In an exciting discovery, a team of international scientists has uncovered new regions of DNA involved in rheumatoid arthritis, identifying genes which are known to be the targets of already approved chemotherapy drugs.
University of Queensland Diamantina Institute director Matthew Brown, who was involved in the research, said it paved the way for human trials of new treatments for rheumatoid arthritis, a painful, debilitating condition caused by immune system dysfunction.
Professor Brown said the study, to be published in the prestigious journal Nature , showed how genetic research could be used to find potential new treatments for diseases among existing drugs, getting medications to patients earlier.
“It short-cuts by many years the time taken between the genetic research and clinical trials,” he said. “For existing drugs, there’s no toxicology testing required, no extra studies needed to look at safety before you can think about doing trials in humans because they’ve already been done.
“It takes 10 years off the process of developing drugs and greatly reduces the cost.”
Professor Brown said genetics had made huge inroads into finding the causes of common diseases in the past decade.
“This study shows one way forward that will turn those discoveries much more rapidly into treatments, which is what we all strive for in research,” he said.
The researchers identified 48 new genes as the most likely culprits in the development of rheumatoid arthritis, nearly doubling the number known to be involved.
About 65 per cent of a person’s risk for the disease is believed to be genetic, with environmental factors also implicated. For example, smoking is a known trigger in genetically susceptible people.
It affects about one in 100 people and is more common in women, than men.