A simple blood test may soon help predict rheumatoid arthritis even before symptoms arise, according to researchers.
Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic autoimmune disease characterized by joint inflammation involving the synovial (lubricating fluid of the joints) tissue and eventually leading to destruction of cartilage and bone.
A research team from University Hospital in Umea, Sweden, have identified several cytokines, cytokine-related factors, and chemokines that increase significantly prior to rheumatoid arthritis (RA) disease onset.
Led by Dr Solbritt Rantapaa-Dahlqvist, researchers sought to determine cytokines, cytokine-related factors, and chemokines are up-regulated prior to the development of RA, and which ones are involved.
They analysed blood samples of 86 individuals before the appearance of symptoms of RA (pre-patients), 69 of the pre-patients after the onset of RA, and 256 matched control subjects.
The study showed blood samples obtained from individuals had elevated concentrations of proinflammatory cytokines, cytokine-related factors, and chemokines, indicating immune system activation prior to any symptoms of joint involvement.
"Our findings present an opportunity for better predicting the risk of developing RA and possibly preventing disease progression," said Rantapaa-Dahlqvist.
An early and accurate diagnosis of RA is crucial. Studies have shown that people who receive early treatment for RA feel better sooner and more often, are more likely to lead an active life, and are less likely to experience the type of joint damage that leads to joint replacement.
The study appears in Arthritis and Rheumatism, a journal of the American College of Rheumatology.