New cell type could forewarn of rheumatoid arthritis flare-ups

July 20, 2020
New cell type could forewarn of rheumatoid arthritis flare-ups

Researchers have noticed an accumulation of never-before-seen cells in the blood during the week prior to rheumatoid arthritis (RA) flare-ups. The mysterious cells have an RNA profile which resembles those found in joints and not freely circulating in the bloodstream. The cells would also strangely disappear at the moment of swelling or inflammation typical with RA.

RA is an inflammatory disease of the immune system that affects the joints, especially around the hands and feet. Researchers at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI), The Rockfeller University, US, named the newly-discovered cells PRIME cells, short for pre-Inflammation mesenchymal cells. Mesenchymal cells are a type of stem cell that can develop into bone or cartilage.

The HHMI researchers tested about 23 RA patients to confirm the PRIME cells’ activity. Of their curious disappearance, the researchers hypothesised that the PRIME cells may migrate from the blood into the membranes of joints and be the active cause of RA flare-ups.

Robert B. Darnell, a neuro-oncologist at the university, hopes this new discovery could lead to a simple blood testing device to help arthritis sufferers better predict an oncoming flare-up. “PRIME cells are one thing you might want to target to arrest the flare before it happens – if these cells are the antecedents to joint sickness, they could become a potential target for new drugs.”


Category: Education, Features

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