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A comparison with postpartum women and other non-axial spondyloarthritis controls with or without back pain

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Axial spondyloarthritis (axSpA) is a common chronic inflammatory disease, associated with extracellular matrix (ECM) remodeling of the cartilage, bone, and connective tissues. The primary symptom of axSpA is back pain, caused by inflammation. However, there is a medical need to truly identify patients with axSpA from other subjects with buttock or low back pain attributable to other reasons. We aimed to investigate circulating biomarkers of ECM/inflammation (MMP-degraded type I (C1M), II (C2M, T2CM), III (C3M), IV (C4M), VI (C6M), and X (C10C, COL10NC) collagens, CRPM, PROM and VICM) and ECM formation of type II (PRO-C2), III (PRO-C3), IV (PRO-C4), and VI (PRO-C6) collagens as potential biomarkers to identify patients with axSpA.


We measured biomarkers from a cross-sectional study with 204 participants by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA). The study included axSpA patients (N = 41), women with postpartum buttock/pelvic pain (N = 46), disc herniation (N = 25), and a group of healthy subjects (including women without postpartum pelvic pain (N = 14), subjects with various types of physical strain (cleaning staff (N = 26) long-distance runners (N = 23)), and healthy men (N = 29)). Differences between the groups were calculated by ANCOVA and AUC, while Spearman’s correlations were performed with ECM biomarkers and clinical scores.


Patients with axSpA expressed significantly higher levels of C1M, C4M, and VICM (p < 0.05-p < 0.0001) compared to all the non-axSpA control groups. Further, C6M and PRO-C4 were significantly higher in patients with axSpA (both p < 0.0001) compared to women with postpartum pelvic pain and healthy subjects, whereas PRO-C3 was significantly lower compared to healthy subjects (p = 0.01). The best ECM common biomarker to differentiate between axSpA and the non-axSpA control groups was PRO-C4 (AUC ≥ 0.75; specificity ≥ 0.79,ρ ≥ 0.3; p < 0.05-p < 0.001).


Biomarkers of type I, IV, and VI collagen and biomarkers of inflammation showed an altered turnover in patients with axSpA compared with the non-axSpA control groups. Such biomarkers may be useful in combination with MRI or independently to separate patients with axSpA from other back pain conditions.

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