Show/hide main menu


News Highlights

New method of identifying people at a high risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis

Posted on 20/09/2013

Arthritis affects 400, 000 people in the UK

Researchers at King’s College London and the University of Manchester, funded by Arthritis Research UK, have developed a new method to identify people that are at a very high-risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis, using a simple blood test and information about their smoking habits.

Rheumatoid arthritis is a potentially crippling autoimmune condition that causes pain and inflammation in the joints. It affects around 400,000 people in the UK and is at present incurable. Many factors are known to contribute to an individual’s risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis. These are divided into two categories: inherited genetic factors (46 genetic risk factors have been identified that increase someone’s risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis) and so called ‘environmental’ factors such as smoking.

This new computer-based technique of prediction modelling allows researchers to combine both genetic and environmental riskfactors to estimate an individual’s lifetime risk of developing this disease.

According to the study’s lead researcher, Dr Ian Scott, Department of Genetics & Molecular Medicine at King’s College London, this new prediction modelling technique can also identify people atrisk of developing rheumatoid arthritis at a younger age.

This research is published in PLoS Genetics today.

‘This new computer-based technique of prediction modelling allows us to estimate someone’s risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis over their lifetime using genetic markers from a single blood test and information about their smoking habits’, explained Dr Scott.

‘I hope that, as we understand the risk factors for rheumatoid arthritis better, our prediction modelling method could be used to screen people for this disease before they develop any symptoms. This is an important first step in trying to develop ways to prevent the onset of rheumatoid arthritis.

‘Within the general population, few individuals that have clinically significant increased risks are likely to be identified using this approach. But targeted screening of people already at an increased risk of rheumatoid arthritis, such as relatives of patients, could identify enough high-risk people to allow researchers to look at ways to prevent rheumatoid arthritis from developing.’

Individuals classed as being high risk, using information from the most important gene associated with rheumatoid arthritis (the HLA-DRB1 gene), are more likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis at a younger age. They could be monitored for early signs of the disease. Treating rheumatoid arthritis early, before significant joint damage has occurred, increases the likelihood that the individual will go into remission (no joint pain or swelling) following treatment.  

Identifying people who are at a very high-risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis can also provide a better understanding of the changes in the body’s immune system that lead to rheumatoid arthritis.  This in turn could lead to the development of new treatments that target the very earliest phase of the disease.

Dr Scott added: ‘As our knowledge of the genetic and environmental risk factors that cause rheumatoid arthritis increases, this will improve the accuracy with which it is possible to predict an individual’s chance of developing this disease, and allow researchers to investigate new ways to stop it in its tracks before any symptoms develop.’

Notes to editors

For further media information contact Jack Stonebridge, PR Coordinator at King's College London, on 0207 848 3238 or

Read the full research paper

For further information about King's visit our 'King's in Brief' page.

Rss Feed Atom Feed

News Highlights:

News Highlights...RSS FeedAtom Feed

The Constructivist Realist – Celebrating Prof Sir Lawrence Freedman

The Constructivist Realist – Celebrating Prof Sir Lawrence Freedman

A major scholarly conference at King's on Friday (27 September) celebrated the academic life and work of Professor Sir Lawrence Freedman, Vice-Principal (Strategy & Development) at King's and one of the world's leading authorities on war and international politics.
Athena SWAN Bronze Award given to King's

Athena SWAN Bronze Award given to King's

King's College London's commitment to gender equality in science disciplines has been recognised by the Athena SWAN Charter with the successful renewal of its Bronze Award.
'The Importance of Innovation'

'The Importance of Innovation'

King's Commercialisation Institute welcomed Levi Roots, entrepreneur and Dragon's Den winner, and Lee McQueen, winner of series 4 of The Apprentice, to the Enterprise Connect Autumn Reception, at King's College London on 18 September.

Share this story:


Follow Us


Live Twitter feed...

Join the conversation
Sitemap Site help Terms and conditions Privacy policy Accessibility Modern slavery statement Contact us

© 2017 King's College London | Strand | London WC2R 2LS | England | United Kingdom | Tel +44 (0)20 7836 5454