MicroRNAs may prove helpful as a rheumatoid arthritis therapy biomarker


Levels of certain microRNAs were associated with response to treatment with an anti–tumor necrosis factor–alpha agent and conventional disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs in patients with rheumatoid arthritis, according to a study conducted by Dr. Carmen Castro-Villegas and her associates.

In patients who responded to the combination therapy, 91% had overexpressed miRNA, while 9% had downregulated miRNA. Of the 10 miRNA selected for analysis, 6 had been significantly upregulated by the therapy (miR-16-5p, miR-23-3p, miR125b-5p, miR-126-3p, miR-146a-5p, miR-223-3p), and only patients who responded to the therapy showed an increase in these miRNA. The miRNA increase also paralleled a reduction in TNF-alpha, interleukins, rheumatoid factor, and C-reactive protein.

Further analyses showed that miR-23-3p and miR-223-3p can act to predict patients who would not benefit from combination therapy with anti-TNF-alpha agents and conventional disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs or indicate treatment efficacy or the degree of response, the investigators said.

Find the full study in Arthritis Research & Therapy (doi:10.1186/s13075-015-0555-z).

Vitamin D Tracks Systemic Lupus Erythematosus Activity Study first in Southern Hemisphere to examine role of vitamin D in SLE disease activity


In systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) low vitamin D status is associated with higher disease activity and erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR), while over time, an increase in serum vitamin D levels correlates with reduced SLE activity.

These findings were reported in an Australian study — the first to examine this correlation in the Southern Hemisphere — published online in Lupus Science and Medicineon April 8, 2015.

Following the discovery that vitamin D receptors are expressed by immune cells, vitamin D’s potential role in regulating the immune response has attracted attention, noted researchers led by Kristy Yap, MBBS, of the Centre for Inflammatory Diseases at Monash University, Melbourne.

Deficiency of this vitamin has been associated with several autoimmune diseases including multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, type 1 diabetes mellitus, and SLE. A recent study, for example, showed that vitamin D3 inhibits dendritic cell maturation and expression of IFN-induced genes in SLE patients.

During 2007-2013, the Melbourne researchers studied 119 consecutive SLE patients (mean age 42.2) from the Monash Medical Centre Lupus Clinic. Of these, 77.5% were female, 56.3% were white, 37.8% were Asian, and 5.9% were of other or unknown race. With a mean disease duration of 8.7 years and a mean SLEDAI of 5.6, all patients were receiving antimalarial treatment, with 58.8% on glucocorticoids, 33.6% on immunosuppressants, and 14.2% on prednisolone. More than four in 10 (44.5%) were taking vitamin D supplements.

Baseline serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D concentration and disease activity via the SLE Disease Activity Index 2000 SLEDAI-2K) were documented, and adjustments made for the use of glucocorticoids, immunosuppressants, and vitamin D supplements.

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