In recent years, factors potentially involved in pathogenesis of rheumatoid arthritis have mostly been identified by studying well-defined patient cohorts. Characterization of antibodies from sera of affected patients, family-based heritability studies, genome-wide association scans, the analysis of environmental factors and data from clinical trials have contributed largely to a thorough reassembly of our perception of rheumatoid arthritis. Modified animal models are now crucial to obtain experimental evidence for suggested pathogenetic pathways based on these observations and are currently being developed and explored. Some of the novel pathogenetic aspects, however, already influence decision making in the clinic.
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