Scientists have calculated more precise measurements of heritability--the influence of underlying genes--in nine autoimmune diseases that begin in childhood. The research may strengthen researchers' abilities to better predict a child's risk for associated autoimmune diseases. Autoimmune diseases, such as type 1 diabetes, Crohn's disease, and juvenile idiopathic arthritis, collectively affect 1 in 12 persons in the Western Hemisphere. These diseases represent a significant cause of chronic disability. "The results from this study enable us to better understand the genetic component of these diseases and how they are genetically related to each other, thereby explaining why different autoimmune disorders often run in the same family," said study leader, Hakon Hakonarson, M.D., Ph.D., Professor of Pediatrics and Director of the Center for Applied Genomics at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP). The study was published online on October 9, 2015 in an open-access article in Nature Communications. Co-authors contributed gene data from more than 20 hospitals and research centers in the U.S. and overseas. The article is titled “Genetic Sharing and Heritability of Pediatric Age of Onset Autoimmune Diseases.” The research encompassed nine pediatric-onset autoimmune diseases (pAIDs): type 1 diabetes, celiac disease, juvenile idiopathic arthritis, common variable immunodeficiency, systemic lupus erythematosus, Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, psoriasis, and ankylosing spondylitis. The study team compared genome-wide association study data from those diseases to data from pediatric-onset epilepsy, a non-autoimmune disease. In all, the study team analyzed data from over 5,000 unrelated pAID patients drawn from the CHOP pediatric network and from 36,000 healthy controls.
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