Biomarkers mark progression in ankylosing spondylitis

Ankylosing spondylitis is a form of arthritis that attacks the vertebrae in the spine, leading to back pain and stiffness, and causing long-term disability in around 10% of people developing it. In a presentation at EULAR 2012, the Annual Congress of the European League Against Rheumatism, researchers discussed 5 biomarkers that could predict which patients have disease that is likely to get worse. The study looked at 64 patients from the German Spondyloarthritis Inception Cohort (GESPIC). Spinal damage is tagged by the presence of syndesmophytes, spiny growths of bone seen on X-rays, and raised levels of C-reactive protein (CRP). Those patients whose disease was likely to progress also had higher levels of matrix metalloproteinase 3, bone-morphogenetic protein, procollagen type II N-propeptide and vascular endothelial growth factor, and lower levels of osteoprotegerin, and these could be used in a blood test to predict which patients might progress, and so need greater support and could benefit from earlier treatment. They could also lead to targets for developing new treatments. Press release