'Biologics' are protein-based drugs derived from living organisms and are designed to either inhibit or augment a specific component of the immune system. Examples include antibodies directed against very specific molecular components of the immune response, for example, pro-inflammatory cytokines, or naturally occurring cytokine inhibitors such as IL-1 receptor antagonist (IL-1ra).
The primary cause of rheumatoid arthritis remains unknown. Nonetheless, advances in molecular technology have facilitated identification of numerous novel therapeutic targets, including cytokines, cell subsets, and other molecules, such as those involved in signalling pathways, that contribute to the inflammatory and destructive components of rheumatoid arthritis. Concurrent advances in biotechnology made it possible to produce abundant high-quality chimerized mouse-human or even completely human monoclonal antibodies with specificity for relevant disease molecules. Other approaches to blocking pro-inflammatory molecules include the use of naturally occurring soluble receptors or inhibitory proteins.
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