Future efforts to identify rheumatoid arthritis patients who may require treatment and physiotherapy interventions could be aided by an innovative imaging agent.
A team from Seoul National University College of Medicine in South Korea has developed a novel PET tracer that can visualise joint inflammation to facilitate the early diagnosis of the common autoimmune disease, which causes joint inflammation and disability.
The substance is called fluorine-18-FEDAC, and functions by binding to and highlighting a key protein that can be found in the white blood cells responsible for causing the inflammation that drives the onset of rheumatoid arthritis.
Tests using mice demonstrated that this agent can be effective in detecting the earliest signs of rheumatoid arthritis, even before the onset of clinical symptoms. This means it could potentially be used to assess people who are suspected of having the condition, making it easier to identify which patients will actually progress to clinically significant rheumatoid arthritis and therefore require treatment.
Dr Gi Jeong Cheon, of Seoul National University College of Medicine, said: "Early treatment can reduce the progression of joint destruction and enhance the effect of disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs or target drugs, because the burden of inflammatory reaction is smaller in the very early phase of rheumatoid arthritis."
It was also noted that this new tracer can be used in conjunction with the better-established fluorine-18-FDG agent, which has been shown to be effective in measuring disease activity levels in people whose arthritis is already symptomatic. By utilising a full range of imaging technologies, medical professionals will be able to deliver more personalised treatments and better outcomes for patients.
Currently, it is estimated that more than 400,000 people in the UK are affected by rheumatoid arthritis. Prompt diagnosis is essential to help patients achieve the highest possible quality of life, meaning new breakthroughs of this kind are important.
Written by Mathew Horton
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