Research Update: New Classification Criteria for Sjoegren’s Syndrome


Since the early 1960s almost a dozen different criteria for Sjögren’s syndrome (SS) have been published, both for classifying and for diagnosing that autoimmune disease. Recently, an international team of rheumatologists has published new classification criteria for Sjögren’s syndrome. In the April issue of the Arthritis Care & Research journal the authors propose clear and carefully worded guidelines.

Without question, these “new 2012 classification criteria for Sjögren’s syndrome” are urgently needed to better support etiologic and genetic research and therapeutic trials for Sjögren’s syndrome. Indeed, the new criteria are the first to be based solely on objective clinical tests!

Many other criterions have permitted various testing subjectivity to enable the classification of the disorder. In consequence, subjectivity has made standardisation of clinical trial inclusion something of a moving target, limiting comparability of research data across studies and impeding the needed robust clinical evaluation of possible new treatments. But criteria used for enrollment into clinical trials need to be clear, be easy to apply. And the new 2012 criteria agree to that demand. Continue reading

Heart Disease Risk in RA: Obviously, Common Assessment Tools are Insufficient


In rheumatoid arthritis, standard heart disease risk tools underrate danger!

Patients suffering from rheumatoid arthritis, or RA for short, are at higher risk for heart disease. Among experts that’s a matter of common knowledge (fortunately and increasingly that is basic knowledge among patients, too!).

Warenign sign. Elderly people crossing.

Watch out, doctors! – In elderly rheumatoid arthritis patients commonly used heart disease risk assessment tools regularly fail, according to a current study. – © Robbie Ribeiro

On a less positive note, commonly used heart disease risk assessment tools seem to be inadequate for estimating the risk of cardiovascular disease danger faced by RA patients. That is what a brand-new study found.

In this blog article I summarise the main results of the research done at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota (USA). The study is entitled Usefulness of Risk Scores to Estimate the Risk of Cardiovascular Disease in Patients With Rheumatoid Arthritis, and it has been published online on 20th April 2012 in The American Journal of Cardiology.

Heart disease risk in RA: More accurate assessment tools needed

The study estimated the accuracy of the Framingham and Reynolds risk scores, two tools commonly used by physicians for assessing patients’ heart disease danger. The scientists found that these two assessment tools substantially underrated cardiovascular disease danger both in women and men suffering from rheumatoid arthritis. In particular, that happens in older patients. Interestingly enough, it also happens in people who test positive for rheumatoid factors. Continue reading

Research Update: Atherosclerosis and Autoimmunity


The long Arm of the Dendritic Cells: The Link between Atherosclerosis and Autoimmune Diseases

Inflammation has been closely linked to autoimmunogenic processes in atherosclerosis. In fact, patients who are suffering from an autoimmune disease have an increased incidence of “hardening of the arteries”, concretely atherosclerosis (the spelling “arteriosclerosis” is also common). In the case of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) the patients have a 30 to 60% higher risk of suffering a heart attack or stroke!

picture shows a beating heart

It is an accepted fact: Rheumatoid arthritis patients have a higher risk of suffering a heart attack or stroke. But where is the connection between the two types of disease?

pDCs: the link between atherosclerosis and autoimmunity

Now clinical researchers at Munich Ludwig-Maximilians-University (LMU) have uncovered a mechanism which establishes a causal link between the two types of disease. The immunological process may help to explain the link between autoimmunity and atherosclerosis.

The mechanism described is provided by a specific class of immune cells called plasmacytoid dendritic cells (pDCs). The pDCs respond to DNA released from damaged and dying cells by secreting interferon proteins. The research, which is done in collaboration with scientists from Rudolf Virchow Center at Wuerzburg University, shows that stimulation of pDCs by a specific DNA-protein complex contributes to the progression of atherosclerosis. These findings may have implications for new strategies for the treatment of a whole spectrum of conditions that are associated with chronic inflammatory reactions. Continue reading

New Guidelines for the Diagnosis of Celiac Disease


Celiac disease diagnostics revised 

Anti-endomysial antibodies on monkey esophagus

Anti-endomysial antibodies on monkey esophagus

The diagnostic criteria for celiac disease (CD) have remained unchanged for more than 20 years, after the 1990 revision of the guidelines originally formulated in 1969.  During this period the disease has been intensively studied and scientific findings have unveiled the genetic background of celiac disease, linked to the human leukocyte antigen (HLA)-DQ2 and HLA-DQ8 haplotypes. The key autoantigen tissue transglutaminase (tTG) has been identified and reliable laboratory tests for disease specific autoantibodies now contribute to diagnostics and complement the methodological repertoire of clinical observations and histologic findings in duodenal biopsy samples. Finally, the European Society for Paediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology, and Nutrition (ESPGHAN) has now published New Guidelines for the Diagnosis of Celiac Disease.

Continue reading

Liver Disease Diagnostics: Antibody-based Diagnosis of Autoimmune Liver Diseases


Liver Disease Diagnostics: Antibody-Based Diagnosis of Autoimmune Liver Disease

For the launch of our Liver-9-Line immunoblot test (to our press release “Liver Disease Diagnostics by Immunoblot” of May 16, 2011), I dug through a pile of literature on the topic of autoantibody-based diagnosis of autoimmune diseases of the liver. In the last week I picked it all up again and worked through it systematically.

This picture shows the interiour surface of the liver. It's a reproduction of a lithograph plate from Gray's Anatomy.

The interior surface of the liver. A reproduction of a lithograph plate from Gray’s Anatomy.

The reason for my renewed interest is that we brought four more ELISA tests for liver diagnostics to the market two weeks ago. They are the Anti-LKM-1, Anti-SLA, Anti-gp210, and Anti-Sp100 tests, all designed for fully automated autoimmune diagnosis with our Alegria system. All four test systems assist the formulation of a diagnosis when autoimmune hepatitis (AIH) and primary biliary cirrhosis (PBC) are suspected, or for differential diagnosis when another disorder of the liver is assumed. Continue reading