Rheumatoid arthritis: syndrome or single disease?

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Rheumatoid arthritis could be treated more effectively if it was tackled as a syndrome instead of a single disease, says research published in Nature.
Scientists looked at the role of inflammasomes – protein complexes that form part of the immune system – in mice with rheumatoid arthritis. For the first ever time, they found that by blocking the inflammasomes from producing interleukin-1 (a protein with an important role in inflammatory reactions) they were able to successfully treat the condition.
We already know that other immune system proteins such as TNF and IL-17 play a role in causing rheumatoid arthritis, and medicines have been developed to block their action. Blocking inflammasomes could therefore become a new treatment pathway.
The experts suggest that their findings show that rheumatoid arthritis should be categorised as a syndrome as opposed to one single disease. It means that similar symptoms can have different causes that, if identified, can be addressed with specifically targeted treatments.
Genetic testing would determine which treatments work best for individuals.
“Until recently, rheumatoid arthritis was considered to be a single disease, but our research suggests that it is more likely to be a syndrome than a single disease,” says one of the team involved, Mohamed Lamkanfi. “This knowledge could result in a more personalised approach to treatment, with the most suitable medicines selected according to the patient’s profile.”
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