Researchers at the University of Manchester have identified evidence of several new genes behind the chronic inflammatory disease rheumatoid arthritis (RA), which affects 387,000 people in the UK.
Professor Jane Worthington and her team at the University's arthritis research campaign (arc) Epidemiology Unit made their findings as part of the largest ever study of the genetics behind common diseases.
The 9M Wellcome Trust Case Control Consortium (WTCCC), which today publishes its results in the journals Nature and Nature Genetics, has given a major boost to the understanding of genetics of seven common diseases, including RA. As well as providing insights into what leads some people to develop the diseases and offering new avenues for treatments, the success of the approach heralds exciting advances in the study of the genetics of disease. It has identified a wealth of genes implicated in coronary heart disease, type 1 and type 2 diabetes, Crohn's disease, bipolar disorder and hypertension, as well as RA. Some of these genes are novel whilst others were known about and have been confirmed by the current study.
Professor Worthington and her team have implicated several genes in the development of RA for the first time. Previously two genes were known to explain 50% of genetically determined susceptibility. Now the team have replicated their results for one of the new genes and are working to validate others.
RA is a chronic inflammatory disease that can affect nearly all joints in the body, particularly the hands and feet. Complications such as lung disease can occur. In addition, patients with RA are more likely to die from cardiovascular disease and some cancers. Some people respond well to treatment, but most suffer a lifetime of disability.
The team will now carry out further work to validate the findings and understand how the variation within key genes influences the development of RA, the course of the disea
Contact: Mikaela Sitford
University of Manchester