Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease. Patients with autoimmune diseases have antibodies in their blood that target their own body tissues. Regardless of the exact trigger, the result is an immune system that is geared up to promote inflammation in the joints and occasionally other tissues of the body. that is three times more common in women as in men. It afflicts people of all races equally. The disease can begin at any age, but it most often starts after age 40 and before 60. In some families, multiple members can be affected, suggesting a genetic basis for the disorder.
While the cause of RA remains unknown, new research is giving us a better understanding of the immune and even genetic factors that may be involved in producing inflammation. The primary focus of the inflammation is in the synovium, which is the tissue that lines the joint. Inflammatory chemicals released by the immune cells cause swelling and damage to cartilage and bone. In response, new medications have been developed to specifically block certain signals that cause the body to attack its own immune system resulting in RA symptoms and joint damage.
Paul Anderson, MD, PhD
Post-transcriptional Regulation of TNF alpha Production
TNF is a cytokine, or cell protein, that causes inflammation in rheumatoid arthritis. Dr. Anderson has discovered two new agents that may be be able to regulate the production of TNF, allowing him to identify targets for future drug development to stop the production of TNF, thus stopping inflammation.
Richard A. Flavell, PhD, FRS
Regulation of T cell Function in Collagen-induced Arthritis by IL-10
Interleukin-10 is a small cell protein known as a cytokine that plays a role in limiting tissue damage where inflammation occurs. Dr. Flavell is studying the signaling mechanisms used by IL-10 and then he will try to determine how the IL-10 cytokine is produced in T cells. Read the article printed in the New Haven Register about Dr. Flavell’s project.
Gary Gilkeson, MD
Role of Sphingosine Kinase I in Inflammatory Arthritis
Metabolism is the complete set of chemical reactions that occur in living cells, allowing cells to grow and reproduce. A byproduct of the metabolic process is referred to as a metabolite. Sphingosine 1-phosphate is a metabolite that is found in the synovium and has been shown to control certain biological activities including inflammatory effects of TNF-alpha. Dr. Gilkeson and his colleagues will be taking a novel approach to TNF inflammation by targeting this pathway as a means of limiting the effects of TNF in rheumatoid arthritis.
Elizabeth D. Mellins, MD
MHC Association in Rheumatoid Arthritis: A Novel Hypothesis
HLA proteins serve as molecular fingerprints for the immune system to distinguish self from non-self. Although these HLA proteins have been known as a critical genetic risk factor for susceptibility and severity of arthritis, the explanation of this genetic link is unknown. Dr. Mellins’ lab will study a novel hypothesis regarding the mechanism for this association.