Researchers have pieced together new genetic clues to the arthritis puzzle in a study that brings potential treatments closer to reality and could also provide insights into why more women than men succumb to the disabling condition.
Rheumatoid arthritis – which affects more than 400,000 people in the UK and about 1% of the world's population – is a complicated disease: lifestyle and environmental factors, such as smoking, diet, pregnancy and infection are thought to play a role, but it is also known that a person's genetic makeup influences their susceptibility to the condition.
Scientists at the Arthritis Research UK Epidemiology Unit at The University of Manchester have discovered 14 new genes that can lead to rheumatoid arthritis, adding to the 32 other genes they had already identified; the team believes it has now discovered the vast majority of disease-causing genes for the condition.
The Manchester researchers' latest study, published in the journal Nature Genetics, has identified genes specific to the female X-chromosome – which could explain why three times more women than men present with the disease.
First author Dr Stephen Eyre said: "This work will have a great impact on the clinical treatment of arthritis; we have already found three genes that are targets for drugs, leaving a further 43 genes with the potential for drug development, helping the third of patients who fail to respond well to current medications.
"Although patients who first present at clinic have similar symptoms, it is likely that their route to developing disease has involved a varied path. The genetic findings can help divide patients into smaller groups with more similar types of rheumatoid arthritis and assist in the allocation of therapies and disease management."
The Manchester team used advanced technology and a large collection of international samples to identify the new genes and move a step closer to being able to improve the lives of rheumatoid arthritis sufferers.
Professor Jane Worthington, study lead based at the NIHR Manchester Musculoskeletal Biomedical Research Unit, said: "This groundbreaking study brought together scientists from around the world and involved the use of DNA samples from more than 27,000 patients with rheumatoid arthritis and healthy controls. As a result of our findings, we now know that genetic variations at over 45 regions of the genome determine susceptibility to this form of arthritis.
"We observed remarkable similarities with genetic markers associated with other autoimmune diseases. Our future work will focus on understanding how the simple genetic changes alter normal biological processes and lead to disease. Ultimately, this will help us to develop novel therapies and improved targeting of existing drugs."
Professor Alan Silman, medical director of Arthritis Research UK, said: "This large genetics study has added a significant amount to the current knowledge of the genetic basis of rheumatoid arthritis. We hope that this research will lead to a greater understanding of the disease and allow us to develop targeted drug treatments for the half-a-million people currently living with rheumatoid arthritis.
"This is the first time that a genetic association has been established between rheumatoid arthritis and the X chromosome. This could provide a useful clue in helping us to understand why rheumatoid arthritis is three times more likely to occur in women."
University of Manchester: http://www.manchester.ac.uk
This press release was posted to serve as a topic for discussion. Please comment below. We try our best to only post press releases that are associated with peer reviewed scientific literature. Critical discussions of the research are appreciated. If you need help finding a link to the original article, please contact us on twitter or via e-mail.
About once a year, Florida harvester ants dig new nests, a mystery entomologists are eager to get to the bottom of.
The finding that male homosexuality has a strong genetic component should be a boon for gay rights – but it could backfire
Alan Turing, the man who pioneered computing, also forced the world to question what it means to be human
During sleep, the brain locks in existing memories and can even form new ones. Scientists say they are starting to understand how that happens. A midnight snack may interfere.
They walk among us. Natural experiments, living ordinary lives, unaware that their genes may hold the clue to the next superdrug.
A crowd at the Santa Barbara Zoo got a pleasant surprise when its latest star attraction, a baby giraffe, came out for a jaunt
A massive white matter tract at the back of the brain, overlooked for the past century, might be crucial for skills such as reading.
An award-winning book on optical illusions explains the science of tricking your brain.
Scientists investigating a huge die-off of starfish along North America's Pacific coast have identified a virus they say is responsible for a calamitous wasting disease that has wiped out millions of the creatures since it first appeared last year.
After 43,000 years in the Siberian permafrost, the remains of a mammoth may contain enough DNA to recreate the beast's genome