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The research, which was a collaboration with researchers from Oxford University and Queen Mary University of London and published in Journal of Autoimmunity, looked at changes in receptors known as toll-like receptors (TLRs) in arthritis at different stages of disease.

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While TLRs are receptors that detect bacteria, funghi and viruses, they are also implicated in the processes that perpetuate auto-immune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis. In patients that failed to respond adequately to the standard treatment, there was a measurable difference in the receptors prior to treatment compared to those of patients that responded well. There was also a different profile of TLRs in the joints of rheumatoid arthritis patients compared to osteoarthritis patients. Other tissues from different stages of arthritis also showed different TLR profiles, allowing researchers to map the changes throughout the course of disease. 

Dr Clanchy, the corresponding and lead author says: "The patients that fail to respond to anti-TNF treatments have other treatment options but it would be better if we could match them to the best treatment from the beginning. Stratifying patients to the most appropriate treatment is a major challenge for rheumatoid arthritis, and finding biomarkers that sort patients to the best treatment would be helpful.”

Professor Williams continues:" This study builds on existing knowledge regarding the involvement of TLRs in rheumatoid arthritis and suggests that they could act as biomarkers to enable patient stratification."

The research was funded by in part by the MASTERSWITCH consortium (Mechanisms to Attack Steering Effectors of Rheumatoid Syndromes with Innovated Therapy Choices) as part of the EU 7th Framework Programme, an MRC-DPFS grant and a BBSRC CASE studentship.

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