Genetic Studies of Rheumatoid Arthritis using Animal Models

University dissertation from Uppsala : Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis

Abstract: Predisposition to autoimmune diseases such as, rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, and multiple sclerosis, is caused by the effect of multiple genes and a strong influence from the environment. In this study, I have investigated genetic factors that confer susceptibility to rheumatoid arthritis in a rat model. This work has led to the identification of several chromosomal regions, containing uncharacterized genes that directly or indirectly are associated to the arthritis development in these rats. We have observed that timing, gender, and genetic interactions are features that play a part in the effect that these genetic factors exert. Unarguably, animal models for human disorders display differences to the human form of disease. An important fact is however that the same chromosomal regions are identified in both rodent and human studies, which suggests that there are genetic factors that we have in common, which are involved directly or indirectly with an autoimmune response. Focusing the interest on these similarities, and on the possibility to apply a wide set of genetic tools, make animal models an invaluable, and probably necessary, instrument to dissect the genetic component of complex disorders. To fully comprehend the genetic basis for a complex disorder like this, will require understanding of how multiple genes interact with each other to cause disease. We have been able to demonstrate that chronic arthritis, in a rat model for rheumatoid arthritis, is regulated by several genes and that these act during different temporal phases of the disease. These findings will hopefully contribute to our understanding of the etiology and progression of rheumatoid arthritis.