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Canadian researchers discover new gene in psoriatic arthritis


St John’s, NF July 28, 2003 A new gene in psoriatic arthritis has been discovered by a research team led by Dr Proton Rahman, a rheumatologist with the faculty of medicine at Memorial University of Newfoundland and the Health Care Corporation of St John’s, and Dr Dafna Gladman, of the University of Toronto.

Memorial University says it has filed for a US patent for the gene, which focuses on the use of the gene to diagnose psoriatic arthritis. This long-lasting form of arthritis is associated with psoriasis and causes skin rashes and produces painful joint inflammation.

Dr Rahman’s other co-investigators in this discovery were Dr Catherine Alderdice, Dr Sean Hamilton, Dr Majed Khraishi, Donna Hefferton, Yvonne Tobin, Sylvia Bartlett and Lynette Peddle from St John’s; Fawnda Pellett, Cathy Schentag from Toronto; as well as Drs Vernon Farewell and Fotios Siannis from Cambridge, UK.

The discovery was presented as an abstract under the theme New Insights in Rheumatology at the annual European Congress of Rheumatology in Lisbon, Portugal, in June, and will be published in the September issue of the American Journal of Human Genetics.

Psoriatic arthritis is a less common form of arthritis, occurring in 0.5-1% of the population, but the incidence may be considerably higher in the Newfoundland population. “Psoriatic arthritis can occur in up to 20-30 % of patients with psoriasis, and can range from being a mild disease to an illness associated with significant morbidity," says Dr Rahman. "At present there is no cure for psoriatic arthritis and patients are treated with anti-inflammatory drugs and occasionally drugs that alter their immune system.”

Drs Rahman and Gladman started studying the genetic basis of psoriatic arthritis in the Newfoundland population almost four years ago, when they received funding from the Arthritis Society, and from the Institutes of Musculoskeletal Health and Arthritis and Genetics, both part of the Canadian Institutes for Health Research.