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Predicting the Severity of Arthritis

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May 10, 2002 -- Researchers have identified a protein, called RAGE, that may explain why some people with rheumatoid arthritis have severe symptoms while others experience only mild problems. The finding may also point the way to effective new treatments.

RAGE proteins are found on the surface of cells within the joints. Ann Marie Schmidt, MD, from New York's Columbia University, and colleagues found that certain forms of RAGE are particularly good at attracting and binding inflammatory proteins. This brings on an immune response that damages the joints.

And, they found, people with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), and this souped-up, destructive form of the protein, have the most severe symptoms.

In an experiment with arthritic mice, the team demonstrated that blocking RAGE significantly reduced the amount of inflammation and destruction in the animals' joints. Whether a similar approach will work for humans remains to be seen.

But, they say, the findings do suggest that future treatment might be tailored to a person's individual form of RAGE, and that the RAGE protein may be involved in other autoimmune diseases.

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