In order to understand the role of inflammation in both rheumatoid arthritis and heart failure, an international team of medical researchers is beginning a novel investigation based at the Canadian Dalhousie Medical School. Inflammation is known to be the natural response of the body to infection and injury, enabling the recovery of damaged tissue. Dysfunctional, self-targeted inflammation can cause chronic diseases, including arthritis.
To address this, internationally recognized inflammation experts are joining efforts to expand the knowledge on the dysfunction of inflammation, as well as understand what causes the differences between patients that develop inflammatory diseases and the ones in which the inflammatory response continues to work normally.
“Heart failure and rheumatoid arthritis both involve an initial inflammatory injury,” explained the head of the Department of Microbiology & Immunology at Dalhousie Medical School, professor Jean Marshall, in a press release. “There are many studies looking at what goes wrong in the healing process that follows, we’re trying to determine what goes right.”
“Using this information, we’ll begin to examine ways to better treat— and even prevent— inflammation-related heart damage, arthritis, and other inflammatory diseases. This could involve the modified use of existing drugs or the development of new ones,” continued Marshall.
The group will analyze two cohorts of participants in the study, one recovering from a recent heart attack, and another which have been recently diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. The patients were selected because inflammatory responses usually abate in a subset of these patients, either naturally or with early treatment, while in other patients inflammation becomes permanent, provoking further damage to the body.
“Part of this study will be to review the clinical characteristics of Nova Scotians who have suffered a heart attack in the past 20 years,” stated the associate professor and staff cardiac surgeon in the Department of Surgery of the Dalhousie Medical School and Capital Health, Jean-Francois Légaré. “By doing this, we hope to better inform the collection of samples for the current study, and help doctors better identify the patients who are likely to heal after a heart attack and those who are likely to suffer complications, such as the development of heart failure.”
In addition, the researchers also aim to understand patients’ response to anti-inflammatory and immune modifying therapies by analyzing their joint fluids, blood samples, and immune systems. Other variables such as health situation, gender, and lifestyle habits will be taken into consideration, a combination of factors that are known to determine better treatment strategies.
“Despite many treatments for rheumatoid arthritis (RA), these are not effective in all patients and are associated with side-effects in some cases,” added professor and staff rheumatologist at the Departments of Medicine and Pathology of the Dalhousie Medical School and Capital Health, John Hanly. “More effective therapies of RA will improve the quality of life for patients with the disease and provide economic benefits through enhanced productivity and savings in health care delivery.”
The research was made possible by a $2.3-million grant from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and a $100,000 grant from The Arthritis Society, whose executive director, Susan Tilley-Russell, said they were “excited to team with CIHR to facilitate research on inflammation in the body and how to treat the diseases it causes. In particular, we are pleased to be funding a portion of this research at Dalhousie University, and celebrate the role of local researchers in this effort to pursue life-altering insights in treating inflammatory conditions.”