The researchers report in a paper that RA lung disease may operate much differently from other forms of lung disease. If further studies support this finding, it could change the way RA lung disease is treated as well as the design focus of drugs developed to treat it.

Results from overall 11,412 images analysed with computer assistance indicated that tissue samples from RA lung disease patients consistently showed elevated numbers of a subset of T cells known as CD4 and CD3 cells.

These T cells are more abundant in tissue samples from patients with RA lung disease than in tissue samples from patients who have other forms of lung disease. This finding supports the concept that RA lung disease may be fundamentally different from other forms of lung disease - and should be treated differently.

RA lung disease detection can be improved through the technological advance of computer-assisted image analysis. This improvement allows the disease to be diagnosed early and treated aggressively as a disease of the immune system.

"Many doctors who have seen our results say, 'This is what I've always believed.' But no one had proved it to them," says Carl Turesson, M.D., Ph.D., former Mayo Clinic research fellow now working at Malmo University Hospital in Sweden.

The data from the researchers shows that the form of RA disease that spreads beyond joints to involve the lungs is more likely to be fatal. However, if physicians can use the Mayo Clinic method for detecting early telltale signs of RA lung disease, they can decide to treat the disease aggressively in its early stages and thus potentially prolong lives, according to Dr. Turesson.

MEDICA.de; Source: Mayo Clinic