Researchers have identified a new protein known as C5orf30 which regulates the severity of tissue damage caused by rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
Following the discovery, published in scientific journal PNAS, RA patients most likely to suffer the severest effects of the condition can now be identified early and fast-tracked to the more aggressive treatments available.
The autoimmune disease causes inflammation, pain, stiffness and damage to the joints of the feet, hips, knees, and hands, and although there is no cure, new effective drugs are increasingly available to treat RA and prevent deformed joints.
The study, led by an international team of in-house University of Sheffield funded scientists and colleagues at University College Dublin, saw DNA and biopsy samples analysed from the joints of over 1,000 RA patients.
Gerry Wilson, honorary professor at Sheffield University who led the research, said: “Our findings provide a genetic marker that could be used to identify those RA patients who require more aggressive treatments or personalised medicine.
“They also point to the possibility that increasing the levels of C5orf30 in the joints might be a novel method of reducing tissue damage caused by RA.”
Dr Munitta Muthana, from the University’s Medical School who co-authored the study, added: “These exciting findings will prompt us to further explore the role of this highly conserved protein that we know so little about, and its significance in human health and disease.”
RA is the most common inflammatory type of arthritis.