In a recent study, researchers at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and the Karolinska Institute in Sweden reported a way to evaluate one gene-regulation system: chemical tags that tell genes to be active or not. Their test consisted of patients with rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune disease that causes chronicinflammation that typically affects the small joints in your hands and feet.
Researchers separated these patients into two groups, people with newly diagnosed rheumatoid arthritis and healthy people. The major goal of the experiment was to monitor both groups’ white blood cells, examining their DNA for methyl groups that could attach themselves to genes and turn themselves on or off. This was proven to be a difficult task because the chemical tags were unreliable, sometimes setting off a disease as a result of the presence of the environment, medications or even other distant genes. Researchers concluded that four of these chemical tags were found in a cluster of genes that controls the immune response and were also known to affect the risk of rheumatoid arthritis.
This is a significant breakthrough because if scientists are able to perfect this technique, there is the possibility that in the future there could be a better understanding of whether a person’s gene that influences a disease such as rheumatoid arthritis actually develops the disease. Additionally, who knows if in the future these chemical tags could be used with something else other than diseases? Overall, this was interesting article because I had no idea these genetic advancements were happening or even possible.