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Discovery of a rheumatoid arthritis-specific immune complex involved in the development of a new blood test for early rheumatoid arthritis

12 September 2012

A research group including Associate Professor Kaname Ohyama, Professor Atsushi Kawakami and Professor Naotaka Kuroda of the Nagasaki University Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences published a report in Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases (ARD), a European academic journal specialized in rheumatism, indicating that a rheumatoid arthritis-specific immune complex is present in the serum of patients with early rheumatoid arthritis, which is mostly asymptomatic and cannot be detected by conventional blood tests.

Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic disease involving synovial inflammation and proliferation of multiple joints. In Japan, there are an estimated 0.7 to 1.0 million affected patients and 15,000 new patients are diagnosed every year. Since the therapeutic effect on rheumatoid arthritis can be markedly increased by early detection and early treatment, a diagnostic procedure allowing early detection has been clinically given prime importance.
However, conventional blood tests are negative in approximately 20% to 50% of patients with early rheumatoid arthritis, and the diagnosis is often based only on the clinical manifestations.

The research group applied their proprietary comprehensive immune complex analysis method (immune complexome analysis) to serum samples of patients with early rheumatoid arthritis and those with non-rheumatism autoimmune diseases to analyze serum immune complexes comprehensively. As a result, they have successfully identified an immune complex that is only present in patients with early rheumatoid arthritis.
This immune complex was detected in 50% of patients with early rheumatoid arthritis who had negative conventional tests. The results of this research will lead to the development of a new blood test for early rheumatoid arthritis, and a test kit is currently being developed.

The results of this research were released in an online bulletin of Annals of the Rheumatoid Diseases (electronic edition).

Associate Professor Kaname Ohyama received the 2012 Academic Award of the Japan Society of Clinical Chemistry for “Immune complexome analysis of patients with early rheumatoid arthritis.”

(For more information, please refer to “Associate Professor Kaname Ohyama, Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, received the 2012 Academic Award of the Japan Society of Clinical Chemistry,” under the heading, “News & Topics.”)