Gender and rheumatoid arthritis risk

By Siski Green , Tuesday 20 November 2012

Breakthrough in arthritis research reveals why women are more at risk.
Medical researchResearchers have found that genes specific to the X-chromosome increase the risk of RA

While some diseases tend to be associated with men, such as cardiovascular disease, for example, others are more prevalent in the female population and rheumatoid arthritis is one of these.

Now researchers have figured out the genetic make-up that leads to the disease, explaining this gender bias and opening the way for potential treatments.

Researchers from the Arthritis Research UK Epidemiology Unit at the University of Manchester, analysed DNA samples from more than 27,000 patients – some with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and some without (healthy controls).

As a result, they have pinpointed 14 new genes that can lead to a person being diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Previous research had revealed 32 genes linked with RA, but these 14 genes hadn’t been connected with the disease until now.

Importantly, while not all of the genes are specific to one gender, some are – and they’re specific to the female X-chromosome, making it far more likely that a woman will get rheumatoid arthritis – three times more, according to the research team.

Of the genes that the researchers have pinpointed, three are already targetable with medication. But for individuals for whom those medications don’t work – a third of those diagnosed with RA – the other genes that have been pinpointed could prove vital.

If researchers can find drugs to treat some or all of the other 43 genes that are associated with the disease it’s possible that these previously untreatable patients would find relief with a new medication.


The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.

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