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Discovery could lead to the prevention of rheumatoid arthritis

28th May 2013

A groundbreaking new study from the University of Colorado School of Medicine has revealed that fat cells found within knee joints cause rheumatoid arthritis, a finding which could lead to the creation of gene therapies that can provide relief to those with arthritis-related mobility difficulties.

Rheumatoid arthritis can result in a substantial loss of mobility in joints, causing many with the disease to rely on the help of friends, family and mobility aids such as stair lifts or homelifts to keep living independently. As between 5 and 50 people per every 100,000 across the world develop the condition each year, research that could lead to the development of better treatments is considered extremely valuable.

Nirmal Banda, associate professor of medicine in the Division of Rheumatology at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and leader of the study, believes that the findings of their research are extremely important and their goal now is to "stop the disease before it progresses and leads to joint destruction", providing patients with a treatment that prevents rather than cures.

The study found that a protein called pro-factor D is secreted by fat in the knee joints of mice, a protein which generates another protein called factor D that is linked to arthritis. Significant levels of pro-factor D were found in mice with arthritis, and without factor D, the mice involved in the experiment could not develop rheumatoid arthritis.

Previous studies have found that factor D is part of a system of over 40 proteins that help fight off bacteria and pathogens in the body, but factor D has the added effect of making the mice susceptible to inflammatory arthritis. This new study shows that removing factor D still allows the body to protect itself, but also stops the development of the disease. Although the study focused on arthritis within the knee, it was also found that fat does the same thing in all joints, meaning that treatments could apply to joints suffering from rheumatoid arthritis all over the body.

Now, Nirmal Banda and his team are looking towards generating drugs, vaccines or inhibitors that can stop pro-factor D being secreted in mice, which could then lead on to the creation of treatments for humans. Although the findings of the study still need to be checked for their relevancy towards humans, the study shows major progress towards the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, news that those who use walk in showers and baths due to joint pain in the knees are sure to welcome.


Image Credit: hottolenghi (

This news article is from Handicare UK. Articles that appear on this website are for information purposes only.