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Feinstein Institute: Researching a Family Tree of Autoimmune Disorders
Date:9/3/2008

amily genetics," said Ms. Folley. "It is important for us to help in any way we can."

Her cousin, Amanda Saar, agrees. Her mother is Elizabeth Majors, who grew up in the small town of Mount Magazine. Ms. Majors, now 83, met her husband when they were in grade school. They were 20 years old when they married in 1945. Amanda was born a year later, followed the next year by her brother and 12 years later by a sister. Ms. Majors had eight siblings and Amanda's father was an only child. There were 21 cousins born to the Major siblings. Amanda is now 62, almost two decades older than her cousin Mary. Elizabeth's grandmother was Mattie Majors. Amanda said that there is also a lot of deafness in the family, as well as asthma and thyroid disease. Her mother Elizabeth suffers from rheumatoid arthritis and had Graves' disease as a teenager. "It's interesting to see how all of these conditions show up in our family. We hope it helps scientists figure out what genes are involved." And the research has led her to notice other characteristics that run in her family, such as "long, strange toes that seem to be associated to rheumatoid arthritis."

In late August, Ms. Demers and Ms. Sadiq were on their way to Medina, Ohio where three generations were meeting to celebrate a birthday. The Feinstein duo arrived with a birthday cake for the grandmother, flowers, and their supplies to draw blood to collect DNA. At the end of the day, they left with 17 individual samples and 11 of these family members had an autoimmune disease.

If you have a family history of autoimmune disease and would like more information about participating in MADGC, call 1-877-698-9467 or email madgc @ nshs.edu.

Contact: Jamie Talan, science writer-in-residence
516-562-1232 (w) or 631-682-8781 (c)

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