Breakthrough could nip arthritis in the bud

June 13th, 2012 - 5:27 pm ICT by IANS  

London, June 13 (IANS) A breakthrough involving billions of bugs in our guts that play a role in regulating the immune system could actually nip arthritis in the bud.

The team from the Mayo Clinic, US, said larger-than-normal populations of specific gut bugs may trigger the development of auto-immune (when the immune system turns on itself) diseases like rheumatoid arthritis.

They could also fuel disease progression in people genetically predisposed to the crippling and confounding condition. “A lot of people suspected that gut flora played a role in rheumatoid arthritis, but no one had been able to prove it because they couldn’t say which came first - the bacteria or the genes,” said Veena Taneja, who led the study at Mayo.

“Using genomic sequencing technologies, we have been able to show the gut microbiome may be used as a biomarker for predisposition,” said Taneja, reports the Daily Mail.

The findings from a study in mice could help scientists predict which people are more likely to develop the painful condition and stop it in its tracks. Nearly one percent of the world’s population has rheumatoid arthritis, a disease in which the immune system attacks tissues, inflaming joints and sometimes leading to deadly complications such as heart disease.

Researchers with the Mayo Illinois Alliance for Technology Based Healthcare say that identifying new biomarkers in intestinal microbial populations and maintaining a balance in gut bacteria could help doctors stop rheumatoid arthritis before it starts.

Eric Matteson from the Mayo Clinic said: “This study is an important advance in our understanding of the immune system disturbances associated with rheumatoid arthritis.”

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