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Biomarkers Could Guide Arthritis Research

A team of scientists has identified new biomarkers that could help devise improved treatment therapies for spondylarthritis (SpA). SpA refers to a group of chronic autoimmune conditions, which include arthritis associated with psoriasis and inflammatory bowel diseases, primarily those affecting the peripheral joints. The study and its findings were published in the June 2006 issue of Arthritis & Rheumatism.

The 12-week study involved 52 SpA patients who were divided into 3 groups. Two groups were treated with a tumor necrosis factor blockade?20 were given infliximab and 20 got etanercept. None of these patients were being treated with a disease-modifying antirheumatic drug. The remainder of the patients constituted a control group. Each patient was evaluated at study start and at 12 weeks with synovial biopsies. The samples were tested for abnormal cell growth in the lining layer, vascular growth, markers of cellular infiltration, and metalloproteinases in the lining and sublining layers.

The researchers found differences in these synovial biomarkers between SpA patients receiving effective treatment and those receiving no treatment. Thus, they found that changes in SpA disease activity are accompanied by a series of distinct and measurable events in the synovial tissue.

Blood Fat Levels Could Predict RA

An unfavorable ratio of blood fats could signal the development of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) almost 10 years in advance, according to research published in the June 7, 2006, on-line version of the Annals of Rheumatic Diseases. The authors based their findings on analysis of >2000 blood samples donated to a blood bank in the Netherlands.

The investigators analyzed the fat content of 1078 deep frozen blood samples from 79 people who had given blood between 1984 and 1999 and later went on to develop RA >10 years later. They specifically looked at levels of total cholesterol, high-density lipoprotein ("good" cholesterol), triglycerides, apolipoproteins A and B, and lipoprotein (a). The samples were then compared with samples from 1071 randomly selected blood donors and matched for age, sex, and storage time. The researchers found that the samples of people who developed RA had a more adverse balance of circulating blood fats than the samples of those who did not acquire the disease.

Music Soothes the Savage Beast? of Arthritis Pain

Researchers have confirmed that listening to music can have a positive impact on the perception of chronic pain. They studied 60 patients, aged 21 to 65, who were recruited from pain and chiropractic clinics.

These patients had been suffering from conditions such as osteoarthritis, disc problems, and rheumatoid arthritis for an average of 6.5 years.

Most patients said that the pain affected more than one part of their body and was continuous.

The patients were divided into 2 groups: one group listened to music on a headset for an hour a day for a week, and the other did not. Among the music group, half of the patients were able to choose their favorite music, and the rest had to choose from relaxing music tapes provided by the researchers.

According to the results of the study, those patients who listened to music reported a drop in pain levels of up to 21% and in associated depression of up to 25%, compared with those who did not listen to music. Additionally, the patients in the music group felt less disabled by their condition.

The researchers concluded that listening to music has a significant effect on a patient's perception of pain, resulting in reduced depression and disability and an increase in feelings of power over their disease.

The results of the study were published in the June 2006 issue of the Journal of Advanced Nursing.

Poorer JRA Patients Have Poorer Outcomes

A study reported in the June 2006 issue of Arthritis Care & Research examined the relationship between patient health insurance coverage and disease outcomes for children with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis (JRA). The researchers found that those patients who depended on welfare programs such as Medicaid for health insurance had significantly lower health-related quality of life (HRQOL) and higher levels of disability.

The researchers assessed children with JRA who were seen at Cincinnati (Ohio) Children's Hospital Medical Center's rheumatology clinic between July 2003 and March 2004.

The findings show that, in the Medicaid group, more children had a higher number of joints affected by JRA, higher disease activity, more pain, and a lower HRQOL than children with private health insurance. The Medicaid group also had a lower proportion of children with normal physical function than the private insurance group, although both groups had similar access to health care services. The reasons behind these findings were not clear.

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