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Rheumatoid Arthritis Biomarkers

Researchers Identify Biomarkers Associated With Rheumatic Diseases


Updated May 29, 2012

TNF-alpha, IL-6, and CEP-1 are examples of biomarkers of rheumatoid arthritis. If you're like many patients with the disease, you may have come across these terms as you've followed along with research news. But reading up, of course, doesn't mean that these terms are any less daunting. What do they all mean?

What Are Biomarkers?

Biomarkers are biologic molecules that are useful in measuring the presence or progression of a disease, or the effects of a particular treatment.

TNF-alpha and IL-6: Biomarkers for Rheumatoid Arthritis

Researchers have discovered biomarkers that can be detected in women before they develop rheumatoid arthritis. Two cytokines -- TNF-alpha (tumor necrosis factor-a) and IL-6 (interleukin-6) -- were found to be elevated before women developed symptoms associated with rheumatoid arthritis.

In research, evidence of increased blood TNF-alpha levels was detected up to 12 years before rheumatoid arthritis symptoms developed and was associated with twice the risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis. IL-6 was found to be elevated for about 4 years prior to the start of rheumatoid arthritis symptoms.

CEP-1 Is New Biomarker for Rheumatoid Arthritis

Some identified biomarkers are autoantibodies, antibodies which attack the body's own tissues. Autoantigens, molecules that stimulate the production of autoantibodies, are not as well recognized.

Researchers have recently discovered an autoantigen related to rheumatoid arthritis, though -- anticitrullinated alpha-enolase peptide, or CEP-1. Researchers believe CEP-1 may be a significant part of how rheumatoid arthritis develops in a certain group of patients.

Point to Remember

Essentially, biomarkers can be used to better diagnose and treat patients with rheumatoid arthritis. As more biomarkers are discovered, advancements in the diagnosis and treatment of rheumatoid arthritis may result.


Biomarkers of inflammation and development of rheumatoid arthritis in women from two prospective cohort studies. Arthritis & Rheumatism. March 2009. Karlson EW et al.

A New Potential Biomarker for Rheumatoid Arthritis. NIAMS. April 2009.

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