Updated on 27 September 2013
SardiNIA Study of Aging finds five gene variant sites that coincide with known genetic contributors to autoimmune diseases
Singapore: Numerous studies have reported that certain diseases are inherited. But genetics plays a crucial role in immune response, affecting the body's ability to stave off diseases, according to a new findings from the SardiNIA Study of Aging, which is supported in part by the National Institute on Aging (NIA) at the National Institutes of Health.
SardiNIA researchers found 89 independent gene variants on the genome associated with regulating production of immune system cells. Five of these sites for the gene variants coincide with known genetic contributors to autoimmune diseases, and extend previous knowledge to identify the particular cell types that are affected by these genes.
“We know that certain diseases run in families. From this study, we wanted to know the extent to which relative immune resistance or susceptibility to disease is inherited in families,” said Dr David Schlessinger, chief of NIA’s Laboratory of Genetics. “If your mother is rarely sick, for example, does that mean you don’t have to worry about the bug that’s going around? Is immunity in the genes? According to our findings, the answer is yes, at least in part.”
The study team, led by Dr Francesco Cucca, director, National Research Council’s Institute of Genetic and Biomedical Research in Italy, discovered that variants in particular genes had very significant effects on the levels of one or more particular types of immune system cells.
A number of these genes are also implicated in risk for various autoimmune diseases, including ulcerative colitis, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, and celiac disease. Understanding the genes affecting immune system cells and risk for autoimmune disease is the first step in developing therapies that are personalized according to an individual’s needs, although more research is needed to further characterize the role genetics plays in the complex dynamics of the immune system, the researchers pointed out.