New animal model for rheumatoid arthritis

June 28, 2012

Researchers at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine have created the first animal model that spontaneously develops rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and is predisposed towards atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries.

This model is considered of critical importance because patients with RA are at increased risk for heart attack and other premature , but scientists don't know why.

"Generally, people with RA die because of cardiovascular disease," said Harris Perlman, associate professor of rheumatology at Feinberg, who is corresponding author on the paper. "This new model will allow us to examine the systemic influence of on the development of heart disease."

RA is a chronic, inflammatory disease that causes pain, swelling, stiffness and loss of function in joints. The disease can affect any joint but is common in the wrist and fingers. Approximately 1.3 million people live with RA, and more women than men have the disease, which often starts between ages 25 and 55.

Perlman's team developed a specialized mouse model with RA, then fed the animals a "high-fat, Western-type" diet. "As we see in patient populations, the RA-affected mice spontaneously developed atherosclerosis," he said. Mice without RA who were fed the same diet did not develop atherosclerosis.

Next, Harris' team treated the affected animals with Enbrel, a common first-line therapeutic for in humans. Following an eight-week course of treatment, the occurrence of atherosclerosis decreased by 50 percent in the animal model.

The findings are published online in .

"This unique will allow us to address a number of important questions regarding the connections between RA and cardiovascular disease," said Perlman. "The most pressing question will be to explore how drugs that treat RA inhibit cardiovascular disease. What's the mechanism at work? We also want to understand how cardiovascular disease and RA work together in the body."

Perlman says the findings were made possible by a series of collaborations at Northwestern University involving the divisions of rheumatology and cardiology at Feinberg, as well as the Center for Advanced Molecular Imaging (CAMI) on the Evanston campus.

Explore further: Arthritis sufferers at increased risk of heart disease

Related Stories

Arthritis sufferers at increased risk of heart disease

August 15, 2011

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) sufferers are at an increased risk of dying due to cardiovascular disease. A new five year study published in BioMed Central's open access journal Arthritis Research & Therapy showed that the risk ...

Lower all-Cause, cardio mortality in obese with RA

May 2, 2012

(HealthDay) -- Overweight and obese patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) have lower all-cause and cardiovascular mortality, but have substantially increased risks of comorbidities, medical costs, and reduced quality of ...

Defect in A20 gene expression causes rheumatoid arthritis

August 16, 2011

Researchers from VIB (Flanders Institute for Biotechnology) and Ghent University have shown that a defective gene can contribute to the onset of rheumatoid arthritis, an often-crippling inflammation of the joints that afflicts ...

Recommended for you

Cross-species links identified for osteoarthritis

May 17, 2017

New research from the University of Liverpool, published today in the journal npj Systems Biology and Applications, has identified 'cell messages' that could help identify the early stages of osteoarthritis (OA).

Anti-hypertension DASH diet may reduce the risk of gout

May 9, 2017

The results of a study led by Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) investigators suggest that following a diet known to reduce the risk of hypertension and cardiovascular disease may also reduce the risk of gout. The team's ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.