Varying blood tests can tell us anything from cholesterol levels to the gender of an unborn baby. Now, researchers at the University of Oxford in England say a blood test can predict the likelihood of having rheumatoid arthritis (RA). But, here’s the real kicker: This blood test may be able to predict the risk of RA up to 16 years before the condition takes effect—potentially allowing for better treatment.

The researchers from Oxford’s Kennedy Institute of Rheumatology have developed blood testing for the specific protein (tenascin-C) causing the immune response, according to Economic Times (ET) and several other top-tier media outlets. In the ET article, researcher Dr. Anja Schwenzer notes, “We knew that tenascin-C is found at high levels in the joints of people with RA. We decided to see if it could be altered and, if so, whether it was a target for the autoantibodies that attack the body in RA.”

If so, researchers thought it may be used in tests to help indicate RA for that person. And, when researchers tested samples from more than 2,000 patients with RA for the altered protein, nearly 50 percent tested positive. They also examined the samples taken from people before their arthritis began. That’s when they were able to see the altered tenascin-C protein up to 16 years before the RA actually occurred, but on average, these antibodies were seen seven years prior to the disease appearing.

According to researcher Kim Midwood, “This discovery gives us an additional test that can be used to increase the accuracy of predicting RA, enabling us to monitor people and spot the disease early. This early detection is key because early treatment is more effective.”

As RA is thought to have a genetic component, this information is noteworthy for members of CreakyJoints with RA who may have concerns about family members eventually having the disease as well.

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