Author(s): Standfest K, Englbrecht M, Krueger K, Ochs W, Schmitt-Haendle M, et al.
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic inflammatory joint disease that affects about 0.6% of the adult population and is associated with substantial impairment of function and reduced quality of life. RA is characterized by synovial inflammation with joint swelling and pain leading to destruction of cartilage and bone. Over the past years the importance of different cytokines in the pathogenesis of RA has been discovered and their specific therapeutic neutralization by antibodies or soluble receptors has crucially improved the treatment and outcome of RA patients. Next to tumour necrosis factor alpha (TNF), interleukin (IL)-6 is a key cytokine involved in the pathogenesis of RA. Physiologically, IL-6 is expressed in case of stress associated with conditions such as infections, and production ceases when these stress factors disappear. IL-6 plays a decisive role in B- and T-cell-differentiation, in activation of acute-phase-protein-synthesis, in activation of osteoclasts and regulation of other metabolic processes associated with inflammation but also associated with autoimmune diseases. A continuing, deregulated expression of IL-6 has been discovered to be an important factor in the pathogenesis of RA.
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