Genes and Other Areas of Study on Rheumatoid Arthritis

Researchers are studying genetic factors that predispose some people to developing rheumatoid arthritis, as well as factors connected with disease severity.
Scientists are also unearthing the genetic basis of rheumatoid arthritis by studying rats with a condition that resembles rheumatoid arthritis in humans. Researchers from the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS) have identified several genetic regions that affect arthritis susceptibility and severity in these animal models of the disease.
These genetic regions are important because they can assist scientists in predicting the symptoms and severity of rheumatoid arthritis. Replacing malfunctioning genes with healthy genes (gene transfer) is being tested in mice, and it may eventually be used in humans to treat rheumatoid arthritis.
Researchers are also uncovering the complex relationships between the hormonal, nervous, and immune systems in rheumatoid arthritis. For example, they are exploring whether and how the normal changes in the levels of naturally produced steroid hormones (such as estrogen and testosterone) during a person's lifetime may be related to the development, improvement, or flares of the disease. Scientists are also researching how these systems interact with environmental and genetic factors. The results of this research may suggest new treatment strategies.
Scientists are exploring why so many more women than men develop rheumatoid arthritis. In hopes of finding clues, they are studying female and male hormones and other differences between women and men.
Scientists are examining why rheumatoid arthritis often improves during pregnancy. Results of one study suggest that the explanation may be related to differences in certain special proteins that pass between a mother and her unborn child. These proteins help the immune system distinguish between the body's own cells and foreign cells. Such differences, the scientists speculate, may change the activity of the mother's immune system during pregnancy.
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