Naturally Occurring Carbohydrates May Cause Arthritis

Published Online: Sunday, September 1, 2002

Glycosaminoglycans (GAGs) may cause rheumatoid arthritis, according to findings presented at the American Chemical Society?s national meeting, held in August in Boston, MA. GAGs are naturally present in joint cartilage, joint fluid, connective tissue, and skin. Researchers demonstrated that GAGs induced arthritic symptoms (including swelling, inflammation, and joint damage) in animal models as well as in human tissue taken from arthritis patients.

?This study shows that rheumatoid arthritis may result from the body?s mishandling of its own carbohydrates that, under normal circumstances, would not be interpreted as a threat,? said lead researcher Dr. Julia Ying Wang, assistant professor of medicine, Harvard Medical School, Boston. ?We found that inflammatory cells that accumulate in arthritic joints attach themselves directly to the GAGs. This accumulation of cells leads to painful inflammation and swelling in the affected tissue.?

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