Study identifies key protein that drives rheumatoid arthritis damage

Sept. 13, 2022
Sulfatase 2 plays a critical role in the damage caused by rheumatoid arthritis.

Scientists have identified a protein known as sulfatase‑2 that plays a critical role in the damage caused by rheumatoid arthritis. A chronic disease in which the immune system attacks the body’s own joint tissues, rheumatoid arthritis affects an estimated 1.5 million Americans.

Published in the journal Cellular & Molecular Immunology, the discovery sheds new light on the molecular processes that drive therefore inflammation seen in rheumatoid arthritis. It could also someday lead to improved treatment of the disease, which currently has no cure.

Though sulfatases such as sulfatase‑2 have been extensively studied for their roles in different types of cancer, Ahmed said no one had looked at how they might be involved in inflammatory or autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis.

The research team first explored this idea using cells called synovial fibroblasts, which line the joints and keep them lubricated to ensure fluid movement.

Using the joint-lining cells of rheumatoid arthritis patients, they removed sulfatase‑2 from one group of cells before stimulating all cells with the inflammatory TNF‑alpha. What they found was that cells lacking sulfatase‑2 did not show the same exaggerated inflammatory response to TNF‑alpha as cells that were left intact.

Washington State University release