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1.  Imbalance in distribution of functional autologous regulatory T cells in rheumatoid arthritis 
Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases  2007;66(9):1151-1156.
Regulatory T cells (Tregs) exert their anti‐inflammatory activity predominantly by cell contact‐dependent mechanisms. A study was undertaken to investigate the regulatory capacity of autologous peripheral blood Tregs in contact with synovial tissue cell cultures, and to evaluate their presence in peripheral blood, synovial tissue and synovial fluid of patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
44 patients with RA and 5 with osteoarthritis were included in the study. The frequency of interferon (IFN)γ‐secreting cells was quantified in synovial tissue cell cultures, CD3‐depleted synovial tissue cell cultures, synovial tissue cultures co‐cultured with autologous CD4+ and with CD4+CD25+ peripheral blood T cells by ELISPOT. Total CD3+, Th1 polarised and Tregs were quantified by real‐time PCR for CD3ε, T‐bet and FoxP3 mRNA, and by immunohistochemistry for FoxP3 protein.
RA synovial tissue cell cultures exhibited spontaneous expression of IFNγ which was abrogated by depletion of CD3+ T cells and specifically reduced by co‐culture with autologous peripheral blood Treg. The presence of Treg in RA synovitis was indicated by FoxP3 mRNA expression and confirmed by immunohistochemistry. The amount of FoxP3 transcripts, however, was lower in the synovial membrane than in peripheral blood or synovial fluid. The T‐bet/FoxP3 ratio correlated with both a higher grade of synovial tissue lymphocyte infiltration and higher disease activity.
This study has shown, for the first time in human RA, the efficacy of autologous Tregs in reducing the inflammatory activity of synovial tissue cell cultures ex vivo, while in the synovium FoxP3+ Tregs of patients with RA are reduced compared with peripheral blood and synovial fluid. This local imbalance of Th1 and Treg may be responsible for repeated rheumatic flares and thus will be of interest as a target for future treatments.
PMCID: PMC1955165  PMID: 17392348
2.  Reduced trabecular bone mineral density and cortical thickness accompanied by increased outer bone circumference in metacarpal bone of rheumatoid arthritis patients: a cross-sectional study 
Arthritis Research & Therapy  2010;12(3):R119.
The objective of this study was to assess three-dimensional bone geometry and density at the epiphysis and shaft of the third meta-carpal bone of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients in comparison to healthy controls with the novel method of peripheral quantitative computed tomography (pQCT).
PQCT scans were performed in 50 female RA patients and 100 healthy female controls at the distal epiphyses and shafts of the third metacarpal bone, the radius and the tibia. Reproducibility was determined by coefficient of varia-tion. Bone densitometric and geometric parameters were compared between the two groups and correlated to disease characteristics.
Reproducibility of different pQCT parameters was between 0.7% and 2.5%. RA patients had 12% to 19% lower trabecular bone mineral density (BMD) (P ≤ 0.001) at the distal epiphyses of radius, tibia and metacarpal bone. At the shafts of these bones RA patients had 7% to 16% thinner cortices (P ≤ 0.03). Total cross-sectional area (CSA) at the metacarpal bone shaft of pa-tients was larger (between 5% and 7%, P < 0.02), and relative cortical area was reduced by 13%. Erosiveness by Ratingen score correlated negatively with tra-becular and total BMD at the epiphyses and shaft cortical thickness of all measured bones (P < 0.04).
Reduced trabecular BMD and thinner cortices at peripheral bones, and a greater bone shaft diameter at the metacarpal bone suggest RA spe-cific bone alterations. The proposed pQCT protocol is reliable and allows measuring juxta-articular trabecular BMD and shaft geometry at the metacarpal bone.
PMCID: PMC2911913  PMID: 20565921
3.  Class-switched B cells display response to therapeutic B-cell depletion in rheumatoid arthritis 
Reconstitution of peripheral blood (PB) B cells after therapeutic depletion with the chimeric anti-CD20 antibody rituximab (RTX) mimics lymphatic ontogeny. In this situation, the repletion kinetics and migratory properties of distinct developmental B-cell stages and their correlation to disease activity might facilitate our understanding of innate and adaptive B-cell functions in rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
Thirty-five 'RTX-naïve' RA patients with active arthritis were treated after failure of tumour necrosis factor blockade in an open-label study with two infusions of 1,000 mg RTX. Prednisone dose was tapered according to clinical improvement from a median of 10 mg at baseline to 5 mg at 9 and 12 months. Conventional disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs were kept stable. Subsets of CD19+ B cells were assessed by flow cytometry according to their IgD and CD27 surface expression. Their absolute number and relative frequency in PB were followed every 3 months and were determined in parallel in synovial tissue (n = 3) or synovial fluid (n = 3) in the case of florid arthritis.
Six of 35 patients fulfilled the European League Against Rheumatism criteria for moderate clinical response, and 19 others for good clinical response. All PB B-cell fractions decreased significantly in number (P < 0.001) after the first infusion. Disease activity developed independently of the total B-cell number. B-cell repopulation was dominated in quantity by CD27-IgD+ 'naïve' B cells. The low number of CD27+IgD- class-switched memory B cells (MemB) in the blood, together with sustained reduction of rheumatoid factor serum concentrations, correlated with good clinical response. Class-switched MemB were found accumulated in flaring joints.
The present data support the hypothesis that control of adaptive immune processes involving germinal centre-derived, antigen, and T-cell-dependently matured B cells is essential for successful RTX treatment.
PMCID: PMC2714106  PMID: 19419560
5.  Expression of interleukin-18 receptor in fibroblast-like synoviocytes 
Arthritis Research  2001;4(2):139-144.
An excess of the proinflammatory substance IL-18 is present in joints of patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), and expression of IL-18 receptor (IL-18R) regulates IL-18 bioactivity in various cell types. We examined the expression of IL-18R α-chain and β-chain and the biologic effects of IL-18 in fibroblast-like synoviocytes (FLS) after long-term culture. The presence of both IL-18R chains was a prerequisite for IL-18 signal transduction in FLS. However, all FLS cultures studied were either resistant or barely responsive to IL-18 stimulation as regards cell proliferation, expression of adhesion molecules ICAM-1 and vascular cell adhesion molecule (VCAM)-1, and the release of interstitial collagenase and stromelysin, IL-6 and IL-8, prostaglandin E2, or nitric oxide. We conclude that the presence of macrophages or IL-18R+ T cells that can respond directly to IL-18 is essential for the proinflammatory effects of IL-18 in synovitis in RA.
PMCID: PMC83844  PMID: 11879550
fibroblast; interleukin-18; receptor; rheumatoid arthritis; synoviocyte
6.  Evolution of radiographic joint damage in rituximab-treated versus TNF-treated rheumatoid arthritis cases with inadequate response to TNF antagonists 
Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases  2012;71(10):1680-1685.
Observational studies have suggested that patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) who experience inadequate response to anti-tumour necrosis factor (anti-TNF) agents respond more favourably to rituximab (RTX) than to an alternative anti-TNF agent. However, the relative effectiveness of these agents on long-term outcomes, particularly in radiographic damage, remains unclear.
To compare the effectiveness of RTX against anti-TNF agents in preventing joint damage in patients with RA who have experienced inadequate response to at least one prior anti-TNF agent.
This is a prospective cohort study within the Swiss registry of patients with RA who discontinued at least one anti-TNF agent and subsequently received either RTX or an alternative anti-TNF agent. The primary outcome, progression of radiographic joint erosions (Ratingen erosion score)over time, and the secondary outcome, functional disability (Health Assessment Questionnaire Disability Index), were analysed using regression models for longitudinal data and adjusted for potential confounders.
Of the 371 patients included, 104 received RTX and 267 received an alternative anti-TNF agent. During the 2.6-year median follow-up period, the rates of Ratingen erosion score progression were similar between patients taking RTX and patients taking an alternative anti-TNF agent (p=0.67). The evolution of the Health Assessment Questionnaire score was statistically significantly better in the RTX group (p=0.016), but the magnitude of the effect was probably not clinically relevant.
This observational study suggests that RTX is as effective as an alternative anti-TNF agent in preventing erosions in patients with RA who have previously experienced inadequate response to anti-TNF agents.
PMCID: PMC3500530  PMID: 22419773
7.  Anaemia may add information to standardised disease activity assessment to predict radiographic damage in rheumatoid arthritis: a prospective cohort study 
Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases  2013;73(4):691-696.
Anaemia in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is prototypical of the chronic disease type and is often neglected in clinical practice. We studied anaemia in relation to disease activity, medications and radiographic progression.
Data were collected between 1996 and 2007 over a mean follow-up of 2.2 years. Anaemia was defined according to WHO (♀ haemoglobin<12 g/dl, ♂: haemoglobin<13 g/dl), or alternative criteria. Anaemia prevalence was studied in relation to disease parameters and pharmacological therapy. Radiographic progression was analysed in 9731 radiograph sets from 2681 patients in crude longitudinal regression models and after adjusting for potential confounding factors, including the clinical disease activity score with the 28-joint count for tender and swollen joints and erythrocyte sedimentation rate (DAS28ESR) or the clinical disease activity index (cDAI), synthetic antirheumatic drugs and antitumour necrosis factor (TNF) therapy.
Anaemia prevalence decreased from more than 24% in years before 2001 to 15% in 2007. Erosions progressed significantly faster in patients with anaemia (p<0.001). Adjusted models showed these effects independently of clinical disease activity and other indicators of disease severity. Radiographic damage progression rates were increasing with severity of anaemia, suggesting a ‘dose-response effect’. The effect of anaemia on damage progression was maintained in subgroups of patients treated with TNF blockade or corticosteroids, and without non-selective nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).
Anaemia in RA appears to capture disease processes that remain unmeasured by established disease activity measures in patients with or without TNF blockade, and may help to identify patients with more rapid erosive disease.
PMCID: PMC3963599  PMID: 23505235
Rheumatoid Arthritis; Disease Activity; Anti-TNF

Results 1-7 (7)