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Physicians Update


Physicians Update

Summer 2009

Using Cardiovascular Medications to Treat Rheumatoid Diseases


Patients with chronic inflammatory diseases are at greater risk for developing coronary artery disease. Research being conducted at UCLA is attempting to explain this relationship. Results of initial studies indicate poorly functioning, or pro-inflammatory, HDL may be a culprit.

“We found that approximately 20 percent of RA patients and 50 percent of lupus patients have HDL that is not working properly, and that this is associated with increased inflammation and oxidation of lipids in the vessels,” says UCLA rheumatologist Maureen McMahon, M.D.

These findings persist even when controlling for traditional cardiovascular risk factors. Dr. McMahon and colleagues have conducted similar studies examining disease progression over time. The role of peptide molecules developed by UCLA cardiologists in improving RA and lupus disease activity is also being examined using mouse models, with promising results. Future studies will focus on evaluating disease activity in patients with myositis, scleroderma and gout.

A key research goal is to develop biomarkers that will help identify risk factors and target future interventions. This is particularly important for rheumatic-disease patients, who tend to develop coronary artery disease at much younger ages than observed in the general population, explains Dr. McMahon. “The hope is that by further examining these relationships, we can more effectively target therapies and improve rheumaticdisease treatment overall.”

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