and increase patients´ chances of going into remission after the treatment, Scott pointed out.