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Hospital for Special Surgery Research Institute Baohong Zhao, Ph.D., Discovers New Target Pathway for Treatment of Patients with Rheumatoid Arthritis

Published in Nature Communications, this study has implications for new treatment strategies to prevent bone destruction in patients with Rheumatoid Arthritis

New research from Hospital for Special Surgery Research Institute recently published on July 7th in Nature Communications identifies a new target pathway of inflammatory osteolysis (bone destruction) present in and unique to patients with rheumatoid arthritis.

Dr. Zhao’s study identified a new pathway in patients with RA that can be stimulated for bone resorption. This pathway provides a new biologic marker that opens avenues for selective treatment of inflammatory osteolysis (bone destruction). This may present an alternative to existing drug treatments that reduce symptoms in rheumatoid arthritis patients, but simultaneously compromise their immune system.

Inflammatory bone loss is a signature symptom for many RA patients, causing significant pain and leading to loss of function if not properly treated. Until now, the pathways causing these bone damage issues have been poorly understood. Dr. Zhao’s study is the first to identify a molecular program that specifically leads to inflammatory bone degeneration. As inflammatory conditions may trigger as of yet unknown pathways for osteoclast generation, Dr. Zhao and her team from the Arthritis and Tissue Degeneration Program at Hospital for Special Surgery sought to and were successful in identifying a key driver of osteoclastogenic pathways; her team found that transforming growth factor β (TGFβ) priming enables inflammatory cytokine tumor necrosis factor (TNF) to effectively induce osteoclastogenesis and bone erosion.

“There is an important yet unmet need to discover new therapies for RA patients. With the identification of this mechanism, we can provide novel therapeutic strategies to suppress inflammatory bone loss, while minimizing or mitigating the undesirable effects on bone remodeling or immune response in disease settings,” Dr. Zhao shared. “This opens new avenues for selective treatment of inflammatory osteolysis that may not require the suppression of a patient’s immune system in the process.”

By identifying the molecular pathway that leads to bone destruction in rheumatoid arthritis, Dr. Zhao’s findings may lead to new treatments that don’t compromise the immune system function of the estimated 1.36 million adults in the U.S. with RA. 

Part of these findings were retroactive study using datasets from patients with Lupus and Rheumatoid Arthritis. This work was supported by NIH/NIAMS and Rosensweig Genomics Center at the Hospital for Special Surgery from The Tow Foundation.

Additionally, in a new study published in The Journal of Immunology on November 1, 2023, Dr. Zhao, led the identification of another previously unknown target that can be used as a new pathway in the treatment of RA. This finding is significant as it allows clinicians a new target treatment pathway with the potential to help suppress inflammatory bone erosion that can cause pain, discomfort and disability in patients.

About HSS Research Institute
HSS Research Institute is the largest musculoskeletal research facility in the world, comprising 20 laboratories and 300 staff members focused on leading the advancement of musculoskeletal health through prevention of degeneration, tissue repair and tissue regeneration.

About HSS

HSS is the world’s leading academic medical center focused on musculoskeletal health. At its core is Hospital for Special Surgery, nationally ranked No. 1 in orthopedics (for the 14th consecutive year), No. 2 in rheumatology by U.S. News & World Report (2023-2024), and the best pediatric orthopedic hospital in NY, NJ and CT by U.S. News & World Report “Best Children’s Hospitals” list (2023-2024). In a survey of medical professionals in more than 20 countries by Newsweek, HSS is ranked world #1 in orthopedics for a fourth consecutive year (2023). Founded in 1863, the Hospital has the lowest readmission rates in the nation for orthopedics, and among the lowest infection and complication rates. HSS was the first in New York State to receive Magnet Recognition for Excellence in Nursing Service from the American Nurses Credentialing Center five consecutive times. An affiliate of Weill Cornell Medical College, HSS has a main campus in New York City and facilities in New Jersey, Connecticut and in the Long Island and Westchester County regions of New York State, as well as in Florida. In addition to patient care, HSS leads the field in research, innovation and education. The HSS Research Institute comprises 20 laboratories and 300 staff members focused on leading the advancement of musculoskeletal health through prevention of degeneration, tissue repair and tissue regeneration. In addition, more than 200 HSS clinical investigators are working to improve patient outcomes through better ways to prevent, diagnose, and treat orthopedic, rheumatic and musculoskeletal diseases. The HSS Innovation Institute works to realize the potential of new drugs, therapeutics and devices. The HSS Education Institute is a trusted leader in advancing musculoskeletal knowledge and research for physicians, nurses, allied health professionals, academic trainees, and consumers in more than 165 countries. The institution is collaborating with medical centers and other organizations to advance the quality and value of musculoskeletal care and to make world-class HSS care more widely accessible nationally and internationally. www.hss.edu.