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Curr Rheumatol Rep. 2002 Jun;4(3):208-17.

Cytokines in rheumatoid arthritis.

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Division of Clinical Immunology and Rheumatology, Department of Medicine, Academic Medical Center, University of Amsterdam, PO box 22660, 1100 DD Amsterdam, The Netherlands.


Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic disease characterized by synovial inflammation that leads to the destruction of cartilage and bone. In the last decade, there was a lot of successful research in the field of cytokine expression and regulation. It has become clear that pro- and anti-inflammatory cytokines, derived predominantely from cells of macrophage lineage, play a major role in the initiation and perpetuation of the chronic inflammatory process in the RA synovial membrane. Monokines are abundant in rheumatoid synovial tissue, whereas low amounts of lymphokines are found. The involvement of pro-inflammatory cytokines, particularly interleukin (IL)-1 and tumor necrosis factor-alpha, in the pathogenesis of RA is well accepted. Recent data provide evidence that the pro-inflammatory cytokine IL-18 plays a crucial role in the development and sustenance of inflammatory joint diseases. There also appears to be a compensatory anti-inflammatory response in RA synovial membrane. It has become clear in the last few years that T cell-derived cytokines expressed preferentially by Th1 cells contribute to joint destruction and inflammation in RA. However, products from Th2 cells may be protective.

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