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Elevated Cytokines May Point to RA Before Disease Onset

Study results may help improve prediction of arthritis risk in those with no symptoms

FRIDAY, Jan. 29 (HealthDay News) -- Rheumatoid arthritis patients develop elevated levels of several cytokines, cytokine-related factors, and chemokines before onset of the disease, thus providing a potential opportunity for early identification, according to a study in the February issue of Arthritis & Rheumatism.

Heidi Kokkonen, of the Umea University Hospital in Sweden, and colleagues conducted a study of 86 people who gave blood samples before developing symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, and who were subsequently diagnosed with the disease, matched with 256 controls.

The researchers found that in those with no symptoms at the time of the blood test who went on to be diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, levels of several cytokines, cytokine receptors, and chemokines were elevated compared to the controls. In patients who were anti-cyclic citrullinated peptide antibody-positive and rheumatoid factor-positive, the levels were particularly elevated, and increased further after disease onset, the investigators found.

"This explorative study can help to generate an hypothesis regarding the development of rheumatoid arthritis, particularly in terms of the role of the immune system in the initiation of disease," the authors write. "These findings present an opportunity for better predicting the risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis and, therefore, possibly preventing disease progression."

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