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New Risk Gene for Rheumatoid Arthritis and Lupus Opens Door to More Effective Treatments
Date:9/6/2007

MANHASSET, N.Y., Sept. 6 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Scientists at The Feinstein Institute for Medical Research have identified a critical gene that increases a person's risk for rheumatoid arthritis and systemic lupus erythematosus, and may be involved with other autoimmune diseases.

The genetic link, described in the September 6th issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, was a collaborative effort led by Peter K. Gregersen, MD, head of The Feinstein Institute's Robert S. Boas Center for Genomics & Human Genetics. A decade ago, Dr. Gregersen helped bring together scientists from a dozen institutes to pool patients and add strength in numbers as they collectively hunt for genes. More recently, the North American Rheumatoid Arthritis Consortium (NARAC) studied a region identified on chromosome 2 in previous linkage studies conducted by the same team. In the latest study, they analyzed DNA from 2,500 patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) or lupus. Genetic mapping enabled them to identify STAT4 as a culprit in susceptibility to both diseases.

"This work required the collection and genotyping of thousands of RA and lupus patients and volunteers, a task that would have been difficult to accomplish without the strong partnerships we forged," said Stephen I. Katz, MD, PhD, director of the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS). The federal institute has supported NARAC since its inception.

"Identifying STAT4 as the relevant gene on chromosome 2 is very exciting," added Elaine Remmers, PhD, a lead author in the NEJM study on STAT4 and a staff scientist in the NIAMS's Genetics and Genomics Branch. "We now are faced with trying to figure out how this variant of STAT4 increases a person's risk."

About 22 percent of people in the United States inherit this particular form of STAT4. Having this variant of STAT4 confers a 30 percent increased risk for developing rheumatoid arthritis. People with two copie
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SOURCE The Feinstein Institute for Medical Research
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