A United States university research team has identified a system of a gene that increases the risk of severe rheumatoid arthritis in susceptible individuals, and the finding could lead to the development of treatment based on the genetic profiles of arthritis patients.
Published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Yale professor of medicine Dr Richard Bucala and his team focussed on the disease-causing variants of the gene MIF, which was found to be associated with severe rheumatoid arthritis.
Dr Bucala and his team conducted experiments with cells derived from the rheumatoid joint of patients who either had a “disease-causing, high-expression variant of the MIF gene” or a “disease-protective, low expression variant of the MIF gene” and found that high-expression variants corresponded with increased expression of the MIF receptor protein, known as CD44, and induced structural changes in the protein that occur in cancerous tissues. It is these properties that can lead to destructive changes in the rheumatoid joint.
The finding could lead to the development of MIF inhibitors, and Dr Bucala says the laboratory has already developed these for clinical testing in cancer and for severe rheumatoid arthritis in “genetically susceptible patients”.
Rheumatoid arthritis is a common autoimmune disease that is said to affect around 400,000 Australians, many of whom are women. The disease destroys cartilage in joints and can lead to severe disability. In its most severe form, vascular inflammation and internal organ damage occur, which can result in death.