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Disease genes that followed the Silk Road identified
Date:7/20/2010

Scientists have identified key genes responsible for a severe inflammatory disease that has spread along the old silk trading routes from the Far East to the edge of Europe.

University of Manchester researchers, working as part of a large international consortium, have revealed some of the genetic mutations that lead to Behet's disease. The group's findings are published in Nature Genetics.

Behet's is a vascular disease where the body's normal inflammatory immune response becomes overactive and destroys blood vessels resulting in severe mouth and genital ulcers and skin lesions. The eyes can also be affected by the condition and this can lead to blindness.

The condition, sometimes referred to as the 'Silk Road disease' due to the way its prevalence has spread along the old silk trading routes, is rare in Western Europe but is a major disease in Far- and Middle-Eastern countries, as well as in Greece and, particularly, Turkey, where it affects four in every 1,000 people.

"Our research has for the first time in a large-scale study identified the genes responsible for Behet's disease," said Bill Ollier, Professor of Imunogenetics and Director of the University's Centre for Integrated Genomic Medical Research (CIGMR).

"The condition is relatively rare in the UK, mainly affecting those of Asian and Middle-Eastern descent, but its hereditary nature has seen its prevalence spread westward from the Far East as trading routes opened and populations migrated."

The researchers carried out genetic tests on almost 2,500 Turkish volunteers, 1,215 people with Behet's disease and 1,278 healthy individuals. The scientists compared their results with additional data from a further 5,000 people in Turkey, the Middle East, Europe and Asia.

The team found an increased risk of disease was associated with three genes HLA-B51, IL10, IL23R-IL12RB2. There is also evidence to suggest the involvement of two further gen
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Contact: Aeron Haworth
aeron.haworth@manchester.ac.uk
44-161-275-8383
University of Manchester
Source:Eurekalert

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