TNF and related diseases
by Nathan Wei, MD, FACP, FACR
Nathan Wei is a nationally known board-certified rheumatologist and author of the Second Opinion Arthritis Treatment Kit. It's available exclusively at this website... not available in stores.
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Information from the American Autoimmune Related Disease Association
In many inflammatory conditions, most notably rheumatoid arthritis, the body produces messenger proteins called cytokines.
Cytokines lead to and help to perpetuate the inflammation that leads to joint destruction. One of the cytokines that plays the major role in this process is called tumor necrosis factor (TNF).
Although everyone needs some TNF to help their immune system function properly, researchers have found that people living with RA have markedly elevated levels of TNF in their joints. Elevated levels of TNF are thought to be related to swelling, pain, and other effects of RA, as well as other inflammatory forms of arthritis.
The process of inflammation is crucial in the body's fight against pathogenic invasion. Under certain circumstances however, inflammation can be lethal, for example, following sepsis. Sepsis occurs in 1-2% of hospital admissions and is secondary to the appearance of bacterial toxins in the circulation. The frequent progression of sepsis to septic shock results in hypotension and inadequate tissue perfusion. Septic shock carries a 45% risk of mortality making it the most common causes of death in intensive care units. In addition to acute inflammation, chronic and inappropriate inflammation occurs as a central component of autoimmune disease.
There are more than 50 different autoimmune diseases according to the American Autoimmune Related Disease Association. Some of these are common such as multiple sclerosis, type 1 diabetes, Crohns disease and rheumatoid arthritis; some are very rare such as Stiff man syndrome.
The overproduction or inappropriate production of TNF-alpha has been implicated as having an important, often causative, role in both sepsis as well as these autoimmune diseases. This has resulted in the development of pharmaceuticals able to reverse the overproduction of TNF-alpha, notably Remicade, Enbrel, Humira, Cimzia, and Simponi, which have been studied or approved as treatments for rheumatoid arthritis.
New research indicates that aging and age related diseases may be caused by an “increase of inflammatory cytokines that contribute to many degenerative diseases.” Arteriosclerosis, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, heart dysfunction all have increased and chronic inflammation in common. When blood profiles are taken of people suffering from the above mentioned diseases it is found that nearly all have elevated levels of cytokines.
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