A global team of researchers, led by Professor Matthew Brown, from the University of Queensland’s Diamantina Institute for Cancer, Immunology and Metabolic Medicine, has discovered that there is a genetic relationship between ankylosing spondylitis (AS) and Crohn’s disease. The study was published in the current issue of Nature Genetics.
AS is a form of arthritis that causes inflammation in the joint of the vertebrae. This leads to pain and stiffness in the back and potentially bone erosion and fusion of bones in the spine. It can also damage other joints, the eyes and the heart.
The approach of the study was to determine if the genetic markers that are associated with AS could be treated by drugs that are already in development. The team of researchers scanned over 14 thousand genetic variants in the DNA of 2500 healthy and affected people. They found two genes, called ARTS1 and IL23R. In addition to the gene HLA-B27, which was identified 37 years ago to have a responsibility for the development of the disease, the ability exists to account for 70 percent of the overall cause of ankylosing spondylitis. This will enable doctors in the early identification of individuals that are at risk for development of the disease.
The report also states that at the current rate all of the genes that play a part in the development of ankylosing spondylitis should be identified in the next twelve months.
Another study has linked the IR23R gene to the development of Crohn’s disease, a debilitating inflammatory bowel disease. Discovery of the gene could explain why people with inflammatory bowel disease have tend to have a higher probability of developing AS. There are human trials already being conducted for treatment of Crohn’s disease that inhibits the activity of IL23R. The researchers stated in their report that the Crohn’s treatment looks very promising as a potential treatment for ankylosing spondylitis. They also expect that new therapies will be developed with clinical trials in the next couple years.