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Rheumatology (Oxford). 2012 Jul;51 Suppl 5:v3-11. doi: 10.1093/rheumatology/kes113.

Understanding the dynamics: pathways involved in the pathogenesis of rheumatoid arthritis.

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King's Musculoskeletal Clinical Trials Unit, King's College London, London, UK.


RA is a progressive inflammatory autoimmune disease with articular and systemic effects. Its exact cause is unknown, but genetic and environmental factors are contributory. T cells, B cells and the orchestrated interaction of pro-inflammatory cytokines play key roles in the pathophysiology of RA. Differentiation of naïve T cells into Th 17 (T(H)17) cells results in the production of IL-17, a potent cytokine that promotes synovitis. B cells further the pathogenic process through antigen presentation and autoantibody and cytokine production. Joint damage begins at the synovial membrane, where the influx and/or local activation of mononuclear cells and the formation of new blood vessels cause synovitis. Pannus, the osteoclast-rich portion of the synovial membrane, destroys bone, whereas enzymes secreted by synoviocytes and chondrocytes degrade cartilage. Antigen-activated CD4(+) T cells amplify the immune response by stimulating other mononuclear cells, synovial fibroblasts, chondrocytes and osteoclasts. The release of cytokines, especially TNF-α, IL-6 and IL-1, causes synovial inflammation. In addition to their articular effects, pro-inflammatory cytokines promote the development of systemic effects, including production of acute-phase proteins (such as CRP), anaemia of chronic disease, cardiovascular disease and osteoporosis and affect the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, resulting in fatigue and depression.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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