London: Scientists have identified 14 new genes which may help advance treatment of childhood arthritis.
The University of Manchester researchers looked at DNA extracted from blood and saliva samples of 2,000 children with childhood arthritis and compared these to healthy people.
"This study brought together an international group of scientists from around the world and is the largest investigation into the genetics of childhood arthritis to date," said Principal Investigator Professor Wendy Thomson from Manchester University.
Childhood arthritis is caused by a combination of genetic and environmental risk factors, however until recently very little was known about the genes that are important in developing this disease - only three were previously known.
Dr Anne Hinks, joint lead author of the study, said the findings were a significant breakthrough for understanding more about the biology of the disease and this might help identify novel therapies for the disease.
"Childhood arthritis, also known as juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA), is a specific type of arthritis quite separate from types found in adults and there`s been only a limited amount of research into this area in the past," she said.
"This study set out to look for specific risk factors. To identify these 14 genetic risk factors is quite a big breakthrough. It will help us to understand what`s causing the condition, how it progresses and then to potentially develop new therapies," she added.
"There are lots of different forms of childhood arthritis so identifying the markers will help us understand a little bit more about the disease process. It will also help to categorise children with JIA into sub-types dependent on which genes they have and allow us to determine the best course of treatment," Dr Joanna Cobb, joint lead author, said.
The study was published in journal Nature Genetics.