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Can blood samples predict arthritic rheumatism?

Levels of inflammatory proteins, so-called cytokines, are elevated in the blood even before the onset of arthritic rheumatism.

This means that such blood samples could be used to predict the development of the disease and thereby make it possible to prevent the pathological process, according to an article by Umeå researcher Solbritt Rantapää-Dahlqvist and her associates in the journal Arthritis and Rheumatism.

The research team analyzed blood samples from 86 individuals who donated samples to the Medical Biobank before they developed arthritic rheumatism. Of these, 69 had submitted samples at the time they were developing the disease.

Moreover, blood samples were analyzed from 256 population-based matched controls from the Medical Biobank. The concentrations of 30 different cytokines and cytokine-related factors in plasma were measured using a so-called multiplex system.

The results show that individuals that later developed arthritic rheumatism had significantly elevated levels of most cytokines and that these cytokine patterns distinguished them from the control individuals. There was a connection with several different parts of the immune defense and also with specific auto-antibodies, so-called anti-cyclic citrullinated peptide antibodies. The results indicate that several years before individuals develop symptoms of arthritic rheumatism, the immune system is activated and the process that leads to arthritic rheumatism has started.

"Our findings point to the possibility of better predicting the development of arthritic rheumatism and perhaps also of preventing the development of the disease," says Solbritt Rantapää-Dahlqvist.

Arthritic rheumatism is a chronic autoimmune disorder characterized by joint inflammation that ultimately leads to the breakdown of cartilage and bone. The disease is difficult to diagnose early since its symptoms can often be diffuse at first. However, studies have shown that it is important to diagnose and treat the disease early in order to prevent severe joint damage.

For more information, please contact Solbritt Rantapää-Dahlqvist, Department of Public Health and Clinical Medicine, Umeå University.

Phone: +46 (0)90-785 17 29, e-mail:

Pressofficer Bertil Born;; +46-70388 60 58

Kokkonen H., Söderström I., Rocklöv J., Hallamans G., Lejon K., and
Rantapää-Dahlqvist S: Up-regulation of Cytokines and Chemokines
Predates the Onset of Rheumatoid Arthritis. Arthritis Rheum. 2010 Jan

Bertil Born | idw
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