The actions of tumour necrosis factor (TNF) include resorption of bone and cartilage, suggesting a potential role in the pathogenesis of arthritis. TNF activity was looked for in synovial fluids from 137 patients with different rheumatic diseases. Unfractionated samples were tested in the L929 bioassay. Significant TNF activity that was neutralised by monoclonal antibody to TNF alpha occurred in 13 (30%) of 44 samples. Raised TNF levels were not associated with any particular disease type or routine laboratory markers of inflammation but were related to disease duration in osteoarthritis. The finding of biologically active TNF in symptomatic joints of arthritic patients supports the idea that it may contribute to the pathogenesis of joint damage in chronic rheumatic diseases.
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