Previous studies have shown that people with a particular version of the human leukocyte antigen (HLA) gene are at increased risk for developing rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and that environmental factors, such as cigarette smoking and air pollution, can affect this risk.
In a new mouse study from Michigan Medicine (formerly the University of Michigan Health System), researchers took a closer look at the HLA gene, environmental pollutants, and RA. They discovered a particular enzyme that facilitates communication within the body’s cells, allowing genetic and environmental factors to work together and cause greater damage and bone destruction.
More studies are needed. The researchers hope to develop new medications – a couple of which are currently in early-stage trials – to block this action and prevent bone damage in people with RA. Results of this study were recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.