Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is a systemic, inflammatory autoimmune disease in which the immune system attacks the synovial membrane of the joints. This promotes painful, chronic swelling and can lead to joint deformity and even bone erosion. It can also affect other parts of the body, like the skin or eyes. While researchers have not been able to pinpoint the cause of this particular disorder, both genetic and environmental factors are suspected to play a role in its development.
While exploring the cause of inflammation in rheumatoid arthritis, researchers found that deleting a gene called ELM01 actually decreases, rather than increases, joint inflammation in mice. As opposed to other genes, the ELM01 gene interacts with only specific sets of proteins, and thus may not affect other cells in the body if blocked – which could mean no side effects. This exciting discovery holds the potential for new treatments as well as diagnostic tests.
For more detailed information, check out this article from UVA Today.
Rose, N. R., & Mackay, I. R. (2014). The Autoimmune Diseases (5th ed.). Oxford, UK: Elsevier Academic Press.