Rheumatoid Arthritis: Scientists Discover a Cell-Signaling Pathway that May Lead to New Treatment

New findings hint that experimental drugs currently under development for diseases like cancer and Alzheimer's may have potential to treat rheumatoid arthritis patients too.

Time.com--Healthland—May 25, 2012

Researchers from Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City have found that a cell-to-cell communication pathway called the Notch pathway may contribute to the development of rheumatoid arthritis.

According to the study authors, the findings suggest that drugs currently under development for the treatment of other diseases like cancer and Alzheimer’s may also help treat rheumatoid arthritis.

Previous studies had associated a certain mutation in a gene involved in the Notch pathway with a higher risk of rheumatoid arthritis, but it wasn’t clear why, so the researchers at HSS sought to figure out whether this molecular pathway played any role in the immune system failures that cause arthritis.

“In general, macrophages are thought to play a pathogenic role in rheumatoid arthritis by secreting inflammatory mediators that contribute to joint inflammation and bone erosion. A subtype of macrophages named inflammatory macrophages is particularly bad, as they specialize in producing large amounts of inflammatory mediators,” says lead researcher Dr. Xiaoyu Hu, a research scientist at HSS.

“Despite all the research effort, it is still not clear exactly what causes joint inflammation — a very complex process influenced by a number of genetic and environmental factors. Macrophages clearly contribute to joint inflammation and targeting inflammatory macrophages may represent a promising therapeutic approach to dampen joint inflammation,” says Hu.

The study was published online by Nature Immunology.

Read the full story at time.com


 

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