SCIENTISTS at Newcastle University believe they may have made a major breakthrough in understanding the genetic risk factors that cause the condition osteoarthritis.Eight new so-called genetic regions have been linked to the development of the bone disease. Previously only three had been identified. Several of the genetic regions encompass genes that are known to regulate how joints are made and then maintained. The new findings, published in The Lancet, have resulted from a [pounds]2.2m project, funded by Arthritis Research UK, which compared the genetic differences of 7,400 patients with severe osteoarthritis with 11,000 healthy volunteers. John Loughlin, professor of musculoskeletal research at Newcastle University, said: "We know that osteoarthritis runs in families and that this is due to the genes that people pass on, rather than their shared environment. "In this study we were able to say with a high degree of confidence which genetic regions are the major risk factors for developing osteoarthritis - the first time that this has been possible for this common yet complex disease." Prof Loughlin said that they were not yet able to use their discoveries as a tool to predict who was more or less likely to develop the disease, or to predict the degree of osteoarthritis severity, based on the genes they have inherited. However he added: "What we are able to do is to use our genetic discoveries to identify key biological pathways that can now be exploited to develop new treatments."
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