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Scientists have found a marker that can indicate your likelihood of suffering from rheumatoid arthritis (RA) even sixteen years before the condition takes effect.

A team from the Kennedy Institute of Rheumatology at Oxford University found that a blood test that looks for antibodies that recognize the protein tenascin-C could reliably show those who will contract the condition.

When inflammation occurs in the body, some proteins are altered in a process called citrullination. These altered forms can prompt an immune response from the body, which can see it turning antibodies on itself – causing rheumatoid arthritis. For that reason, tests that spot antibodies to citrullinated proteins are already used to diagnose the disease. While tests for individual proteins usually have a relatively low diagnostic sensitivity, a more general test called CCP, that detects synthetic citrullinated peptides, identifies a lot more RA cases.

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