Genetic risk factor tags arthritis in women

An international team of researchers, led by a team from the U.K.'s University of Manchester, has cracked part of the genetic code, identifying new genes that could contribute to rheumatoid arthritis and explaining why women are more prone to the disabling disease than men. The research was published in Nature Genetics.

In this large study, the researchers analyzed the genomes of more than 27,000 people with and without rheumatoid arthritis, looking at 129,464 different markers. They found 14 new genes that suggested an increased risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis, including some that were specific to the female X chromosome, which could explain the three-fold higher risk in women. This is the first time that such a connection has been made, according to Alan Silman, medical director of Arthritis Research UK.

This adds to the 32 genes already discovered, and these could act as biomarkers for diagnosis and monitoring, or targets for new therapeutics. As first author 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."

While many people with rheumatoid arthritis have similar symptoms, the causes could be genetically different, and using these markers to stratify the patients could allow doctors to create personalized treatment plans, and could also move drugs through clinical trials more successfully.

- read the press release
- see the abstract

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