August 25, 2022

Rheumatoid arthritis and heart disease: a common path

An increase in certain antibodies in patients with rheumatoid arthritis can serve as a predictive biomarker for cardiovascular disease, Vanderbilt researchers have discovered.

Patients with rheumatoid arthritis have a higher prevalence and severity of atherosclerosis than others, yet current risk scores routinely underestimate their likelihood of developing cardiovascular disease. 

Cardiovascular disease and rheumatoid arthritis are oxidative stress disorders, characterized by a rise in an immunogenic protein combination called the MAA-adduct, and by anti-MAA antibodies, which can be detected in the serum. 

Michelle Ormseth, MD, MSCI, and colleagues tested whether the rise in anti-MAA antibodies observed in patients with rheumatoid arthritis could serve as a predictive biomarker for atherosclerosis. In a study of 166 patients with rheumatoid arthritis, they found that the predictive value of a 10-year risk score for cardiovascular disease that is based on blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and other factors improved significantly when the rise in anti-MAA antibodies was added to it. 

These findings, published in Scientific Reports, suggest that MAA-adducts and/or anti-MAA antibodies may act in concert with other factors to amplify atherosclerosis in patients with rheumatoid arthritis.

This research was supported by the Ann M. Duffer Family Foundation, Alpha Omicron Pi Foundation, Department of Veterans Affairs, and National Institutes of Health (grants AR080372, HL116263).