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Researchers at University of California San Diego School and the Icahn School of Medicine have found a high-resolution epigenomic landscape of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) that overlaps with that seen in Huntington's disease, suggesting potentially new unanticipated pathways that could be developed into therapeutic targets.
Their study, published in Nature Communications, presented a comprehensive epigenomic characterization of RA fibroblast-like synoviocytes and their epigenetic changes and found that epigenomically similar regions exist in RA cells that are associated with active enhancers and promoters and specific transcription factor binding motifs. Surprisingly these were similar to that seen in Huntington’s Disease, a fatal and incurable genetic brain disease.
The investigators studied the epigenome using cells from RA joints to identifiy unique epigenetic changes. Analysis of chromatin, DNA methylation, RNA expression and histone modifications resulted in large amounts of data that were algorithmically managed to reduced the number of epigenetic combinations in the genes of patients with RA. The purpose of which was to new cell signaling pathways utilized in RA.
Epigenetics is the study of alterations in gene structure without necessarily changing the DNA sequence itself. Epigenetics have become increasingly important in understanding many disorders, as epigenetic changes can be influenced by a variety of environmental factors, including aging, activity and lifestyle choices.