The National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS) has awarded $4.5 million to establish the North American Spondylitis Consortium (NASC) to search for genes that determine susceptibility to ankylosing spondylitis (AS), a rare but painful inflammatory disease of the spine, primarily affecting men. The gene HLA-B27 is known to be linked to AS; however, researchers believe that there are additional genes associated with its pathogenesis.
The consortium, made up of researchers with a background in clinical and genetic research in AS, hopes to learn more about genes that play a role in the disease. They plan to collect medical information and genetic material (DNA) from 400 families nationwide in which two or more siblings have AS. The project will be headed by John D. Reveille, M.D., of the University of Texas-Houston Health Science Center, along with investigators at nine other research centers and staff from the Spondylitis Association of America.
"We are encouraged by the possibilities for development of new approaches for the diagnosis and treatment of ankylosing spondylitis as a result of this research project," says Stephen I. Katz, M.D., Ph.D., director of the NIAMS.
Ankylosing spondylitis, also known as arthritis of the spine, is a rheumatic disease that causes inflammation of the tendons and ligaments around the bones and joints in the spine. The result is pain and stiffness, especially in the lower back. While AS primarily affects the spine, it can also cause inflammation in the hips, shoulders and knees. AS usually begins in late adolescence or early adulthood. The disease is primarily diagnosed in men; however, recently, diagnosis of AS among women has increased.
Treatment for AS is designed to reduce inflammation in the joints and maintain
flexibility. Therapy includes nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as
ibuprofen, disease-modifying drugs such as sulfasalazine and methotrexate, and
Contact: Kelli Carrington
NIH/National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases