Are rheumatoid patients missing a molecular anchor?

Interlinking fingers with anchor tattoos

Rheumatoid disease may be triggered by a missing molecular 'anchor'. 

Stanford rheumatologist Connie Weyand, MD, PhD, and her colleagues may have discovered one of the possible underlying causes of rheumatoid disease. 

It is hoped that this discovery will lead to the development of a new treatment. 

In rheumatoid disease (aka rheumatoid arthritis), an overactive immune system attacks the joints, causing pain and inflammation. The root cause of this is not well understood. Existing drugs tend to treat the symptoms of rheumatoid disease rather than the underlying root cause.

Weyand and her team have discovered a missing ‘anchor’ in the T cells that are involved in rheumatoid disease activity.

For most people, the anchor is attached to a molecule that stops the immune system from overreacting. For people with rheumatoid, the anchor is missing. The system goes into overdrive, creating excess proteins, nucleic acids, membranes.

"This cellular army ... makes its way to synovial tissues, takes up residence there and instigates the inflammatory damage that’s the hallmark of rheumatoid arthritis," says Weyand.

The good news for rheumatoid patients is that Weyand's team has identified a way to fix the problem using an exploratory compound. The compound has been tested on mice and found to reduce the overactivity in the T cells. 

"We’ve shown we can reverse this behavior and make these cells behave as they should," Weyand said.

The next step will be to test the compound or a derivative with patients as part of a clinical trial. 

We’ll let you know as soon as we hear any further developments about this exciting research. 

Source: Stanford Scope blog

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