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PRIME Cells May Predict Rheumatoid Arthritis Flares

Rheumatology Network reports on the findings of a study published in New England Journal of Medicine by Dana Orange, MD, assistant professor of clinical investigation at Rockefeller University and rheumatologist at HSS, indicating raised levels of PRIME cells have been found in the blood of Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) patients immediately before they experience a flare, which will hopefully lead to a greater understanding of how flares evolve.

“We were interested in understanding the molecular events that lead to flares of rheumatoid arthritis [RA],” explained Dr. Orange. “While the risks for developing rheumatoid arthritis [RA], such as genetic risk factors like HLA-DR and environmental risk factors like smoking, have been well documented, it was not clear what is happening when patients transition from baseline to flare. We reasoned that a longitudinal study would be an ideal way to study this change over time.”

Normally there are very low levels of these PRIME cells circulating in blood of patients with RA, about one in every 10,000 live peripheral blood mononuclear cells is a PRIME cell, noted Dr. Orange. “We don’t know their normal function but they do share some gene expression signatures of mesenchymal stem cells in addition to synovial fibroblasts. We are very interested to study their role in other clinical scenarios.”

The researchers believe that PRIME cells may be precursors to these synovial fibroblasts, which are known to play a role in causing RA symptoms, and they have extended their study to test the blood of a greater number of RA patients to confirm the generalizability of their findings. They are also testing factors that might activate B cells and investigating whether B cells might produce a signal that activates PRIME cells.

Read the full article at Rheumatologynetwork.com.

Additional coverage: the-rheumatologist.org