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Genetic Risk Factor For Rheumatoid Arthritis, Lupus, Identified By Study

A genetic variation has been identified that increases the risk of two chronic, autoimmune inflammatory diseases: rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and systemic lupus erythematosus (lupus). These research findings result from a long-time collaboration between the Intramural Research Program (IRP) of the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS) and other organizations. NIAMS is part of the National Institutes of Health.

These results appear in the New England Journal of Medicine.

"Although both diseases are believed to have a strong genetic component, identifying the relevant genes has been extremely difficult," says study coauthor Elaine Remmers, Ph.D., of the Genetics and Genomics Branch of the Intramural Research Program at the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. Dr. Remmers and her colleagues tested variants within 13 candidate genes located in a region of chromosome 2, which they had previously linked with RA, for association with disease in large collections of RA and lupus patients and controls. Among the variants were several disease-associated single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) -- small differences in DNA sequence that represent the most common genetic variations between individuals -- in a large segment of the STAT4 gene. The STAT4 gene encodes a protein that plays an important role in the regulation and activation of certain cells of the immune system.

"It may be too early to predict the impact of identifying the STAT4 gene as a susceptibility locus for rheumatoid arthritis -- whether the presence of the variant and others will serve as a predictor of disease, disease outcome or response to therapy," says coauthor and NARAC principal investigator Peter K. Gregersen, M.D., of The Feinstein Institute for Medical Research, part of the North Shore Long Island Jewish Health System, in Manhasset, N.Y. "It also remains to be found whether the STAT4 pathway plays such a crucial role in RA and lupus that new therapies targeting this pathway would be effective in these and perhaps other autoimmune diseases."

Click here to see the rest of this article in Medical News Today


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