A Crystal Ball for Rheumatoid Arthritis Severity?
I’ve just been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. But will mine be a severe case resulting in painful, crippling joint damage? Or will it be a relatively mild case without major joint changes or significant discomfort?
Until recently, the only sure way for patients or their doctors to answer such questions was to wait and see. But that may soon change.
Canadian Researchers Find New Clue to RA Severity
A team of researchers at the University of British Columbia School of Medicine in Vancouver, Canada, recently identified a gene they believe will allow physicians to predict the severity of rheumatoid arthritis (RA). As Dr. Diane Lacaille, lead researcher for the study published in the Sept. 2 issue of the British medical journal The Lancet, told drkoop.com, “One specific gene — known as the IFN gamma gene — was different in patients we studied who have severe RA and those who have a mild form of the disease.”
Scientists at the National Human Genome Research Institute and Celera Genomics have recently confirmed that an individual’s genetic makeup is determined at conception and basically never changes. The research conducted by Lacaille and her team suggests that variations observed in the IFN gamma gene in the cells of individuals with RA can therefore be used to make accurate and early predictions about which of them will ultimately have the most severe forms of joint inflammation and damage and which will experience milder forms of the condition.
And the best news is these predictions can be made months — or even years — before a patient’s RA actually worsens to the point where joints are being destroyed.
The IFN gamma gene could be an RA crystal ball.
“As soon as a doctor makes the diagnosis of RA, an individual’s IFN gamma marker can be examined with a simple blood test,” Lacaille said. “From the appearance of the earliest symptoms, the doctor and patient will know what to expect in terms of future disease severity.”
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