Did evolution give us inflammatory disease?

March 21, 2013

In new research published on March 21, 2013 in the online issue of The American Journal of Human Genetics, researchers from Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH) demonstrate that some variants in our genes that contribute to a person's risk for inflammatory diseases such as multiple sclerosis, Crohn's disease or rheumatoid arthritis, have been the target of natural selection over the course of human history.

The research team, led by Philip De Jager, MD, PhD, BWH Department of Neurology and Barbara Stranger, PhD, University of Chicago, looked at genome-wide association studies along with protein- networks, as well as other data and found 21 places in the genome that bear a 'signature' for both inflammatory disease susceptibility and natural selection.

Towfique Raj, PhD, BWH Department of Neurology, is the lead author on this study. The study's findings suggest that, in the past, these variants rose in frequency in the human population to help protect humans against viruses, bacteria and other pathogens. But now in our modern world, the environment and exposure to pathogens has changed, and the genetic variants that were originally meant to protect us, now make an autoimmune reaction more likely. These results are consistent with the in which our cleaner environment is thought to contribute to the increasing prevalence of inflammatory diseases.

Explore further: A hidden architecture: Researchers use novel methods to uncover gene mutations for common diseases

More information: www.cell.com/AJHG/abstract/S0002-9297(13)00109-2

Related Stories

Genetic risk for uterine fibroids discovered

October 4, 2012

Uterine fibroids are the most common type of pelvic tumors in women and are the leading cause of hysterectomy in the United States. Researchers from Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH) are the first to discover a genetic risk ...

Rare gene variants linked to inflammatory bowel disease

October 10, 2011

(Medical Xpress) -- An international team of scientists, including researchers from Karolinska Institutet, have identified several rare gene variants that predispose to IBD (Inflammatory Bowel Disease). The study provides ...

Recommended for you

Scientists edit gene mutations in inherited form of anemia

October 26, 2016

A Yale-led research team used a new gene editing strategy to correct mutations that cause thalassemia, a form of anemia. Their gene editing technique provided corrections to the mutations and alleviated the disease in mice, ...

Maternal blood test may predict birth complications

October 24, 2016

A protein found in the blood of pregnant women could be used to develop tests to determine the health of their babies and aid decisions on early elective deliveries, according to an early study led by Queen Mary University ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.