A protein called tumor necrosis factor(TNF) has been shown to be linked with adeficiency of male sex hormones in peoplewith rheumatoid arthritis (RA). The discovery,made during a study conducted at UniversityHospital Regensburg, Germany, may giveresearchers new insights into the underlyingcause of RA.
TNF is involved in multiple cell functions,and it is also known to provoke destructiveinflammation. A common belief is that themale sex hormones, androgens, play animportant role in helping fight inflammation inrheumatic diseases, including arthritis.Researchers in this study focused on TNF'srole in the production of androgen. Theyfound that TNF helps to convert dehydroepiandrosteronesulfate (DHEAS) intoDHEA, the steroid hormone "parent" ofandrogen. When they analyzed tissue samplesfrom 37 patients with either RA orosteoarthritis, they found that levels of bothDHEAS and DHEA were much lower inthose with RA than in the osteoarthriticpatients.
The researchers said that this study providesmore information about androgen deficiencyin RA patients. It also confirms theneed for further research into the use of TNF-blockingdrugs as a treatment option for RA.