In a study published on the Oct. 21, 2007 online edition of Nature Genetics, researchers at The University of Texas Medical School at Houston reported the discovery of two genes involved in the cause of ankylosing spondylitis, an inflammatory and potentially disabling arthritic disease. The team was lead by John D. Reveille, M.D., professor and director of the Division of Rheumatology and Clinical Immunogenetics, in conjunction with Matthew A. Brown, M.D., professor of immunogenetics at Australia’s University of Queensland.

Ankylosing spondylitis (AS) is a chronic, painful, degenerative inflammatory arthritis primarily affecting spine and sacroiliac joints, causing eventual fusion of the spine. It tends to affect young people, between the ages of 15 and 30.

The recent discovery is based on work from the largest and most comprehensive genome-wide association scan conducted to date. In this part of the research project, investigators searched for genetic information related to AS, as well as autoimmune thyroid disease/Graves’ Disease, breast cancer and multiple sclerosis. The Spondylitis Association of America (SAA) oversaw the nationwide recruitment of patients and families for the study.

Scientists have long known that the HLA-B27 gene accounts for 40 percent of the overall cause of AS. With the discovery of these new genes, physicians can now account for roughly 70 percent of the overall cause of AS.

The scientists concluded that the identification of these two new genes will further help physicians identify patients who are at the highest risk for developing AS, as well as treat present cases. They expect the entire set of genes responsible for AS will be accounted for in a year’s time.

Article References
Discovery Of 2 Genes Related To Disabling Form Of Arthritis, site accessed on 10/21/2007