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   A Memorial University of Newfoundland Publication

August 7, 2003
 Newspage

Memorial files patent for arthritis gene


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 and the Health Care Corporation of St. John’s, and Dr. Dafna Gladman of the University of Toronto. Memorial University has filed for a U.S. patent for the novel 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 Dr. Dafna Gladman from the University of Toronto, and Drs. Vernon Farewell and Fotios Siannis from Cambridge, U.K. The discovery was presented as a top abstract under the theme New Insights in Rheumatology at the annual European Congress of Rheumatology in Lisbon, Portugal, in June 2003, 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 to one per cent of the population, but Dr. Rahman explained that the incidence may be considerably higher in the Newfoundland population. “Psoriatic arthritis can occur in up to 20 to 30 per cent of patients with psoriasis, and can range from being a mild disease to an illness associated with significant morbidity. 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.”

According to Dr. Rahman, there is a growing body of evidence that psoriatic arthritis has a strong genetic component.

“This disease often runs in families. The homogenous population in Newfoundland provided an ideal setting to identify a novel gene for this disease.” Drs. Rahman and Gladman started studying the genetic basis of psoriatic arthritis in the Newfoundland population almost four years ago, with 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.

“We congratulate Dr. Rahman and his team for their discovery of a new gene in psoriatic arthritis, and we commend him for his ongoing dedication to arthritis research and to improving the lives of the millions of people with this disease in Canada, and around the world,” said Denis Morrice, president and CEO, The Arthritis Society. The society identified Dr. Rahman as an exciting, up-and-coming researcher early in his career and has supported his work over the years through its Research and Career Development Program.

“Proton Rahman’s discovery is the fruit of a funding collaboration that clearly demonstrates the power we hold in combining our efforts to support this country’s leading arthritis researchers,” added Mr. Morrice.

The study led by Dr. Rahman has resulted in the discovery of the CARD15 gene being associated with psoriatic arthritis. From analyzing more than 180 individuals with psoriatic arthritis, Dr. Rahman and his colleagues were able to determine that this gene is present in about one-third of Newfoundland patients with psoriatic arthritis. This discovery could pave the way for better diagnosis of disease, especially in the setting of psoriatic arthritis in the absence of psoriasis, and potentially provide a therapeutic target for drug development.

“It also provides further insight into the pathogenesis of psoriatic arthritis, as the identification of the CARD15 gene in psoriatic arthritis further implicates a possible infective etiology in the pathogenesis of psoriatic arthritis,” added Dr. Rahman.

The patent for the CARD15 gene has been filed by Memorial University’s Genesis Centre, a support network developed to help Newfoundland and Labrador knowledge-based businesses and entrepreneurs create high growth enterprises. The patent application focuses on the potential use of the gene to diagnose psoriatic arthritis. “For these patients, earlier diagnosis of the illness will mean earlier medical intervention and improved disease control,” said Dave King, CEO of the Genesis Centre. “A potential diagnostic kit to test for the presence of psoriatic arthritis in patients who may not be aware they have the disease is a major breakthrough.”

Further details on Dr. Rahman’s work can be found on the EULAR (The European League Against Rheumatism) Web site at www.eular.org/eular2003/ and at the Web site for the American Journal of Human Genetics www.journals.uchicago.edu/AJHG/
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Next issue: September 4, 2003

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