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Scientists discover genetic marker responsible for two-fold increase in risk of rheumatoid arthritis

so that T cells and other immune cells are hyperresponsive, causing increased inflammation and tissue damage.

"This is not an abnormal gene," said Dr. Gregersen. "It is present in a substantial fraction of the normal population, so it's probably there for a good reason. It may, in fact, help defend against infection." When it comes to the genetics of complex diseases, context is everything. According to Dr. Gregersen, a genetic variant in the setting of certain environments and in the presence of other genes may have harmful effects, whereas the same genetic variant may have beneficial effects in another genetic and environmental context. "So this particular genetic variation may have contributed to the survival of our ancestors. The price we have to pay for that, however, is that some people are modestly predisposed to developing rheumatoid arthritis."

Using state-of-the-art technology developed by Celera Diagnostics, Ann B. Begovich, PhD, director of inflammation at Celera Diagnostics, and her team discovered the PTPN22 association. The technology allowed them -- in a short period of time -- to look at tens of thousands of SNPs in thousands of DNA samples from subjects with RA as well as normal control subjects. The majority of the DNA samples analyzed in this study were carefully collected from families with RA who contributed to the NARAC project. Genomics Collaborative, Inc. provided additional samples.

"This collaboration has enabled us to make a significant contribution to a very complex genetic problem in a relatively short period of time, something that can only be achieved with a team effort," said Dr. Begovich.

The Arthritis Foundation has been an important supporter of NARAC. "This critical discovery is an illustration of the power of public-private partnerships to solve complex issues," said John H. Klippel, MD, the foundation's president and CEO.

Research has prev
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Contact: Christina Verni
cverni@nshs.edu
516-562-1232
North Shore-Long Island Jewish (LIJ) Health System
24-Jun-2004


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