A team of researchers affiliated with several institutions in Alabama has linked 10 genetic loci to the development of osteoarthritis. In their article published in the journal Nature geneticsdescribes the group’s analysis of data from the Million Veteran Program in the United States and the British Biological Museum in the United Kingdom.
Osteoarthritis is a progressive joint disease caused by inflammation. It is one of the most common types of arthritis and usually affects the knees, hips, spine and hands. There is currently no cure and treatments are limited. Many people with the disease have joint replacements. In this new effort, the researchers build on previous work on the genetic factors involved in its development.
To find out which genes might be responsible for the development of osteoarthritis, the researchers used data from the Million Veteran Program database of health, genetic and other information for approximately 163,000 US veterans. They identified 79,569 osteoarthritis patients from a control group of 80,002 unaffected individuals.
The researchers did the same with data from the British Biodiversity Museum. After combining and analyzing the data from both resources, the researchers isolated 10 new genetic loci associated with osteoarthritis and confirmed 17 others previously identified by other research groups.
The researchers also found what they describe as significant associations when they did a stratified analysis of the data that could be associated with non-articular tissue locations. And they also performed a gene set enrichment analysis that helped highlight genetic pathways associated with bone, cartilage and other connective tissue. They next investigated possible biological processes involved in the development of osteoarthritis and possible treatment of symptoms.
The researchers note that identifying the genetics behind the development of osteoarthritis is only the first step toward identifying the chain of events that lead to joint damage—and ultimately a way to break the chain and thus prevent it. They also note that more work is needed to identify all the genetic factors involved in the disease.
Merry-Lynn N. McDonald et al., Novel genetic loci associated with osteoarthritis in multi-pedigree analyzes in the Million Veteran Program and UK Biobank, Nature genetics (2022). DOI: 10.1038/s41588-022-01221-w
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