- A new imaging technique shows the nature of inflammation in rheumatoid arthritis.
- The new technique is a positron emission tomography (PET) that targets translocator protein (TSPO) expression in the synovium.
- The synovium is a connective tissue in the joints.
A new positron emission tomography (PET) imaging method that shows the nature of inflammation in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) has been developed by a research team.
The new tool targets targeting translocator protein (TSPO) expression in the synovium - the joint lining tissue.
"TSPO-targeted imaging has long been used as a means of imaging macrophage infiltration in vivo," explains Nehal Narayan of the University of Oxford in Oxford, U.K. "Numerous studies have demonstrated TSPO-targeted PET as a highly sensitive and specific means of imaging synovitis [inflammation of joint lining tissue], purportedly through imaging synovial macrophage infiltration, a critical process in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) pathogenesis. However, this premise does not take into account the ubiquitous expression of TSPO."
The study included three RA patients and three healthy volunteers who underwent PET scans of both knees using the TSPO radioligand carbon-11 (11C)-PBR28. In addition, cellular expression of TSPO was examined in synovial tissue from these individuals, plus three more RA patients and three more healthy patients (undergoing knee arthroscopy for injuries). TSPO mRNA expression and hydrogen-3 (3H)-PBR28 radioligand binding were assessed using in vitro monocytes, macrophages, fibroblast-like synoviocytes (FLS) and CD4+ T-lymphocytes.
Results showed that the 11C-PBR28 PET signal was significantly higher in RA joints compared to healthy joints. In addition, 3H-PBR28 specific binding in synovial tissue was approximately 10-fold higher in RA patients compared to healthy controls. Immunofluorescence revealed TSPO expression on macrophages, FLS and CD4+ T cells. In vitro study demonstrated highest TSPO mRNA expression and 3H-PBR28 specific binding in activated FLS, non-activated and activated 'M2' reparative macrophages. The lowest TSPO expression was in activated and non-activated CD4+ T lymphocytes.
Narayan notes, "It is well recognized that not all currently available treatments are capable of controlling joint inflammation in all patients with rheumatoid arthritis, hence the need to develop new pharmacological therapies. This work demonstrates that TSPO PET is able to act as a means of imaging not only synovial macrophages, but also activated synovial fibroblasts. The crucial role of the fibroblast and its soluble products in RA pathogenesis is increasingly realized."
She adds, "Indeed, there has been recent interest in targeting activated fibroblasts as a novel targeted treatment strategy for RA. Therefore, TSPO PET imaging in early phase clinical trials may provide a sensitive indication of treatment response to such novel therapies with a view to informing the design of later stage clinical trials. As our knowledge of cellular TSPO expression and behavior grows, TSPO-targeted imaging may also give us unique insights into the pathogenesis of inflammatory disease."
- Translocator Protein as an Imaging Marker of Macrophage and Stromal Activation in Rheumatoid Arthritis Pannus - (http://jnm.snmjournals.org/content/59/7/1125)