Using genetics to find novel drug targets for rheumatoid arthritis

Disease - Rheumatoid arthritis, asoriatic arthritis, juvenile idiopathic arthritis

Lead applicant - Dr Gisela Orozco

Organisation - University of Manchester

Type of grant - Project Grant

Status of grant - Active

Amount of the original award - £195,835

Start date - 1 November 2016

Reference - 21348

Public Summary

What are the aims of this research?

Previous genetic studies have struggled to understand how DNA changes cause rheumatoid arthritis. New methods are now available to fully explore how DNA changes cause disease. This study aims to understand how DNA changes affect genes and cause rheumatoid arthritis.

Why is this research important?

To understand what causes rheumatoid arthritis, scientists have been looking for differences between the DNA of people with and without rheumatoid arthritis. DNA itself is made up of two types of regions: those with a specific function in the body, called genes, and those found next to genes, that aren’t associated with a particular function. It is difficult to predict what role these non-gene regions play in the body. Most DNA changes found in people with rheumatoid arthritis are located in these non-gene regions; because we don’t understand the function of these regions, it is hard to predict how these DNA changes might cause disease.

Until it is clear how DNA changes in these regions cause rheumatoid arthritis, designing a therapy to target these changes and treat disease will be challenging. This group have developed a series of experiments to understand how DNA changes in non-gene regions, could be influencing the function nearby genes. They plan to use these techniques to understand how four DNA changes found in non-gene regions in people with rheumatoid arthritis, contribute to disease development.

How will the findings benefit patients?

Many genetic studies of people with rheumatoid arthritis have uncovered DNA changes in non-gene regions, not just the four found in this study. The techniques developed in this study could be used to understand how a great many of these changes contribute to disease development, both in rheumatoid arthritis and other diseases. Better understanding will lead to new and improved diagnostics and therapies in the future.