Signs of Future Spinal Damage in AS

Ankylosing spondylitis biomarkers predict progression of spinal damage

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Over time, ankylosing spondylitis can do some serious damage to your spine. If doctors can find out why the disease gets worse in certain patients, they may also be able to slow down the damage of this painful disease.

Researchers have found five biomarkers (signs of disease) that may predict disease progression and spinal damage in people with ankylosing spondylitis.

These findings may lead to new treatments that target these biomarkers.

"Get treated for ankylosing spondylitis today to prevent permanent damage."

Ankylosing spondylitis is a long-term disease that causes spinal joints to become inflamed. Eventually, these spinal joints can fuse together.

If doctors can find out early which patients have the highest risk of permanent damage, they might be able to intervene sooner, preventing or slowing spinal damage.

The recent findings by Dr. Denis Poddubnyy, of Charité Universitätsmedizin Berlin in Germany, and colleagues may give doctors the power to make early predictions about the course of ankylosing spondylitis.

"Knowing more about why certain patients have disease progression is hugely important," says Dr. Poddubnyy. "Not only will this help us stratify our patients due to risk but may, in the future, pave the way for more treatment options that target specific markers to be developed."

Through studying 64 people with ankylosing spondylitis, the researchers found that patients with a higher risk of disease progression also had higher levels of four biomarkers called matrix metalloproteinase 3 (MMP3), bone morphogenetic protein (BMP) 2, procollagen type II N-propeptide (PIINP), and vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF).

Patients with a higher risk of disease progression also had lower levels of a biomarker called osteoprotegerin (OPG).

These findings suggest that these biomarkers can predict the progression of spinal damage.

If doctors and rheumatology experts can look for combinations of these biomarkers, they might be able to spot ankylosing spondylitis patients with a greater risk of bad outcomes at an early point in the disease. Treating these patients properly could improve long-term outcomes and stop permanent spinal damage.

This study was presented at the 2012 Annual Congress of the European League Against Rheumatism. The results have yet to be assessed by a peer-reviewed academic journal. 

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Review Date: 
June 6, 2012
Last Updated:
October 15, 2012