Good News For Folks Crippled by Rheumatoid Arthritis!

Tiffany Lowery

Researchers have uncovered new clues about how rheumatoid arthritis (RA) contributes to bone loss. These findings may not only help researchers reverse RA-related bone loss—but with some minor changes, they could also help in developing new treatments for osteoporosis!

RA is an autoimmune disease that affects a whopping 2 million Americans. The disease causes painful swelling and deformity in joints—and also causes your bones to become soft and brittle.

Like other autoimmune diseases, RA makes your immune cells attack body parts as if they were foreign invaders. As a result, your body produces chemicals to
destroy them.

One of these chemicals is called tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF alpha). If your body produces too much TNF alpha—it causes destruction of cartilage and bone.

Researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center in New York discovered that TNF alpha decreases the number of bone-building cells called osteoblasts. It does this through an enzyme called Smad Ubiquitin Regulatory Factor 1 (Smurf1).

In a press statement, Lianping Xing, Ph.D., assistant professor of pathology and laboratory medicine at the University of Rochester Medical Center, said this discovery “has enabled researchers to begin designing small molecule drugs to shut down the action of Smurf 1 and its relatives. Furthermore, since mice engineered to have less Smurf1 expression develop thicker bones, future drugs that shut down Smurf1 may be also useful against more common forms of osteoporosis simply by changing the dose.”

Xing stressed that the TNF alpha research is in its early stages, but it is exciting nonetheless.