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New Lab Mice Mimic Sex Bias in Rheumatoid Arthritis

Humanized mouse model may help explain women's increased risk of autoimmune disease

WEDNESDAY, Jan. 3 (HealthDay News) -- New humanized HLA-DR4-transgenic mice mimic the autoimmune responses of human rheumatoid arthritis patients and the increased incidence of the disease in females, researchers report in the January issue of Arthritis & Rheumatism.

Veena Taneja, Ph.D., of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., and colleagues created genetically modified mice with a well-established rheumatoid arthritis susceptibility: the allele HLA- DRB1-0401. They injected the mice with type II collagen to initiate collagen-induced arthritis.

The mice that developed arthritis produced rheumatoid factors and other features strikingly similar to humans, including auto-antibodies to type II collagen, increased expression of class II molecules T cells and production of pro-inflammatory cytokines. The investigators also found that the female mice were three times as likely to develop arthritis as the male mice.

"Sex hormone balance is a crucial factor in the regulation of immune and inflammatory responses, including complex autoimmune diseases such as systemic lupus erythematosus," states the author of an accompanying editorial. "Modulation of this balance should represent part of advanced biologic treatments for rheumatoid arthritis. Sharing the sex hormone effects of the human disease, the new humanized mouse may provide a better model with which to study the pathogenesis and treatment of arthritis."

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