The answer did surprise investigators at Joslin Diabetes Center and Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) in Boston, who gained a novel insight into this question in a recent collaborative study. Their report appeared in the January 29 online issue of Nature Immunology, and is scheduled to appear in the February print edition.
Working with an animal model of rheumatoid arthritis, the researchers discovered that histamine, a small molecule usually associated with asthma and allergy, is produced as part of the inflammatory process during the development of arthritis. Histamine made the blood vessels surrounding the joints especially vulnerable to leakage, and thereby rendered the joints more susceptible to inflammatory attack. The researchers believe that this is true not only in rheumatoid arthritis, but perhaps also in other autoimmune conditions with which arthritis is associated, such as lupus, and in some infectious diseases, like Lyme disease.
"For patients with rheumatoid arthritis, these new findings raise the possibility that medications designed to prevent the blood vessels from becoming leaky might one day be used to delay the onset of arthritis or to prevent flare-ups of disease," said Christophe Benoist, M.D., Ph.D., who led the study together with Diane Mathis, Ph.D., and Ralph Weissleder, M.D., Ph.D. Drs. Mathis and Benoist head Joslin?s Section on Immunology and Immunogenetics, hold the William T. Young Chair in Diabetes Research at Joslin, and are Professors of Medicine at Harvard Medical School. Dr. Weissleder heads the Center for Molecular Imaging Research at MGH and is a Professor of Radiology at Harvard Medical School.
While the Joslin lab focuses its work on type