Rheumatoid Arthritis Research- Multiple approaches to improve treatment and outcomes

Rheumatoid Arthritis Research- Multiple approaches to improve treatment and outcomes

Rheumatoid arthritis is estimated to affect 1.5 million Americans, with 75% of those being women. It usually begins between the ages of 40-60. RA is known by sufferers to cause flares of intense inflammation and pain, mobility problems, and disfigurement. Four ANRF researchers are taking on the fight against RA from different directions hoping to improve treatments, determine effectiveness of medications in individuals, and address a scary correlation between RA and heart disease.

Nisarg J Shah (PhD) – Microparticle-assisted modulation of regulatory T cells in rheumatoid arthritis

Repurposing an acne and leukemia drug to treat Rheumatoid arthritis

Disease modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDS) have greatly improved the lives of patients living with juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA). However, they do not offer a cure and are associated with increased risk of infection. In both conditions specialized immune cells, regulatory T cells which help to identify harmful foreign cells, are faulty. A medication, all-trans retinoic acid (ATRA), which is currently used to treat acne and leukemia, helps to repair the faulty T cells. Initial experiments by Dr. Shah have shown that this medication shows promise as a treatment for inflamed arthritic joints. He hopes to be able to use this medication as a long-term solution to treating conditions such as RA.


Anil Kumar Singh (PhD) – Molecular reprogramming of Rheumatoid arthritis synovial fibroblasts by interleukin 6

Life is balancing holding on and letting go

Two types of cells help to keep bones healthy. Osteoblasts produce new bone while osteoclasts help to breakdown older bone. A protein that promotes inflammation and a second protein that is needed for cells to develop have been shown to cause other cells in the framework of joints to start behaving as if they are osteoclasts. This leading to greater levels of bone being broken down than is produced. Dr. Singh wants to find out how these proteins lead to this imbalance in bone breakdown and rebuilding. If successful these may be new targets for RA medication that works by ensuring that balance is restored to these processes so that bone building can keep up with bone break down.


Renuka Nayak (MD, PhD) – Elucidating mechanisms of methotrexate metabolism by the human microbiome in rheumatoid arthritis

A gut response to RA medications

More and more we are recognizing the role our gut biome (microorganisms including bacteria and fungi that live in the digestive tracts of humans) has in our overall health These microorganisms appear to have a role not just in breaking down the food we eat but also the medications we take. Dr. Nayak believes that different microorganisms might breakdown medication differently – explaining why people with the same condition don’t respond to the same treatment in the same way. If this is true by determining the different microorganism that live in a patient’s gut, we might be able to predict how they respond to a specific medication. This could greatly reduce the time it takes to find an effective treatment for each patient with RA which in turn improves the risk of permanent joint damage.


Susan MacLauchlan (PhD) – Mechanisms by which clonal hematopoiesis augments inflammation and atherosclerosis in rheumatoid arthritis

Increased incidence of heart disease in RA patients

The occurrence of heart disease in RA patients is nearly double that in the general population. Traditional risk factors for heart disease do not explain this alarming statistic. Dr. MacLauchlan is hoping to discover new risk factors in RA patients that explain this increase in heart disease. A certain mutation in cells that give rise to immune cells increases the likelihood of developing heart disease. Dr. MacLauchlan will try to determine if this mutation is one of the factors that increases the risk of RA patients developing heart disease. Establishing why RA patients are at greater risk is the first step necessary in reducing their level of risk.

Article Author
Arthritis National Research Foundation

The Arthritis National Research Foundation's mission is to provide initial research funding to brilliant, investigative scientists with new ideas to cure arthritis and related autoimmune diseases. There are several ways to support research through the ANRF. Find out more and donate today.

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