Sheffield scientists find nine new arthritis genes

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University of Sheffield scientists have discovered nine unknown genes for osteoarthritis, potentially paving the way for new treatments.

Over ten million people across the UK suffer from osteoarthritis, a painful degenerative disease. However, despite its prevalence, there is no current treatment for the disease.

Often, the condition must be managed with pain relief and joint replacement surgery. However, this could soon all change with a study from scientists at the University of Sheffield.

In the largest study of its kind, nine genes which potentially cause osteoarthritis have been discovered. The study, which was published in the scientific journal Nature Genetics, could pave the way towards new therapies for the disease.

The researchers investigated the genes behind osteoarthritis, as well as diseases and characteristics we may have that are linked to it.

To get to grips with the genetic basis of the disease, the Sheffield team studied the DNA of over 30,000 people with osteoarthritis, and a staggering 300,000 people without it. In total, the scientists analysed over 16 million DNA sequences.

Nine different genes that were associated with causing osteoarthritis were discovered, by studying the cartilage of both healthy individuals, and those suffering from osteoarthritis.

Scientists also looked at those genes which were involved in the progression of the disease and degeneration of the body tissues.

The differences in the DNA between healthy people and those with the disease revealed five genes in particular that differed between the two groups. These five genes are the next step in osteoarthritis research, potentially leading the way towards new therapies and treatments.

Osteoarthritis has previously been challenging to study due to how the disease can vary among different people. Many different joints can be affected, such as the knees, hips, hands and spine.

To get a complete picture of the potential causes of osteoarthritis, the Sheffield scientists also examined the effect of obesity, bone mineral density, type 2 diabetes and raised blood lipid levels on the occurrence of the disease.

Researchers examined the correlations between osteoarthritis and these traits to uncover which traits cause the condition, and which are not associated with the disease.

The results of the study suggest that type 2 diabetes and high levels of fat in the blood are not likely to cause osteoarthritis, however, obesity was identified as a causal factor for the disease.

Weight management and a healthy way of life, combined with the potential treatment implications from the five instrumental genes identified by researchers could allow the prevalence of the disease to decline in the near future.

The lead scientist in the study has said that we are now one step closer to understanding the disease, and therefore new therapies could be just around the corner.