The non-coding regions of our DNA could hold the key to effective treatment for inflammatory diseases such as ankylosing spondylitis (AS), researchers in Oxford said last week.
Around 200,000 people in the UK live with AS, a painful and progressive form of arthritis which causes inflammation in the spine and other joints.
Although treatment has improved considerably in the past decade, with therapies available to manage pain and ease stiffness, a significant number of AS patients still experience persistent disease or unacceptable side effects from current therapies.
Researchers at the University of Oxford´s Nuffield Department of Orthopaedics, Rheumatology and Musculoskeletal Sciences (NDORMS) are working to increase our understanding of the genetics of AS with a view to generating new ideas about treating the condition.
Dr Amity Roberts and Dr Matteo Vecellio are researching particular single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs). These are the most common type of genetic variation amongst individuals and are often found in the non-coding regions of our DNA. According to NDORMS, while their functional effects are still unclear, SNPs seem to affect how AS presents itself in patients, potentially holding the key to new effective therapies.
Dr Roberts and Dr Vecellio presented a report on their findings to date at this year´s European League Against Rheumatism Annual Congress (EULAR 2016).
“In Professor Paul Wordsworth´s Genetics of AS laboratory, we are trying to assess the impact of disrupted transcriptional regulation in AS patients, to gain new insight into how this disease develops,” the researchers said. “The experimental approach we use will allow us to identify potential targets for drug discovery by improving the characterisation of the cell types involved in AS and the relevant molecular pathways.”