New Study: Different RA Joints May Have Unique Genetic Markers

Ever wonder why the RA drugs you take only seem to affect certain joints? Or why the drugs might be literally life-changing to one person with rheumatoid disease, but have little or no affect on another?

Scientists are now a step closer to the answer.

According to a recent article published in NIH News in Health, the monthly newsletter from the National Institutes of Health, a new scientific study shows that knee and hip joints affected by rheumatoid arthritis seem to have different genetic markers linked to inflammation.

The new findings, published in the professional journal Nature Communications in early June, suggest that different joints may have varying disease mechanisms. The findings may lead to more effective, personalized therapies for treating the disease in the future.

Researchers have known for some time that the unique chemical tags found in different joints that trigger inflammation, called epigenetic markers, differ between RA and osteoarthritis. But in this study, researchers looked at epigenetic patterns in joint cells from 30 people with RA and 16 with osteoarthritis. They found what they expected to find in the RA and OA joints, but were surprised to discover that the epigenetic markers also differed between the hip and knee joints in the patients with rheumatoid arthritis.

From the article: “The scientists next assessed the affected biological pathways that distinguish different joints. Knee and hip joints with rheumatoid arthritis had differing activated genes and biological pathways. Many of these pathways were related to immune system function.”

They also found that new drugs that treat RA may affect some of those pathways. That finding may mean an opportunity to treat different arthritic joints with more precise approaches in the future. “We showed that the epigenetic marks vary from joint to joint in rheumatoid arthritis,” said study coauthor Dr. Gary S. Firestein of the University of California, San Diego. “This might provide an explanation as to why some joints improve while others do not, even though they are exposed to the same drug.”

This was a very small study, and more in depth, targeted studies will likely be carried out in the future. Still, the scientists' findings here offer a lot of hope for those of us who live each day with the symptoms and joint destruction so characteristic of rheumatoid disease. Perhaps one day treatments will be much better than they are today.

Maybe they'll even find a cure.

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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