In a newly published study, researchers reveal new findings that expose a common thread between 10 common autoimmune diseases with clinical onset in childhood – discovering 22 genome-wide signals shared by two or more diseases. This new data may help to identify potential targets for treating many of these diseases, in some cases with readily available prescriptions used to treat non-autoimmune disorders.
Researchers concentrated on 10 clinically distinct autoimmune diseases, including type 1 diabetes, celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, and ulcerative colitis, examining 6,035 subjects with autoimmune disease and 10,700 controls. Since many of these diseases are hereditary, clinicians have long suspected that these conditions were influenced by genetic predispositions.
But, now there is proof. When asked about his findings, Hakon Hakonarson, M.D., Ph.D., study leader and director of the Center for Applied Genomics at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) said:
“Our approach did more than finding genetic associations among a group of diseases. We identified genes with a biological relevance to these diseases, acting along gene networks and pathways that may offer very useful targets for therapy. Rather than looking at overall gene expression in all cells, we focused on how these genes upregulated gene expression in specific cell types and tissues, and found patterns that were directly relevant to specific diseases. For instance, among several of the diseases, we saw genes with stronger expression in B cells. Looking at diseases such as lupus or juvenile idiopathic arthritis, which feature dysfunctions in B cells, we can start to design therapies to dial down over-expression in those cells.”
These findings pave the way for more effective treatments for diseases that are very misunderstood. Targeting specific genes responsible for these conditions will allow for refined treatment that will focus on the specific genes identified as the source of suffering.