cortisol, sleep, circadian rhythm, clock genes, rheumatoid arthritis
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic, progressive autoimmune condition that affects up to 1% of the world population and symmetrically affects the joints leading to joint stiffness and decreased mobility. RA patients present with increased pain and chronic inflammation within their joint spaces, which researchers have linked to poorer sleep patterns, including difficulty falling asleep and non-restorative sleep. As such, identifying mediators of poor sleep quality among RA patients may improve their long-term quality of life. More recently, researchers identified an association between chronic inflammation in RA patients and their circadian rhythm. Altered circadian rhythms negatively impact the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis and lead to altered cortisol release. Cortisol has shown to have a strong anti-inflammatory effect; when dysregulated, it may lead to increased pain experienced in RA patients. This literature review aims to provide insight into how chronic inflammation tied to RA pathophysiology may affect clock genes that are involved in maintaining the circadian rhythm. Specifically, this review focused on four common clock genes found dysregulated in RA patients: circadian locomotor output cycles kaput (CLOCK), brain and muscle ARNT like-1 (BMAL1), period (PER), and cryptochrome (CRY). Of the four clock genes discussed in this review, BMAL1 and PER are the most well-studied of the affected genes. Further knowledge surrounding clock genes and their dysregulated expression in RA may help guide therapy decisions for RA patients. Traditionally, disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) have been used as first-line therapy for RA patients. Meanwhile, chronotherapy, optimizing drug release in a timed manner, has shown positive results in RA patients as well. Because of the association of altered circadian rhythms with increased symptom severity in RA patients, it seems highly plausible that DMARD therapy with chronotherapy may be an ideal therapeutic regimen for RA.
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Kulkarni, Arathi; Demory-Beckler, Michelle; and Kesselman, Marc M., "The Role of Clock Genes in Maintaining Circadian Rhythm and Rheumatoid Arthritis Pathophysiology." (2023). HPD Articles. 458.
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