John D. Reveille, M.D, chief of rheumatology at Memorial Hermann – Texas Medical Center, said the discovery of genes ARTS1 and IL23R brings the scientific community two steps closer to fully understanding ankylosing spondylitis or AS, a chronic form of arthritis that attacks the spine and also can target other joints and organs in the body.

“We’ve long known that the HLA-B27 gene accounts for 40 percent of the overall cause of AS,” said Reveille. “Now we have found two new genes. Together with HLA-B27, these genes account for roughly 70 percent of the overall cause. That means we’ve almost nailed this disease. Within the next year, I predict we will have identified all the genes that play a role in this insidious disease. There is more exciting news to come.”

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 were searching for genetic information related to AS, as well as autoimmune thyroid disease/Graves’ Disease, breast cancer and multiple sclerosis. Reveille said the most significant findings were in AS, a disease that generally strikes patients in their teens, 20s or 30s.

ARTS1 and IL23R show a new pathway of causation, Reveille said, and this could lead to new therapies for the arthritic condition, which can cause a complete fusion of the spine, leaving patients unable to straighten and bend. The identification of the two new genes also could help physicians identify patients who are at the highest risk for developing AS.; Source: University of Texas