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

STAT4 could be a target for new therapies. The discovery of STAT4 can ultimately help scientists unravel the triggers for the disease, help in the development of a test to confirm a diagnosis and perhaps even help predict who will respond to treatments.

The NARAC and collaborators at Celera Diagnostics previously identified PTPN22 as another risk gene in 2004. PTPN22 influences the "trigger point" for activation of T-cells -- immune cells normally called on to wage battle against infection. In autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, PTPN22 appears to put people at higher risk of a wayward T-cell response. Dr. Gregersen said that the two genes -- PTPN22 and STAT4 -- appear to work independently to increase the risk for rheumatoid arthritis.

These are the first RA genes to be discovered since the 1980s when scientists reported detailed association with genetic variants in the HLA region known as the "shared epitope," work for which Dr. Gregersen is still widely recognized. The key to the new genetic discoveries, Dr. Gregersen said, is to have "more patients and controls. With higher numbers of volunteers, we will have more power to pull out additional new genes and figure out what they do in triggering these diseases. Continued international collaboration with colleagues at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm will be critical for these efforts."

In addition to Drs. Gregersen, Criswell and Remmers, the NARAC investigators on the STAT4 study include Christopher Amos, PhD, of The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center; Daniel Kastner MD, PhD, of NIAMS's Genetics and Genomic Branch; Michael F. Seldin MD, PhD, of the University of California, Davis; and Robert M. Plenge, MD, PhD, of the Brigham and Women's Hospital. Timothy W. Behrens, MD, senior director of immunology, tissue growth & repair at Genentech, Inc. was a key collaborator on the lupus research.

The NARAC team is also part of the whole genome association study to be pub
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SOURCE The Feinstein Institute for Medical Research
Copyright©2007 PR Newswire.
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