Transcriptional and epigenetic effects on rheumatoid arthritis in the post-partum period

Many women with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) experience a natural improvement of the disease during pregnancy, while symptoms return after they give birth. The research project attempts to identify genes that influence the disease during and after pregnancy among women with RA. Possibly, the study can identify new bio-markers of great importance for better and safer treatment in the future.  


A research project by Mette Kiil Smed

Pregnancy has a remarkable effect on rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Many women with RA (50%-75%) experience significant improvement in their symptoms during pregnancy, but have a flare of the disease after childbirth. The mechanism(s) of this pregnancy-induced improvement and post-partum flare has still not been thoroughly investigated nor understood. Therefore, to gain a better understanding of how pregnancy influences RA disease activity, our USA-Danish collaborative team is conducting a research project to identify genes that influence disease activity during and after pregnancy among women with RA. Chances are that the study can identify new bio-markers useful for further research and development of improved pharmaceutical treatment of RA. 

For this project, we are following a prospective cohort of women with RA, partly using the DANBIO register, and we assess changes in RA disease activity from before pregnancy until nine months after they give birth. We also collect blood samples to examine levels of different factors that may fluctuate with disease activity. Since normal pregnancy involves complex biological changes, we are also following a cohort of healthy age-matched pregnant controls, to examine what biological changes are associated with pregnancy. All the women are followed before, during and after pregnancy, in the attempt to understand what causes RA to improve and worsen.


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