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Researchers Found New Genes Tied to Childhood Arthritis

Update Date: Apr 22, 2013 12:42 PM EDT

According to the latest research from scientists at the University of Manchester, future treatment options for children who suffer from arthritis might be improved significantly. Based on statistics provided by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Arthritis Foundation, arthritis afflicts over 294,000 children with over 827,000 visits to a medical professional per year. Roughly 1 in every 1,000 children within the United Kingdom has arthritis. Although current treatment options work to some degree, researchers are adamant about finding more and better treatment options. The scientists behind this new study, which included Dr. Ann Hinks, Dr. Joanna Cobb and professor Wendy Thomson, from the University's Arthritis Research UK Epidemiology Unit discovered 14 new genes that could be used to find future treatment options.

The research team analyzed DNA that was taken from the blood and saliva sample of 2,000 children with arthritis. Through the comparison of these samples to the samples taken from healthy children, the researchers found 14 new genes that might help explain the manifestation of this disease. Previous researchers have known that a combination of environmental factors and genetics were responsible for childhood arthritis, but they have not discovered the direct biological mechanisms for this disease. More research into these 14 newly identified genes might help develop treatment options that would manage pain better and could possibly even help maintain the progression of the disease. Roughly 30 percent of children with this disease will continue suffering from it into adulthood.

"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," Hinks 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."

"We have known for some time that there is a strong genetic contribution to a child's risk of developing JIA, however previously only three genetic risk factors had been identified. This study is the largest genetic investigation of JIA to date and has identified 14 new risk regions, adding a significant amount to our knowledge of the genetic basis of this disorder. Further work is now required to investigate each of these regions in more detail, to enable us to understand how they are involved in disease development and identify potential new therapeutic targets," said professor Alan Silman, who contributed to the funding of the study. Silman is a medical director of Arthritis Research UK.

The study, which took two years to finish, was published in Nature Genetics.

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