Posted on Feb 02, 2017, 6 a.m.
Large genetic study reveals new possibilities for treatments of diseases like Crohn's disease, coeliac disease, ulcerative colitis, atherosclerosis, multiple sclerosis and even some forms of cancer.
A study conducted by Finnish researchers has pinpointed possible new treatments for an array of inflammatory diseases. The research was conducted by a team at the University of Turku's Research Centre of Applied and Preventive Cardiovascular Medicine. These scientists studied more than 10 million DNA variations and identified new links between inflammation tracers and the human genome. The study determined that there are several new possibilities for the treatments of diseases like coeliac disease, ulcerative colitis, Crohn's disease, atherosclerosis, multiple sclerosis and even some forms of cancer.
An Explanation of Cytokines
Cytokines played a critical role in the above referenced study. These vitally important proteins move throughout the bloodstream to regulate inflammation reactions. Alterations in their mode of operation have been tied to all sorts of inflammatory diseases. The study was centered on an investigation of the connections between 41 unique cytokines as well as growth factors and approximately 10.7 million variations of DNA. The scientists' aim was to identify specific processes at the molecular level that spur a heightened risk for the onset of inflammatory diseases. Gaining an understanding of these processes allows for a more effective treatment of inflammatory diseases.
Scientists found that the medicine daclizumab that was formerly used to treat organ rejection reactions can also serve to treat Crohn's disease and multiple sclerosis. A bump in MIP1b-cytokine activity also functions as a treatment method against Behcet disease and coeliac disease. Additional clinical studies are necessary to verify the observations.
Additional Study Details
The data relied upon for the above-referenced study was comprised of long-term research information compiled to span an array of risk factors for heart-related diseases amongst Finns. This data is especially valuable as it is highly unique compared to other data sets used across the globe for similar studies.
Study participants were monitored from childhood all the way to adulthood. The year 1980 was used as a baseline. Over 3,500 people were studied in a cross-sectional manner. Subsequent visits occurred in 1983, 1986, 2001, 2007 and 2011. Surveys pertaining to cardiovascular health were conducted at 5-year intervals from 1972 to 2012 to gauge heart-related risk factors across Finland. All-in-all, nearly 54,000 subjects between the ages of 25 and 74 partook in the surveys.
Evidence Stemming From Human Genetics Hastens Medical Development
Tech developments have allowed for the practice of studies pertaining to genome-wide association for the past 100 years. Such studies took a close look at the millions of variations in DNA and their impact for each of the properties studied. These research efforts have identified more than 100 genomic loci that impact the possibility of ulcerous colitis or Crohn's disease developing. However, the exact molecular process spurring the heightened risk is unclear.
Studies focusing on genome-wide association have been initiated in which response variables molecules are used to mediate the risk of disease within the blood stream. Examples include the use of growth factors and cytokines rather than using the diseases themselves.
The Quest for Safe, Affordable and Effective Medicine
Drug candidates in which evidence from human genetics proves their effectiveness stand a much better chance to be approved within clinical studies. These studies test for safety as well as effectiveness. It is estimated that nearly 800 million dollars will be necessary to develop a market for one medicinal molecule. However, genetics research stands to provide considerable savings in the context of medical development.
Ari V. Ahola-Olli, Peter Würtz, Aki S. Havulinna, Kristiina Aalto, Niina Pitkänen, Terho Lehtimäki, Mika Kähönen, Leo-Pekka Lyytikäinen, Emma Raitoharju, Ilkka Seppälä, Antti-Pekka Sarin, Samuli Ripatti, Aarne Palotie, Markus Perola, Jorma S. Viikari, Sirpa Jalkanen, Mikael Maksimow, Veikko Salomaa, Marko Salmi, Johannes Kettunen, Olli T. Raitakari. Genome-wide Association Study Identifies 27 Loci Influencing Concentrations of Circulating Cytokines and Growth Factors. The American Journal of Human Genetics, 2017; 100 (1): 40 DOI: 10.1016/j.ajhg.2016.11.007