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Hope for a Rheumatoid Arthritis Cure

New Genetic Clues offer Hope for Rheumatoid Arthritis Cure

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a debilitating autoimmune disease that affects thousands of Americans. RA occurs twice as often in women compared with men with a prevalence of 1 percent in women compared to .6 percent in men. Researchers front the Centre for Genetics in Manchester, U.K. conducted the largest genetic study to date regarding this disease. The study involved almost 30,000 participants and results were published in the journal Nature.

More than 46 million people in the U.S. have some form of arthritis, and the CDC reports that 1.3 million of these individuals have RA. It is the third most common form of arthritis, with osteoarthritis being number one and gouty arthritis being number two. This chronic disease also affects around 1 percent of the world population, but the prevalence and incidence appears to be declining since the 1960s.

Study Finds More than 40 Faulty DNA Areas associated with RA

According to scientists, there are more than 40 new areas of DNA that increase the risk for developing rheumatoid arthritis. This international team believes new drugs can now be developed to target these DNA areas to cure this chronic condition. The faulty areas are linked with rheumatoid arthritis and were found in patients who had the disease. When these patients' DNA was compared to participants who did not have the disease, the researchers noticed the difference.

When treated by an existing drug for rheumatoid arthritis developed by trial and error, one of these faulty areas produced a weakness, according to lead researcher Robert Plenge of Harvard Medical School. He reports that this discovery could be used to create new drugs for this disease. By studying genetics, scientists now are able to treat complex diseases, and many experts believe a cure is on the way.

New Genetic Approach to Treatment could be Fast Tracked

Some critics of genetics argue that it is not useful to identify genetic weak areas for the treatment of chronic diseases. The weak regions are called single nucleotide polymophisms (SNPs), and at present, there is very little evidence that silencing them with drugs will relieve symptoms or provide a cure for complex diseases. Regardless, Plenge and colleagues feel that this study validates this particular genetic approach. By establishing a drug to treat symptoms that occur from a particular SNP for RA, there will be tremendous potential for future development of a drug that could cure the condition.

This study also found that these same SNPs existed in patients with certain types of blood cancer. This finding suggests that drugs used to treat cancer could work for rheumatoid arthritis, as well, so treatment should be fast tracked into clinical trials. This would allow a straightforward approach to add treatments for patients who suffer from rheumatoid arthritis.


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