Science news outlets and bloggers have been abuzz discussing two studies recently published in the New England Journal of medicine. An international team of scientists from Sweden, Singapore and the U.S. has studied the entire human genome looking for the genes that cause RA. Their findings have confirmed the genes identified in previous studies, found a new gene complex called TRAF1-C5, that was previously unstudied, plus an additional gene that may be linked to both RA and lupus, called STAT 4. The studies of STAT 4 have found that 27% of people with RA carry a variation that the researchers believe is approximately 30% more likely to increase the risk of developing RA and double the risk of developing lupus. The data from these two studies bring the total number of genes believed to be related to RA to five.
While scientists believe that the risk for developing the RA are determined not only by genetics, but also by environment and lifestyle, this study offers hope in confirming the results of previous studies and finding other genes that may also play a role. Hopefully, it will bring scientists that much closer to a cure, though they also pointed out that science is still a ways away from developing practical applications from the results, such as drugs that target these new genes.
While this is exciting news overall, it doesn't look like a change in treatment for the anytime in the near future. Researchers will have to do a lot more work to figure out how each gene works, what triggers them, and the impacts they have on each other and on the body. There is optimism though, that the research may lead to better diagnostic tests and to predict who will respond best to various types of treatments. So I will hope for the speedy and safe development of drugs to put my arthritis in remission and new testing and prevention techniques to prevent more people from developing the disease in the future.