A simple blood test can indicate your likelihood of suffering from rheumatoid arthritis (RA) even 16 years before the condition takes effect, researchers from University of Oxford have revealed. A team from the Kennedy Institute of Rheumatology at Oxford University found that a blood test that looks for antibodies that recognize the protein called "tenascin-C" could reliably show those who will contract the condition. When inflammation occurs in the body, some proteins are altered.
These altered forms can prompt an immune response from the body, which can see it turning antibodies on itself - causing rheumatoid arthritis.
"We knew that tenascin-C is found at high levels in the joints of people with RA. We decided to see if it could be altered and, if so, whether it was a target for the auto-antibodies that attack the body in RA," said lead researcher Anja Schwenzer in a university statement.
That might also indicate whether it could be used in tests to indicate the disease.
"When we looked at results from more than 2,000 patients, we found that testing for antibodies that targeting altered tenascin-C could diagnose RA in around 50 percent of cases," the authors noted.
According to professor Kim Midwood, when we looked at samples taken from people before their arthritis began, we could see these antibodies to altered tenascin-C up to 16 years before the disease occurred. On average, the antibodies could be found seven years before the disease appeared.
"This discovery gives us an additional test that can be used to increase the accuracy of predicting RA, enabling us to monitor people and spot the disease early. This early detection is key because early treatment is more effective," Midwood noted.
The latest research provides the basis of tests that could improve diagnosis and, importantly, detect disease at a very early stage, with the promise even that people at risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis can be followed before the disease begins.
"This could have great potential to help patients with rheumatoid arthritis get the right treatment early to keep this painful and debilitating condition under control," concluded Stephen Simpson, research director for Arthritis Research UK.