New Research Suggests “Nonsense” RNA Segment Might Play Important Role in Ankylosing Spondylitis

According to a publication from Ankylosing Spondylitis News, a recent study published in BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders suggests that LINC00311, a lengthy RNA molecule, is over-expressed in individuals with ankylosing spondylitis. The study also linked the molecule to reduced treatment efficacy and increased risk of disease relapse.

About Ankylosing Spondylitis

Ankylosing spondylitis (AS) is a rare and severe form of arthritis that primarily affects the spine. It causes inflammation of the vertebrae, causing what can be intense and persisting pain or discomfort. However, its effects are not limited just to back pain. AS can cause considerable functional impairment. In particularly advanced cases, ankylosis of the spine can occur — new bones will start to form in the gaps between the vertebrae, eventually fusing entire sections of the spine together.

Inflammation and discomfort can occur in other joints of ankylosing spondylitis patients as well. However, the sacroiliac joints (where the spine meets the pelvic bone) are always involved.

To date, no specific cause of AS has been singled out. Genetic factors seem to at least somewhat at play, as individuals with certain genetic markers (such as HLA-B27) are much more likely, though not guaranteed, to develop ankylosing spondylitis.

LncRNA May Be Linked

LINC00311 is a long non-coding RNA molecule (LncRNA). These are, as the name would imply, lengthy sequences of RNA that do not provide for the translation of a protein. They aren’t “junk” molecules, per se — some of them code for peptides, just not proteins!

Put more simply, LncRNA is a label we apply to sections of RNA whose functions we aren’t quite sure of yet. We know where they start and stop, but that’s about it. When a recent study suggested LINC00311 might play a role in osteoperosis, a research team in the People’s Republic of China decided to perform a study of the molecule on their own.

Ankylosing spondylitis and osteoperosis share similar disease pathways, prompting the research team to recruit 80 ankylosing spondylitis patients from a Chinese hospital in Ganzhou over the course of two years. 33 of the patients were women, 47 were men. A control group comprised of 80 healthy individuals and 22 back pain patients was also created.

Surprisingly, researchers found that patients in the AS group had much higher concentrations of LINC00311 in their blood plasma. Higher concentrations of the molecule were associated with proportionally aggressive AS. When treated with non-inflammatory medications, LINC00311 levels were found to drop in many of the AS group. However, patients who had higher levels of LINC00311 before treatment were found to have much higher rates of disease recurrence, even after treatment.

Though not a smoking gun (which is incredibly rare in the medical world), the BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders study lends more credible evidence to the theory that LINC00311 plays a significant role in the skeletal system.

What do you think of the strong correlation between LINC00311 and ankylosing spondylitis? Why do you think researchers are hesitant to label one thing the “cause” of a disease? Share your thoughts with Patient Worthy!

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