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Research Article

Cartilage and bone metabolism in rheumatoid arthritis. Differences between rapid and slow progression of disease identified by serum markers of cartilage metabolism.

B Månsson, D Carey, M Alini, M Ionescu, L C Rosenberg, A R Poole, D Heinegård and T Saxne

Department of Rheumatology, Lund University, Sweden.

Published March 1995

Serum concentrations of specific cartilage and bone molecules reflecting tissue turnover were measured in two well-defined patient groups with early rheumatoid arthritis with distinctly different disease outcome to see if early differences in their levels are prognostic of the rate of joint destruction. Compared with a matched normal population, increased concentrations of cartilage oligomeric matrix protein (COMP) were found in all patients who developed rapid hip joint destruction. In contrast, levels of a putative marker of cartilage aggrecan synthesis, the chondroitin sulfate epitope 846, were increased only in patients with slow joint destruction. Levels of bone sialoprotein (BSP) were increased in both groups, as were levels of the C-propeptide of type II procollagen (CPII), a marker of collagen II synthesis. The increased concentrations of the 846 epitope in patients with slow joint destruction suggest increased aggrecan synthesis. The low levels of the 846 epitope in patients with rapid joint destruction, concomitant with elevated levels of CPII, suggest a selective increase in collagen synthesis. The elevated BSP levels indicate an increased bone turnover in both groups. Thus elevated serum levels of COMP may indicate an unfavorable prognosis for rapid joint destruction, whereas elevated 846 epitope indicates a more favorable prognosis.

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