Researchers offer hope to arthritis sufferers

AT LEAST seven genes may be linked to the development of a type of arthritis which affects up to one million people in the UK, Scots scientists have discovered.

The team of researchers, led by Edinburgh University, hope the discovery will lead to genetic screening to identify those at risk of developing Paget's disease.

The condition affects the way bone develops and renews itself and can lead to enlarged and malformed bones.

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It affects more people in the UK than anywhere else in the world. The researchers believe the genes are involved in regulating the rate at which bone is renewed and repaired, providing an explanation of why the disease occurs.

The study, published in the journal Nature Genetics, explains why many patients have a family history of the condition.

Researchers funded by Arthritis Research UK and the Paget's Association studied 2,215 patients with the disease to find the genes that could cause the condition.

Professor Stuart Ralston, Arthritis Research UK professor of rheumatology, said the results could be a "major advance" in dealing with the bone disease.

"We have now identified seven genes that predispose people to Paget's.

"The effect of these is large, and together they considerably increase the risk of developing the condition.

"Our work shows these genes together strongly predict the development of Paget's disease.

"Their effects are so powerful that they could be of real value in screening for risk of the disease. This is important since we know that if treatment is left too late, then irreversible damage to the bones can occur.

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"If we were able to intervene at an early stage with preventative therapy, guided by genetic profiling, this would be a major advance."