Over 100 genetic risk markers for rheumatoid arthritis identified

26 Dec 2013

Researchers from Arthritis Research UK Centre for Genetics and Genomics at The University of Manchester have helped discover a further 42 genetic markers associated with rheumatoid arthritis in the largest international study to date on the topic.

Scientists in 38 separate institutions across seven countries contributed data from their own studies so that a much more powerful single combined analysis could be performed that examined over 10 million genetic markers in over 100,000 individuals, 29,880 of whom have rheumatoid arthritis.
As a result of the analysis, a study published in the journal Nature today (25 December), DNA variations at 42 regions of the genome were found to be associated with RA adding to the 61 that were already known about.
Professor Jane Worthington, Director of the Centre for Genetics and Genomics and Director of the Centre for Genetics and Genomics and National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Manchester Musculoskeletal Biomedical Research Unit theme lead, said: “What’s exciting about this study is that in addition to dramatically increasing our knowledge of genetic susceptibility to RA, for the first time we have found some similarities between RA and some cancers affecting the blood.
“Some of these conditions already have effective therapies approved for use and these findings open the door to possible evaluation of the drugs for treatment of RA.” 
Steve Eyre, the lead scientist in the RA group at The University of Manchester, said: “It was challenging and exciting to be part of the largest ever genetic study for RA and very rewarding that the results really add to our understanding of the processes that underpin this chronic condition.”
The study involved academics from the Cambridge, USA, Japan, Australia, Canada, South Korea, Sweden, France, Spain, China, The Netherlands and Estonia.
Arthritis Research UK medical director Professor Alan Silman commented: “Combining data from a large number of national and international genetic studies into one single and extremely powerful analysis has revealed 42 new genetic regions associated with rheumatoid arthritis. This almost doubles the number of previously-known risk regions and adds a significant amount to the current knowledge and understanding of the genetic basis of this condition.
“Further work is now required to investigate these risk regions in more detail, to enable us to understand how they are involved in disease development. In addition, the results of this work have identified similarities with some other conditions which suggests that evaluation of existing treatments could be beneficial and may lead to new and improved therapies for  the half a million people currently living with rheumatoid arthritis.”

Notes for editors

For further information, please contact: Alison Barbuti | Media Relations Officer | Faculty of Medical and Human Sciences |The University of Manchester | Manchester Academic Health Sciences Centre (MAHSC) Tel. +44 (0)161 275 8383| Mobile 07887 561 318 |Email: alison.barbuti@manchester.ac.uk

The paper is published in the journal Nature on 25 December: Genetics of rheumatoid arthritis contributes to biology and drug discovery
DOI: 10.1038/nature12873
Professor Worthington is available for interview on 23 December only.
For further information, please contact Alison Barbuti | Media Relations Officer | Faculty of Medical and Human Sciences |The University of Manchester | Tel. +44 (0)161 275 8383 | Mobile 07887 561 318 |Email: alison.barbuti@manchester.ac.uk
The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) is funded by the Department of Health to improve the health and wealth of the nation through research. Since its establishment in April 2006, the NIHR has transformed research in the NHS. It has increased the volume of applied health research for the benefit of patients and the public, driven faster translation of basic science discoveries into tangible benefits for patients and the economy, and developed and supported the people who conduct and contribute to applied health research. The NIHR plays a key role in the Government’s strategy for economic growth, attracting investment by the life-sciences industries through its world-class infrastructure for health research. Together, the NIHR people, programmes, centres of excellence and systems represent the most integrated health research system in the world. For further information, visit the NIHR website (www.nihr.ac.uk).