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Scientists are rapidly gaining a better understanding of how and why rheumatoid arthritis develops, as well as why some people get it and others do not. Some specific areas of research include the immune system, genes, beneficial foods, and new drugs or combinations of drugs. Future advances in research on rheumatoid arthritis will lead to an improved quality of life for people with this condition.

An Overview of Rheumatoid Arthritis Research

Researchers are making rapid progress in understanding the complexities of the disease: how and why it develops, why some people get it and others do not, and why some people get it more severely than others. Results from this research are having an impact today, enabling people with rheumatoid arthritis to remain active in life, family, and work far longer than was possible 20 years ago.
There is also hope for tomorrow, as researchers begin to apply new technologies such as stem cell transplantation (stem cells have the capacity to differentiate into specific cell types, giving them the potential to change damaged tissue in which they are placed) and novel imaging techniques. These and other advances will lead to an improved quality of life for people with rheumatoid arthritis.

New Findings on Rheumatoid Arthritis

Over the last several decades, research on rheumatoid arthritis has greatly increased our understanding of the immune system, genetics, and biology. This research is now showing results in several areas important to rheumatoid arthritis. Scientists are thinking about rheumatoid arthritis in exciting ways that were not possible even 10 years ago.
Rheumatoid arthritis research is being done in many areas, including:
  • Immune systems
  • Genes
  • Families with rheumatoid arthritis
  • The way hormones and the nervous and immune systems interact
  • Infectious agents, like viruses and bacteria
  • The role of gender in rheumatoid arthritis
  • Rheumatoid arthritis and pregnancy
  • Triggers of the disease
  • New drugs or drug combinations
  • Beneficial foods
  • Quality of life for people with this disease.
Immune System
Scientists are looking at the immune systems of people with rheumatoid arthritis and in some animal models of the disease to understand why and how the disease develops. For example, small studies are looking at the role of T cells, which play an important role in immunity and in the progression of rheumatoid arthritis. Findings from these studies may lead to precise, targeted therapies that could stop the inflammatory process in its earliest stages. They may even lead to a vaccine that could prevent rheumatoid arthritis.
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Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
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