Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Font Size

How Rheumatoid Arthritis Spreads

Study Shows Cells From Affected Joint Area May Travel Through Blood Vessels
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Nov. 9, 2009 -- Cells surrounding joints affected by rheumatoid arthritis may spread the disease to other joints by traveling through blood vessels, according to a new study.

Rheumatoid arthritis is a progressive disease that causes joint inflammation and destruction. Researchers say initially the disease starts out in just a few joints but soon spreads to other joints in the body.

Until now, the method of how the disease spreads from joint to joint was unknown. But a study in Nature Medicine suggests that cells called synovial fibroblasts may be to blame.

The cells, which are present in lining of the joints, are already implicated in the cartilage destruction associated with rheumatoid arthritis.

In the study, researchers implanted healthy human cartilage tissue plus synovial fibroblasts from people with rheumatoid arthritis into one side of lab mice. The opposite side was injected with healthy cartilage without the diseased fibroblasts.

After 60 days, the results showed that synovial fibroblasts had actively moved from one side of the mice's body to the other via blood vessels and were already causing cartilage damage.

Researcher Stephanie Lefevre of the department of internal medicine and rheumatology at the Kerckhoff-Clinic, Bad Nauheim, Germany, and colleagues say the study supports the notion that the spread of rheumatoid arthritis between joints is at least partially due to the migration of affected synovial fibroblasts through the bloodstream.

Today on WebMD

rubbing hands
Avoid these 6 common mistakes.
mature couple exercising
Decrease pain, increase energy.
mature woman threading needle
How much do you know?
Swelling, fatigue, pain, and more.
Lucille Ball
Hand bones X-ray
prescription pills
Woman massaging her neck
woman roasting vegetables in oven
Woman rubbing shoulder
Working out with light weights