Arthritis genes `discovered`

Washington: Scientists have discovered eight arthritis genes, a key breakthrough which they say could soon pave the way for the development of effective treatments for a painful form of the condition.

An international team, led by Queensland University, claims the discovery will help in understanding the molecular mechanisms underlying ankylosing spondylitis, a painful form of arthritis, which fuses bones in the spine and pelvis.

AS causes the immune system to attack the spinal and pelvic joints, leading to chronic inflammation. Unlike other forms of arthritis where inflammation leads to bone loss, AS results in bone growth and can consequently cause the spine and pelvis become fused into a fixed position.

In their research, the scientists, led by Prof Matt Brown, have identified the eight new genes that help clarify previously unexplained aspects of AS.

In particular, these genes help explain why bone formation occurs and why some AS patients also develop the conditions Inflammatory Bowel Disease and/or psoriasis, say the scientists.

Professor Matt Brown said the findings shed light on a 40-year-old genetic mystery. In the 1970s it was discovered nearly all AS patients carried a particular gene -- HLA-B27.

According to him, "The link between AS and HLA-B27 is one of the strongest known genetic associations of any common disease. However, the precise role this gene plays in AS has never been clear until now".


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