Basic Genetic Research in RA

February 15th, 2012  Posted at   Aches & Pains

The Foundation for Prevention and Treatment Advances

For many of us with rheumatoid arthritis, the only genes we can name are Gene Wilder, Gene Kelly, Gene Autry or — if our children are of a certain age — Mr. Greenjeans.

But more and more often, new research — such as that of Dr. Diane Lacaille and her team in British Columbia — is bringing genes with names like IFN, TNF and HLA to the forefront in the quest to better understand this crippling autoimmune disorder.

Basic Research: A Test-Tube Approach
Today, much of the genetic research on RA and similar arthritic conditions is basic research.

Another name for basic research is “bench” research, because laboratory scientists have traditionally set up their test tubes, microscopes and other apparatus on relatively tall tables known as “benches.” You probably used such a table in a high school science class like biology or chemistry.

In the laboratory, individuals who are not actively involved in diagnosing or treating patients with the condition being studied conduct most of the basic research.

Basic Research, Clinical Research: What’s the Difference?
The focus on patient response is the major difference between basic research and clinical research in RA. Clinical research is patient-oriented. Often it involves clinical trials, that is, studies conducted to test how new medications or treatment procedures work for typical individuals who have RA symptoms.

In contrast to clinical trials with human patients, basic genetic research conducted under powerful laboratory microscopes lays the foundation for the development of new medications and other rheumatoid arthritis treatments by finding out what specific genes play a role in RA, how these genes are structured, and how differences in specific genes translate into disease activity.

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